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Euro 2012 Round Up - Days 9-12

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Big drama on the first day of the final round of group games as the Russians and Poles both failed to qualify from a group they looked to be in good shape in. The Poles were somewhat surprisingly beaten by the Czechs but the real shock was the Greeks turning over Russia. Greece may be about to leave the Euro, but they're very much still in the Euro's. Amazing stuff, you've got to hand it to them, I don't think anyone expected them to get out of this group, especially after failing to beat the two weaker sides and leaving themselves a mountain to climb.

They're a resilient, resourceful bunch the Greeks. They parked a big old Trojan horse slap bang in the middle of group A, lulled everyone into a false sense of security by stinking it up against Poland and the Czechs before they sneaked out when no-one was looking and knocked over the group favourites to live to fight another day. I don't see them going any further than the next round but with them you just never know do you? You can't write them off that's for sure.

This was Karagounis' 120th cap and it's a night he's not going to forget in a hurry. He scored the winner and he should also have had a pen but instead got booked for diving. That caused him to completely lose the plot as that yellow card meant he would be suspended for the next round. He ended up being subbed as his head had completely gone. Some of the facial expressions and gestures from him were hilarious though, he looks just like a little mini Mel Gibson and he went all 'Lethal Weapon Martin Riggs' batshit crazy after that yellow card. It'll be one of the most enduring memories of the tournament I think, dead funny it was. His country owes him a massive debt. Well, him and the rest of Europe like.

There's one thing about the Greeks that's been bothering me all tournament though. Samaras doesn't wear an alice band, or any kind of device to keep his hair out of his eyes. This is actually a big deal to someone like me. As anyone with flowing locks will tell you, it's pretty much impossible to play football effectively without some kind of hairband/ponytail in place. You just can't do it, you spend most of your time brushing your hair out of your face and you can't see properly. And yet Samaras always goes commando, I've never seen him wear any kind of hair band contraption ever. What's his secret? Maybe there isn't one, maybe he'd be less crap if he could actually see what he was doing?

So the Russians are going home, a pity in one respect as their football can be very easy on the eye. Their fans won't be missed however, and I'm sure the Polish authorities are delighted to see the back of them. The Russian team just got worse throughout the tournament; they started great by battering the Czechs, finished shite by losing to Greece and were ok in the middle when they drew with the Poles. Arshavin fizzled out after a bright opening game and that striker (Kirzakov?) couldn't hit Gareth Barry's arse with a banjo.

As for the Poles, having played so well against Russia I thought they'd beat the Czechs. Turns out they must have just over-performed in that game due to the occasion. I really thought they'd win this game and go through but they were a bit shit unfortunately and deservedly lost. Lewandowski was similar to Arshavin, excellent in the first game but downhill after that.

Not that the Czechs were any great shakes either. It was a poor game with not many chances. Baros was again disappointing but in his defence it's not easy when any time you manage to get free of your marker he just hauls you to the floor. The Polish and Russian centre halves have been the most uncompromising in the tournament, proper big ugly bruisers they are. Milan was continuously fouled by the Poles all night and he really struggled to get into the game.

The one and only time he managed to make any kind of telling contribution led to the winning goal. He carried the ball forward towards the box and then rolled it to the supporting Jiracek who cut inside the defender and scored with a low shot. Watching the replay of it I had to marvel at the run of Jiracek who started well behind Baros but really bust a gut to get up in support and then overlap him. It was great desire that and he got his reward for it by scoring the goal that has sent them through. I like Jiracek, and not just because he looks like a pirate, he's a good player. The Czech right back Gabre Selassi has been quite impressive too, he's probably earned himself a move to one of the bigger European leagues on the back of his performances in this tournament.

No upsets in Group B. Germany went through on nine points after edging out the plucky Danes 2-1 whilst Holland were sent packing with 0 points after losing to Portugal by the same score. So Germany and Portugal advance, which was just about right as they were probably the two best teams in the group even if the Danes ran them both close.

