It’s time for my EURO 2012 quarterfinal predictions. After looking at my pre-tournament predictions, I don’t know what to think after the group stage. Going 3 for 8 picking teams to advance to the quarterfinals is simply awful.
Time to make amends!
Portugal v. Czech Republic
This is a matchup between a Group of Death survivor against a Group of Life survivor. I think death has the advantage here.
Portugal was the second best team in their immensely difficult group while the Czechs won their much weaker group. Portugal is getting stronger as the tournament is progressing while the Czechs have been labeled as one of the weaker teams in the tournament and their captain is injured. However, the Czechs have also made significant progress in this tournament after their 4-1 loss in their opener.
The team which the Czechs faced in this tournament which is most like the Portuguese is Russia. The Czechs were thoroughly destroyed by Russia, this could be an ominous sign for the Czechs.
Ronaldo finally scored which could be a start of good things to come for Portugal. Portugal will dominate the proceedings in this match.
If Portugal puts away their chances they will advance. I believe that they will and will advance to their third semifinal in their last four EURO appearances.
Portugal 2 Czech Republic 0
Portugal 4/5, Czech Republic 4/1, Draw 5/2
Germany vs. Greece
This is a matchup between the weakest team left in the tournament, Greece, against a pre-tournament favorite, Germany.
The Group of Life survivor, Greece, is fortunate to be in the knockout stage. However, they escaped with a victory against Russia so all power to them.
The winner of the Group of Death, Germany, won all of their group stage matches but haven’t reached their top stride yet.
The Germans are by far the better side here and will dominate proceedings throughout this match. I see the Greeks having 10 people behind the ball for long periods of time in this match.
This match will come down to whether the Germans will be able to put away their chances. The Germans will of course put away enough of their chances, they are German which synonymous in football with ruthless and efficient.
Germany 3 Greece 1
Germany 4/11, Greece 9/1, Draw 15/4
Spain vs. France
This is the first heavyweight fight of the knockout stage with the defending EURO and World Cup champions facing off against the last side to knock them out of a major international tournament (2006 World Cup).
France looked to be the favorite in Group D until they collapsed in the second half against Sweden in their final match. Spain definitely hasn’t played their best up to this point in the tournament, but still finished at the top of a pretty difficult group which included Italy and Croatia.
If France isn’t at their best, Spain will win simple as that. France’s back four looked shaky in their first true test against Sweden plus Philippe Mexes will be missing out due to picking up his second yellow card against Sweden.
Spain in this match, as always, will dominate possession. If Spain is able to finish their chances, they will go through. However, they are missing their best finisher in David Villa and Fernando Torres is not in the best form at the moment, so it isn’t a given that Spain will go through
Karim Benzema needs to play like a number 9 in this match and stay up front. If he continuously drops into the midfield, something he does regularly, France will struggle to keep possession against the Spain.
France will perform better against Spain than they did against Sweden, but it won’t be enough. Spain as they’ve done the past two major tournaments will do enough to reach their third consecutive major semifinal.
Spain 1 France 0
Spain 17/20, France 15/4, Draw 12/5
England vs. Italy
This is the most intriguing of all the quarterfinals for me. The English performed admirably without Wayne Rooney in their first two matches, but then were disappointing in their 1-0 win against Ukraine. The Italians performed very well in their opening two matches against Spain and Croatia and finished with a very Italian performance in their final match to progress to the knockout stages.
Both teams are quite capable of scoring a goal and sitting on a 1-0 lead. This is why the first goal, if there is one, is key in this match. Whoever scores first in this match will advance.
I really don’t know which way to go here, I see these sides as being evenly matched. Since I have to pick though, I think Italy deserve the nod due to their past successes.
Italy 2 England 1 (a.e.t)
Italy 17/10, England 15/8, Draw 21/10
Article written by Michael Cox (Zonalmarking.net)
Before Alessandro Nesta‘s slide tackle had ended, he had raised his arm in apology. Lionel Messi had been hurtling toward the Milan goal from an inside-right position, and Nesta, returning from injury, couldn’t keep up. He only had one option — to bring down Messi.
It was the second time in the match he had deliberately fouled the world’s best player — in the same position on the edge of the box. Nesta’s raised arm in the second instance was surely not a pre-emptive appeal against a booking (it was the most blatant card you’ll ever see) but a genuine apology that he’d been forced into chopping down an opponent in such a cynical fashion. Nesta knew the card was coming — indeed, he happily took it rather than let Messi get past him.
