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

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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


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)