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What I Learned From Watching Day 18 of The Euros 2012, Semifinal No. 2, Plus A Final Preview

July 1, 2012

In many ways, Italy’s 2-1 win over Germany was the most shocking result of the Euros 2012. A furtive look back and forwards:

  • Boy was I wrong; in the “Battle of the Super Marios”, Balotelli (Italy) outclassed Gomez (Germany) 2-1. Italy flipped the script, doing to Germany what I had Germany doing unto them in the first 36 minutes with two decisive barnstorming goals by their volatile starlet Mario Balotelli (for an American Sports analogue, think Terrell Owens had he actually won a Super Bowl), as well as a huge, Patrick Roy-like performance from their goalkeeper Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon.  If this Semifinal is any real indication, Italy might just out-Spain Spain in the Final with an equally adept and beguiling possession game revolving around the likely MVP of the Euros 2012, Andrea Pirlo. Maybe the Italians should get caught for match-fixing before every major tournament …
  • For as nailed down as Cesare Prandelli had the Italian tactics and personnel yesterday (and all through the Euros), German Manager Jogi Low had them all wrong. In a word, Low’s lineup changes the last two games were “weird”. After changing three starters against Greece in the Quarterfinal, Low reversed those changes and then started Toni Kroos in place of 2010 World Cup Golden Boot winner Thomas Muller. Granted, Muller not had the most productive Euro 2012, but his absence until the last 20 minutes was as glaring as his insertion at defensive right-back was odd and ineffective, and absent of injury or suspension, I don’t see the wisdom of tinkering with the lineup that got your team through group play unblemished. The coming public inquest won’t be too kind either notwithstanding a vote of confidence from Germany’s football association, as under Low’s stewardship Germany has yet to win any title despite making the semifinals in all three of his major tournaments.
  • As an aside, I thought Referee Stéphane Lannoy completely bollocksed up the last four minutes of that match, awarding a dubious penalty on a clearly inadvertent hand ball right as extra-time began, then only letting the game go on 20 seconds further once the prescribed four minutes of extra time – two of which were spent on the penalty kick – had passed.  Having said that, German ‘keeper Manuel Neuer goaltending from 65 yards out in the waning moments after the PK goal was an awesome sight, like a bulldog on a long leash sending everything back.
  • Getting to the all-important question of who will win The Euro 2012 Final, there are several excellent previews out there that cover history, tactics, statistical analysis, styles, contrasts, personnel, key issues, and predictions ranging the gamut from computer simulation projection to human gut feeling.  All are a good read before today’s action, so I won’t replicate those details.  I will return to the opening round match between the two teams in group play for a moment, when Italy was clearly the more consistent and dangerous team, while Spain’s attention was absent until Italy scored their goal an hour into the match.  Today, Italy should have Spain’s attention from the opening kick, and while Italy has largely shed its conservative and defensive reputation with a positive tweak on Spain’s possession-oriented approach, it is Spain that enters the Euro 2012 Final with eight consecutive clean sheets during knockout stage play in major tournaments. Put me down for Spain, 2-1, bucking the trend of media punditry favoring Italy by the same score. Whether it’s decided in regular, extra or penalty kick time, Spain’s heroic version of “The Shadow”, San Iker Casillas will leave his mark on Italy’s fortunes, and Manolo el del Bombo, the Spanish uber-fan who lost nearly everything for the love of La Roja, will again beat a happy drum.

Up Next: Sunday July 1 (Today), La Roja goes for its Three-peat™ against a surging Forza Azzurri in the Euro 2012 Final in Kiev, 11:45AM PST.  Join the expected 250 million live viewers and get those tapas and antipasti ready!

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From → Soccer, Sports

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