No one would characterize Nesta as brutal defender. Like many Italian center backs, he can be crafty with giving away fouls, but he is more stylish, more composed than his contemporaries such as Marco Materazzi or Fabio Cannavaro. In a way, it was sad to see Nesta forced into the foul — at Camp Nou earlier in the season, he stopped Messi with one of the best tackles you’ll see all season. But in choosing to foul, Nesta was profiting from the situation.
Little instances like this are extremely frustrating. Wednesday’s Champions League first-leg quarterfinal was a superb game of football, featuring great technical quality in midfield. Only some poor finishing meant it finished goalless. But a key feature of the game was the way both sides were able to break up opposition attacks with “clever” fouls, controlling the tempo of the game and preventing quick counterattacks.
There’s nothing new in this type of tactical fouling, of course, but in recent years it’s become particularly obvious. Pace has become a key part of modern football, and the speed of the game is higher than ever before. Attacks can switch from one end of the pitch to the other at a quite astonishing swiftness, and since so many recent European champions have relied upon counterattacking (most obviously Porto in 2004, Manchester United in 2008 and Inter in 2010), attacking quickly through the center of the pitch is of paramount importance.
The problem is that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. In a lot of cases, the offending player knows he will pick up a card and is happy to collect it to prevent the opposition breaking quickly. His side can get back into a good defensive position, and the attacking side has been robbed of a potentially crucial situation. By committing a foul, the defensive side is better off. Why should it be rewarded for committing a foul?
Jose Mourinho has been particularly vocal about the problem with tactical fouling. “It’s a foul they don’t punish enough here in England,” he said during his Chelsea days, in Gianluca Vialli’s “The Italian Job.” “It’s the foul whose only objective is to kill the attacking situation. It’s purely tactical. I remember facing Everton, who had Thomas Gravesen and Lee Carsley. It was tactical fouling, over and over, for 90 minutes.”
In fact, Mourinho has even complained about Milan doing it. “Milan have a lot of experience, and they know how to control the tempo, commit a tactical foul,” he said when his Inter side was defeated in the derby in 2008.
But Mourinho is a clever strategist rather than a beacon of footballing morals, and he has exploited the lack of punishment in these situations as much as anyone. In the Clasicos since he took over at Real Madrid, such situations have been a key part of his game plan — they stop Barca’s attacks and allow Real to get men behind the ball. Since the start of 2010-11, the most booked player in Clasicos is not Pepe or Sergio Ramos butXabi Alonso. The midfielder clearly isn’t a dirty player, but he’s been forced into fouls to prevent being exposed. Like Nesta, he always knows what his punishment will be.
“Mourinho’s side had gone out with a game plan he used to great effect at Chelsea: constant tactical fouling,” former referee Graham Poll said after one of these meetings. “I find it outrageous that deliberate fouls in neutral areas of the pitch … are seen as acceptable.”
But let’s not pretend this is some kind of Real Madrid versus Barcelona or Mourinho versus Pep Guardiola debate, because Barcelona does the same. Seydou Keita did it by bringing down Massimo Ambrosini Wednesday after he’d been dispossessed. Often, Barca does it in a much more subtle way — it fouls as soon as it has lost the ball, stopping a counterattack before its origins have even become obvious. Back in the Supercup win over Real Madrid,Alexis Sanchez was its most prolific fouler. In this season’s Champions League, Messi has committed the joint-most fouls among Barcelona players, along with Dani Alves.
But it’s not a problem with these two clubs, or in Spain — it happens over Europe, and beyond. ESPN freelance writer Tim Vickery has touched on the issue in South America. “Just over a decade ago, some in the coaching fraternity were convinced that part of the secret of victory was to commit more fouls than the opposition,” he wrote in his BBC blog earlier this year. “Indeed, it was argued, a foul is not exactly against the rules. Rather, it is something dealt with by the laws — a resource of the game rather than an offence.”
Even if you accept that definition, it’s clear that the laws are not dealing with it well enough. A yellow card is often not a fitting punishment in these situations, because it’s not acting as a deterrent. It’s difficult to know what the solution is — sin-bins (aka the orange card) have been suggested to make the penalty more severe, but this is an alien concept in football. Red cards would generally be too severe.
