The end of forward thinking

June 30, 2012


Maracanazo, a defeat that Brazilians would never forget.
“Five years ago, at the coaching conference he hosts in Rio de Janeiro, Carlos Alberto Parreira made a prediction that left the room stunned. Discussing how tactics might evolve, the coach who had led Brazil to victory in the 1994 World Cup, suggested that the formation of the future might be 4-6-0. True, wingers had once seemed sacrosanct, only to be refined out of existence and then reinvented. Yes, playmakers were undergoing a similar process of redevelopment. But centre-forwards? Could football really function with no centre-forward – without a recognised forward line at all? The answer came in this season’s Champions League final: yes, it could. Manchester United won the world’s premier football tournament with a team that featured no out-and-out striker.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Stats Zone: How Italy can counter Spain – and why Del Bosque should drop Silva

June 30, 2012

“For the fourth time in the last seven European Championships, the final is being contested by two sides who met in the group stage. The 1-1 draw between Spain and Italy in Group C’s opening game feels like an age ago, but both Vicente del Bosque and Cesare Prandelli will have reviewed that tape ahead of the final, trying to find weaknesses in their opponent.” FourFourTwo


Euro 2012: Breaking the Andrea Pirlo Code

June 30, 2012

“At the turn of the century, Andrea Pirlo, the bright young hope of Italian football, led the Italian under-21 team to European glory. Playing behind the strikers as a ‘trequartista’, Pirlo was one of the best players of the tournament, contributing with a number of assists and goals. His exploits as captain, didn’t fail to go unnoticed as managers across Italy earmarked him as the next great no.10 to don the blue of Italy. Life was seemingly nice and sunny for young Andrea; he completed a dream move to Inter Milan but in three years at the club, he failed to make the breakthrough. Because ahead of him, competing in the same position, he found the celestial Roberto Baggio – one of the finest playmakers all time – and as a result, Pirlo was loaned back out to his first club, Brescia.” The Arsenal Column


Spain has chance to make history in Euro 2012 championship match Story Highlights Spain could be the first with a World Cup and two Euro titles at the same time

June 30, 2012

“What’s at stake when Spain meets Italy in the Euro 2012 final here on Sunday? For the Spanish, the final (ESPN/3/Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET) provides the chance to take their place in soccer lore as one of the greatest national teams in the history of the sport. No country has ever held two European Championships and the World Cup trophy at the same time. And for all the talk of Spain winning without playing at its best, you just can’t argue with three major titles in a row.” SI


Honigstein: ‘Mr Nice Guy’ Low must be ruthless to save Germany’s golden generation

June 30, 2012

“A big part of the attraction of international tournaments is that they seemingly render a very complicated game into an ‘open source code’: millions of casual viewers feel that they can confidently talk about a team by conflating it with the country it represents (‘I like Denmark’) and/or attaching neat, stereotypical labels to them. The mainstream media reinforce this fake familiarity by trotting out the tired old cliches, in the mistaken and deeply patronising belief that their audience prefers catch-phrases to more serious analysis.” Raphael Honigstein


Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Bento, And The Optimal Penalty Shootout Order

June 30, 2012

“Cesc Fabregas breathed deep, took a long run-up, and slammed his penalty kick in off Rui Patricio’s right-hand post. Spain are through to the Euro 2012 final, and Portugal are out. Nine kicks were taken in the shootout; none were taken by Cristiano Ronaldo.” SD Nation (Video)


Italy-Spain Euro final promises to be clash of polar opposites

June 29, 2012


“The final was supposed to be a battle between the two schools of proactive soccer. On the one side Spain, the increasingly cautious protectors of the ball, a side that has used its mastery of possession to prevent the opposition from playing; on the other, Germany, having moved away from the reactivity of the last World Cup, playing in a more carefree way. It’s a battle, in a sense, between the bloodless purists and the more visceral entertainers.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Euro 2012: Now Spain have entered the pantheon of greatness
“It has been repeated over and over that no side has ever won three major tournaments in a row – which is true so long as you exclude the Olympic Games. That may be reasonable in recent times when it has been an Under-23 tournament with added overage players, or even in the years after the second world war when differing definitions of amateurism gave the Eastern Bloc sides a huge advantage. But in the years up to the second world war, the Olympic Games was at least as serious a tournament as the World Cup. If Spain win the Euro 2012 final on Sunday, they will set a new record for the modern era but their feat will only equal that of Uruguay, who won the Olympics in 1924 and 1928 and the World Cup in 1930, and of Italy, who won the World Cup in 1934 and 1938 and the Olympics in 1936.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Scoring the Goals That Sank Germany, Balotelli Says it Loud: He’s Black, Italian and Proud

June 29, 2012

“‘There are no black Italians!’ went the chant by some far-right supporters of Italy’s national football team a couple of years ago when young Mario Balotelli made his debut for the national side. Well, the bad news for the racists that still make their voices heard in some of Italy’s stadiums, is that if there are no black Italians, their Euro 2012 semifinal against Germany would have been a 0-1 defeat.” Keeping Score

Mario Balotelli brings Euro 2012 its sweetest, most profound moment
“The sweetest moment of Euro 2012 didn’t fit the script. In the celebration after Italy’s 2-1 semifinal win over favored Germany on Thursday, Azzurri striker Mario Balotelli made a pilgrimage to the stands of the National Stadium in Warsaw and embraced a small, aging Italian woman in the front row. So fearsome on the field, so ready to project anger and strength, the 21-year-old Balotelli melted in her arms like a gentle giant.” SI


Euro 2012: Joachim Loew says Germany will learn from Italy defeat

June 29, 2012

“Germany coach Joachim Loew says his players are distraught after their Euro 2012 semi-final loss to Italy, but says they will learn from the experience. Loew’s young team began as favourites in Warsaw but lost 2-1 to a Mario Balotelli-inspired Azzurri side.” BBC


Reading FC – Dear Prudence

June 29, 2012

“After the disappointment of losing to Swansea City in the 2011 Championship play-off final, not many people would have expected Reading to bounce back so well that they not only secured promotion to the Premier League last season, but they went up as champions, ahead of more fancied clubs like Southampton and West Ham. Their thoroughly likeable manager, Brian McDermott, deserves a huge amount of credit for superbly marshalling his resources, especially after losing leading scorer Shane Long to West Brom and skipper Matt Mills to big spending Leicester City in the summer.” Swiss Ramble


Italy 2-1 Germany: Balotelli double

June 29, 2012


“Jogi Low tried to change his shape to compete in the centre of midfield, but Italy produced an excellent performance to qualify for the final. Cesare Prandelli kept his diamond system. Giorgio Chiellini returned at left-back, but Ignazio Abate was unfit, so Federico Balzaretti moved over to an unfamiliar right-back role. Jogi Low had decisions to make in his front four, with only Mesut Ozil sure of his place. Mario Gomez was chosen ahead of Miroslav Klose, and Lukas Podolski was selected rather than Andre Schurrle. But the real surprise was in the other role, as Toni Kroos came into the side. That was an attempt to deal with Italy’s midfield diamond, but Germany didn’t have the right structure in the centre of the pitch and were disappointing for long periods.” Zonal Marking

