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What I Learned From Watching Day 4 of The Euros 2012

June 12, 2012

Games in the last Euro 2012 group to begin play were held yesterday, and an old lion roared for the home crowd.  My thoughts on the proceedings:

  • First off, listening to the English commentators on ESPN drone on about the weather conditions in Donetsk was ridiculous.  A field temperature of 86°F (30°C) in the shade, even with some humidity, IS NOT hot, is not “scorching”, and is not “sweltering”.  Having grown up in the Southwestern US desert, 86 degrees in the shade are ideal conditions to run around and keep the muscles loose, so long as you properly hydrate beforehand (which I’m certain professional athletes do).  I understand it the slightest little bit, if par for the course is 40 degrees, foggy and soggy, that 86 degrees might sound daunting, but there is a reason why the “snowbird” phenomenon exists, and why so many people prefer warm climates. Makes one wonder though what they’ll all say about the conditions during the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.
  • France and England played to a cagey if not conservative draw, one that England obviously feels more chipper about than France.  Both goals were soft; France got a preview of what England wanted to do off their free kick with Gerrard’s first attempt before the referee called it back and made Gerrard kick it over again, yet they allowed England to convert their only shot on goal of the match off that set piece with the same exact play, punctuated by poor marking and a lame effort by French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. England meanwhile let Samir Nasri just play the ball around the perimeter of the box before taking a low, swerving shot that caught England ‘keeper Joe Hart a bit unaware.  The result certainly benefits England’s chances for advancement more, as most feel France was the class of Group D and that any result today for England was a bonus, with more winnable games hereafter and Manager Roy Hodgson’s hope that the team would improve as the tournament proceeded.
  • For that to happen however, England must become a bit more proactive. They were too happy to play behind the ball, much like Greece. While they were not lacking in good ideas, they were lacking in able execution, as most of the passing and decision-making in the attacking third of the field was sloppy, or as Hodgson said post-match, “…sometimes a bit anxious.” Whether it’s fatigue from club seasons, a lack of chemistry, nerves of the opening game at a big tournament, an absence of belief, or a combination of all of the above, that’s hard to say. Stephen Gerrard, Scott Parker and James Milner, although a bit redundant altogether, do well to transition form the back to the attack, but the linkage in building the attack is wanting. What they really miss is a playmaking midfielder, and the ultimate issue for England is that they don’t have one on the current roster or in the talent pool for that matter.  Wayne Rooney’s return against Ukraine (who will be more inviting defensively) in the third group match will help things as he’s not shy about going to get the ball for himself, and England would have enough pace on the wings between Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck, Alex “Ox” Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott to apply pressure should they choose to, but under caretaker manager Roy Hodgson we’re not going to see a ton of attacking soccer from the English side, and the Sweden game (with Rooney out serving the second game of his suspension) may decide England’s fate before Rooney’s return.
  • Looking forward for France, they might have similar issues breaking down Sweden, who like England can organize behind the ball and bunker if they have to (even though Sweden did very little of that today), and will have to exercise a better mix of patience with urgency. Against teams like Ukraine that allow opponents to initiate the action, they should get theirs, and I still like their chances for deep advancement as much as ever.
  • As for the “Blue-Yellow” game between Sweden and Ukraine, it was an uptempo, free-flowing affair headlined by the duel of AC Milan lead strikers past and present. Andriy Shevchenko’s two superbly headed goals for Ukraine overcame Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s singular toepoke finish for Sweden, stirring the echoes of “Sheva’s” heyday at AC Milan and launching celebrations around the host country as Ukraine are surprise leaders of Group D with a 2-1 victory that the natives will talk about for generations to come.  Sweden meanwhile can’t afford to muse long on what might have been had “Ibra” been as efficient with  his chances and his defense (it was Ibra who was responsible for marking Shevchenko on the corner kick that produced the game winner), with England and France remaining and no result out of what was supposed to be their easiest game.

Up Next: Tuesday June 12, Group A returns to the fore with their second round of games, Greece vs Czech Republic, 9:00AM PST, followed by Poland vs. Russia, 11:45AM PST.

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From → Soccer, Sports

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