Catching up with the remaining first round group matches.
Spain vs Italy
Predictable forwards. Balotelli neither killed a fan nor walked off the pitch but he did try hard to get sent off and better than that when through clean on goal and in a position from which he could easily get one past the keeper he decided to go into a slow motion swagger and got mugged from behind. Where are the shouts of “man on” when you need them? He was substituted shortly after and his replacement, Di Natale, wasted only 4 minutes getting the goal the Italians deserved.
At the other end, Fernando Torres, what is it with this guy? The Spaniards did it the other way around and put the muppet on as a replacement for the goal scorer, Fabregas, who had a great game. Torres on the other hand was as frustrated and tormented as he has been for the last few years. He manages to get into great positions from which he has (or used to have?) the skill to score spectacular goals but he doesn’t. He then mopes around looking like he’d rather just go and hang himself. He needs help or he needs a new career. God help Chelski next season if he really is the guy they are relying on for goals.
Overall this was a great game for a neutral but probably very frustrating for both sets of fans. The Italians looked fresher but then their season lasted 17,000 minutes less than the Spanish one so I’m reliably informed by the BBC.
You have to see these two as both qualifying from their group unless Croatia manage a bit of an upset against a tiring Spain in their last match?
Ireland vs Croatia
Here’s a tip, if to want to beat Shay Given (Irish goalie) head the ball low and to his left. Worked a treat for the Croats.
The second worst defeat so far was the fate of the jolly Irish and that’s despite the filthy weather being very much up their street. Good job it’s the Irish who lost because as we all know they are the only fans who can turn losing into a good excuse for cheerfulness and having a good old time.
Croatia looked decent enough but good enough to come second? They have some excellent players but I fear not enough of them.
As for the Irish, well I wish them all the best but Italy and Spain must be viewing them as a good opportunity to pump up the goal difference. Sorry, Derek.
England vs France
Yawn. With England playing a defensive 8-1-1 formation for most of the game you have to assume they were happier with the draw than were the more active and attacking French. Despite sending the Polish commentator into orgasms every time he got the ball, Benzema managed nothing more than a couple of lame shots. Decent goals from Lescott and Nasri.
Perhaps I’m biased but I got the feeling half the England players were using the game as part of their recuperation from injury and that if they actually moved a bit faster and tried to attack they might have won the game. As it was, when one of the eight defenders did try to move toward the French goal there was nobody there to pass it to so they either fell over or passed it back to the French. There were times I thought the ref had stopped the game but it was just another England build up to an “attack”. Missing Rooney, that’s for sure or stronger coffee for breakfast.
I tried to work out Woy’s substitutions but gave up as they defied logic. He might have wanted to score another goal, which would have been nice, but he’d left it too late and not bothered telling any of the other players who were clearly very focused on defending so they came on, did nothing and then the game ended.
Have to assume England will be aiming for qualification through drawing every match or boring the opposition to death.
The French will be relying on the good favor of the referees who are presumably under instructions from Platini to be nice to them judging by this performance. Then again, the refs favor of the French might have been a reaction to England putting in a serious bid for the divers trophy.
Ukraine vs Sweden
Good game with a similar all out attack feel as Spain Italy and with more energy in one half than the whole French English clash.
For once the headliners got the goals, Ibrahimovic the opener for Sweden and Shevchenko following up with two for Ukraine. Shevchenko’s goals were both headers and you’d have to search long and hard to find two better headed goals in one game by the same player. Considering this tournament is the 35 year old’s swansong he put in a great performance that was ecstatically appreciated by the fans, coach and teammates alike.
Ukrainian coach, Oleh Blokhin, a hot shot striker himself in the 70’s and first Ukrainian winner of the Ballon D’Or in 75 seems very popular with the squad. Pretty sure he keeps supplies of vodka and hairspray under his bench though!
Ukraine might just do what I predicted and win this group if they can keep the energy level up and keep the likes of Voronin and Shevchenko fit. Sweden have the ability to spring a surprise but don’t look to have the strength in depth to get out of the group. They’ll be avoiding their Danish cousins for a while.