By Sean Connolly
So far, so good. This Euro had a slow start but now is beginning to pick up as it should. We are now at the knockout stage with Russia upsetting Sweden in the final decisive game to get to the knockout round. Already I am salivating at most of the match ups…mainly Portugal against Germany.
Portugal vs. Germany- Coming into this game the better side is obviously Portugal. They easily won group A and showed their firepower throughout. Germany on the other hand limp into the knockout stage beat up and bruised. They will be without their coach, Joakim Low, after UEFA issued a one game ban for arguing in the game against Austria. Their top scorer in Lucas Podolski is tired and beat up and his fitness is in question. But don’t ever count out the Germans. They come in playing their best soccer after beating Austria, and Ballack’s masterful free kick might be just what the German captain needed. As for Portugal they have steadily improved throughout this tournament and in the last game against Switzerland they were able to rest a majority of their starters. I just think that Portugal is fitter and playing much better soccer at the moment. Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t seemed phased by the trade rumors going on between Manchester United and Real Madrid and the same goes for Deco and his possible exit out of Barcelona. Portugal right now is the better side and I see a 2-1 win for Scolari and his Portuguese.
Croatia vs. Turkey- After one of the best comebacks in Euro history, Turkey comes into the knockout round with an heir of invincibility and a great deal of confidence. Turkey is the only team to come back from a deficit in the tournament, achieving that feat in two separate games. Their upset comeback over Petr Cech’s Czech Republic solidified that Turkey is no fluke and have the team that could make it deep into this tournament. As for Croatia, well they have simply played great in their last two games. In their first game, a 1-0 win over hosts Austria, it looked as if Croatia may be in trouble against Germany. They easily handled the Germans and went on to win group B with an outstanding 9 points. This should be a magnificent game with another late Turkey comeback. I expect a Croatian goal though in extra time to give Croatia a 2-1 victory over Turkey.
Netherlands vs. Russia- After easily beating a heavily favored Sweden side, Gus Hiddink has proved that the magic he has performed in the past was indeed no fluke. It looks as if this young Russian squad could be another one of Hiddik’s teams that surprise everyone. Hiddink did it with his counterpart in Netherlands several years ago and they match up in the knock out round. Netherlands came out of the “Group of Death” which included France, Italy, and Romania, without even breaking a sweat and quickly proved that they are the strongest, deepest team in the tournament. I fear though that Russian’s young side will be no match for the well rounded Dutch. 3-1 Netherlands in another easy game for the Dutchmen.
Spain vs. Italy- The Italians have been a bit of a mystery in this tournament. They were blown out by Netherlands in the first game, nearly lost to the Romanians if not for Buffon’s amazing penalty save on Romania’s Mutu, and they beat up on the French. So, what will come of the Italian side in the knockout round? I’m not sure, but what I am sure of is that Spain has the firepower to rip apart any defense at any time during the game. Italy’s great defense has been anything but in this tournament and I think Fernando Torres and David Villa will easily put a few past Buffon. I’m only going against Italy because they have played so erratically. Spain have played well in all their games and I predict a 2-1 win for the Spanish.
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Finally, it’s here. It’s been four years since Greece shocked the world and won Euro 2008 and this tournament should be just as exciting.
Alright, if you’re looking for predictions for Euro 2008 you came to the right place. Lets start with the first group, group A. You got Czech Republic, Turkey, Switzerland, and Portugal. Expect Portugal to have an outstanding Euro this year as they will easily top Group A. Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the Portugal side, despite trade rumors that he may leave United to go to Real Madrid, deep into the tournament. He is coming off his best season with Manchester United, and now knows what it takes to be the best in Europe as he won the UEFA Champions League title. Czech Republic should be the second team to come out of Group A thanks to the best goalie in the world, Petr Cech.
Group B has Austria, Germany, Croatia, and Poland. Although Austria will be playing on their home turf, I don’t think they’ll have a chance to get out of this solid group. Germany, an absolute soccer power house, will top the Group. My surprise pick of the entire group stage will be Poland. This is Poland’s first debut in Euro 2008 and I think they have a great chance to be this year’s Greece. Europe should not underestimate Poland.
In the most exciting group France, Italy, Netherlands, and Romania will fight it out in Group C. Now this is obviously the most difficult group as the group contains the World Cup winners and runner up in France and Italy. Both France and Italy will top the group but not without a fight from Netherlands. Luca Toni will put up a huge number of goals just like he did in 2006 and Italy’s defense will lead them to the top of this group. This will be the most entertaining group so make sure you tune in.
And finally Group D. Group D contains the surprise Euro 2008 Champions in Greece so they will play with a huge target on their back. The group also has Russia, Spain, and Sweden. Spain will easily top this group as they along with Portugal, Italy, and Germany are the sure favorites for winning the tournament. Spain’s Torres is an absolute star and should lead the tournament in goals and bring Spain deep into the tournament. Following Spain in Group D will be Greece. They did it four years ago and I expect them to make a move again this year and be this year’s Greece (it does make sense).
Portugal, Italy, Germany, Spain. Pick one of those countries if you want a Euro 2008 champ. Don’t expect a huge surprise winner like in 2004 but don’t count out a couple spoilers like Poland, Greece, and Czech Republic who can ruin someone’s day.
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By Sean Connolly
Soccer in America is rising, but it will never be where England is and yesterday’s game proved it. In a friendly match at Wembley Stadium in England, the U.S. soccer team came out flat and got straight up beat by a much better squad 2-0. Personally, I have been looking forward to this game thinking that the U.S. could pull out an upset. Unforunately that wasn’t the case.
This game was so frustrating for so many reasons if you’re a fan of American soccer. First off the game wasn’t even slightly competitive. England ran circles around the U.S. and not at one point were they ever in danger of falling behind. Without Landon Donavon in the lineup, pulled groin, the American side had no offense and couldn’t threaten at all. Being a fan of English soccer and American soccer, I have always dreamed of a true competitive rivalry between the two sides. Instead, England just proves that Americans can’t play soccer and will never be up to their level.
It seems whenever the U.S. is building up a solid team and garnering some respect in the soccer community, they are given a great challenge and they fail. In the 2006 World Cup against Germany U.S. again failed to make a significant impact on the biggest soccer stage.
In the game, John Terry made up for his missed penalty shot for Chelsea in last weeks championship final. He headed in a goal from a free kick from, ironically, the possible savior of U.S. soccer, David Beckham. Steven Gerard scored also as a simple triangle pass picked the U.S. defense apart and gave Gerard an easy break away.
Some good news came from this game though as Brian McBride, one of America’s greatest players, announced that he will be leaving Fulham F.C. in the English Premiership to come to the MLS. I guess he liked where the MLS was headed, and it would be great to see him on a team like the New York Red Bulls.
With the World Cup qualifiers coming up soon, the U.S. soccer team better get their act together and realize that the time is now to show the world that American soccer is for real. Beckham, the world’s biggest soccer star, is playing in the United States and all eyes are on the national team to perform. If they keep playing like this they will be lucky to make it to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
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