Germany 1 Italy 2: match report
“Short of climbing in a fountain or disappearing off on the back of a Vespa, Mario Balotelli could not have conjured up La Dolce Vita more for Italy on Thursday night. Balotelli lit up the National Stadium with two magical goals and a rare smile to send Italy through to Sunday’s final of Euro 2012, where they meet Spain. Always beware a man on a mission. Balotelli certainly was, ripping apart Germany’s defence, and then celebrating with his mother Silvia at the final whistle. And always beware a team with a cause. As in 2006 when they won the World Cup on German soil, the Italians seemed on a mission to restore the reputation of their great footballing nation in the wake of a fixing scandal. They played superbly on Thursday night, all through-balls and fine finishes in the first half and resolute defending and occasional breakaways in the second.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Italy’s unexpected win over Germany
“Mario Balotelli can always be counted on to put on a show. The question has always been: Would it help or hurt the team? In Thursday’s Euro 2012 semifinal against Germany, it was definitely the former, as he scored two first-half goals to give the Azzurri a 2-1 victory, and with it a place in Sunday’s final against Spain. It was a victory that Italy fully deserved, yet one that was also unexpected, even when the quality of the Azzurri’s roster is taken into account. Germany entered the match as a considerable favorite, had two days more rest than the Italians and appeared to be operating at peak form.” ESPN (Video)

Balotelli’s electrifying performance lifts Italy past Germany, into final
“Three thoughts after Italy’s 2-1 victory against Germany in the Euro 2012 semifinals, which sets up an Italy-Spain final on Sunday: • Mario Balotelli: the man, the myth … After two straight 0-0 snoozefests at Euro 2012, the most interesting man in world soccer brought the tournament back to life, scoring two powerful goals, including a thunderous finish on the break that crushed the favored Germans. Balotelli is a polarizing figure who often seems on the edge of madness, or at least yellow and red cards — and sure enough, he got a yellow for taking his shirt off after his second goal — but you can’t ignore his surpassing talent.” SI

Euro 2012: Mario Balotelli double stuns Germany and sends Italy to Kiev
“It was the night Mario Balotelli announced himself as a serious, grown-up footballer capable of shaping the biggest occasions. There have been plenty of times he has threatened it before but never with so much efficiency and clinical, sometimes devastating, centre-forward play, or the unmistakable sense that he can be trusted when the heat of the battle is dangerously close to intolerable.” Guardian


Spain 0-0 Portugal: Portugal upset Spain’s rhythm but fail to record a shot on target

June 28, 2012


“Spain defeated Portugal on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Vicente del Bosque surprisingly named Alvaro Negredo as his lone striker, meaning Cesc Fabregas dropped to the bench. The rest of the side was as expected. Paulo Bento was forced to change his striker, with Helder Postiga injured. As already announced, Hugo Almeida replaced him. A difficult game to summarise – Portugal pressed well in midfield, broke up Spain’s passing and restricted the number of opportunities del Bosque’s side had. However, they lacked a goal threat of their own, and then Spain were the better side in extra time.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012: The Semi-Finals – Spain 0-0 Portugal (Spain Win 4-2 On Penalty Kicks
“So it was all about Cristiano Ronaldo doing nothing. And I pilloried BBC commentators for fawning over him even while he was doing nothing, when they’d actually spotted the defining moment of Portugal’s tournament. ‘Look at Ronaldo, just waiting for his opportunity’ said Steve Wilson, midway through the stultifying second half against Spain. An hour later, he was still waiting, as Cesc Fabregas’s scuffed spot-kick snuck in off a post, where Bruno Alves’s thunderously well-struck effort moments earlier had cannoned back off the crossbar.” twohundredpercent

Three thoughts: Spain advances in PKs as Ronaldo misses his moment
“Here are three thoughts on Spain’s 4-2 shootout victory (0-0 after extra time) over Portugal in the Euro 2012 semifinals … 1. Spain is deservedly one step closer to a historic achievement. No team has ever won three major international tournaments in a row, and now Spain is a mere 90 minutes from doing just that. The fact that it will have done so with three different sides, playing three different styles, makes the potential achievement all the more remarkable.” SI

Euro 2012 paper review: Spain unites to hail finalists’ shining stars
“So Spain are just one win away from becoming the first nation to win three consecutive international tournaments. Little wonder, then, that the Spanish press are in buoyant, expectant mood following Wednesday night’s Euro 2012 semi-final victory over Portugal in Donetsk.” Guardian

Was Portugal the better team?
“At the 2010 World Cup, Spain matched up with Portugal in the Round of 16. The 1-0 scoreline did not tell the story of the game. Portugal’s lackluster performance saw it outclassed and humiliated, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s only contribution of note was to spit at a cameraman as he left the field. Two years and two days later, in Donetsk, Portugal was eliminated by its neighbor again. Only this time, its organized and defiant performance suggested how much progress it has made in that time. Over the course of 120 minutes, the Portuguese refused to back down, created chances and for long periods of the first half had a nervy Spain confused and unable to impose its natural passing rhythm.” ESPN (Video)


Germany’s History of Failure Against Italy

June 26, 2012


“Germany is favored to win Thursday’s Euro 2012 semifinal against Italy. While Die Manschschaft has played the best and most consistent football in the tournament, the Azzurri have won just one game in regulation and reached the semifinal only after surviving a penalty shootout against England. History provides a counterpoint to soccernomics-style prognostications, however, because the Germans — or West Germans — have never defeated Italy in Euros or World Cup tournaments.” Football is Coming Home (Video), Germany’s History of Failure vs. Italy: Part 2 (Video)


The European Cup and the New Europe

June 26, 2012

“During international football competitions like the European Cup, eleven players briefly become their country, for a time, on the pitch. A nation is a difficult thing to grasp: unpalpable, mythic, flighty. Historians might labor away to define the precise contours of a country’s culture and institutions, and even sometimes attempt to delineate it’s soul, while political leaders try mightily (and persistently fail) to stand as representatives of it’s ideals. But in a way there is nothing quite so tactile, so real, as the way a team represents a nation: during their time on the pitch, they have in their hands a small sliver of the country’s destiny. And in those miraculous and memorable moments when individual trajectories intersect with a national sporting victory, sometimes biographies and histories seem briefly to meld. At such moments, the players who inhabit the crossroads of sporting and national history –Maradona in 1986, Zidane in 1998 — become icons, even saints.” Soccer Politics


Random Fandom: A Man Without a Country at Euro 2012

June 26, 2012

“In truth, I would rather not be holding a two-foot-by-three-foot piece of black construction paper above my head as ‘Das Deutschlandlied’ echoes around me. A couple hundred other people standing in my general vicinity adopt poses similar to mine. I realize that the millions watching on television across the world can’t see my face—instead, they’ll see the rendition of the German flag our pieces of paper collectively create. But still, it feels vaguely wrong and more than a little creepy to be joining in this display. For starters, this is because I’m not German. I don’t know the words for this song, for another. I’m happy to root for the team and don’t harbor any ill will towards modern Germany, but I have no reason to take pride in it as a country. The nationalistic display feels off. It’s not mine.” The Classical


Euro 2012 Semifinal Preview

June 26, 2012


“The four semifinalists of Euro 2012 are the four best teams in the tournament, the four that deserve to be here and the four that all played positive, attacking soccer against opponents that (in one way or another) all tried to park the bus in the quarterfinals. How often does that happen in a major tournament? Very rarely. So let’s hear it for Spain, Germany, Italy and Portugal, a final four that couldn’t be finer. And let’s hear it for the sport itself, which too often rewards teams that play anti-soccer in the tournaments that matter most.” SI


Breaking down Euro 2012 semifinals

June 26, 2012

“What a tournament so far, right? As Chris Ryan noted in his quarterfinal review on Grantland, we’ve been lucky in that the more limited, defensive sides in the final eight are heading home and now we’re left with arguably the best four teams from the 16-team field. No luck, no chance — just quality and skill.” ESPN (Video)


The Question: why have there been so many headed goals at Euro 2012?

