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Euro 2012 Round Up - Days 5-8

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The second round of group games got under way with the Greeks facing off against the Czech Republic. Greece got off to the worst possible start by letting in two goals in the opening five minutes. The first took just two minutes to arrive, Rosicky releasing Jiracek who ran clear and just about beat the keeper with a low shot. I like Jiracek, he looks like a pirate and pirates are cool as fuck. Why are they cool as fuck? Because they aaaaaaaarggghhhh.

Rosicky was involved in the second too, his lovely weighted ball finding the marauding right back Gebre Selassie who's centre was bundled in by little Pilar for his second goal of the tournament. The Greeks were baring gifts, but there was very little for the Czechs to beware of at the other end. It was a massive uphill battle for Greece now, you could say they'd have to 'work like Trojans' to get back into this. They tightened up at the back after their terrible start, but I couldn't help thinking it was a case of closing the city gates after the Trojan Horse had already bolted. Ok ok I'll stop it now.

The Czech fans were on cloud nine and there were thousands of them in the stadium making a hell of a racket. The cameras showed them bouncing up and down, that won't have phased the Greek keeper though as being a former Portsmouth player he's got plenty of experience of bouncing cheques. His day ended not long afterwards when he signalled to the bench that he had to come off with what looked like a knee injury. He'd not covered himself in glory this tournament and isn't going to be any kind of loss. You could say his departure isn't exactly a 'Greek Tragedy'. What? Ok, so I lied, I'm not going to stop it and I've got tons more of these, not that I'll need them as Greece will surely be going home after the next game.

The performance of Milan Baros really saddened me. I love Milan, he was my favourite player for a time. I loved his non-stop running and effort, the way he'd pick up the ball and just take off running at the defence and the way he never gave up. What the hell has happened to him? I haven't seen him even try and run at anybody once yet, and even worse, he was being a right fucking diva in this game. That's 'diva' as in Mariah Carey, not diver as in Ashely Young. Throwing his arms up and not chasing balls into the channels is not something I've seen from him before, but it happened a couple of times in this game, there was a particularly shocking one when he didn't chase a ball down to the corner flag that he could easily have got. Even on the TV you could hear the fury from the Czech fans, understandably so. Sad to see.

Greece were putrid in the first half but a bit better in the second. They've got Petr Cech to thank for that, he handed them a lifeline when he fumbled under no pressure and allowed Gekas a tap in. Couldn't do that in the FA Cup final could you, helmet head? Cech is still class when it comes to making wonder saves as we found out to our cost at Wembley, but he's clearly gun-shy after the head injury and this goal was a direct result of that. He thought he was going to collide with his defender and just took his eye of the ball. It's quite sad seeing what's happened to him, at least it would be if he didn't play for Chelsea.

The Czechs offered nothing going forward after their early success but Greece just don't know how to play on the front foot They're built to defend leads, not to try and claw back deficits. That made for an appalling spectacle and I was glad when this one was over. It was painful to watch, like watching two fatties trying to do sit ups only not as funny.

I enjoyed Poland v Russia though, it was enthralling. Not especially incident packed, but because the game meant so much to both nations - especially the Poles - I was captivated by it. The Poles vociferously booed the Russian anthem, whilst the Russians unfurled a huge banner saying 'This is Russia'. Hmm, a banner like that in Warsaw? Bit dodgy to say the lest, and how the hell did they manage to get something that size into the stadium?

Dzagoev had given Russia the lead with a flicked header from an Arshavin free-kick, but Błaszczykowski equalled with a fantastic strike. Both sides had chances but the longer it went the more Poland were on the front foot and the Russians will have been glad to hear the final whistle. The Russians were well fancied going into it but were hanging on at the end. Poland played well, and if they repeat this level of performance against the Czechs they should advance to the knockout stages.

Arshavin's second half display was risible. Selfish, fancy dan, lazy little fecker, this was the Arsenal Arshavin. Meanwhile, the irrational dislike I'd been cultivating for the Polish left back has subsided he'll be glad to know. Still needs to do something about that quiff though.