I watched the Portugal / Holland game, it was good entertainment but Holland are a real Jeckyll and Hyde team. They haven't been awful this tournament, but they've managed to lose every game. The opening 15 minutes or so of this one they were superb and deservedly led through Van Der Vaart's great strike. He had been one of three changes to the side that lost to Germany, replacing Van Bommell in the middle of the park. Huntelaar came in for Affelay whilst Heitinga was also dropped, replaced by Vlaar. Heitinga? Sheitinga more like. See what I did there?

After their bright start the Dutch faded badly as Portugal took control of the game. They should have drew level when Van Der Wiel's suicidal backpass went straight to a Portuguese forward. The full back's heart must have been in his mouth - until he saw that it was only Helder Postiga and he could probably breathe easy. Predictably Postiga wasted the chance, although Stecklenberg deserves great credit for the save.

I have to admit Ronaldo was fucking brilliant in this game. He looked like he was on a mission after his wastefulness against Denmark. He hit the post twice, went close with a couple of headers and scored two goals. He also put a chance on a plate for Nani who shockingly managed to miss it, much to the disgust of the self absorbed skipper. There's no 'I' in team but there is a 'U' in cunt, Nani.

The Portuguese were comfortable at the back and very threatening on the break. Any time they got the ball to Ronaldo there was danger, he was getting far too much space to run into and when he has that he's almost impossible to contain. Holland's defending has been crap this tournament. I blame Heitinga, even when he isn't playing. Blueshite.

Ronaldo's opening goal was a good finish but owed everything to a wonderful pass by Pereira. The goal had been coming, Portugal had taken control of the game and Holland looked like a collection of individuals with big ego's, which shouldn't really surprise anyone as.. well, that's exactly what they are. Huntelaar was anonymous, Sneider was wasted out on the left, Robben was woeful and Van Persie just doesn't look like the 'Arsenal Van Persie'. Portugal's second goal showed just how far off being on the same page the Dutch are. Van Der Vaart lost the ball cheaply on the edge of the box, Robben let rip at him and they were still arguing after Ronaldo had put the ball in the net at the other end.

I commented in the last round up that Van Persie's right footed goal against the Germans was impressive as not many lefties can do that with their weaker foot. Van Der Vaart showed he's the exception that proves the rule. His right footed curler from 25 yards was a fantastic effort but sadly hit the post. Holland had a few other chances to equalise but Van Der Vaart's shot was the closest they came. If anything Portugal looked more like adding to their lead on the counter and almost did when Ronaldo's powerful shot hit the foot of the post. His performance deserved a hat-trick, those 'Messi' chants by the Danes seem to have lit a fire under his belly.

It was such a tough group that a good team was always going to go out, and it's not that big a shock that it's Holland. But to finish with no points at all? Shome headsh will roll after thish.

The other game was on a knife edge for a while. With Portugal leading the Dutch and sitting pretty on six points, Germany were actually under real pressure at 1-1 as a goal for Denmark would have put them out, despite probably being the most impressive side in the competition up to now.

They'd gone in front through Podolski's first meaningful contribution of the tournament but were quickly pegged back when Bendtner sent a great header back across the box for Krohn Dehli to score. Had Denmark managed another goal Germany would have been in big trouble and Bendtner should have had a pen when Badstuber pulled him back by the shirt as he chased a long ball into the box. Definite pen but the Germans got away with it and capitalised when substitute Lars Bender rolled in a pass from Ozil that looked like it was intended for someone else.

Bad couple of days for poor old Bendtner, who was fined €100,000 for showing his undies after he scored against Portugal. He was also banned for a game. Compare that punishment with the various fines handed out to nations who's fans have battered stewards and been guilty of racist chanting. Way to go UEFA, you fucking deadbeats. It's all about pleasing the corporates these days. If the sponsors decided they didn't want to put money into a sport in which a blind eye was turned to racist chanting from fans, you watch Platini and co suddenly start cracking down on it like no bugger's business.

Next up was Group C where Spain found themselves in a similar situation to Germany. Italy were on their way to a win over the Irish whilst Del Bosque's men were goalless against Croatia. As time began to run out, the prospect of Spain suffering a shock upset began to grow. They'd been well on top but hadn't found a breakthrough and the Croats had been denied a reasonable penalty shout in the 1st half when Ramos challenged Mandzukic. He got a piece of the ball but it could easily have been given and it was a bit of a let off.