June 26, 2012

“There is little remarkable about the fact that this tournament has yielded 69 goals in its opening 28 games. If the two semi-finals and final produce eight goals between them there will, for the third tournament running, have been 77 goals in a finals. What is remarkable, though, is that of those 69, already 20 have been from headers – already three more than the record of 17 set in 2004. While Andy Roxburgh, the head of Uefa’s technical committee, has been characteristically cautious, insisting that the sample size is too small to draw any definitive conclusions, Michel Platini has been keen to claim credit, insisting that the introduction of extra officials behind the goals has reduced the amount of grappling at corners and free-kicks.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


ANALYSIS: Does Cristiano Ronaldo do it in the big games?

June 26, 2012

“In his own mind he’s the best player in the world, while in the minds of others he isn’t even in the top 10. No matter which way you look at it, Cristiano Ronaldo divides opinion. After a season in which the one-time World Player of the Year won La Liga for the first time since joining Real Madrid in 2009, Ronaldo was criticised intensely after Portugal’s first two games at Euro 2012. Never mind the 60 goals in all competitions in 2011/12, a few admittedly simple missed chances against Germany and Denmark had the public on the 27-year-old’s back once again.” Just Football


Making History In the Copa Libertadores Final

June 26, 2012


Independiente with the 1975 Copa Libertadores trophy
“This year’s Copa Libertadores final, between Boca Juniors and Corinthians, is a truly heavyweight clash. On and off the pitch, the two combatants are giants of South American football. They are both current national champions and hold 28 league titles and four national cup titles between them. They are the most popular clubs in their respective megacities, beloved for their working-class roots, and count their supporters in the tens of millions.” In Bed With Maradona

Corinthians close in on Libertadores dream
“Some 20 years ago, Corinthians director Luis Paulo Rosenberg made a promise to himself. He said, ‘[When we win the Copa Libertadores] I want to buy a bottle of cachaca (the local moonshine), drink it all myself and sleep in the gutter, drunk.’ He has never been closer to buying that bottle. In the 53rd version of the South America’s Champions League, the Brazilian giants have made it through to the final at last. They are two games away from lifting the trophy – the final is played on a home and away basis with the first match on 27 June and the return leg on 4 July.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Gavin Hamilton Euro 2012 diary: June 26, Kiev

June 26, 2012

“England are out and the inquest begins. Though the initial angst over penalties was inevitable, the long-term discussion needs to go deeper. The question should not be why do England keep losing on penalties, but why do England keep ending up in so many penalty shoot-outs. The simple fact is that England were not good enough to beat Italy over 120 minutes. Indeed, they were a very poor second. For Italy, you can substitute Portugal in 2004, Argentina in 1998 and Germany in 1996.” World Soccer


The Great Roy Hodgson and the Lazy Arabs

June 26, 2012

“Paul. I have been a subscriber of this site since the very first day it launched. I have always supported you and enjoyed your writing. This time however, you have simply gone too far. Way too far. What you fail to understand is that none of this was Hodgson’s doing. The good bits, like the bit when Walcott’s shot seemed to deflect in or when the Ukraine ‘keeper dropped the ball, they were his doing. So was the bit when Ukraine had a goal disallowed. But in no way shape or form can the performance of the England team be blamed on him.” Tomkins Times


Italy 0-0 England: Pirlo dictates the game

June 25, 2012


“Italy somehow failed to score despite dominating for 120 minutes, but won the resulting penalty shoot-out. Cesare Prandelli brought in Riccardo Montolivo to play at the top of the diamond, because of concerns over Thiago Motta’s fitness. Roy Hodgson made no changes from the XI that narrowly defeated Ukraine in the group stage. Italy were the better side all over the pitch here – only finishing let them down.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012: England versus Italy, an abbreviated but charged rivalry
“England against Italy feels as though it should be one of football’s classic fixtures, a meeting between the motherland of the game and a country that has won the World Cup four times. Yet the sides have met only twice before in major tournaments, never on neutral soil, and only four times in qualifying games for major tournaments. England have won just one of those six competitive fixtures and Italy are one of only four teams (Brazil, Uruguay and Romania being the other three) to have the advantage over England in a head-to-head comparison. It was, though, a game against Italy in 1948 that brought perhaps England’s greatest ever victory.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Euro 2012: The Quarter-Finals – England 0-0 Italy (Italy Win 4-2 On Penalty Kicks
“So, then, to Kiev and to the quarter-finals of the European Championships. It’s the final match of the round this evening, featuring an Italian side that is something of a curates egg, excellent against Spain in matching them every inch of the way before being slightly underwhelming against Croatia and The Republic of Ireland, whilst England remain somewhat enigmatic, decent enough in fits and starts but also a little lucky in places and, for fifteen minutes against Sweden nine days ago, almost apocalyptically disorganised. The history books say Italy, who have a considerably better record against England than many realise due to the infrequency with which the two sides have played each other over the years, but England have showed considerable character over the last few weeks and this match felt, prior to kick-off, difficult to call.” twohundredpercent

England v Italy: match report
“This was a chronicle of a death foretold, of a failure to prepare properly. This deserved defeat on penalties, England’s sixth reverse in seven shoot-outs, highlighted technical deficiencies also painfully apparent during the two hours of football. Italy, and Andrea Pirlo in particular, were vastly superior. Italy deserved to progress to a Euro 2012 semi-final with Germany in Warsaw on Thursday. Some of Pirlo’s passing was sumptuous; he guided the ball around England’s half as if using satnav. He cherished the ball’s company whereas England, following a deceptively promising start, continued to surrender it cheaply.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Euro 2012 paper review: ‘The world has been turned on its head’
“The devilishly handsome model in the Zegna menswear advert may be too smouldering and intense to express much in the way of emotion, but elsewhere in La Repubblica joy is unconfined. Underneath their masthead, the Italy goalkeeper Gigi Buffon can be seen celebrating Italy’s Euro 2012 quarter-final penalty shootout win over England with team-mates Antonio Cassano and Daniele Di Rossi, among others.” Guardian

Three thoughts: Italy nips England for well-deserved berth in semis
“Here are three thoughts on Italy’s 0-0 win over England in penalty kicks: 1. Justice was done in the end. From the second minute of the match, when Daniele de Rossi struck a swerving shot from 30 yards out that cannoned off the inside of Joe Hart’s post, Italy might have felt it was not going to be its night. Mario Balotelli had a hat-trick of chances in the first half, the last of which a close-range toe-poke that was deflected over the crossbar, led him to kicking the goalpost in frustration. It was not so different in the second period, most of which Italy dominated.” SI

Redemption for England and Italy
“The exact role of coaches is a hotly debated topic in soccer. Is the sport like jazz in which the players use their creativity to improvise genius, with the coach merely there to provide the cut-away reaction shots the television cameras need to enhance the drama? Or is it akin to a symphony in which the coach is the conductor, a Bill Parcell-ian puppet master orchestrating every move?” ESPN (Video)


Spain 2-0 France: Blanc’s double right-back plan fails and Alonso deservedly scores both goals

June 24, 2012


“Laurent Blanc named an extremely reactive team – but France neither stifled Spain’s threat down the left, nor played their own game effectively. Vicente del Bosque had hinted he would make changes from the team that beat Croatia, though it was still a surprise to see Cesc Fabregas return to the side in a false nine role, meaning Spain played the XI that started against Italy in the opening game – an experiment that didn’t go well.” Zonal Marking

Three thoughts on Spain-France
“1. Laurent Blanc’s tactical gamble backfired — As a coach who spent a year playing for Barcelona — he would often talk tactics with Jose Mourinho, then on the coaching staff, as well as teammates Pep Guardiola and Luis Figo — Laurent Blanc has made no secret of his admiration for Spain’s style of play. He talked of wanting France to play like the reigning champion, and was happy to pick technical players — like Samir Nasri, Marvin Martin, Jeremy Menez and Mathieu Valbuena — over physical ones; he wanted his defenders to start attacks and his forwards to play a fast-passing game.” SI

