Day: June 17, 2008

Au Revoir

Farewell then, France. Last night had been an evening that promised to hit a crescendo of tension, excitement and drama, but in the event the evening in Zurich all went off like a firework display in a monsoon, with a French selection and performance that gave Italy a relatively comfortable ride through to the quarter-finals, whilst in Berne the Dutch comfortably found a way past a Romania side which, three games in, finally showed up the shortcomings that many had suspected would lead to them being one of the tournament’s lame ducks before so much as a ball was kicked. France’s failure against Italy can be best summed up by twenty-five minutes of misfortune, tempestuousness and incompetence. They lost Franck Ribery, the creative spark that has lit up their midfield at this tournament and frequently looked like the only player capable of carrying them through the group stages to injury after just seven minutes. His replacement, Sami Nasri, would last just nineteen minutes before suffering the ultimate indignity of the substitute – being substituted himself, to be replaced by Jean-Alain Boumsong. The reason for the subsitution was plain enough – a couple of minutes beforehand, Abidal had managed to get himself in a pickle over the sight of Luca Toni bearing down on Gregory Coupet’s goal. His foul was a clear red card and penalty, which Andrea Pirlo dispatched...

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Auf Wiedershen, Mein Host

Last night, Austria followed Switzerland out of Euro 2008 with a performance which, whilst not lacking in heart and courage, ultimately showed up the gap in quality between themselves and the tournament favourites. Germany eventually eased their way into the quarter-finals with a win from a match in which they didn’t play particularly well and will now play Portugal in the quarter-finals, whilst Croatia finished as the group winners with three wins out of three, and will take on Turkey. It was asking too much to expect another pair of classic matches, but Austria’s naivete going forward was almost breathtaking. They continually managed, without too much opposition, to get the ball into the final third of the pitch but failed completely to get the ball into dangerous areas or work themselves into positions that they could worry the Germans from. On several occasions, the surprisingly benevolent German defence allowed them plenty of space on the edge of the penalty area but their shots were always charged down. Austria, ultimately weren’t good enough. The match was decided as a contest early in the second half, with one of the rare moments of quality in an otherwise tepid match, when Michael Ballack drove an absolutely unstoppable free kick into the top corner of the Austrian goal. It was the first goal of the tournament to come directly from a free kick....

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