Alright folks, the first round is done. Sorry I didn’t get in the final two days of highlights, but they were mostly anticlimactic anyway, except for maybe the disallowed Ukraine goal and the two very good goals from Balotelli and Ibrahimovic. Anyway, on to the quarterfinals! All times Pacific.
Thursday, June 21
Czech Republic vs. Portugal. (11:45 a.m., ESPN) Probably the least expected – and also least boosted by star power of the four games. Which is amazing, considering His Hair Gel is playing. Yes, I mean Cristiano Ronaldo. Nonetheless, it should be a good match. Portugal is favored, but the Czechs have been very good since their tourney-opening thumping at the hands of the Russians. Since neither team could really be called an offensive juggernaut, what happens is pretty much down to how successful the Czechs (and right back Theodor Gebrie-Selassie, who has been quite good so far) contain Ronaldo. The winner of this takes on the winner of Spain-France. Prediction: I want to pick the Czechs, but I just can’t. Portugal 1-0.
Friday, June 22
Germany vs. Greece. (11:45 a.m., ESPN) The other big shock of the tournament so far, with the Greeks coming back to knock off the heavily favored Russians. If they pulled off the upset again, it would be a really really really big upset. It’s not impossible, but this is an aging Greek team, not as defensively sound as in the past, with arguably the worst forward pool in the competition. Germany, meanwhile have stars at every position and are probably the most unstoppable attacking force in the tournament. But hey, it could happen, right? The winner takes on the winner of England-Italy. Prediction: Germany 3-0
Saturday, June 23
Spain vs. France. (11:45 a.m., ESPN2) This is the one game in the quarterfinals that is on ESPN2 – we can only presume that the Tennessee high school girls’ championship is on at this time. The media seemed pretty shocked that France, which was basically qualified by this point, didn’t seem all that upset to lose to Sweden in their final match, thus ceding the group to England and meaning France takes on Spain. Here’s the thing, though: France would probably have to play Spain at some point in the tourney anyway, and the winner takes on either the Czechs or Portugal, far less daunting than a possible semifinal date with Germany. So in a way, it makes sense. the defending champs haven’t lost a match yet, but aside from a 4-0 win over hapless Ireland, they haven’t been convincing. Prediction: France pulls the upset, 2-1.
Sunday, June 24
England vs. Italy. (11:45 a.m., ESPN) As kind of noted in the Spain-France preview, I thought people’s reactions to the seeding from Group D was curious. England fans cheered wildly with news that they were getting Italy instead of Spain in the quarterfinals. It’s true, Spain would probably beat England, but Italy are also very good. There is a question whether an England team with a not quite fit Wayne Rooney, an underperforming Ashley Young, and well, Andy Carroll (I think Danny Welbeck is decent, so I’m not including him) will be able to break down an organized Italian defense. They struggled to do just that against France (no shock there) and Ukraine, and both teams were inept defensively in the match with Sweden, so this will be the English team’s first chance to show they can score goals against a good defensive team. Italy aren’t high scoring, but Andrea Pirlo has played well, and their rotating cast of forwards has shown at least one guy can pop up and put the ball in the back of the net. Prediction: 1-1, Italy wins on penalties.
Ukraine 0, France 2: The French make up for slogging through their initial match with England by playing nice football against a very game Ukraine side. Goals were scored by Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye. With the win, France is on the cusp of advancing to the second round, particularly since Sweden is terrible. Ukraine get to play England for the right to join them (assuming France beats Sweden).
Sweden 2, England 3: Sweden rallies to take the lead in the second half against England, then contrives to throw it away, just like they did against Ukraine. Danny Welbeck scored the winner for England. The English took the lead through Andy Carroll, then Sweden rallied thanks to a Glen Johnson own goal and one from Olof “The Beard” Mellberg. After that, substitute Theo Walcott scored for England. Sweden is eliminated. England are struggling to impress, but they should be able to beat or at least draw with the Ukraine, which will be enough to move on.
Group D standings
1. France 1-1-0, 4 pts
2. England 1-1-0, 4 pts
3. Ukraine 1-0-1, 3 pts
4. Sweden 0-0-2, 0 pts
Who will advance
France will advance with a win against Sweden, or if Ukraine fails to beat England.
