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What I Learned From Watching Day 5 of The Euros 2012

June 13, 2012

Group A returned to the spotlight with their second series of matches, on what became the most highly charged day of the tournament. In retrospect, some of my observations and lessons are clearer than others:

  • I’m going to step slightly off the proverbial pitch for a second and discuss some sociocultural “phenomena” for lack of a better classifier.  I’m not quite sure what to make of Russia’s presence at the Euros. From their unruly fanbase causing general mayhem after matches in the host cities (which prompted UEFA, the European Soccer governing body to open disciplinary proceedings and had the Russian soccer federation pleading with their fan base to behave) and engaging in a provocative and (at times) violent march to the stadium for the Poland vs. Russia match yesterday, to the Soviet-Era color scheme of their uniforms – red tops and shorts with gold trim that basically replicate the Soviet Union’s flag, with a mere diagonal stripe in the colors of the Russian flag (white, blue and red) across the front, leading one to believe the Ukraine could wear the same uniform except for a blue-yellow stripe to signify their flag, or any other former Soviet republic for that matter – to the enormous “This Is Russia” fan banner unfurled inside Warsaw’s stadium today (on “Russia Day”, which was June 12, a day marked to celebrate ironically, their independence from the Soviet Union, which I found garish considering the history between the two countries, and had me saying “This isn’t Russia … Is this Russia?No, this isn’t Russia.“). Not to get apocryphal here, but it’s like Russia is trying to intimidate their way to the title. Heck, even their National Anthem is intimidating, especially in full chorus.  Maybe Russia and its people are making a statement about Russian pride and nationalism that goes beyond soccer.  Maybe it’s just a spate of hooliganism, Russian-style.  But intimidation or nationalism alone won’t work – certainly not against a world class squad like Germany or Spain, as it didn’t even really work today against Poland in a 1-1 result – and I don’t think it will work when Russia hosts the World Cup in 2018 either.
  • As for the game itself, it produced the goal of the tournament so far, Jakub Blaszczykowski’s bolt of lightning in the 57th minute that brought Poland level with Russia, after rising starlet Alan Dzagoev (that’s my guy!) redirected a free kick into the back of the net and put Russia temporarily ahead in the first half.  I thought it was one of the better games of the tournament so far, the first game with actual tension on the field (possibly because of the aforementioned tension in the stands and elsewhere), and the fact Poland got a result is a testament to not only the team’s fortitude, but the quality and enterprise of their play against a Russian squad that didn’t look like it had lost a step since last Friday’s 4-1 win over the Czechs.
  • Earlier in the day, the Czech Republic threatened to run away and hide in their match with Greece, taking a cue from what Poland did against Greece for their goal and plundering down the right side to score two goals in the first six minutes.  Then Greece settled their back line and joined the match, actually crawling out of their defensive shell. As happened in the Poland match, Greece had yet another goal called back for offsides, before finally scoring early in the second half with a typically opportunistic goal from an untypical Czech ‘keeper Petr Cech flub of a long ball. By match’s end Greece had generated more shots on goal (5-3) and overall possession (54-46%) than the Czechs, but less goals (2-1). Although they were ultimately undone by their slow start, when Greece played more aggressive, positive soccer, they actually looked the part more than I would have suspected, but I wouldn’t expect a sudden reversal to an attacking philosophy anytime soon. In contrast, removing Tomas Rosicky at the half stalled the Czech offensive efforts, even as impressive wingback Theodor Gebre Selassie did as I suggested after Day 1, assisting the second goal and tormenting Greece on attack throughout.  Rosicky holds the keys to unlocking the Czech attack however, and they will need him at his healthy best to overcome what is sure to be an inspired Poland squad.
  • Two games into Group A play, and the prognosis is as follows: All four teams have a chance to advance to the knockout stage, while every team except Greece has their own fate in their hands…errr …feet. Russia (4 points) needs a win (which guarantees first place) or a tie (and could potentially advance on goal differential with a close loss) against Greece, while both Czech Republic (3 points) and Poland (2 points) can win their match against the other and advance, and Greece (1 point) needs to beat Russia and get some help with a Poland-Czech tie to advance on goal differential. Russia still looks like the class of the group, and I’ll stick with my Czech prediction for advancement based on their improved play yesterday, although Poland beating the Czechs on Saturday wouldn’t surprise me in the least.  Greece beating Russia sure would though.

Up Next: Wednesday June 13, Group B heats up with Denmark vs. Portugal, 9:00AM PST, a nice appetizer to be followed by the main course, Netherlands vs. Germany, 11:45AM PST.

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From → Soccer, Sports

One Comment
  1. Eric permalink

    “in their hands…errr….feet” YES YOU DID…! Enjoying the read Bobbo. Nice work!

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