Spain still the team to beat
“Legendary French icon Zinedine Zidane turned 40 on Saturday. He celebrated with an appearance on French radio in which he made a birthday wish that France would play with ambition. ‘We’ve got the players, we’ve got the manager,’ he declared. ‘What we need is some folie [madness].’ Not all birthday wishes come true. What Zidane received was a lineup that L’Equipe described as ‘ultra-defensive.’ Manager Laurent Blanc used five midfielders, one of whom, Mathieu Debuchy, is a right back. Samir Nasri, rumored to be at the center of the team’s Gallic midweek bickering, was relegated to the bench.” ESPN (Video)

Euro 2012: Xabi Alonso strikes at double for Spain to knock out France
“One hundred caps, two goals and victory against France for the first time in Spain’s history. There was also revenge for the last time they were knocked out of a major tournament, six long years ago. Xabi Alonso was on the losing side that night in Hanover. Everything has changed since them; Spain have gone from habitual failures to perpetual winners. And, ultimately, they were comfortable winners here, France were simply unable to truly trouble them. Alonso controlled much of this game. He decided it too.” Guardian


Memorization killed chess—is football the next victim?

June 24, 2012

“Jonathan Wilson wrote a short but intriguing article just over a week ago for the New Statesman (of all publications). On initial reading, it appears to cover familiar ground for an unfamiliar audience. With the infamous 6-3 victory by Hungary over England in 1953 as its fulcrum, Wilson argues that international football was once a festival of contrasting styles, approaches and national visions of the ‘Beautiful Game’.” The Score (Video)


Interview with Simon Kuper, author of Soccernomics

June 24, 2012

“In this special podcast recorded for Forza Futbol, we have Simon Kuper, author of the recently published Soccernomics 2nd edition. Simon is also the author of “Football Against the Enemy”, “Ajax, the Dutch, the War” among others. Simon writes a weekly column in Financial Times. Simon joined me from Ukraine to answer a few questions about the Soccernomics second edition, state of Soccer analytics, Soccer in USA and some current topics like the new Premier League TV deal.” OnFooty (Video)


Germany 4-2 Greece: near-total dominance

June 22, 2012


Philipp Lahm fires in a superb opener
“Germany thrashed a poor Greece side to progress to the semi-finals with ease. Jogi Low, as widely reported before the game, changed three of his front four. Mesut Ozil remained, but Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle and Miroslav Klose replaced Thomas Muller, Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez. Fernando Santos was without Giorgos Karagounis from the centre of midfield, so Grigoris Makis played instead. Sotiris Ninis played on the right, with Dmitri Salpingidis upfront. Greece tried to soak up pressure, but simply weren’t good enough defensively and Germany constantly created chances.” Zonal Marking

Joachim Low pulls the right strings
“Germany’s run to the Euro 2012 title encountered some hiccups against Greece, but it wasn’t enough to stop a side that appears to be gaining momentum. Facing a tricky, yet highly defensive Greece team, Die Mannschaft largely cruised to a 4-2 victory, thanks to goals from Philipp Lahm, Sami Khedira, Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus. Yet it was a scoreline that was deceptive on multiple levels. Germany seized control early, and only rarely loosened its grip on the match. Had Joachim Low’s side been more precise with its finishing, the final score would have been even more convincing.” ESPN (Video)

Three thoughts: New lineup doesn’t alter Germany’s dominant attack
“Three thoughts on Germany’s 4-2 victory against Greece in the Euro 2012 quarterfinals, sending Germany to the semifinals next Thursday against England or Italy… • The Germans dominated. Aside from a totally unexpected Greek counter-attack goal that tied the game at 1-1 early in the second half, the Germans were in complete control of the game. Hoarding possession, moving smartly as a team and displaying the stamina that comes with top-level fitness, Germany overwhelmed a scrappy but talent-deficient Greek team that had trouble merely taking the ball into the German half of the field.” SI

Euro 2012: Germany’s power ends Greece’s taste of the high life
“Germany were already formidable enough at Euro 2012 but they will be enlivened all the more by their rout of Greece. In mid-campaign, Joachim Löw’s side became carefree as they relished the fun to be had after half-time. Greece did not lack pride and there was a second goal for them in the 89th minute when Dimitris Salpigidis stroked home a penalty but it was a rare moment of inconvenience for the victors.” Guardian


Euro 2012: England versus Italy, an abbreviated but charged rivalry

June 22, 2012

“England against Italy feels as though it should be one of football’s classic fixtures, a meeting between the motherland of the game and a country that has won the World Cup four times. Yet the sides have met only twice before in major tournaments, never on neutral soil, and only four times in qualifying games for major tournaments. England have won just one of those six competitive fixtures and Italy are one of only four teams (Brazil, Uruguay and Romania being the other three) to have the advantage over England in a head-to-head comparison. It was, though, a game against Italy in 1948 that brought perhaps England’s greatest ever victory.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2012 Quarterfinals Preview

June 22, 2012

“…Greece vs. Germany. How They Got Here: Greece, despite all their history (the last couple of tournaments, not the battle of Sparta and Athens), have been pretty entertaining throughout Euro 2012. Or at least they’ve been involved in entertaining matches. They are an example of what happens if you just keep playing (Russia might want to write this down). After drawing with Poland and losing to the Czech Republic, they looked down. But in their third and final match, a goal from 35-year-old captain Giorgos Karagounis put them up on Russia, and saw the Greeks through to the quarters.” Grantland (Video)


Portugal 1-0 Czech Republic: Ronaldo a constant threat and eventually gets the winner

June 22, 2012


“Cristiano Ronaldo was a greater goalscoring threat than the Czech side put together, as Portugal narrowly won a game that should have been safe much earlier. Paulo Bento named an unchanged side again – he’s played this XI in Portugal’s last six competitive games, four at the Euros, two in the play-offs against Bosnia. Michael Bilek was without Tomas Rosicky again, and used Vladimir Darida rather than Daniel Kolar in Rosicky’s attacking midfield role. This was a one-sided game, with Portugal superior all over the pitch.” Zonal Marking

Ronaldo shining on international stage
“He played on the left. He played on the right. He sometimes played as a center forward. He powered Portugal into Euro 2012’s semifinals. Sixteen years ago this Saturday at Euro ’96, Czech Karel Poborsky’s unique lob sunk a Portuguese team about which so much had been expected since winning the World Youth Championships in 1991. Euro 2004 saw both teams felled by the same blunt sword when the Czechs lost to Greece in the semis. In turn, Portugal lost in that tournament’s final, a night when Cristiano Ronaldo shed teenage tears in front of a largely unsympathetic world.” ESPN (Video)

Three thoughts: Ronaldo plays the star in victory over Czech Republic
“Three thoughts after Portugal’s 1-0 victory against the Czech Republic sent the Portuguese to the semifinals of Euro 2012: • Cristiano Ronaldo is a fantastic player. We knew this already, of course, but Ronaldo was terrific in three different positions against the Czechs: as a winger, as a No. 10 and as a center-forward. He loomed over the game like a colossus in the way that few players in the history of soccer are able to do, considering there are 11 players on each team.” SI

Euro 2012: Cristiano Ronaldo happy to lead and let team-mates follow
“Cristiano Ronaldo is emerging as the player of this tournament, or at least the striker other teams have to find a way to stop, yet it does Portugal a disservice to depict them as a one-man team. Even if by his recent standards this was a quiet, unflashy, almost workmanlike performance from the Portuguese captain, he still hit a post at both ends and scored his third goal of the competition just when his side needed it. The Czechs could not keep him out for 90 minutes, though the only goal was a team goal, with Ronaldo merely supplying the emphatic finish.” Guardian


