Monday, June 30, 2008

Spain is Euro 2008 Football Champion

Spain won Euro 2008!

Spain should have won 3-0 against Germany. Their domination was complete from one goalpost to the other. Mertesacker and Metzelder played Dumb and Dumber in the German defence. Lahm and Lehmann competed for the title of the Dumbest German footballer. Lehmann's save off one of his own morons and a few more other saves, takes nothing away from the fact that he gave, the single goal, that was the difference between two sides.

I did not want to see Spain in the finals for apparently no reasons at all. All the same, while I was away from this blog, I was tempted after the QFs to post just one line - Spain will win Euro2008! I did mention this much to my friends.In spite of the fact that more informed experts (e.g. Maradona) of the game predicted a Spanish victory, not many were looking forward to Spain winning glory after a gap of 44 years. I welcome their win though. Almost as much as I welcomed the exit of the Greeks from the competetion.

Spain played a brilliant final. Speed, skill and strategy were as good as it has been for the 21 something consecutive matches they have played without defeat. Special thanks to Turkey and Russia to give football lovers some great memories. Fatih Terim was in my view the coach of the tournament. Thanks to Terim's Tireless Terriers, Germany almost lost the plot in the SF against Turkey. The best players of Euro 2008 .....I dunno..... but here is an expert view on the subject. I would have found room for Pirlo but everyone has his/her favorites. The thing about opinion is that it is like an ass...everyone has got one.

It is easy to name the flops though - Portugal, France and Italy were the biggest flops of Euro descending order. Inevitably Ronaldo, Henry and Toni the biggest flops as strikers. Nobody will remember Austria, Switzerland and Poland. Greece played to potential and therefore don't count as flops. They were lucky to be there in the first place. Holland had a great qualifying round until Hiddink's Russia played the party poopers. But again ....the 'experts' opinion was that Holland were overrated. I disagree. They had a bad match against Russia and this kind of reverse could happen to any team. I still believe that Spain were lucky to face Russia in the SF instead of Holland. Dumb and Dumber pair of Germany, were the worst defenders in history to have played in a Euro championship final. Germany has no chance in 2010 with these two jokers. It is curtains for Klose and Lehmann too.

To close this piece - I had this feeling after the QF that this was Spain's year. I somehow felt this so strongly that I thought, maybe, even the referee and the linesmen will ensure that the Armada sails through this time without a hitch. Although Spain dominated the match and were deservingly crowned the champions of Europe, I will never understand why, the Itallian referee Rosetti, awarded a foul to Spain, when the Germans were in a position to draw level from within the Spanish box. I don't need a Havelange to tell me that there is more to it than meets the eye. Guess some things will never be explained.... how South Koreans made it to the WC semi finals Greeks won Euro 2004 !

Friday, June 20, 2008

Germany push Portugal out of Euro 2008

After DD's (DD -Domenech the Demented) Comedy show it was Big Phil's turn with Portugal going down to Germany 3-2. It is said that Big Phil pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket which showed he had done the homework about his opponents strengths and his own teams weaknesses. In terms of size Portugals Davids were up againsts the Goalliaths of Germany and Big Phil had a solution to this problem.
What Scolari did not say was that his other pocket held his contract with Chelsea. Likewise Ronaldo too appeared to be keen to get it over with and move on to next match in Real Madrid colours. Schweinsteiger scored one and set up two for Klose and Ballack and all Portugals defenders could do was watch the ball. The Portuguese GK Ricardo was not first choice at his club but was Big Phil's first choice for the national side! Deco, Nani, Pepe and Simao tried but lacked conviction in face of a two goal deficit.
Set piece goals by Germany suggest that this match was probably not the best advertisement for European football. Germany reverted to their time tested style of play. They pulled out Mario Gomez and put five men in the midfield. Klose was the lone striker fed by Schweinsteiger and Podolski in the wings. Finally Klose shed his invisibility cloak and tucked one in. If that was easy then what can one say of the Ballack goal? He pushed the defender almost as irreverently as commuters on the Churchgate bound Mumbai locals help people board the train during peak hours. Blink of an eye and people waiting for the train on the platform find themselves inside the train! No wonder the ref could not see the foul and the ball was at the back of the net.
Ronaldo in this match was not worth Schweinsteiger's 'chaddi' in this match...what to say of the 98 million dollar (?) transfer fee that Real wants to pay? Fergie should be doubly delighted. Big Phil to coach his arch rivals Chelsea and Donaldo...err Ronaldo sold for Kings Ransom!
Anyways ... I am okay with the fact that Chelsea United (Portugal) lost and there is a distinct possibility that we may see Cheeseheads v Krauts final. That will be as bitterly faught a contest as the recent India and Pakistan in a WC T20 Final.
But wishing for these two to play the finals is being hard on Italy and Croatia who have played very good football and incidently the other two teams I expect to see in the SF.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