After the break Rakitic should have scored with header after wonderful run and cross by Modric. It really was something special from the Spurs man and deserved a goal at the end of it. Unfortunately the header was straight at Casillas who made a nice camera save, but Spanish nerves were jangling.

It was a typical Spanish performance; knocking it around well with their pretty little passing patterns and dominating possession without doing too much with it. They subbed Torres for a midfielder too, once more playing with no striker. As the clock ticked down and it dawned on them that if they conceded a goal they'd be going out, they began to get a little edgy as the Croats started to throw more men forward. With a few minutes remaining Spain got seriously lucky when Busquets dragged a Croatian player back by his shirt as he challenged for a header. The ref's view was obstructed by a ruck of players but the assistant behind the goal needs to be all over that one. Spain escaped and went down the other end and scored a wonderful goal when Fabregas lofted a glorious ball to Iniesta, who chested down and instantly squared for substitute Navas to tap the ball into the empty net. Great goal to be fair, but if that penalty had been given...

Italy weren't especially convincing against the Irish but they were in control of the game almost all the way through and were not really tested at the back by an Irish side that continued to look so toothless they were beginning to resemble the competitors in a gurning contest. It wasn't as bad as their performance against Spain mind, in fact they spent more time in the Italy half in the opening five minutes of this than they'd managed in 90 against the Spaniards. Doyle had a chance after a couple of seconds when a mix up in Italy's midfield allowed him a run at the penalty area. He made a mess of it and they didn't get too many more sights at goal after that other than some long range efforts from Andrews.

It was actually a last minute decision from me to watch this game. I'd been weighing up the pro's and cons but one thing was certain; regardless of which match I chose I'd be tuning in for the Italian national anthem come what may. As always, it didn't disappoint. The cameraman wisely decided to just hang around Buffon for most of it, understandable as he's pretty fucking awesome to watch. Di Rossi belts it out well too, but the intensity of Buffon is something else. I love that shit I do. Used to buzz off Zamorano back in the day hammering out Chile's anthem too. As for the Irish one, what the fuck was that? What happened to 'Danny Boy'? Isn't that their national anthem? They must have changed it. Ah well, learn something new every day. They should jib this one off and go with 'My Lovely Horse' from Father Ted I reckon. I'd support them if they did.

Anyway, I'd been leaning towards watching this game as I didn't fancy watching Spain trying to pass pass pass the opposition and the viewing public to sleep. When I discovered that Mark Bright was in the commentary box for Spain/Croatia whilst Mick McCarthy was doing the Ireland game, the decision was made for me. Forza Italia! Forza Big Mick!

After a slow start the Azzuri began to settle and eventually Cassano gave them the lead with a near post header from a corner. Duff almost kept it out on the line but the ball had gone over and the goal was rightly given. St Ledger and Dunne made numerous vital blocks - a few of them that looked to have a fair bit of fortune about them - but the Irish were hanging in there bravely and at 1-0 you always have a chance.

Di Natale had started ahead of Balotelli but he faded after the break as did Cassano who was replaced by Diamante. The same Diamante who used to play for West Ham. Fuck me they're scraping the barrel there, he wasn't any good when he was over here and he looks like a homeless crackhead who needs a good wash. Plays for Bologna now I think. He got the nod over Balotelli though, which says a lot. Mad Mario eventually came on for Di Natale with 15 mins left, scored a great goal and was just about to send a verbal volley towards the coach before one of his team-mates saved his bacon by putting his hand over his mouth to gag him. Such a knobhead, but great entertainment as usual. I'm gonna stick a fiver on him getting sent off in his next game, especially as it's against England and Mongo will be doing all he can to wind him up.

Jon Walters replaced Doyle, which meant any sympathy I had for the Irish went out of the window. I really resent the fact that a dog like that has had the opportunity to play at a major tournament when someone like Craig Bellamy never has. Shit just ain't right, yo, as they say in the Wire. The TV show I mean, not Warrington, where Phil Jones' face comes from (one for the regulars that).

Keith Andrews is clearly shite, but if there is a player anywhere in this tournament that has tried harder than Andrews then I haven't seen him. His enthusiasm eventually got the better of him and he was sent off for a second yellow card and followed it up by booting a ball away in anger as he stomped off the pitch. A fine and suspension will be heading his way, especially if the errant ball hit an advertising hoarding. Can't be upsetting those sponsors now.

