Monthly Archives: June 2008

Spain Triumph

After 44 years and many forgetful tournaments, Spain held the nerve to win an important tournament and erase the underachievers tag. Thanks to a goal from Fernando Torres, the Spaniards gained the upper hand in a match they dominated for shots on goal and chances created. They won a tournament for scoring the most number of goals, conceding the least number of goals, attempting the most number of shots on goal, making the least number of saves and completing the most number of passes. Reasons good enough to win any tournament.

The Germans were completely shut out and they did not even have a proper shot on goal. For me the player of the tournament should have been Casillas for the sterling display throughout the tournament and the confidence he gives the defence when he takes guard under the bar. It would have taken something spectacular to beat him last night. The Spanish midfield did not create too many melodies (like Platini put it) but created enough to trouble Lehmann. If not for a tough chance gone begging to Senna towards the end of the match, the score would have been 2-0.

The Germans were toothless in front of the opposition goal. Klose had a very harmless game and had to be replaces by Kurnayi who added some much needed tempo to the German attack, but all that came to nothing as Spain held on to win the match. All those Euro and World junior praise has finally landed in a senior trophy for the first time for a country starving for some glory. And in my lifetime I have seen Spain win something. All this while the European domination in football has come from Germany, Italy and France, ever since I have started seeing football. And now there is one more country, Spain.

Xavi was adjudged the player of the tournament

David Villa won the golden boot

and Spain dominated the team of tournament

UEFA EURO 2008™ Team of the Tournament
Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Iker Casillas (Spain), Edwin van der Sar (Netherlands).

Defenders: Bosingwa (Portugal), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Carlos Marchena (Spain), Pepe (Portugal), Carles Puyol (Spain), Yuri Zhirkov (Russia).

Midfielders: Hamit Altıntop (Turkey), Luka Modrić (Croatia), Marcos Senna (Spain), Xavi Hernández (Spain), Konstantin Zyryanov (Russia), Michael Ballack (Germany), Cesc Fàbregas (Spain), Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Lukas Podolski (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands).

Forwards: Andrei Arshavin (Russia), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia), Fernando Torres (Spain), David Villa (Spain).

Nihat in the forward line instead of Torres would have been welcome. Nice to see some Russian names in the list too. Anyways more reviews on the Euro in a few days…


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Filed under Casillas, David Villa, Euro 2008, Europe, Germany, Spain, Torres, UEFA Euro 2008 Team of the tournament, Xavi Hernandez

Germany vs Spain

This is a final which all the sponsors and the neutral fans would have wanted. A fitting finale to end what has been a wonderful tournament. Two favourites from the start of the tournament, Germany and Spain. I am not saying that many would have complained if it was Turkey vs Russia also, because such has been the quality of play throughout the tournament, say a few matches.

Gary Linekar has famously said,”Football is a simple game;22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win”. This is very true of the German determination and spirit that however they have to play, they come out trumps in crunch matches in big tournaments(read World Cups and Euros). So once again they find themselves in a final playing some good matches and playing second fiddle to Turkey in the semifinal and still coming up trumps 3-2. That match showed the resilience of the Germans in crunch matches.

The Spanish have been the form team of the tournament. They have not lost a match in this tournament and have played some good football, beating the form team of the tournament Russia twice. Their midfield has been one of the strongest and creative midfields in this edition. The defence has not been tested too much this time around but in Casillas they have one of the best Goalkeepers in the world.

Villa will miss the tournament due to the injury he sustained in taking a free kick against the Russians. Michael Ballack is also a suspect for the final as he has a calf injury from training on Friday. So the teams go well balanced into the finals. The Spanish did not miss Villa that much as they controlled the midfield with Fabregas’ introduction in the semifinal. The Germans are yet to play without Ballack and it needs to be seen how they play without their talismanic captain.

As an Arsenal player, the only thing I am looking forward to is some good football and whether Fabregas become the player of tournament? He can if he can put in a performance like in the semi and setting up some goals for his teams. Anything is possible.

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Filed under Arsenal, Ballack, Casillas, David Villa, Euro 2008, Europe, Fabregas, Gary Linekar, Germany, Spain

Contrasting exits for brilliant Turkey & what-happened-to-them Russia

The semifinals of Euro 2008 were a case of contrasting results. Of the four teams Germany were always regarded as the big tournament favourites as they always managed to get through to the semi and finals someway or the other, Spain was the under-achievers of Europe though they had brilliant players for the last so many years, Russia were scintillating in the last 2 matches, knocking out the brilliant Dutch and were the team in form and lastly the unpredictable Turks, who were without 9 of their starting XI, who were giving a new meaning to last gasp finishes.