QF: Deutschland v Portugal

After Italy sent uncle Henry's France packing, yesterday a young Russian team did the same to uncle Henrik's aging Sweden. Henrik Larsson has been a much better footballer for Sweden, than his 'dark' look alike Henry has been, for France. But amazingly, he having retired once, after Sweden's 2006 WC defeat, wants to continue at the age of 36! I guess old footballers don't die. They just loose their balls.
Talking of people who have lost it (apart from crucial matches) Domenech the Demented takes the cake. He reportedly proposed marraige to his long time partner immediately after loosing the match to Italy. Estelle Denis is the 'lucky' lady - young enough to be his daughter but old enough to be the mother of his two kids. I suppose that the effect that President Sarkozy has on his likeminded subjects. It is Domenech's personal matter but the timing of his announcement, taken together with his other comments (Holland-Romania match will be fixed in favor of Romania, France was done in by the referee against Italy), makes one wonder, whether at all he focussed on job at hand at any point in time. Raymond Domenech has to be, easily the worst coach of Euro 2008, in every respect.

Talk of coaches and the Bundestrainer will be barred from the team dugout for the QF and will have to witness the match as a spectator in the stands - win or loose. Low has other more important problems though. Podolski and Frings are nursing injuries. Thats two lame ducks for Germany if they play. Sweinsteiger, Ballack and Lehmann will worry about another yellow card because if they get one they could miss the SF. Thats four lame ducks and dodo (Lehmann) even before the start of the QF. Add to this the 'invisible man' of Euro 2008 - Miroslav Klose. Throw in Mario Gomez who is just behind Luca Toni in missed opportunities. Interestingly Mario Gomez was scored 19 goals to Luca Toni's 25 in the Bundesliga. Apart from the weaknesses Germany has (as mentioned in earlier post) the one thing that strikes me about this German side is that they seem to have too many of 'exports' these days...a la the French!
All in all, it appears that Die deutsche Fußballnationalmannschaft has Druid Getafix's recipe for total disaster. But as Big Phil admits, count them out at your own peril. Not for nothing, are the German's three times champions of the World and Europe.

And about Portugal - Domenech the Demented was thinking Estelle even as France played Italy for a QF spot. Big Phil and Ronaldo are thinking dollars coming from Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively. A loss in the dead rubber of a last match of the group stage is in no way a morale booster or ideal preparation for the QFs. Also Portugal has no less than five players who will worry about missing the semi-final if they get another yellow card.

It is difficult to tell which of the two sides will be stonger in the mind. Germany for the first time since I started watching football appears to be a shade weaker. They have a 9-2 win-loss record in the knockout stages of the tournament but there is danger it will be dented further tonite.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

QF stage

Portugal, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Holland, Croatia and one of either Russia or Sweden will fight it out for the semi-final places. I wrote earlier that the best football may already be over and then maybe not. Certainly above named are indeed the best in Europe so there is enough reason to be optimistic. Marco Van Basten's flying Dutch promise the most and seem to be headed for glory this time. The unity in this team is spoken of and written about which is a welcome change for the talented Dutch. They have scored 9 goals in three matchs and outclassed opponents by such huge margins that nothing less than winning the cup is expected of them. Skill, strength, speed, strategy and name it and they have it. Lady Luck is a different proposition altogether...and the other pretenders to the throne can never be discounted once you go beyond the group stage.
A determined Italy deserved to join the last eight. De Rossi lived up to my expectations and how?! He was the man of the match, more for his box to box play and brilliant passing than because of the goal off old man Henry. How can Domenech the Demented get it so wrong? His team selection, tactics, substitutions confounded both critics and football fans. Once Rebery was injured the French challenge was as good as over. Luca Toni did everything he could to miss all opportunities created by Pirlo, De Rossi, Grosso and others...that was until Abidal choked and saw red. Pirlo prevented any further nonsense from Toni and established Italy on the path to the QF. With no Pirlo and Gatusso in the QF it will be tough for the Azzuri against Spain.
Best part of the match was to watch Donadoni go through a range of emotions. Be it tactics or drama, it was humanely endearing stuff from the Itallian coach. In comparision Domenech the Demented cut a forlorn figure.
Can Russia beat the Swedes? I hope they can. They are the youngest team in the competetion and Sweden are the oldest! Also Russian's, I understand, are the only team of this tournament who do not have their own cook or dietician. What they do have is a Dutch coach with an incredible record at major touranaments with many different sides.
I am supporting the Russians. If they progress they will be everyones favorite underdogs.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Best of Euro 2008