Kicker Conspiracy: Football Beyond The Euros, Hornby & Banter

June 20, 2012


“International football tournaments come around so quickly these days. Maybe it’s a consequence of getting older, but the PASSION!-themed TV advertising seems to start as the ears are still ringing with the previous competition’s sententious punditry. Sure enough, I’m still recovering from my twenty-ninth birthday – involving a Pennine reservoir’s-worth of booze and a 2010 World Cup quarter-final penalty shoot-out soundtracked experimentally with Mahler’s Tragische Symphony No. 6 – and the Poland-Ukraine European Championships are getting underway. The media are microwaving their xenophobic patter, and part-time fans across England are consulting their WKD sides to escape those long-scheduled family christenings to watch the group matches down the local. Banter, endless bloody banter, drifts through the window on the breeze to chisel away that vestige of the life-force left intact by the Jubilympics. It must be hellish if you don’t like football.” The Quietus


Germany, Spain still favorites as Euro 2012 quarterfinals begin

June 20, 2012

“A new tournament starts in Euro 2012 on Thursday with the first of four quarterfinals, a showdown between Portugal and the Czech Republic here at the National Stadium. After a breathless run of 24 games in 12 days, Wednesday was the tournament’s first off-day, which gives us a chance to do a new set of power rankings and preview each quarterfinal.” SI


Gerrard proves he can deliver from deep – but Italian intelligence the real test

June 20, 2012

“Roy Hodgson has based his England side around organisation, discipline and a good shape without the ball. It’s not a system that brings the best out of individuals, particularly flair players, and as a result, it’s been difficult to name a standout man of the match in any of England’s three Euro 2012 matches so far – despite England topping their group comfortably with seven points. But over the three games, Steven Gerrard has been England’s star performer, from his deep midfield role alongside Scott Parker.” FourFourTwo


In The Premier League, The Sun Always Shines On TV

June 20, 2012


“When Sergio Aguero crashed home the injury time winner to secure Manchester City’s Premier League title, he almost certainly gave little thought to the financial ramifications of his well taken goal, but it could be argued that this sublime moment provided the impetus for last week’s record television deal, which has climbed around 70% to £3 billion over the next three-year cycle. As the Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, said, ‘We couldn’t have gone to market at a better time.'” Swiss Ramble


Gavin Hamilton Euro 2012 diary, June 20, Warsaw

June 20, 2012

“The longer England stay in this tournament, the luckier they get. Last night’s win over Ukraine – the first time England have beaten the hosts at a tournament – included a huge dose of luck, with the match officials refusing to award Ukraine a goal after Marko Devic’s shot was cleared from behind the line by John Terry. However, England demonstrated a spirit and sense of togetherness that was lacking in South Africa.” World Soccer


Argentine title race is a sprint, relegation a marathon

June 20, 2012

“In the rollercoaster of tournament football it took Russia little more than a week to move from possible winners to definite failures at Euro 2012. Spare a thought, then, for Argentine club Tigre who could move to either extreme in the space of 90 minutes – or even be both at the same time. Next week is the last round of the conventional season in Argentina and Tigre have a good chance of winning the title for the first time in the club’s long history. But they are also in danger of being relegated to the second division.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Euro 2012: Poland and Ukraine has given us excitement, new stars and the hallmarks of a classic tournament

June 20, 2012


Danny Welbeck
“If these Euros maintain their winning blend of technique and tempo, Poland and Ukraine may even eclipse events in Holland and Belgium for all-round entertainment. There is so much to celebrate. The dark arts of diving, dissent and dangerous tackling have been witnessed infrequently, a hugely welcome development. Refereeing standards have, by and large, been more than acceptable. Unexpected stars have lit up the night skies, including Alan Dzagoev, Mario Mandzukic, Danny Welbeck and Mathieu Debuchy.” Telegraph – Henry Winter


England can start to dream

June 20, 2012

“After England squeaked by the unfancied Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup quarterfinal, then-coach Bobby Robson was moved to quip, ‘We didn’t underestimate them. They were just a lot better than we thought.’ Roy Hodgson’s team may feel similarly after winning 1-0 against a frenetically impressive, attack-minded Ukraine. A dour first half was followed by the entertaining spectacle of the second. England held on and was rewarded. France’s insipid collapse against eliminated Sweden in the other Group D match means the Three Lions topped their group and avoid the world champions in the quarterfinals.” ESPN (Video)

England 1-0 Ukraine: cagey game
“Wayne Rooney returned to head in a simple goal, and England finish top of Group D. Roy Hodgson dropped Andy Carroll to bring in Rooney, so Danny Welbeck returned to his position as the primary centre-forward. Oleh Blokhin made various changes – Andriy Shevchenko wasn’t fit enough to start, and Andriy Voronin was dropped, so there was an all-new centre-forward partnership of Artem Milevskiy and Marco Devic. Serhiy Nazarenko was replaced by Denys Harmash, and Yaroslav Rakitskiy came in at the back. Like all three of England’s matches, this was poor technical game lacking in quality, and many of the chances came from set-pieces and crosses.” Zonal Marking

Three thoughts: England casts aside hype to thrive on grit
“Three thoughts on England’s 1-0 victory against Ukraine, which sent England (first place) and France (second) to the Euro 2012 quarterfinals, while Ukraine and Sweden were eliminated… This England provides plenty thrills (of a slightly different kind). No wonder manager Roy Hodgson was all smiles after the final whistle: England has already exceeded expectations at the Euros, winning Group D with seven points. The English public, too, seems to have warmed to a side that has a little bit of everything — experience, grit, fight, pace, youth — but is mercifully lacking the sense of entitlement that has hampered previous versions of the ‘Three Lions’.” SI


France has reason to worry

June 20, 2012

“In a hurry, the optimism surrounding France at the European Championships has faded. Set to win Group D and avoid a confrontation with defending European and world champion Spain, France lost 2-0 to already-eliminated Sweden in Kiev on a steamy Tuesday night to set up that unwanted pairing in the quarterfinals. England, as group winner (yes, you’re seeing right), gets Italy instead. After France won at a major tournament for the first time in six years on Friday, out went Les Bleus’ 23-match unbeaten streak with a stunning Zlatan Ibrahimovic volley in the 54th minute.” ESPN (Video)


Spain 1-0 Croatia: Navas snatches late winner

June 19, 2012


“Spain played an extremely cautious game, but won after Croatia pushed forward. Vicente Del Bosque kept the same starting XI, meaning Fernando Torres again spearheaded the attack. Slaven Bilic made various changes, effectively using a version of the 4-2-3-1 system he finished the Italy game with. Domagoj Vida started at right-back, pushing Darijo Srna forward to the right of midfield. Danijel Pranjic started on the left, with Luka Modric as the number ten. Nikica Jelavic and Ivan Perisic were only substitutes.” Zonal Marking

Spain still uncertain, even in win
“Spain progressed into the elimination stage after a slender 1-0 victory in a game which veered from the sterile to the dramatic. As the score in the Italy versus Ireland match heightened the suspense, both Spain and Croatia knew a single goal could carry them through at their opponent’s expense. Croatia’s passionate football may not have caused Spanish fans’ hearts to enter their mouths, but they were made to beat with an irregular rhythm like their team’s strangely out-of-sorts midfield.” ESPN

Navas scores late to secure Spain’s Group C win at Euro 2012
“Jesus Navas scored a late goal Monday to give Spain a 1-0 win over Croatia and a spot in the European Championship quarterfinals. Andres Iniesta passed to Navas inside the area after Spain broke through an offside trap, and the substitute forward kicked the ball into an empty net in the 88th minute.” SI


Proud night for Italy

June 19, 2012

“The ghosts of 2004 can now be laid to rest. Italy was made to work hard in its Group C finale with Ireland, but in the end, the Azzurri got the result they needed, prevailing 2-0 on goals by Antonio Cassano and substitute Mario Balotelli. A 2-2 draw in the other match between Spain and Croatia would have still seen Italy eliminated, but La Roja came through with a 1-0 victory, and the Italians were left to celebrate their progression to the quarterfinals.” ESPN (Video)

Cassano, Balotelli guide Italy to quarter with 2-0 win over Ireland
“Italy qualified for the quarterfinals of the European Championship after Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli scored in each half in a tense 2-0 victory over Ireland on Monday. Cassano headed in with his back to the goal by the near post following a corner kick in the 35th minute on a warm and muggy night at the Municipal Stadium Poznan.” SI


Euro 2012: Free Mario Balotelli!