Finally on this, Mick McCarthy is fucking ace; he's like a character Harry Enfield would create. 'Blunt Yorkshireman', he'd be called. He's brilliant, I could seriously listen to him all day. I wish they could clone him and have him do every game. He was great all the way through this one but his finest moment came when Balotelli scored and was just about to go off on one at his coach. According to Mick, the goal didn't really mean anything as "the Irish players are all goosed". Haha that's boss that. He's the jewel in the BBC crown, the anti-Mark Bright if you like. By watching the Italy game not only was I spared from having to listen to 'Not so' Bright, I also avoided Pardew who was one of the studio guests. I could tell he was there even before the camera went on him; the snail trail of slime he'd left across the studio floor gave it away.

Finally, Group D. More national anthem observations. The Ukraine one sounds like a war song that sailors would solemnly sing in time with the strokes of the oars on their way into naval battles back in the day. All very serious stuff but with a jolly enough tune, except when the crowd join in with it and it sounds like thousands of cats being strangled. None of them can hit those high notes, so it's either a difficult song or Ukrainians are just really shit singers. Speaking of which, Joe Hart was bellowing out God Save the Queen about five seconds behind everyone else for some reason. I think he was that loud he couldn't hear anyone else - including the band - and it threw out his timing. He's no Buffon that's for damn sure.

England are proper shit and the first half was woeful. Gerrard was class but the rest stunk, particularly Rooney and Welcrap. Ashley Young was shite too. I'm biased admittedly, but I'm also right. This was negative, defensive, boring shite and any possibility there was of me getting behind them went as soon as Andy Carroll was dumped to make way for Shrek. My only rooting interest was financial; I had a quid on Stevie 1st goal in a 2-1 win so I wasn't happy seeing him taking all the corners and not getting anywhere near the Ukraine box in open play. He was so much better than anyone else on the field it was ridiculous, but he was mostly playing in a deep playmaking role.

The first goal was all about him but it'll be jughead that gets all the glory after heading into an open net from virtually on the goal line. The only thing he did right in the entire game but it ensured he'd be the one getting all the glory and headlines. Once my bet was down I didn't care what happened, I just didn't want Rooney scoring again and would have quite liked him to get sent off if I'm honest. Some manc on twitter took exception to me complaining that 'Chunk' was going to get all the headlines, telling me: "never mind rivalry . This is England . We R as 1 #RROOONNEEYY #pricks #teamgame" That was it, I was right on the Ukrainian bandwagon now. "As one" with some manc loser? *pukes*

My support seemed to spur Ukraine on too, they rallied well and should have equalised on two occasions. The lad known as the 'Ukranian Ibrahimovich' lived up to his billing by heading over from about four yards. He was actually offside but the flag had stayed down and it would have counted.

Minutes later he was offside again and once more he got away with it, playing the ball inside to someone who's name probably ends in 'ko'. His shot hit Joe Hart and looped goalwards. Mongo got back and hacked it away but replays showed the ball had crossed the line. The official stood behind the goal had a great view of it but still got it wrong. They're stealing a wage those fellas, there's just no point to them at all. Funny seeing Sepp Blatter put on twitter that this incident means "goal line technology is no longer an alternative but a necessity." Haha why now, considering that none of the other dozens of huge incidents have caused this response from him? Because it was England who benefitted that's why. Couldn't be more obvious, the old coot doesn't even try and hide it.

So anyway, England escaped that massive let off and after that they were largely untroubled. Carroll eventually got on and looked good again, which just pissed me off even more that he was left out in favour of the manc connection, and in particular Danny Welcack.

Rooney's erm interview afterwards was erm, obviously, erm a bit cringeworthy. Using Andy Carroll's hair products? Fuck me talk about pointless. Like a skunk wearing perfume. Gotta love Carroll humouring him though. "Way-aye Wayne man, ya heed's lookin' reet and thick these days man. Here ya go man, have some of me hair gel like, it'll look greeeert man." I bet Big Andy and his loyal sidekick Hendo were pissing themselves when he was applying it to whoever's hair that is on his head.

