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Euro 2012 Round Up - Semi's & Final

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The first semi final was a real snoozefest. On paper Spain v Portugal is a mouth watering prospect. In reality it was about as exciting as listening to Michael Owen doing a poetry reading. Spain once again strangled the game with their possession football whilst showing virtually no ambition to actually, y'know, put the ball in the fucking net.

Portugal's gameplan was always going to be to try and draw Spain on and then quickly hit Ronaldo on the counter attack and because of that I fancied them to cause an upset. They wouldn't care how much possession Spain had, they'd just make sure they were defensively solid and then look to get Ronaldo running in space whenever they won the ball back. Given how Spain had played up to this point (apart from against the woeful Irish) I couldn't see them scoring more than one against the Portuguese, but I could certainly see Ronaldo getting one or two so I thought Portugal had a decent shot at it.

Turns out they did have a decent shot at it, but Ronaldo blew it when he blazed a chance over the bar in stoppage time after the kind of quick counter attack they'd been hoping for all game. That was their moment, Ronaldo's moment, and it passed them by.

The game went more or less as I feared it would. It was largely uneventful and was possibly the worst game of the tournament not involving England. There were a couple of chances from either side but generally the game was played in front of both defences with neither team getting in behind or creating anything.

Spain started this game with a centre forward. A surprise in itself, but even more surprising was that it was neither Torres nor Llorente. Negredo got the call but was a complete non-factor before he was subbed.

I hated this game, it put me in really bad form. The lack of goalmouth action was bad enough but the excessive play-acting and trying to get opponents in trouble was worse. Jordi Alba was especially bad. He was terrible for that against the French too, it's a pity really as he's a terrific prospect and he's had a fine tournament. It was doing my head in seeing so many players feigning injury and making a meal out of nothing challenges, so many twats on both sides. Ronaldo wouldn't even make the top ten, that's how bad they are.

The cheating was bad but the thing pissing me off the most was the total lack of urgency from Spain, typified in the way Casillas was fannying around with goal kicks in the second half. You'd have thought they had a lead given how they were carrying on. They stepped it up once extra time started but during the ninety minutes they showed virtually no attacking intent at all, it was just weird and had Ronaldo not fluffed his lines right at the end they'd be out and they'd only have themselves to blame.

During extra time Spain were clearly the better side but they weren't exactly laying siege to the Portuguese goal and this had penalties written all over it from midway through the second half.

Alonso stepped up first and saw his kick brilliantly saved. Spain were in big trouble and were staring elimination in the face. Casillas came to the rescue immediately by saving from Moutinho. Iniesta, Pepe and Pique all scored before we witnessed a bizarre situation involving Nani and Alves. The defender stepped up and had reached the edge of the box before Nani came running up and told him to get back.

Apparently Alves had got confused as to whether he was the third or fourth taker, but that was a risky thing they did and I was sure Nani would miss because of it. To be fair his pen was class. Ramos then dinked one in and then it was the turn of Alves for real this time. Had he taken the third one maybe he'd have scored, we'll obviously never know. What we do know is that he took the fourth one and smashed it against the bar.

Fabregas won it for Spain as his kick hit the post but just about went in, meaning Ronaldo was left stood in the centre circle looking incredulous. I don't see the sense in keeping him back for a kick he may not even get the chance to take, why risk it? If he takes the fourth pen and scores then the pressure in right on Fabregas and Alves still has a chance to win it. Stupid I thought, but nevertheless it was funny seeing Ronaldo's mush.

Worth mentioning that he had a couple more of his stupid free-kicks that predictably came to nothing. The most over-rated free-kick taker since Roberto Carlos. His success rate must be one out of a hundred at best.

Spain may be the best team in the tournament but they were a lick of paint away from going out. Had Alves' pen been an inch or two lower and Fabregas' one been an inch to the left then Portugal would be in the final and Spain would be on their way home. That's how close they came to going out and for me it would have been completely their own fault for not attacking enough. Given how they played in the final it would appear they learnt their lesson.

The only thing worse than the game itself was the commentary. Martin Keown seems like a nice enough fella, but he's an awful co-commentator. Really bad. I'd even take Lawro and his horrendously shit jokes over this fella, that's how annoying he was. "Alonso seems to have lost all confidence in his passing". Please! Like Picasso losing confidence in his brush strokes or Steve Kean losing confidence in himself. Behave yourself Keown.

That remark came after Alonso gave the ball away twice in the space of a few minutes. Big deal, that happens once every couple of years but it's not going to shake his confidence, so don't talk shite. For the record, Xabi had the highest pass completion percentage of any Spanish player on the night. I don't think Keown thinks before he speaks, he's got a bad case of the Hodgsons.