Yes. Perhaps the best matches of Euro 2008 have already been played. The best football of European brand was on display in France v Holland and Turkey v Czech Republic games.
Holland on the face of it thrashed France 4-1 but anyone who saw the game live will tell you that it was a close contest. France was lacking the finish and Henry showed why he never managed to take Arsenal higher in the Champions league. Henry is half a player a Zizou was and that is the best that can be said of him or France without Zizou all things remaining equal - which clearly is not the case any more in the French defence as well. Well, supporters of any team with Henry or Jens Lehmann, must pray more if their team is to win. Having followed the fortunes of Arsenal during the heydey of both Henry and Lehmann,I have seen many a crucial mishaps by both of them. I dare say that German supporters have reason to be afraid....very afraid. All said and done France was at its fluid best for a long time and the match against Holland will surely go down as one of the best matches in Euro 2008. Djibril Cisse must have watched Henry miss those sitters with disgust. If France fail to go through Domenech will be known as Domenech the Demented. But nothing can be taken away from the clinical efficiency or the surgical precision of the Dutch. Arjen Robben has finally arrived if he can guide Holland beyond the quarter finals. They will do well to not allow a rematch with either France or Italy in the SF. Romania deserves to go through for the way the played against Italy. Brilliant football again by the Itallians but clearly Toni and Del Piero have limitations. Toni cannot dribble and use his feet. Either that or he has been told not to. His headers lack the power and precision of the past. Del Piero lacks pace. De Rossi has to come to the fore if Italy has to make it to the next round......also Romania has to loose. Romania's 'Don' Mutu(swami) will forever curse himself for missing the penalty against Italy if they loose the last match against Holland.
Italy's Buffon was exceptional but the best goalkeeper of the tournament has to be Russia's Igor Akinfeev. Spain's David Villa is the find of the tournament so far and only the indomitable Turks - Arda Turan and Nihat Kahveci - together with Holland's Wesley Sneijder compete with him. Turkey v Czech Republic match lived up to expectations. In arguably the match of the tournament so far Nihat led with a lion's heart in Emre's absence, scored two goals in four minutes, as Turkey snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. What a sad end to striker Jan Koller's and coach Karel Bruckner's illustrious careers! Both these teams promised a lot in the last few years and achieved little. Turkey may yet not go the whole distance but with a win like this who knows? They will be all fired up to do the impossible now. Fatih Terim of Turkey and Slaven Bilic of Crotia will now have a face off in the quarter finals for the title of the Best Coach of Euro 2008.
Germany faces death at the hands of Austria....Italy and France pray the Dutch for mercy...Sweden may come to grief against the Russians...perhaps the best of Euro 2008 is yet to come!

Watch out for Italy v France, Sweden v Russia and Crotia v Turkey (QF).