England will advance with a win or draw against Ukraine.
Ukraine will advance with a win against England.
Sweden is eliminated.
Czech Republic v Poland, 9
Greece v Russia, 9
1. Germany (2-0-0, 6 pts). Up next: Denmark, June 17
2. Spain (1-1-0, 4 pts). Up next: Croatia, June 18
3. France (1-1-0, 4 pts). Beat Ukraine 2-0. After a dull first match, France impressed against the Ukraine, and with the porous Swedes up next, should waltz into the second round. Up next: Sweden, June 19
4. Croatia (1-1-0, 4 pts). Spain, June 18
5. England (1-1-0 4 pts). Beat Sweden 3-2. Up next: Ukraine, June 19
6. Russia (1-1-0, 4 pts). Up next: Greece, June 16
7. Portugal (1-0-1, 3 pts). Up next: Netherlands, June 17
8. Ukraine (1-0-0, 3 pts). Up next: England, June 19
9. Czech Republic (1-0-1, 3 pts). Up next: Poland, June 16
10. Italy (0-2-0, 2 pts). Up next: Ireland, June 18
11. Denmark (1-0-0, 3 pts). Up next: Germany, June 17
12. Poland (0-2-0, 2 pts). Up next: Czech Republic, June 16
13. Greece (0-1-1, 1 pt). Up next: Russia, June 16
14. Netherlands (0-0-2, 0 pts). Up next: Portugal, June 17
15. Sweden (0-0-2, 0 pts). Lost 3-2 to England. Sweden were billed as a dark horse to … well, not win the tourney, but advance to the second round, but their defensive inadequacy resulted in them getting bounced after two games. At least the girls are pretty up there. Up next: France, June 19
16. Ireland (0-0-2, 0 pts). Up next: Italy, June 18
Player of the Day: Karim Benzema, France. The Real Madrid striker performed excellently in the target man role, notching assists on both French goals.
Disappointment of the day: Sweden. An attacking force they might be, but blonde Adonises (or in Zlatan’s case, not so much) can’t defend or control midfield to save their life and have an early trip home for their troubles.
Goal of the day: Danny Welbeck, England
Best Striker At the Euros So Far Rankings
1. Mario Gomez, Germany
2. Mario Manzukic, Croatia
3. Karim Benzema, France
4. Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine
5. Robert Lewandowski, Poland
Ukraine 2, Sweden 1: Another semi-upset with co-hosts Ukraine toppling the favored Swedes thanks to two goals from Andrei Shevchenko. Prior to the match (and during the first half), there was quite a bit of “Ukraine are giving in to sentimentality by playing Shevchenko,” so it was probably pretty satisfying for him to put his country in the drivers’ seat in Group D. Sweden’s goal came from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who played well, but didn’t get much support from his teammates. Both teams have a decent shot at advancing, since neither England nor France were all that impressive in the first game.