The first semifinal between Germany and Turkey was supposed to be a easy match for th Germans as the Turkey team were missing 9 players!!! That is like you are playing with your second team in the semifinal. But what a shock the Germans were in for. The Turks showed that it doesn’t matter if you first team is out injured and you don’t have names to fill in the team sheet if you have the heart to play these big games. They took the fight to the Germans and were the better side. A goal in each half meant their at the Germans had their task cut out for the second half. They scored first in the second half through Klose. You would not write off the Turks in situations like this as they have come back from behind in so many matches in this Euro. And they justified it by doing exactly that through Semih Senturk. This meant that the last few minutes of the match would either be spent looking for a winning goal or playing out for th Extra time. And then came the move from Lahm, who had a match to forget till then, expect for the cross to Klose for the second goal, who slotted in the goal for a very cool finish.

The power cuts meant that the match was not viewed in full flow except for the viewers at the stadium I presume. The goal meant that it opened up the match for high drama. Would Turkey come up with a dramatic equaliser? It was not meant to be in the end and they ended up on the losing side. For once they were on the receiving end of their own treatment. Germans did a Turkey to them. But this Turkey team and their coach, Terim can bow out of the tournament with their head held high. What an achievement for this team.

The second semifinal which was billed as the better semi as it featured two teams who had a passion for passing and attacking play. The semi was a washout as the Russians never looked like a team that had destroyed the Dutch. Infact Spain had their number as they put 3 goals past them. So the Russians started the campaign with a 4-1 defeat to the Spanish and ended their campaign also losing to them. In other words, the Russians conceded 2 goals against Greece, Sweden and Holland conceded 7 against Spain.

Arshavin was a marked man and Puyol was never going to give him any space in the Spanish half. It was a shadow of the side who had beaten the Dutch so convincingly. Hiddink looked helpless but he and his team should be credited to come so far in this tournament and making some stars out of Arshavin, Zhirkov, Pavlyuchenko etc take centre stage in Europe. Hats off to the Red Brigade.

But contrastingly, the Spanish came to the fore when the situation demanded it. When Villa got injured, there were doubts on what formation Aragones will make for the 1 hour of play left in the match. He got Fabregas to play behind the striker and let his midfield advance a bit more once they had control of play. Senna was a class act again and if not for his age would have been a sure signing for Arsenal in the holding midfield role. But it was the number 10 of Spain who shone through the match. Fabregas who has always been accused of not replicating his club form for Arsenal in the national side, did just that. His delicately weighted flick for Guiza to score the second and then the low cross from the left for David Silva to score the third has underlined his inclusion in the starting XI for the final.

Anyways, the four teams in the semis were there deservedly and the final will be a fitting one or this edition of the Euros.

The Independent has listed the 10 most sought after Euro 2008 players.

They are

1 Andrei Arshavin (Russia) Striker, 27

2 David Villa (Spain) Striker, 26

3 Arda Turan (Turkey) Left-winger, 21

4 Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia) Striker, 26

5 Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Netherlands) Striker, 24

6 Karim Benzema (France) Striker, 20

7 Miguel Veloso (Portugal) Midfielder, 22

8 Yuri Zhirkov (Russia) Left-back, 24

9 Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) Winger, 20

10 Valon Behrami, (Switzerland) Right-sided midfield, 22

I would add to this list the following 5 names

11. David Silva, Spain, left-sided midfield, 22

12. Marcos Senna, Spain, central midfield, 32

13. Igor Akinfeev, Russia, Goal Keeper, 22

14. Ibrahim Affelay, Netherlands, Midfield, 22

15. Denis Kolodin, Russia, Central Defender, 26

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Filed under Affelay, Akinfeev, Aragones, Arda Turan, Arshavin, Benzema, Daniel Guiza, David Silva, David Villa, Euro 2008, Europe, Fabregas, Germany, Guus Hiddink, Huntelaar, Igor Akinfeev, Ivan Rakitic, Klose, Kolodin, Lahm, Marcos Senna, Miguel Veloso, Pavlyuchenko, Puyol, Russia, Semih Senturk, Spain, The Independent, Turkey, Valor Behrami, Zhirkov

Russians squeeze the Oranges

The Russians, once again led my the supreme playmaker Arshavin made mince meat of the Dutch. He controlled the pace of the game and beat the Dutch in their own game, the fast counter attacks. Holland had a match to forget as the passing and movement looked suspect right from the start. The Russians on the other hand looked lively even in the second half of Extra time. If they had converted atleast half their chances and Van Der Saar did not make a few outstanding saves, the scoreline could have been 6-1 or something, such was the dominance of the Russians.

It would be fair to say that Guus Hiddink can transform any half-decent team into world beaters. The Dutch after beating Italy and France quite convincingly were all set for the finals before they confronted the Russians. Ever organised, committed and with a sense of adventure, hallmark of every Hiddink team the Russians went about methodically breaking down the Dutch. It was won tactically as well as with flair by the Russian think tank. If Pavyluchenko can convert some of the decent chances that he gets, the Russians will win more comfortably. He does do all the hard work and score off some real difficult chances. In Zhirkov, they have a full back who stays in the opposition half and box most of the time, delivering some wonderfull crosses and passes.