P.S: Greece is wonderful!? The worst team to have won the European Champions tag has a first round exit!!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Euro 2008

I don't know why Italy and Germany's losses have to be regarded as upsets. In the last decade or so Holland and Croatia have put up some very strong squads that achieved less than what they could have with a little bit of luck. These matches were always going to be close and it shows in the amount interest they generate around the world.
What I cannot fathom is the ease with which Italy and Germany lost.
I started following football since 1982 when Paulo Rossi won the world cup for Italy. Subsequently Maradona and Mathaus ensured that the interest never died and love for game grew stronger. Never mind the fact that Bhutia's India IX rank on the wrong side of hundred in FIFA world rankings.
Talking of rankings here is an interesting statistic on football coaches. That is perhaps one reason why Croats should not have been taken lightly. Of course the team does the job but then they have produced some excellent footballers time after time. Davor Suker from the class of WC 1998 has retired, but this team is equally talented. Luka Modric is, according to the Croatian coach, 2nd best only to Kaka of Brazil. Germany had serious opponent to conquer and they failed.
The Germans and the Italians can still bounce back...Germany though has shown some problem areas. The difference between this side and that of the past is that it no longer reigns supreme in the air (headers). The ability to score from long range is missing and also their strong physical presence on the field has been tempered by the changes to the game that FIFA has implemented over the years.
Bastian Shweinsteiger's red card could come back to haunt Germany even if they qualify for the next round.
Holland v France , France v Italy , Turkey v Czech Republic are all going to be pretty close contests.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Work, health and other commitments took turns to ensure I stayed away from my blog. But I am back now.

IPL - Was a grand success and I have to admit that it defied my prediction. What I made of the various outfits that competed and also their constituent members including the so called icon players however remains unchanged. A few words on IPL -
Pawar exacted his revenge on Punter as only the wily Maratha strongman could. He also managed to clip the high flying Turbanators wings. Lalit Modi ensured the tournament was a grand success. Shahrukh Khan sold KKR so wonderfully that it has more suppporters that any other team and money as well. Sean Marsh with the maximum number of runs in the IPL hinted that perhaps T20 is not vastly different from normal cricket (Test and ODI). IPL also proved that Australlians still rule the world of cricket - Shane Warne doing a Lagaan with Rajasthan Royals and Shane Watson winning the top cricketers tag at IPL. For Indian cricketers - including those who did not get selected in the national side - the IPL seems to have been a big boost of confidence and bank balance as well. Indeed this confidence reflects in the win over Pakistan in Mirpur by our first eleven yesterday. A record margin at that. Some new names have come to the fore for India because of IPL - Asnodkar, Yusuf Pathan, Manpreet Gony.
On the flip side -
The 'cheer leader' concept is ghastly. I will say no more about it. The fact that two highly successful teams (Mohali and Jaipur) are owned in part by Lalit Modi's relatives needs to be investigated. There were more than a few administrative glitches that need to be fixed before the next IPL event. Gaps between Indian talent and the overseas talent is immense. Asnodkars, Pathans, Jadejas, Gonys are nowhere near the class of Shane Watson or Sean Marsh. Balaji, Nehra, Zaheer, Agarkar are spent forces. Same applies to Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman. Owners of certain teams need to be sober in their actions and words. Case in point is the King of Booze. It was sad to see a few cricketers like Ranadeb Bose get completly shunted out. Some cricketers need to demonstrate some humility - India U19 captain (whatsisname?), Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh amongst many other over rated individuals. Others need to prove that they were born with a brain and still have it - Bhajji, Sreesanth, Nehra. Then those like Jadeja, Asnodkar, Ojha, Saha, Laxmi Ratan Shukla will need a reality check. They may never get beyond IPL unless they improve drastically. I am tempted to add to the last list the names of Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and that order.
Dravid perhaps already has done the check himself given his teams performance and his recent comments about T20. Tendulkar continues to play a few matches, despite his injuries and duly gets his stumps cleaned up by ordinary bowlers. His range of shots has gone down dramatically. If Sachin is a lame cow then what can one make of Dada? His repeated assertions about his batting form can fool only himself. He may have chosen to go out screaming, feet first and all that but will need to ensure that his pants dont get pulled off in the process. Laxaman is Laxativeman. Our selectors really need to find a replacement for him in tests as wells. This despite his performance down under.
Well to sum up, nothing succeeds like success and IPL has been a success. Not all owners may have made money ....certainly not the owners of Deccan Chargers who were left holding the wooden spoon despite individual heroics from Rohit Sharma, Gilchrist, R P Singh. It remains to be seen as to what impact this will have on first class tourneys like Ranji Trophy, other competitions like zonal cricket and even local tournaments like Kanga League in Mumbai. History has been made and perhaps the game itself is at crossroads. Where IPL will lead it to only time can tell.