June 19, 2012

“Or at least let him speak his mind! On Monday, the Italian striker scored his second-ever goal for Italy, roasting Ireland defender John O’Shea with a volleyed hit to put Italy up, 2-0, on Ireland, in stoppage time, and secure their passage to the Euro 2012 quarterfinals out of Group C. The above image is of Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci supressing Mario’s right to free speech, covering the Manchester City madman’s mouth with his hand to stop him from getting in some kind or all kinds of trouble.” Grantland (Video)


Portugal 2-1 Holland: van Marwijk makes changes, but Holland crash out with zero points

June 18, 2012


“Portugal suffered an early setback, but played better football and fully deserved their win. Paulo Bento kept the same starting XI for the third game in a row. Bert van Marwijk made three changes. In defence, Ron Vlaar replaced Johnny Heitinga in a straight swap. It was further forward where he made significant alterations – Rafael van der Vaart came in for Mark van Bommel in order to add some creativity to the midfield, while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar started upfront, meaning Robin van Persie played just behind a and Wesley Sneijder went to the left, the system Holland used at the end of the Germany match. There was a huge contrast in styles here – Holland were a bunch of individuals without any cohesive structure, while Portugal were disciplined, organised and clear with their attacking intentions.” Zonal Marking

Ronaldo answers critics in victory
“The mark of a great player is responding in the face of criticism. An irritated and annoyed Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t hit a barn door against Denmark on Wednesday, but the Ronaldo who vies with Lionel Messi for the tag of best player in the world showed up Sunday in Portugal’s pivotal Group of Death clash with the Netherlands.” ESPN (Video)

Three thoughts: Ronaldo finds form in Portugal’s win over Netherlands
“Here are my three thoughts on Portugal’s 2-1 win over the Netherlands in Group B… 1. The Dutch midfield: Finally Bert van Marwijk gave the Dutch public what it wanted, dropped Mark van Bommel and played a holding pair of Nigel De Jong and Rafael van der Vaart. And finally we saw just why Van Marwijk has been so reluctant to go into games without his two dogs of war. It all started extremely well for the Dutch, Van der Vaart showing the positive side of his game as he ran on to an Arjen Robben pass and whipped a finish around Rui Patricio. That showed the advantage of playing him: not only would Van Bommel probably not have been able to produce such an instant, accurate finish, but he wouldn’t even have been that high up the pitch. The two halves of the broken team from the first two matches were suddenly linked. That gave the Dutch a flow and a rhythm but it also left it with a desperately soft center.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Euro 2012: Holland are sent home by Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo
“After all the speculation about the tortured arithmetic that might decide this group, the sums were simple. Germany and Portugal advance. Hope had arrived for Holland in the shape of Rafael van der Vaart’s opening goal, but Cristiano Ronaldo first equalised and then struck the winner in the second half to send his side into a quarter-final meeting with the Czech Republic.” Guardian


Denmark 1 – 2 Germany

June 18, 2012

“Denmark were knocked out of Euro 2012 as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Germany. Needing a win over the group favourites to progress, as Portugal beat Netherlands, the Danes went behind to a Lukas Podolski strike early on but equalised through Michael Krohn-Dehli’s header. However, defender Lars Bender popped up with ten minutes to go to end their hopes of qualification and left the Germans top of the group.” ESPN

Germany disposes of Denmark to win Group B, advance to quarters
“Germany advanced to a quarterfinal against Greece after beating Denmark 2-1 on Sunday in their last Group B match at the European Championship. The Danes were eliminated. Lukas Podolski opened the scoring for Germany in the 19th minute and Lars Bender slotted home the winner in the 80th after Michael Krohn-Dehli had equalized for Denmark in the first half.” SI

Euro 2012: Lars Bender takes Germany through and dumps out Denmark
“Germany, it turns out, do not do group stage nail-biters after all. On a clear, mild night in suburban Lviv a 2-1 defeat of Denmark that was not without alarms ensured it would indeed be Joachim Löw’s fluent and excitingly youthful Nationalmannschaft who escaped Group B without the indignity of last-ditch convulsions. Germany will now play Greece, who may feel – in every sense – they owe them one.” Guardian


Czech Rep. fully deserving of victory

June 17, 2012


Petr Jiracek
“Eight days ago, the Czech Republic’s dreams of advancement at Euro 2012 looked to be in tatters. Remarkably, the Czechs came back from the dead to beat Poland 1-0 to win Group A and send the Euro 2012 co-host crashing out of the tournament. Petr Jiracek scored the game-winner in the 72nd minute, finishing off a counterattacking move that was as swift as it was deadly. Poland, meanwhile, failed to make the most of another impressive start when it squandered several chances and in the process left a nation in despair.” ESPN (Video)

Three thoughts: Czechs surprise with 1-0 victory over host Poland
“Here are three thoughts after the Czech Republic’s 1-0 win against Poland, which gave the Czechs first place in Group A, with Greece advancing in second place and Russia and Poland being eliminated…” SI

Petr Jiracek strike puts Czech Republic through and Poland out
“Only the hardest of hearts could not feel for Poland. They had surfed a wave of emotion in the buildup to this tie and they believed that the fairytale script would play out. On their turf, in front of their passionate supporters, they would march into their first ever European Championship quarter-final. For the opening half-hour, as they subjected the Czechs to a battering and this stadium rocked to a memorable beat, it looked as though it would happen. An almighty party loomed. But football has the unerring capacity to reduce dreams to dust in the blink of an eye. Here in Wroclaw, the pain was triggered by a swing of Petr Jiracek’s boot.” Guardian


So much for the “dull” Group A

June 17, 2012

“By the time Euro 2012 is finished, all four groups (and not just B) will be considered deadly in some way. But Saturday’s gripping conclusion wasn’t supposed to go like this. Group A was long considered to be the dull one. The ugly duckling. A quartet of teams that was impossible to love. Yet in Greece’s stoic, backs-against-the-wall 1-0 win over Russia and the Czech Republic’s 1-0 triumph over Poland, we got a weirdly beautiful conclusion given the way both sides started the tournament.” ESPN (Video)

Euro 2012: Giorgos Karagounis avoids Greece exit and makes Russia pay
“Forecasts of a Greek economic recovery have been taken more seriously than Fernando Santos’s prediction that his players would be the ones celebrating at the end of this game; yet after a famous victory, celebrate Greece did. Russia were surprisingly sent home from the European Championship by the combined might of Greece and the Czech Republic, the former pulling off an unexpected yet wholly deserved victory here and the latter claiming the other qualification spot with a win against Poland.” Guardian