The Danes took on Portugal in the afternoon game on day six and it was a cracker. Ronaldo was a disgrace though, missing two great chances and constantly scowling at team-mates and throwing his arms around. He's definitely got a superiority complex about him, which although understandable when you're in a dressing room with Helder Postiga isn't an ideal trait to have when you're the captain. Mind you, Postiga has scored in this tournament, which is more than Ronaldo can say.

Looking at the way he is around his team-mates, it put me in mind of 'Eastbound and Down' when Kenny Powers went to play in Mexico (if you've never seen Eastbound, you should, it's brilliant). I could just see Ronaldo re-enacting Kenny's speech: "There's no 'I' in team, but there is a 'U' in cunt. Don't be jealous little cunts". Great player but he's no leader. The Danish fans taunted him with chants of "Messi, Messi" and he's going to get that everywhere he goes I reckon. Doesn't matter how good he is or how many goals he scores, Messi is just from another planet. That must bother someone with an ego as big as Ronaldo.

Ronaldo's Real Madrid team-mate, Pepe, put Portugal in front with a good header from a left wing corner. Denmark's defending of it was terrible but give Pepe credit for the finish. Postiga made it 2-0 with an excellent strike from Nani's cross and the Danes were all over the place. Going forward they were doing nothing, Bendtner was completely isolated as the Danish midfield struggled badly.

They lost a player through injury and sent on someone called Poulsen. Not Christian thankfully, the less I have to see of him the better, the wounds are still fresh. On that subject, we did get rid of him permanently didn't we? I mean he wasn't just on loan? Nothing kills a pre-season buzz more than seeing old turds come floating back round the u-bend. Stewart, Cheyrou, Diouf, Diao, Aquilani… it's the worst thing about the summer for me.

Anyway, Christian Poulsen didn't get on, some other Poulsen did and he was fairly anonymous. Denmark pulled a goal back against the run of play when Krohn-Dehli got in behind the Portugal defence to head the ball back across goal for Bendtner to nod it in from a yard out. Game on again now. The Danes were better after the break and Bendtner drew them level with a fine header that the keeper almost kept out but couldn't quite prevent it from sneaking in.

Portugal were desperate now having lost their opening game, a point wasn't the end of the world but it would have left them with it all to do against the Dutch in their last game. They sent on attacking substitutes and one of them, Varela, won it for them with a clean strike at the second attempt having missed his previous kick. Simon Poulsen's defending on it was incredibly poor, making himself as small a target as possible and allowing the ball to sneak past his legs, which looked like they'd been tied together at the ankles. It was really bizarre, and the opposite to what you'd normally see any defender worth his salt doing.

I think the lessons to be learned from this game are that anyone named Poulsen is bad and all Ronaldo cares about is 'me me me'. By 'me' I mean 'him', just in case that wasn't clear. As far as I know Ronaldo doesn't care about me, and if he did he won't after reading this.

The other game in Group B was probably the most anticipated game of the tournament so far and it lived up to it's billing. Germany were vastly superior to the Dutch but the game still went down to the wire as most games have done so far. Euro 2012 has been a great spectacle up to now.

The Germans looked really impressive in this game, mainly because they seem to be good at everything. Excellent with the ball, effective without it, they can defend and attack. Ozil was a joy to watch and Sweinsteiger makes the game look so simple. He created both goals for the deadly Gomez with clever little passes in behind the Dutch defence, but the finishing from Gomez was something special. Can't help but think he's a bit of a cunt though, especially when you see him rolling around holding his face when he hasn't actually been touched. I'd ban players for ten games if I caught them pulling that kind of shit, there's just no need for it.

Van Persie's woes in front of goal had continued as he didn't make the most of a couple of decent openings in the first half. He had a much better effort brilliantly saved after the break and eventually got his reward with a superb goal that he powered in with his right foot. Fair play, great strike and it suddenly put Holland back in a game they had looked out of. Not many lefties can score a goal like that on their weak foot.

Van Marwijk had shuffled his pack at half time, sending on Van Der Vaart and Huntelaar for the ineffective Affelay and Van Bommel and as time was running out he played his last throw of the dice, sending on Kuyt for Robben. A lot was made of Robben's reaction, he didn't run across the pitch to shake hands with Kuyt, he just stepped off the field, jumped over the boards and then made the long treck around the field to sit with his team-mates on the sideline.

