The Beautiful Game
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
How It Stands
Unforeseeable computer problems have prevented me from writing more regularly, and my regular work schedule has kept me from watching a majority of the games live, but I can watch the replays later in the day. A few games have been spoiled for me, due to knowing the score or the eventual outcome, but overall it has been an exciting tournament.
Group A brought me the most excitement by far. I’m of Portuguese decent, and I root for the Portuguese squad. After Portugal lost to Greece my expectations were very low. Portugal winning the group comes as a great surprise. They have played fairly well, but there is always that sense that they can do better. I also feel that their defence looks vulnerable to the counter-attack. The quarterfinal match between Portugal and England is bound to be a memorable one.
Greece is a very resilient team and they displayed that when they battled back to earn a point against Spain. That draw proved decisive in their qualification, and in Spain’s dismissal. I think Spain fell victim to not playing the entire match, and this often proves to be disastrous, especially in short competitions.
Group B, sees the French, and English through to the next round. This much was expected, but the manner in which it was accomplished is what was somewhat surprising. Everyone expected the French to dazzle and demolish everyone in their path, but they have just barely been grinding out the results. Perhaps they are saving their best for the second round. England, who were expected to grind out the results are the ones to dazzle. They were unlucky not hold off France in the opener, but they made no mistakes in their next two matches, handing both Switzerland, and Croatia decisive loses.
Croatia proved to be better than I expected. They too were unlucky not to come away from the France game with full points.
Group C, which I believed to be the most evenly matched group in the competition has proved to be just that. Bulgaria disappointed throughout, so far, but they have the opportunity to send Italy packing, and that would be a victory of sorts. Italy need a victory in their final game to advance, and even then they are not guaranteed a place in the next round. Italy would do well to field two teams, one to face Bulgaria, and another to ensure an adequate scoreline in the Sweden – Denmark game. I would not be surprised to see the Italians exit this tournament early. The Azzurri face an uphill battle. They have only scored once in the tourney, and it seems like Vieri, and Del Piero are just not getting it done, and Totti had himself foolishly suspended. I for one would like to see Bernardo Corradi get a run out there, so that he may try his chances. We will have to wait and see
In Group D, tiny Latvia has to be commended. Everyone, myself included, believed that they were the group’s whipping boys, and the proved everyone wrong and have battled valiantly enough to take a point against Germany.
The Czechs have played fabulous football so far. Now more than ever, I believe that they have what it takes to win be European champions. Nedved is in amazing form, as is Karel Poborsky. The Czech’s game against the Netherlands has been the best of the tournament so far. The Dutch were unlucky to lose that game, and now see their qualification in danger.
The Germans despite their poor performances might be able to sneak into the second round at the expense of the Dutch, but it is clear that the Germans have a serious problem on their hands. They don’t look like a team that deserves to be called World Cup runner-ups.
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