But referees must be stricter on deliberate fouls. There should never be an instance in which a player deliberately infringes an opponent and receives no punishment — this means that every shirt pull, push or intentional trip should be a yellow card, even if in a completely nonthreatening area of the pitch. Miroslav Klose felt harshly dismissed when he was shown a red card against Serbia in the 2010 World Cup after two relatively innocuous trips when Germany lost possession, but this was fantastic to see. Germany was the counterattacking master at that tournament, and as Mourinho has demonstrated, those who play on the counterattack know the value of stopping the opposition from doing so.
As mentioned earlier, the laws of football are gloriously simple and barely change from decade to decade. But rules must adapt to the nature of the game, and at the moment the balance is in favor of those who want to foul, rather than those who want to play.
So, the FA’s “Respect” campaign is a joke. I stated in a post after Luis Suarez of Liverpool refused to shake the hand of Patrice Evra of Manchester United that hopefully there would be a punishment for Suarez’s action. The FA in a statement said that the refusal to shake hands was not a disciplinary issue. What kind of issue is it? I am seriously confused.
Prior to the match the FA could have scrapped the “obligatory” handshake, but they refused to stating that doing so would negate the point of handshakes. Does anyone else find something seriously wrong with this?
The FA forces players to shake hands before the match to show ‘respect‘ to their opponents and then say that this Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra situation is basically the principal purpose for the pre-match handshake. So, Suarez who was found guilty of racial abuse, something which shows a lack of respect, on Saturday refuses to shake the hand of the man who he was found guilty of racially abusing thus disrespecting Evra yet again and the ‘respect’ campaign is not charged with anything by the FA because ‘it’s not a disciplinary issue’. What’s the purpose of this ‘respect’ campaign?
Why does the FA mandate the pre-match handshake? It’s obviously a complete joke.
Note: I had to write this about 15 times to drop the curse words which I initially had in the post.
- “No, no, no,” say Liverpool, “you’ve got the wrong end of the stick” (themorningbabel.wordpress.com)
- Suarez-Evra Saga: FA to Take No Action Against Either Club, but Should They? (bleacherreport.com)
- Suárez misled us over Evra handshake, say angry Liverpool (guardian.co.uk)
- Gordon Taylor calls for FA to step in following Luis Suárez snub (guardian.co.uk)
One on hand, there are football (soccer) pundits who believe that the FA should have sacked Capello after his comments disapproving of John Terry being stripped of his captaincy. The logic that they used was that the FA and the manager need to be on the same page for the relationship to work. This logic works with the notion if you talk against your employer you’re bound to be fired.
On another hand, there are a few people who believe that Capello is a coward by quitting as the national team manager and should have stayed on at least through the EUROS. The English national team is in a bad spot after the dismissal of Terry as captain and Wayne Rooney being suspended for the first two matches of the EUROS. By quitting it makes it even more difficult because when a new national team manager is appointed, there will be a change in philosophy and not much time to implement that new strategy before the Championships start.
This relationship between the FA and Capello didn’t work out in the end because Capello is a stubborn man. This shouldn’t be a surprise to the FA or English fans because throughout his whole coaching career he’s bumped head everywhere he managed. It’s unfortunate the straw which broke the camels back is this John Terry saga. Terry has been a divisive force since his affair with Wayne Bridge‘s ex-girlfriend. The racist abuse situation has been even more of a divisive issue with many of the English players being Black. The fact that Capello continued to back Terry in the midst of this situation likely caused an even greater disconnect between the players and the ex-manager.
Who will the next England manager be?
Today there is a huge match in the Barclays Premier League between Manchester United and Chelsea. I am excited for it not only because, football (soccer), is my favorite sport, but it’s the perfect prelude to the Superbowl.
Chelsea this year have been as weak as they’ve been in a few years, and somehow against all odds United are still in the thick of the title race.
Chelsea according to the bookies are a slight favorite which is understandable although they’ve already lost three times a home this season. On the other hand, United have the best away record in the league.
Prediction: This reeks of a 1-1 draw which both teams wouldn’t be too upset about prior to kickoff. Bring on the snow!
Goals for Torres (yea I said that!) and Rooney.
Bring on Super Sunday!
- Chelsea vs. Manchester United: Live Blog, Commentary, Goals as They Happen (bleacherreport.com)
- National Sport: Chelsea game on (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Chelsea Manchester United Odds : Hernandez and Berbatov to fire Reds (footybunker.com)
- Chelsea Vs. Manchester United, 2012 Premier League: Despite Snowy Conditions, Match Is On (sbnation.com)
- 2012 Chelsea Vs. Manchester United WAG War [PHOTOS, POLL] (coedmagazine.com)