In the other game Sweden turned over the French but it was all for nothing as France still went through and Sweden still finished bottom. Zlatan scored a beauty to set them on their way. Well he would, wouldn't he, seeing as how I wasn't watching. I'm sorry Zlatan fans, if he doesn't do it when I'm watching him I can't re-evaluate my assessment of him, so still shit I'm afraid.

Dave

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The Italian anthem is boss. And I remember Zamarano from 1998 belting out the Chilean anthem. If I rightly recall, it was the abridged version but still went on for about 10 minutes. Their opponents had to go through their pre-match warm-up routines again. 'My Lovely Horse' is a great shout for both the Irish anthem AND an actual Eurovision entry (RIP Dermot Morgan). The Ukraine one sounds an awful lot like Borat's Kazakhstani effort. All the more surreal since Ukraine has a large potassium mining industry.

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Pure genius Dave. Certainly helps to brighten up a shithouse morning in Dublin. Even the way you slag us Irish off is acceptable! Too many great lines in there to pick out one, although the “Shome headsh will rollh” was a cracker.

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How does Samaras get his hair like that? Two words; hair straighteners.

 

No that just doesn't explain it, not even close. You're doing him a massive injustice. Straighteners mayexplain how it looks at the start of a game, but I've straightened my hair in the past and as soon as it gets a bit wet or sweaty it ends up losing that straightness. Samaras never loses that.

 

And the other thing about straightened hair, without a hairband it's completely out of control. If I straightened my hair and then tried to play footy without any kind of hairband, I'd be looking like the scary bird from the Ring within seconds.

 

Samaras confounds the laws of physics, it's quite remarkable.

 

Pure genius Dave. Certainly helps to brighten up a shithouse morning in Dublin. Even the way you slag us Irish off is acceptable! Too many great lines in there to pick out one, although the “Shome headsh will rollh” was a cracker.

 

What are your thoughts on 'My Lovely Horse' for the new Irish anthem? You on board with that?

 

[YOUTUBE]jzYzVMcgWhg[/YOUTUBE]

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No that just doesn't explain it, not even close. You're doing him a massive injustice. Straighteners mayexplain how it looks at the start of a game, but I've straightened my hair in the past and as soon as it gets a bit wet or sweaty it ends up losing that straightness. Samaras never loses that.

 

And the other thing about straightened hair, without a hairband it's completely out of control. If I straightened my hair and then tried to play footy without any kind of hairband, I'd be looking like the scary bird from the Ring within seconds.

 

Samaras confounds the laws of physics, it's quite remarkable.

 

 

 

What are your thoughts on 'My Lovely Horse' for the new Irish anthem? You on board with that?

[YOUTUBE]jzYzVMcgWhg[/YOUTUBE]

 

Sure, that'd be perfect. We all know the words and it will be easier for the plastic Paddies in our team (like your friend JW) to sing along too.

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No that just doesn't explain it, not even close. You're doing him a massive injustice. Straighteners mayexplain how it looks at the start of a game, but I've straightened my hair in the past and as soon as it gets a bit wet or sweaty it ends up losing that straightness. Samaras never loses that.

 

And the other thing about straightened hair, without a hairband it's completely out of control. If I straightened my hair and then tried to play footy without any kind of hairband, I'd be looking like the scary bird from the Ring within seconds.

 

Samaras confounds the laws of physics, it's quite remarkable.

 

 

 

 

It's straighteners with a bit of hairspray, I say. There's some sort of product involved.

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No that just doesn't explain it, not even close. You're doing him a massive injustice. Straighteners mayexplain how it looks at the start of a game, but I've straightened my hair in the past and as soon as it gets a bit wet or sweaty it ends up losing that straightness. Samaras never loses that.

 

And the other thing about straightened hair, without a hairband it's completely out of control. If I straightened my hair and then tried to play footy without any kind of hairband, I'd be looking like the scary bird from the Ring within seconds.

 

Samaras confounds the laws of physics, it's quite remarkable.

 

 

 

What are your thoughts on 'My Lovely Horse' for the new Irish anthem? You on board with that?

 

[YOUTUBE]jzYzVMcgWhg[/YOUTUBE]

 

WHAT?!?!?!

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