I didn't take notes of all of them, I'd have barely been able to watch the game (in hindsight not a bad idea), but other examples of Keown's verbal diarrhoea included: "Spain can't live with Ronaldo" and "Nani was dazzling in the first half". Ronaldo was generally kept well in check and Nani did absolutely fuck all except dive around trying to win free-kicks. Again.

Lawro was in the hotseat for the second semi final. This game could only be an improvement on the Spanish snoozefest, and so it proved. Italy were superb whilst Germany looked completely flat. Apparently the Germans have never beaten Italy at a major tournament, and maybe that was playing on their minds as they just never got going. It was surprising how easy Italy made this look.

Credit to 'the Azzurri', they played really well as a team and the front two gave Germany all they could handle and then some. This was Cassano's best game of the tournament whilst Balotelli repeated his performance against England only this time he had his shooting boots with him.

Before the game he'd commented that he doesn't celebrate when he scores because it's his job; it's what he's supposed to do. "Does the postman celebrate when he delivers the mail?" he asked. No, but he doesn't take his shirt off and flex like a knobhead either, at least not where I live. Maybe the posties in Italy do? Or maybe Mario is just full of shit.

He took both of his goals really well although you can point the finger at the German defence, especially for the second one. Great movement by Balotelli but Lahm has to do better there.

Germany didn't offer much in response, the Italians defended superbly and Pirlo was class again. It was extremely comfortable in the end for Italy, they actually should have added to their lead as they had some great chances on the break late on as Germany had to pile forward. By the time Ozil converted a late penalty the game was virtually up and Italy had booked their place in the final.

A shame to see Germany go out as they've generally been very good to watch, but they didn't perform on the night and Italy were well worth the win. As well as Germany have played I'd have to say that the two widemen have been majorly disappointing. Podolski has been crap and Muller not much better. They've got some class young players ready to step in and those two may find themselves out of the side by the time the World Cup comes around. I love their central midfield pair though, class they are, and Ozil is always fun to watch too.

In the commentary box Lawro hit an all time low in the shit jokes department: Camera pans to an upset German fan in the crowd. Commentator "Look at that poor girl". Lawro: "She might be rich." * Tumbleweed. Awful, just awful.

Despite his consistently awful 'jokes' and constant snide comments, Lawro got the nod for the final. Had I known ITV also had the game on live I'd have watched their coverage, but I didn't know that so I was stuck with BBC. Overall I'd say ITV have definitely won the battle for the best coverage, it's not even close.

In fact the gulf between BBC and ITV was almost as huge as that between the Spanish and Italian anthems. The Spanish one has no words, the Italian one is full of inspirational ones accompanied by a catchy tune. Buffon's rendition was wondrous once more.

What a man he is. He's such a manly man that he can even get away with putting clips in his hair. He actually stashes them in his captain's armband before applying them just before the game starts. How many men could pull that off whilst still looking proper manly? Very few, Buffon's a man's man, hair clips or not. Scott Parker tried it once when he was at Charlton but just looked like a bad tit, and he's a World War 2 vet. Buffon makes it work though.

Anyway, Spain once again went into the game with no centre forward but this time it didn't matter as they had a real intent about them that was obvious early on when Iniesta and Xavi both tried shots from the edge of the box where usually they'd just keep the ball.

They went in front early on when Fabregas made a superb run inside Chiellini, got to the byline and pulled it back for the supporting Silva to head into the roof of the net. Fabregas has had a really good tournament despite not starting every game. Been really impressed with him.

Italy responded well and looked quite threatening, especially from set pieces. Pirlo delivered a string of quality corners into the six yard box that Casillas was often at full stretch trying to deal with. There was a five or ten minute spell where Italy were piling on the pressure, but Spain weathered the storm and killed the game just before half time when they added a wonderful second goal.

Alba's run to get ahead of the ball was impressive, Xavi's pass was ridiculous and Alba then finished with the composure of a centre forward. Not many left backs can do what he did there. The goal of the tournament for me.

Given Spain's incredible defensive record in knock out competition in the last six years it was asking an awful lot for Italy to get back into it. They had a good go though, and substitute Di Natale - on at half time for the disappointing Cassano - had two chances to get them back into it but couldn't take either.

Spain were in control but at least it was a contest and if Italy could have pulled one back then it would have become very interesting. Unfortunately the Italians went down to ten men when substitute Thiago Motta had to go off with a hamstring injury just a few minutes after coming on. Prandelli had made his three allowed changes so Italy had to play out the rest of the game a man down.

I felt sorry for them, but Motta needs his arse kicking as for a sub to do a hamstring that quickly suggests he didn't warm up properly. That's unprofessional and he let his country down badly there. Predictably Spain took full advantage of the extra man and it became a question of how many they'd score.