But their Talisman is the one and only Andrei Arshavin. What a revelation he has been. You would wonder what this talented player was doing till last year. I first noticed him after my friend Vicky, asked me to check him out in the UEFA cup final for Zenit. He created one and scored another in the final. He missed the first two matches due to suspension but has been the most outstanding player in the last two matches for in any jersey in Russia’s last two matches. He plays behind the striker, his movement is impeccable, wriggles out of tight situation in ease, has the vision to give those defence-splitting passes, can orchestrate attacking move after move, can score some awesome goals and is a constant pain for the opposition defence. He has been the best player on display in this Euro so far though he has played only 2 matches.

This match should have been a semifinal because the Dutch played some wonderful football in their group stages and it is a shame that they are out in the quarters. If they had played any other team, they might have made it to the semis. Anyways, now I will support the Russians to win the championship and hopefully, it should be a final against the Germans.

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Filed under Arshavin, Euro 2008, Guus Hiddink, Holland, Russia, Vicky, Zhirkov

The Quarters predictions

Germany clinically finished off Portugal in the first quarter final last night. The way Podolski, Schweinsteiger, Ballack and Lahm kept the attack going one after the other was absorbing stuff. Portugal were completely outplayed in the first half with superb work from Podolski and clinical finishing from Bastian. The second goal was a set-piece which Klose headed in with the entire Portugal defence looking on helpless. Cristiano Ronaldo had a match to forget and I wonder if he or Bastian are being heralded as the best in world football. Ronaldo once again did not shine in a big match.

Felipe Scolari in his last assignment with Portugal would have loved to get into the semifinal atleast but was left complaining to the referee about Ballack pushing Paulo Ferreira before heading in the third goal for the Germans. The Germans yet again look Champion-stuff in the final run-in. They will play the winner of Croatia-Turkey in the semifinal.

The Croatia-Turkey match proves to be a match between equals. Though Turkey are without a few key players due to injury and suspension, their attitude will be up there amongst the best. Croatia on the other hand are brimming in confidence and have a fantastic team spirit which will drive them forward. I predict the Croatians to advance and meet the Germans in the semifinal.

The third quarterfinal will prove to be possibly the best match in this stage. Two teams that drive forward and are also good in counter-attacks will play each other. The Dutch have so far been the team of the tournament with their attacking flair and very quick counter-attacks. The Russians on the other hand are the fittest of the lot under Guus Hiddink’s able eyes. He has moulded a very young team into one of the best attacking teams of Europe and in Andrei Arshavin they have one of the most skillful playmakers in this edition of Euro 2008. I just wish they were not playing so early in the knockout stage. I would not want to predict who would win this one.

The last quarterfinal will see the World champions Italy and the underachievers Spain playing for a semifinal spot. Spain is a team in form but a team like Italy can gather enough momentum to go to the very end of this tournament. This match I hope will live upto the expectations. I would want Spain to win this one.

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Filed under Arshavin, Ballack, Croatia, Euro 2008, Europe, Germany, Guus Hiddink, Holland, Italy, Klose, Lahm, Podolski, Portugal, Russia, Schweinsteiger, Spain, Turkey

Les Bleus need a better manager

Out with Domenech…what was he thinking right from picking the squad to selecting the final XI and his substitutions in the last match. And he proved how stupid he was by saying that his future plan was to get married to his television presenter girlfriend when the question posed to him was with respect to the French team…Please throw him out for screwing up a very talented national side. If only France had a better manager , with these 23 players, the team would have reached the quarters and with a few changes in the 23, they would have probably won this Championship.

– Why was Sagna, Clichy, Flamini, Ben Arfa, Trezeguet not included in the 23…there are some other names like Frey, Mexes (centre back with Roma) who shuould also have been included

– Why was Sagnol,Abidal, Thuram, Makelele, Viera(who was injured and did not touch the ball), Malouda, Anelka in the 23. I am tempted to include Henry also in that list because Trezeguet has a better record for France

– And when you have to replace a centre back why would you ask a left back to fill in that role. Abidal has been a liability for this squad.

– When your most creative player is injured, you bring in another creative midfielder. Point taken. But when you are reduced to 10 men, you do not replace the creative player. What is the logic?

It is quite sad to see a talented side like France not qualifying for the Quarters…Wish they get a better coach for this awesomely talented side.


Filed under Abidal, Anelka, Ben Arfa, Clichy, Domenech, Euro 2008, Europe, Flamini, France, Frey, Henry, Les Bleus, Makelele, Malouda, Mexes, Patrick Viera, Ribery, Sagna, Samir Nasri, Thuram, Trezeguet


Here is the complete list from The Telegraph

All the Arsenal matches have been updated in The Gunners Performance

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Filed under 2008-09 season, Arsenal, England, EPL