1. Russia (1-0-0, 3 pts). Up next: Poland, June 12
2. Croatia (1-0-0, 3 pts). Up next: Italy, June 14
3. Ukraine (1-0-0, 3 pts). Beat Sweden 2-1. The unfancied, umm … Ukrainis? surprised some by beating Sweden, but they ARE the co-hosts. Why wouldn’t they be able to beat a mid-level European power? With neither France nor England looking dominant, can they finish first in the group? Up next: France, June 15
4. Denmark (1-0-0, 3 pts). Up next: Portugal, June 13
5. Germany (1-0-0, 3 pts). Up next: Netherlands, June 13
6. Italy (0-1-0, 1 pt). Up next: Croatia, June 14
7. Spain (0-1-0, 1 pt). A draw against a good team isn’t a bad way to start off the tourney, but the defending champs need to figure out who to play at striker if they want to advance out of this group, much less repeat. Up next: Ireland, June 14
8. France (0-1-0, 1 pt). Drew 1-1 with England. While it’s true that a point from their match with England would be more favorable to England, it’s hard to argue that France were not the more dangerous looking team. They must be better against Ukraine, though, or they are likely going home early. Up next: Ukraine, June 15
9. England (0-1-0 1 pt). Drew 1-1 with France. It’s not impossible for a team to play defensive football and have success in the tournament (see Greece, 2004), but England created very, very little against France. With Sweden coming up, they’ll hope to nail down qualification for the next round before their last game, even without Wayne Rooney. Up next: Sweden, June 15
10. Greece (0-1-0, 1 pt). Up next: Czech Republic, June 12
11. Poland (0-1-0, 1 pt). Up next: Russia, June 12
12. Portugal (0-0-1, 0 pts). Lost 1-0 to Germany. Up next: Denmark, June 13
13. Netherlands (0-0-1, 0 pts). Lost 1-0 to Denmark. Up next: Germany, June 13
14. Sweden (0-0-1, 0 pts). Lost to Ukraine 2-1. No one really expected Sweden to lose the opener, but Ukraine played quite well, and the Swedes defended poorly. Their matchup with England will likely determine whether they advance. Up next: England, June 15
15. Ireland (0-0-1, 0 pts). Up next: Spain, June 14
16. Czech Republic (0-0-1, 0 pt). Up next: Greece, June 12
Player of the Day: Andrei Shevchenko, Ukraine. He might be ancient, but Shevchenko silenced the doubters with two well-taken headers. Now tied for the lead in goals scored, can he send the co-hosts into the second round at France’s expense?
Disappointment of the day: Ashley Young, England. With Wayne Rooney suspended, Young was considered the “danger man” going into the match against France. Instead, the English press will be talking about a “heroice” defensive performance as Young didn’t even get to do any of his trademark flopping. Will he still start the next match?
Goal of the day: Samir Nasri, France
Player of the Tournament So Far Rankings
1. Andrei Shevchenko, Ukraine
2. Alan Dzagoev, Russia
3. Michael Krohn-Dehli, Denmark
4. Mario Mandzukic, Croatia
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
Boring boring boring.
England was outshot I think 20-4, but France didn’t necessarily threaten besides the goal. Oh, who scored? Uhh … Joleon Lescott for England (a header off a corner) and Samir Nasri for France, beating Joe Hart at the near post.
Not much else to say. Both teams are setting themselves up to where they HAVE TO win against either Sweden or Ukraine, which seems weird, since it was an eminently winnable match for both teams. I hope the second one today is better.
Ranking: 50; Qualifying record: N/A (Qualified as host); Best finish: First appearance; Coach: Olei Blokhin; Nickname: Zhovto-Blakytni
Ukraine’s squad consists almost entirely of players who play in the Ukraine, but there are some decent enough players (Andriy Shevchenko – yes, he’s still alive; former underwhelming Liverpool striker Andriy Voronin; Bayern’s Anatoliy Tymoshchuk). Whether the home advantage will be enough to nab them the points needed to edge out England, Sweden and France is debatable, though.
Player to watch: Andriy Shevchenko. The striker’s storied career has got to be on downward slope by now (he’s 35), but after a rough spell at Chelsea, nothing would захват him more than helping his team edge out England on home soil.
Ranking: 17; Qualifying record: 6-0-2; Best finish: Semi-final, 1992; Coach: Erik Hamren; Nickname: Blagult
The Swedes, like England minus the unrealistic expectations, are one of those teams that usually qualify for major tournaments and generally advance to the first knockout round before losing. This tournament will certainly feature a dramatically different squad than the next Euros (12 players are at least 29 or older), and with World Cup qualification not a certainty, look for players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Olof “The Beard” Mellberg to do all they can to secure a second-round berth.
Player to watch: Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Like Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan is all bravado and bluster, but when he’s on his game, he’s as good as (or better than) any striker in the world. His performance for Sweden has often been less than inspiring, though.
Ranking: 16; Qualifying record: 6-3-1; Best finish: Champions 1984, 2000; Coach: Laurent Blanc; Nickname: Les Bleus
Like Italy, France is another dormant champion little is expected from. However, unlike Italy, they have a very strong squad and have been performing well of late. Now that the Raymond Domenech era is over, can France return to the world’s elite?
