“We had a good team on paper. Unfortunately, the game was played on grass” – Brian Clough.
If the result of a sport was merely based on paper then there would be no point in playing the sport. Upsets are as intriguing as a final between two favorites. In fact upsets are those that make the sport even more beautiful. Winning isn’t just about individual brilliance or domination on paper. Having great players or a better team or both doesn’t always help the team’s cause. Don’t get my drift? Let’s dig deep then.
Despite being one of the favorites if not ‘THE’ favorites, Netherlands are out of Euro’s 2012. Surprising? Not so. If anyone would have predicted before the tournament that Greece would have won the Euro’s in 2004, he’d have been labelled outright mad or completely insane. In World Cup 2002, Senegal defeated France who was the defending champions of both the Euro’s and World Cup. In a hypothetical scenario, France defeating Senegal would have been obvious, because man to man, Senegal were no match to the likes of Zinedine Zidane and co. But the world took notice of ‘THAT’ Senegal team after ‘THAT’ famous victory. Underdog victories like those are an integral part of the glorious moments of the beautiful game. Victories like those had nothing to with the technical superiority of the players. Victories like those need true grit and needless I say, ‘BELIEF’.
After a couple of upsets and underdog victories in this edition of Euro’s, we are through to the knockout stages of the tournament. And I’d be surprised if anyone one of us had predicted the teams that qualified, spot on. Russia after an overwhelming start to the tournament in which they beat Czech Republic 4-1 is out. The less we talk about the now common under achieving Dutch team, the better. Surprisingly they finished without a point. While unexpected results took place, usual suspects this time around like Spain and Germany overcame minor scares to top their respective groups.
The following are the four quarter-final fixtures:
Thursday, June 21st
Czech Republic v Portugal
- These two teams weren’t expected to qualify to the quarter-finals but have exceeded expectations to reach here.
- Despite two quiet games, Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace against Netherlands showed us how an individual, despite playing in a weaker team can turn the match single-handedly.
- Petr Cech, champions league winner earlier this season with Chelsea is to play a major role if the Czech’s have to qualify for the semi-finals.
- I am expecting Portugal to win this fiercely contested encounter but I hope the Czech’s surprise some of us.
- Prediction: Portugal 2-1 Czech Republic.
Friday, June 22nd
Greece v Germany
- This game might be the least interesting game for a neutral due to the gulf in class between both the teams.
- Joint favourites Germany are on a 3 match winning streak in the competition, despite being in the ‘Group of death’.
- Greece had surprised millions of people 8 years ago but it is highly unlikely that they repeat that feat. They have actually overachieved considering that they were largely discounted prior to the last game.
- Beating Germany is a bridge too far for the Greeks, hence, I expect a comfortable win for the Germans.
- Prediction: Germany 3-1 Greece.
Saturday, June 23rd
Spain v France
- Defending champions and favourites of this tournament, Spain faces Laurent Blanc’s France in this fixture.
- Spain hasn’t been at their best in all matches but has done enough to top their group. Fernando Torres looks like he’s back after two morale boosting goals against the Irish.
- France has had their fair share of ups and downs in this tournament. They could do a lot better with Karim Benzema and Frank Ribery firing, but hey, they could do a lot worse too.
- Expect Spain to have the majority of possession but France to have the better opportunities. But, on paper, Spain should be winning this. However my gut feeling is different.
- Prediction: Spain 1-1 France. (Spain win on penalties)
Sunday, June 24th
England v Italy
- This is the match I am looking forward to the most as I am supporting Italy. This fixture is a bit unexpected as people expected France to top Group D.
- England has Wayne Rooney back and with a bang as he was on the score sheet against Ukraine. Expect him to show up if England need to get anything out of this game.
- Italy has been very impressive with classy players like Andrea Pirlo and Antonio Di Natale. They played really well against Spain and deserved their point, despite their key players on the wrong side of 30’s.
- Expect Italy to dominate the game and England to disappoint as they always do.
- Prediction: Italy 1-0 England
That’s all folks, hope you enjoyed the article. Let’s hope for some interesting and exciting games of football over the next few days. Adios. Forza Italia!