He got slaughtered by the commentators, but I didn't see anything wrong with it. By doing what he did he saved valuable time that his team needed. He never stormed off down the tunnel, he didn't seem particularly disrespectful and on a list of things to slag him off for that has to be pretty low. I'd be more annoyed about him continually doing the same thing over and over and over. Get the ball, run forward, cut in on left foot and shoot. And then repeat. And repeat. And repeat some more. Maybe try going on the outside just once? Does my head in, as he's seriously talented and should be far more effective than he is.

Final observation from today, McDonald's are proudly advertising that they are the suppliers of the 'official player escorts'. Good for them. Presumably the Italians are still supplying the ones for the match officials?

Speaking of the Italians, their qualification hopes are in the balance after they were held to a draw by Croatia in a lively game on day seven. The Croatian fans had disgraced themselves by booing the Italian anthem (my problem with this being it's a great tune rather than the disrespecting a nation side of things), not that it affected the Italians who belted it out in their usual passionate manner. Buffon's singing of their anthem might just be the best thing about international football, it's ace.

In fact, fuck it, I want Italy to go all the way in this competition just so I can see Buffon and De Rossi giving it the beans a few more times. Gets the blood pumping that, it may be the only national anthem that actually lends itself to fans bouncing along with it. The Italians love it, really gets them going.

They had the better of the first half but found the Croatian keeper in fine form. Marchisio had seemed certain to score but was brilliantly denied by the keeper. They had other chances too, with Cassano particularly wasteful and Balotelli not really much of a threat. He was hooked again, and I can't see him completing 90 minutes in any game. He'll either be subbed or red carded.

Pirlo showed his strikers the way forward by finding the net with a trademark free-kick. Most free-kicks in this tournament have been shit, nice to see a real master of his trade showing how it's done. Best hair in the tournament too for me.

Croatia were better after the break and Mandzukic equalised. Once again he spent much of the game pretending he was hurt when he wasn't. I don't like him and I want to see Croatia go out but it's all up for grabs now in the final games. Italy need to beat the Irish - which let's face it is about as difficult as finding sand in the desert - but if Croatia beat Spain then Italy will be out regardless of what they do. I read somewhere that a 2-2 draw also puts them out (don't know how that works) and it'd be ironic if the Azzuri were sent packing as a result of 'match fixing'.

Beating Spain is easier said than done of course. They completely embarrassed the poor Irish. It was completely one sided and the hardest job in this tournament must be that of Robbie Keane. What chance did he have of doing anything in this game, up there on his own against Pique and Ramos with no support, chasing long punts out of defence like a dog in a park. That was probably the longest 90 minutes of his life. Did he even last the 90 minutes or was he brought off? I don't remember, but it would be impossible to tell the difference anyway he was that anonymous.

Once again the Irish conceded an early goal that put them up against it. It was a bad goal too, Dunne did quite well to make a sliding challenge to stop a Spanish player going through, but it took him an age to try and get back to his feet and Torres nipped in to steal the ball, went round Ward like he wasn't there and then beat Given with a shot that really the keeper should be doing better with. Dunne struggling to get his ample frame up off the floor reminded me of me getting out of bed in the morning.

Torres then wasted a great chance to make it 2-0 after being set up by Arbeloa, who was camped out in the Irish half and playing further forward than most wingers do. Spain were enjoying almost total possession of the football. When they lost it they swarmed al over the Irish and won it back within seconds, either due to the Irish shitting themselves and just launching it downfield, or just not being good enough to pass the ball under pressure. And if it wasn't difficult enough for them, they also had the ref to contend with who in one surreal incident completely flattened Keith Andrews in the Irish half to start a Spanish attack. That was shocking that, it actually looked deliberate although I'm sure it wasn't as it's not like Spain needed any help. I know there's nothing in the rules to stop things like this but morally the ref should have blown up and awarded a drop ball for that as it was so bad.

Poor old Andrews and Glen Whelan were given a huge chasing all night. Only to be expected, far better players than those two have struggled to compete with Alonso, Xavi et al but still, this was like Cliff Richard taking on Roger Federer on Wimbledon's centre court. A complete mismatch.