Player to watch: Franck Ribery. He might look like Quasimodo, but Bayern’s crafty winger is certainly one of the most talented players in world football. After the disappointment of Bayern’s Champions League defeat to Chelsea – and with several young attacking wingers coming up through Les Bleus’ ranks – he’ll be looking to show he is still France’s driving force.
Ranking: 7; Qualifying record: 5-3-0; Best finish: Semi-finals, 1996; Coach: Roy Hodgson; Nickname: Three Lions
If any English people actually read my blog, they’d probably think I was too hard on England, a team that always has huge expectation that it generally is doomed to not fulfill. This time around, the English FA waited an eternity to hire Roy Hodgson as coach, a good tactical man who probably needed more than a couple weeks with the squad to get them ready for a tournament of this magnitude. But hey, I’m sure they’ll win it anyway even though Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two games, and Rio Ferdinand, Gareth Barry, Darren Bent and possibly Frank Lampard won’t be playing. Right, English media?
Player to watch: Andy Carroll. So far, the most expensive player in English football hasn’t lived up to expectation Merseyside, but his performances in an England shirt tend to be better, since there is not the pressure of a $50 million price tag on him.
France vs. England
Ukraine vs. Sweden
Ukraine vs. France
Sweden vs. England
Sweden vs. France
England vs. Ukraine
Jeremiah says: This is probably the hardest of the four groups to call. In terms of performance, probably the strongest team is France, though they are often prone to inter-squad clashes (see World Cup 2010). England is a perennial favorite who rarely does much, but will be missing several big players for most or all of the tournament. Ukraine is the home team, but also the weakest, and Sweden has enough talent that they should make it to the next round. So … here goes.
Two more U.S. friendlies, two more disappointingly similar roster choices from U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. But hey, at least the team is win…well, at least the team has won once, right? Against Honduras. The world’s #57-ranked team. At home. By one goal. Klinsmann keeps talking about how the friendlies are important to evaluate who can play for the squad, while repeatedly calling up players who have tried and failed to make an impact in these friendlies, which we aren’t winning – even against inferior opposition (DaMarcus Beasley, Robbie Rogers, Edson Buddle, Kyle Beckerman, Michael Orozco Fizcal) or players no one have heard of who are notable for playing in Germany – or at least being on a German team’s roster (Fabian Johnson, Alfredo Morales, Danny Williams).
That isn’t to say Johnson, Morales, Williams and players of their ilk aren’t good enough to be on the team. But it is to say that it’s questionable to continually call up the same team through mediocre results while overlooking deserving players playing in the U.S. and elsewhere like George John, Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi, CJ Sapong, Mix Disterud and others while calling up relative unknowns because they play in Germany and filling the margins of the rest of the team with players like Buddle who can hardly be called the future of the U.S. national team. Klinsmann’s honeymoon is over. He either needs to start getting results or blooding players who might have an impact in 2014, if we actually qualify. At least Brek Shea is still on the team.
Goalkeepers Bill Hamid (D.C.United), Tim Howard (Everton)
Defenders Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon)
Midfielders Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Robbie Rogers (Columbus), Brek Shea (Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim)
Forwards Jozy Altidore (AZ), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Edson Buddle (Ingolstadt), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles)
I’ve been guilty of giving the U.S. women (and the women’s world cup in general) short shrift on here, but if I have a link to a video, will you forgive me? See highlights here.
Anyway, the U.S. beats France thanks to second half goals from Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. In fairness to France, they dominated huge chunks of the game but were let-down by poor finishing. As I type this, Sweden (who beat the U.S. 2-1 in group play) are leading Japan 1-0 in the match to see who plays the U.S. in the final.
I also want to point that ESPN Soccernet doesn’t see fit to put the Women’s World Cup semifinals as the main story on the page, instead deciding to focus on whether or not Cesc Fabregaaa ZZZZZZZ
ZZZ… WHA? What? Huh? Oh, sorry. Yeah, apparently ESPN Soccernet thinks football fans care more about hearing a quote from every member of Barcelona about how they’d like to have Fabregas on the team. BORING. Congrats to the U.S. women.