Torres came on with the opportunity to fill his boots. He only scored one but he cleverly set up another for Mata and that was enough to win him the Golden Boot, the twat.

Italy surprised a lot of people this tournament, probably themselves included, and they can hold their heads up even though the scoreline suggests they got battered. Until Motta went off it was still a contest at least (an extremely one sided one admittedly) and what happened after that shouldn't be held against them, especially as they'd had a day's less rest than Spain.

Balotelli stomped off in a huff at the end but eventually came back out before Spain lifted the trophy. He was crying on the pitch. CRYING!! Couldn't believe that, the most unlikely tears I've seen shed on TV since Johnny Sack blubbered at his daughter's wedding in the Soprano's.

-Hq1NlhSmXY

The Italian press are reporting that he had a big row with Buffon in the dressing room after he blamed the Juventus contingent for the defeat. There are unconfirmed rumours that Buffon beat the snot out of him too, which is probably not true but I'm going to choose to believe it anyway as in my world Buffon is so fucking manly he wouldn't tolerate that kind of disrespect.

As funny as Balotelli's antics are, he's a bad, bad knobhead and a terrible team-mate. "Why always me" he asks. Because one way or another, good or bad, he always, without fail, makes it about him. That's why.

As for Spain, when they play like this no-one is going to be able to live with them. It was brilliant to watch and you can't help but admire the technical ability on show and how the likes of Iniesta, Xavi and Alonso can pass their way out of tight spaces under intense pressure.

Not just that, but defensively they're really good too, not least because it's so hard to have any decent possession against them. Even when you do get the ball it's difficult to find a way past Ramos, Pique and Casillas.

This game showed just how special Spain can be. This is the Spain we want to see, not the bores who were fortunate not to be knocked out by the Portuguese. A lot of people have got on their high horse about the 'boring Spain' jibes. You'd have to be mad to have been bored watching this, but equally you can't blame anyone who thought the semi final against Portugal was shit, because it was and Spain were a big part of why it was shit.

When they have that attacking intent and desire to score goals they can be breathtaking and deserve all the plaudits they get. When they play like they did against Croatia and Portugal then it's fair game to call them boring because that's what it is. For all their brilliance, they rode their luck against Portugal and had the referee spotted the blatant shirt pull on Mandzukic late on in the Croatia game (when it was 0-0) they may not have even got out of the group.

Overall it's been as good a tournament as I can remember in terms of the quality of games. There's not been many bad ones and it's been entertaining throughout. The best team won and for me the four best teams all made the semi finals.

As for player of the tournament, Iniesta got it but I don't think there was one obvious choice. I wouldn't have picked Iniesta but can't argue too strongly against it. I'd have gone for Alonso but I'm biased (I'm in good company though as Kenny Dalglish said the same thing). Alba is a decent shout too, although a left back is never going to get that kind of recognition.

The biggest disappointment for me was the amount of shite free-kicks. Pirlo's against Croatia was the only goal direct from a free-kick and most of them were crap. I've mentioned Ronaldo, but Sergio Ramos is almost as bad, ballooning them over the bar from 40 yards. Know your role, son.

Biggest flop of the tournament? Rooney, closely followed by the entire Dutch squad and 90% of the strikers in the tournament. By far the worst tournament for strikers I can remember, I mean Torres won the Golden Boot with three goals, that says it all.

I blame Hodgson for that, if he'd been able to put his manc love to one side and started Big Andy instead of Shrek and Wellcrap, Torres wouldn't have got anywhere near the Golden Boot and Carroll would still be drinking champagne out of it as I write this two days later. Nice one Roy.


Team of tournament (4-3-3): Casillas; Johnson, Ramos, Pepe, Alba; Alonso, Khedira, Pirlo; Iniesta, Ronaldo, Ozil:

Subs: Rui Patricio; Pereira, Pique, Hummels, Balzaretti, Moutinho, Schweinsteiger, Gerrard, Xavi, Fabregas, Torres, Gomez:


Dave

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Bit harsh on Ramos. His free kicks were miles better than Cristiano Ronaldo's efforts. Maybe Mourinho should take away some of the privileges of the anointed one.

 

The biggest mistake Italy made in the final was not using the same 3-5-2 formation they used in their first game. Despite letting in one goal in that game they managed to close down the same area Spain got their goals from in the first half. I think using three centre backs closing down the area between the fullbacks and the centre backs is the only way to stop this Spanish side from creating as many chances as they could in the final.

 

I really liked Spain in 08, but ever since Del Bosque took over there has been this smugness about them I don't really appreciate. They know too well they are most likely going to win. Kind of the same thing with the Germans, who aren't as good as they seem think they are. They are weak at the back and the Italian defence easily isolated Gomez just like Chelsea did in the Champions League final.

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