The most surprising thing about it was it was only 1-0 at half time. That's the biggest knock on Spain for me, they're quite happy to pass it around without really doing much. For such a talented side they don't score as many goals as they should, but the Irish gave them a helping hand with that after the break. Once again they conceded really early in the half, Silva finding far too much time and space in the box after a terrible punch by Given had landed at his feet. Composed finish, but Ireland brought it on themselves.

Torres ran clear of the backline to beat Given and make it 3-0 before he was replaced by Fabregas, who promptly added a fourth after more shocking defending. Thankfully for Ireland it didn't get any worse but this was a proper beatdown.

It's probably unfair to single anyone out in what was such a poor all round team display, but I'm going to anyway. Aidan McGeady was crap, I spent most of the game calling for James McLean to come on but when he did come on I ended up calling for McGeady to come back as he was crap too. Duff was no better, but the way the game went it was impossible for any Irish player to look decent as they just couldn't get hold of the ball and when they did get it, they were usually deep in their own half, shattered after chasing it for so long and were quickly put under pressure by Spain who were just relentless.

The Irish fans have been widely praised for their great support and the way they've stuck with their team. They were singing Fields of Athenry at full tilt even at 4-0 down and seemed to have a great time regardless of the result. Good on them, it's probably the best way to be when you're following a side for whom qualification itself was a great achievement and who are huge underdogs in a very tough group. Still, I can't be doing with fans who are looking all sad and shit one minute, then suddenly they see themselves on the big screen the next and start grinning, waving and generally acting like knobs. Not specifically aimed at the Irish, there's been loads of other countries doing it too, but it gets right on my tits.

Next up, France against Ukraine. A horrendous thunderstorm forced the players off after five minutes and the hosts are no doubt wishing they'd not gone back out there as they were pretty inept. I lost interest in this one during that storm delay, in no small part due to ITV deciding to show 'highlights' of England v France, the worst game of the competition so far. All the games they must have in their vault, and THAT'S the best they can do?

When the game eventually came back on I couldn't really be arsed with it. I had it on the TV but had the laptop on too and wasn't giving this game my full attention, especially in the first half. I don't remember too much happening, although Shevchenko had a great effort that was saved but the longer this went the worse the Ukraine performance seemed to get and they had the shit booed out of them at full time. 'The Wolf' had played well in the opening game but was back to his Liverpool form in this one and was hooked at half time.

Evra not playing makes it more difficult to root against France but Ribery still being there certainly helps. This might be the best game I've seen him have actually, and he still never rose above 'pretty good'. Even so, France won at a canter, with goals from Menez and Cabaye. Menez was a threat and missed a few good chances before eventually scoring. He was lucky to still be on at that point as he probably should have had a second yellow card.

Can someone tell me what Alou Diarra actually does other than just be a big bastard who lurks around the middle of the park getting in the way? I remember speaking to two players who were at Liverpool when Diarra arrived for a pre-season trip to Switzerland. He was only with us a week before he left on loan and both of them said he was the worst player they'd ever seen and that he couldn't even make the most basic of passes. He's forged a good career for himself since then and here he is playing in a major tournament for one of the fancied nations. I can see where those two players were coming from though, I'm not having him at all.

Last but not least, England v Sweden. What this game lacked in quality - and boy did it lack in quality - it made up for in excitement. I really enjoyed it, and oddly found myself not rooting against England. Initially that was purely for financial reasons, a £20 bet on Big Andy to get the first goal resulted in me celebrating an England goal for the first time in many a year. Great ball from Gerrard, even better header from Carroll. Show me the money.

After that I told myself I didn't care what happened, and up until Mellberg scored I didn't. Most of the time when England concede I'm either cheering or laughing. I felt nothing this time, and when Mellberg added a second I could have sworn I felt a slight sting of something. Did it bother me that England had conceded? Surely not.

Hodgson made a change, sending on the jet heeled Walcott for the struggling Milner, and it quickly paid off as the Arsenal winger lashed one in from 20 yards. The ball swerved all over the place and the Swedish keeper - who'd earlier made a stunning save to deny Mongo - made a right pigs arse of it and England were level. I didn't cheer it, but did I feel the tiniest bit of happiness when it went in? Maybe, difficult to tell. I didn't yell "ah fuck off" like I'd normally do though.