Three thoughts: England switch to 4-4-2 keys comeback over Sweden

June 17, 2012

“Three thoughts from England’s dramatic 3-2 victory over Sweden in Kiev, Ukraine. 1. England is winning with 4-4-2. There is a scene in Steve Barron’s 2001 film Mike Bassett: England Manager, an affectionate satire on the England national team, in which Ricky Tomlinson, playing the title character, reaches the end of his tether. He reacts furiously to the suggestion that he might experiment tactically. “Four-four-fookin’-two,” he shouts as the audience laughs at a poor, befuddled man out of his depth. Eleven years later, England is again playing 4-4-2. And somehow, it seems to be working.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Thierry Roland (1937-2012)

June 17, 2012

“More than fifty years after covering his first World Cup in 1962 in Chile, French journalist Thierry Roland passed away on Saturday at the age of 74 prompting tributes from the highest spheres of France’s political scene, starting with President François Hollande, all the way down to the French players in Ukraine from Gael Clichy to Samir Nasri. Perhaps the only football-related figure that was more appreciated than Zinedine Zidane in France, Thierry Roland was one of these people which you would be forgiven to think they were immortal. After beginning his career as a football journalist as an 18-year-old in 1955, first on the radio before making the big move to live television, Roland went on to commentate thirteen World Cups and nine European Championships, spearheading more than 1300 football games in total for France’s foremost TV channels, ORTF from 1955 to 1968, Antenne 2 from 1975 to 1984, TF1 from 1984 and 2004, M6 from 2005 till yesterday.” In Bed With Maradona (Video)


England 3-2 Sweden: long balls, set-pieces and terrible defending

June 16, 2012


Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll
“A scrappy game low on quality, but high on entertainment. Roy Hodgson made one change. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was dropped with Ashley Young moving to the left, and Andy Carroll coming upfront as a target man. Erik Hamren brought in three players – Johan Elmander upfront, Anders Svensson in the middle, and Jonas Olsson at the back, though Sweden played pretty much the same formation as against Ukraine. This was a crazy, open match that could have gone either way – both sides had spells when they were on top.” Zonal Marking

England’s show of character
“Buzzwords in the England camp the past few days included ‘bold’ and ‘creative.’ For large parts against Sweden at the European Championships at an Olympic Stadium mostly bathed in yellow, England was anything but. However, an inspired substitution of Theo Walcott by manager Roy Hodgson will ensure most will only remember the result, a frenetic 3-2 England win that knocked the Scandinavians out of the tournament.” ESPN (Video)

Sweden 2 England 3: match report
“Danny Welbeck struck a goal of elegance, athleticism and immense significance for England, here on Friday night. It was a magical flicked finish, created by Theo Walcott, who helped turn a crazy game on its head with a vibrant second-half cameo. England were trailing 2-1 when Walcott arrived, swiftly equalising and then fashioning Welbeck’s winner with a superb darting run and cross. England were panicky at times late on but held on and now face hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on Tuesday knowing a draw sees Roy Hodgson’s side into the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Euro 2012: Danny Welbeck hits late winner as England beat Sweden
“There was a point here when all of England’s old failings had resurfaced and the match was straying dangerously close to an almost implausible ordeal. Sweden had turned the game upside-down with two goals early in the second half and, at that point, it looked like Roy Hodgson’s team might finish the evening at the bottom of Group D.” Guardian


France 2-0 Ukraine: Ribery v Husiev battle decides the game

June 16, 2012

“After a long rain delay, France took the initiative and went onto win the game comfortably. Laurent Blanc made two changes. One was a straight swap, with Patrice Evra dropping out and Gael Clichy starting at left-back. Higher up, the introduction of Jeremy Menez at the expense of Florent Malouda meant Samir Nasri moved into a permanent central position, and France switched to a 4-2-3-1. Oleg Blokhin had said before the tournament that he didn’t have a set first choice XI, and would switch from game to game, but after Ukraine’s famous 2-1 victory over Sweden on Monday, he stuck with the same side.” Zonal Marking

France comes alive in second half, beats co-host Ukraine in Group D
“France won a match at a major tournament for the first time since Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt, beating Ukraine 2-0 Friday in a storm-delayed match at the European Championship. Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye scored early in the second half for the French, who last won a major match in the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup. In the final of that tournament, Zidane was given a red card for his head-butt in the last match of his career.” SI

Three thoughts: France’s tactics work in 2-0 victory over Ukraine
“Three thoughts from France’s 2-0 victory over co-host Ukraine from Donetsk, Ukraine. 1. The tactical and personnel changes of Laurent Blanc worked perfectly. France’s 4-3-2-1 against England, with Samir Nasri and Franck Ribéry on either side of Karim Benzema, was switched to a 4-2-3-1 against Ukraine. In the latter formation, Nasri was side of Ribéry and Jérémy Ménez, who came in for Chelsea’s Florent Malouda.” SI

France’s talent too much for Ukraine
“The Ukrainian national anthem, “Ukraine has not yet Perished,” rang out raucously in the driving rain ahead of the team’s game against France, yet the co-hosts could not summon a performance to match the title. In this contest, French quality snuffed out the opponents’ passion. France coach Laurent Blanc tweaked his lineup ahead of the game, dropping veterans Patrice Evra and Florent Malouda in favor of Gael Clichy and Jeremy Menez, hoping to find sharper movement in the attacking third. Blanc knew his team had mustered 15 shots on goal against England yet created few clear-cut chances. His changes would prove to be vindicated.” ESPN (Video)


Englands of the Mind

June 16, 2012

“The English national soccer team is, as of this writing, located in Krakow, Poland, its official stamped-by-UEFA ‘Team Base Camp’ for Euro 2012. England’s hotel in Krakow, the Stary, was ‘revealed’ in November via a press announcement from the Football Association. It was then re-revealed last week via the FA’s official YouTube channel, FATV (‘Football’s Home’), or more specifically via an ‘exclusive’ synth-y corporate down-tempo waiting-room video mostly devoted to slow pans over billiards tables and shots of boxes sliding into focus.” Grantland – Run of Play (Video)


Euro 2012: Alan Dzagoev is finally meeting Russia’s expectations

June 16, 2012


Alan Dzagoev
“Russia has been waiting since 11 October 2008. It was then that Alan Dzagoev made his international debut, coming off the bench at half-time in a World Cup qualifier away to Germany and hitting the bar. He was aged 18 years and 116 days and so became the youngest outfielder ever to play for Russia. Comparisons with the Russian forward Eduard Streltsov, who, at 17 years and 340 days, became the youngest outfielder ever to play for the USSR, were inevitable if not entirely fair. Streltsov, after all, is one of the great icons of the Russian game, a forward who scored a hat-trick against Sweden on his international debut, was jailed for a rape he may or may not have committed and returned from five years in the gulag to inspire Torpedo to a league title.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


A Few thoughts on the German Midfield

June 16, 2012

“Two goals from Mario Gomez saw the Germans beat their arch-rivals, Netherlands 2-1 to ensure progress to the next round of Euro 2012 (Mathematically they can still be knocked out). The difference between the two sides was clearly felt in the middle of the pitch. Although both sides on paper lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the German double pivot of Khedira and Schweinsteiger were given freedom to go forward where as Nigel De Jong and Mark Van Bommel stayed behind, guarding the Dutch defence.” The False 9


The Reducer: Orange Crushed

June 16, 2012

“Game of the Week: Germany 2, Holland 1. When the final whistle blew on this Group of B (B is for Death) match, one image in particular kept running through my head. There was Arjen Robben and his crinkled, baby Benjamin Button face, dickishly taking the long way around to the Dutch bench after being substituted for in the 83rd minute. He didn’t try to hype up his teammates, he didn’t shake hands with his sub, Dirk Kuyt, or give a quick man-shake to his manager. Nope, instead he tore off his jersey, parading past the famously passionate, good-traveling Holland fans, looking like a kid who’d just been Tasered while sucking on a lime.” Grantland