Walcott then ran into the box and crossed for Welbeck to cleverly flick the ball in with his instep and give England the lead. Again, no cheer from me and whilst I wouldn't go as far as to say I was pleased, I wasn't displeased either and usually I would be. That's when it dawned on me, I'm not rooting for England but I'm not rooting against them either. This unsettled me, generally I'm as anti-England as they come so what is going on? I'd even say that if you took Mongo out of the equation I might actually be able to get behind them. Until Rooney comes back anyway, then all bets are off.

The excellent Gerrard almost made the game safe on the counter attack but was denied by the keeper. I really wanted that one to go in, I'm not gonna lie. Pretty sure that was just because it was Stevie though, I doubt I'd have been arsed had it been anyone else other than him or Carroll.

Speaking of Carroll, he was good I thought. Didn't get great service but the one good ball he did get he buried, and he helped out massively in his own box late on. Felt a bit bad for poor old Zlatan however, not only was he yet again not the best striker on the pitch (he must be used to that by now), but this time he couldn't even take comfort in being the 'best tall striker with his hair in a bun' on the field either. A new low.

My missus watched this game, she never watches footy but suddenly started showing an interest when she discovered I'd won a bit of cash. She took one look at Ibrahimovich and said "Who's he?". "That's Zlatan Ibrahimovic" I reply. "I don't like him, he looks like a vampire." she says.

If he was a vampire, I bet he'd be crap at that too. He'd be going for walks in the midday sun and biting people on the shoulder, the big dope. Still, I did enjoy it when he completely ruined Mongo down the right wing. Is Zlatan that quick or is Mongo that slow? Have to admit it shocked me, but it was really funny.

So what now, will I be supporting England against the Ukraine or will I go back to rooting for whoever they are up against? The truth is I don't know. I won't know until the game gets under way but I suspect it all hinges on the selection - or non selection of Big Andy. If he gets bombed out to accommodate Shrek's return they can fuck off. If he keeps his place then I won't want them to lose. Can't promise that I'll want them to win either, but one step at a time eh?

Dave

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I actually shed a tear or two when Milan left. I thought I was the only one who cared. It makes me happy to know he was someone else's favourite player too!

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c)the marsellaise is far better than the italian anthem

 

No way. The French anthem is good, very good in fact, but it's a distant second to Italy. Those two are miles better than the rest, I'd probably put Germany or Russia in at third but they aren't even close.

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My missus watched this game, she never watches footy but suddenly started showing an interest when she discovered I'd won a bit of cash. She took one look at Ibrahimovich and said "Who's he?". "That's Zlatan Ibrahimovic" I reply. "I don't like him, he looks like a vampire." she says.

 

Not from the Euro I guess?

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The Italian and French anthems are streets ahead of anything else. Even the lyrics in both are boss:

 

"Italy has called,

We are ready to die,

Yes!"

 

"To arms, citizens!

Form your battallions!"

 

Compare that our fucking dirge:

 

"Send her victorious,

Happy and glorious,

Long to reign over us."

 

No wonder our country's a fucking joke.

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"if Croatia beat Spain then Italy will be out regardless of what they do"

 

You may or may not care Dave, but this is not correct.

 

Great report again, particularly the piece on Zlatan. I always enjoy a bit of Zlatan abuse as I entirely agree with your views on him.

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"if Croatia beat Spain then Italy will be out regardless of what they do"

 

You may or may not care Dave, but this is not correct.

 

Great report again, particularly the piece on Zlatan. I always enjoy a bit of Zlatan abuse as I entirely agree with your views on him.

 

Keep forgetting that Spain didn't win their first game. My bad.

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"Looking at the way he is around his team-mates, it put me in mind of 'Eastbound and Down' when Kenny Powers went to play in Mexico (if you've never seen Eastbound, you should, it's brilliant). I could just see Ronaldo re-enacting Kenny's speech: "There's no 'I' in team, but there is a 'U' in cunt. Don't be jealous little cunts"."

 

You brought your A game there, Skip. Brilliant!

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