Spain 4-0 Ireland: whitewash

June 15, 2012


“The biggest win of Euro 2012 so far. Vicente del Bosque made one change, leaving out Cesc Fabregas and playing with a proper striker – Fernando Torres started upfront. Giovanni Trapattoni also made a single change upfront – Kevin Doyle dropped out, and Simon Cox started behind Robbie Keane. Spain were clearly the better side here – so much so, that the tactical battle was almost non-existent. Ireland did well to get to half-time at only 0-1, but Spain wrapped the game up soon into the second half. Neither side did anything different or unusual tactically.” Zonal Marking

True nine or false nine?
“True nine or false nine? That is the question Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque is wrestling with ahead of his side’s game against Ireland, its second fixture in Group C. And there are compelling reasons on both sides of the argument.” ESPN (Video)

Euro 2012: Fernando Torres and Spain end Republic of Ireland hopes
“Anything can happen in 90 minutes, said Giovanni Trapattoni. But when Spain play like this and his Republic of Ireland team see their limitations so painfully exposed, only one thing can happen. The mis-match of Euro 2012 so far concluded with Spain igniting their championship defence and Ireland beating a humble retreat.” Guardian


Euro 2012 Analysis – Day 1, Groups A, B, C, D

June 15, 2012

“This is the first piece in our Euro 2012 Analysis series, during which we’ll analyze all the matches based on our FootballrRating score. The app is currently in public beta. Register now to gain access to our match, player, and team analysis.” chimu solutions


Italy 1-1 Croatia: Pirlo dictates first half, Croatia dominate the second after half-time switch

June 15, 2012


“Croatia initially had problems with Italy’s 3-5-2, but a clever half-time switch by Slaven Bilic got them back into the game. Cesare Prandelli kept the same formation and starting XI, so Mario Balotelli remained upfront despite Antonio Di Natale’s impact as a substitute in the 1-1 draw against Spain. Bilic rewarded the eleven players that played in the 3-1 win over Ireland with a second start. A game of two halves. In the first, Italy recorded 11 shots compared to Croatia’s three. In the second, Croatia ‘won’ this statistic 7-3, summing up the change in the balance of play.” Zonal Marking

Croatia shows fighting spirit vs. Italy
“Fearless Croatia demonstrated that its opening-round victory was more than a fluke, recovering from a goal down to tie Italy 1-1 amid a fiery atmosphere that left Group C finely poised. The game boiled down to a fascinating tactical battle between two of the world’s finest playmakers, Italy’s Andrea Pirlo and Croatia’s Luka Modric. The first half belonged to the 33-year-old Italian, a metronomic midfielder whose departure in 2011 after a decade at AC Milan was meant to ease him into pasture. Pirlo responded by leading Juventus to the Serie A title this past season, and he reveled in this game, alongside teammate Claudio Marchisio, as Italy dominated the initial exchange.” ESPN (Video)

Croatia rallies in second half, forces 1-1 draw with Italy in Group C
“Italy sat back and paid for it Thursday in a 1-1 draw with Croatia at the European Championship. Andrea Pirlo gave Italy the lead with a curving free kick in the 39th minute but Mario Mandzukic was left unmarked to equalize in the 72nd. Italy had numerous other first-half chances from Mario Balotelli, Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Cassano, but the Azzurri lacked finishing quality. Balotelli, in particular, appeared hesitant and missed one opportunity after another. And this time, second-half replacement Antonio Di Natale never really had a chance to score.” SI

Euro 2012: Croatia’s Mandzukic grabs point after Pirlo gives Italy lead
“Italy are still waiting for their first win against Croatia and their first win in this tournament. They seemed to have done enough to secure three points when they held a first-half lead until 18 minutes from the end, though they never played with much assurance and could not complain when the Croatians came back at them to snatch a draw with Mario Mandzukic’s well-taken equaliser.” Guardian


Euro 2012: the story so far…

June 15, 2012

“The sheer mindless idiocy of choosing Ukraine and Poland as UEFA have done for the European finals was duly and hideously exposed when the Russian and Polish fans set about each other before the game between their countries in Warsaw. The Russian hooligans have already disgraced themselves in the streets with no help on that occasion from the Poles. And to think that FIFA in their own wisdom, or perhaps something more sinister, have given the 2018 World Cup to the Russians. So much, as one has emphasised in the past, for the so-called campaign to kick out racism.” World Soccer – Brian Glanville


Holland 1 -2 Germany: The broken team…

June 15, 2012

“A match that Holland needed to win in order to keep chances of qualifying to the knock-out stages of Euro 2012 in their own hands, ended in a bitter defeat. Germany had the better of the game, except maybe in the closing stages when Van Marwijk made some changes and Holland bravely, but desperately, chased an equalizer. In the end, Germany thoroughly deserved the victory, based on their tactical superiority and several key German players outperforming their Dutch counterparts.” 11 tegen 11


Portugal 3-2 Denmark: No tracking from Ronaldo and Rommedahl means goals come from that flank

June 14, 2012


“Silvestre Varela grabbed a late winner as Portugal registered their first win of Euro 2012. Paulo Bento named an unchanged side from the team that lost to Germany – Helder Postiga continued upfront, despite Nelson Oliveira’s positive impact from the bench in the opening game. Morten Olsen also made no changes from Denmark’s surprise 1-0 win over Holland. Think of Portugal and Denmark – not just the current sides, but their style over the course of the century so far – and you think of width. That was the main story here, with little happening in the centre of midfield, and all the attacking thrust coming from the flanks.” Zonal Marking

Ronaldo struggles, but Portugal wins
“In this, the Group of Death, Portugal avoided a premature discovery of the afterlife. Unheralded substitute Silvestre Varela’s late goal earned them a 3-2 victory against a resilient Denmark. The game was an enormously entertaining affair, not least because of the fascinating clash of styles it presented as the wet, hair-gel look of Portugal, all ‘Night At The Roxbury,’ was pitched against Denmark’s Motorhead full-arm sleeve tattoos.” ESPN (Video)

Three thoughts: Portugal’s victory showcases great aerial play at Euro
“Three thoughts after Portugal’s 3-2 victory over Denmark in Lviv, Ukraine. 1. Heading is the new shooting. Portugal’s Pepe and Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner both scored on headers in Wednesday’s Group B match, raising the total to 12 headed goals — out of 30 — at Euro 2012. It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the quality of crossing was noticeably poor. Players blamed everything from the Jabulani ball to the high altitude in certain stadiums. Whatever the problem was, it seems to have been solved. Aerial assists from dead-ball situations and open play are markedly improved in this tournament, passes that gives forwards (and plenty of defenders, too) the opportunity to calculate flight paths and attack the ball accordingly. Are fullbacks attacking too much to defend properly? Or is the new Tango 2012 ball simply more stable? We certainly haven’t heard the usual complaints from goalkeepers yet.” SI

Euro 2012: Denmark v Portugal – as it happened
“Good afternoon everybody. If only there was some over-used, catchy but not entirely accurate phrase to describe the one group in a major football tournament in which four apparently strong teams with no obvious whipping boys were drawn together, then it could almost certainly be applied to Group B in Euro 2012. After the first round of games in The Group Of Four Apparently Strong Teams With No Obvious Whipping Boys, Germany and Denmark are cock-a-hoop with one win each, while Portugal and Holland have been forced to lick their wounds, regroup and set about playing catch-up.” Guardian