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And In Other News . . .

[ 25 ] June 29, 2012 |

The Europeans are still playing a tournament concerning the soccer.  I managed to watch all of Portugal v Spain Wednesday night, while packing.  That it went to penalties was inconvenient as my bus to Heathrow was departing Plymouth at midnight.  I watched chunks of Italy v Germany during my six hour layover at EWR, where I was surprised to see Balotelli’s finishing prowess the exact opposite of what it was against England.

Sunday, I’ll be able to give the final my undivided attention.  I still suspect it will be Spain who prevail, but Spain have demonstrated some frailties during this tournament, whereas Italy have merely been inconsistent.  I think that their victory yesterday owes more to Germany’s failures rather than Italy’s successes.  Further, allowing England to stay in the match for 120 minutes on Sunday should be scandalous to any top tier international side.

In the words of my friend Niall Ó Murchú, this piece this piece (link corrected) in the Guardian about the tactical questions facing the Spanish is “nerdy but brilliant”, and an excellent read.  Even a non-soccer fan watching Italy would spot the influence of Andrea Pirlo, and the need to close him down.  Xavi can do that, but as the article suggests, this comes with a risk.  The greater risk, of course, is giving Pirlo freedom of the pitch, as England did; it was only Italy’s (especially Balotelli’s) horrendous finishing that prevented Italy from crushing England 3-0.

Comments (25)

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  1. howard says:

    just to go back to england-italy for a moment, my approximate count, in the extra 30 minutes, was 20 posessions, 46 passes completed (and 10 of those came in one sequence).

    you’ve put your finger on the finals with the erratic balotelli: if the one who showed up against germany plays on sunday, i think italy has a good chance to win this, given the form pirlo has been displaying, but if the one who showed up against england plays, then power to the spanish for their third major tourney in a row.

  2. Leeds man says:

    I think that their victory yesterday owes more to Germany’s failures rather than Italy’s successes.

    Oh, I would really love to read what Germany’s failures were, apart from the fact that they weren’t quite good enough. What’s with the Italy doubt? They found their true form against England (and made England look like the schoolboys they really are), were unlucky to score (though kudos to the English back four), and aren’t likely to collapse into disarray against Spain. Almost even odds, edge to Italy.

    Xavi can do that

    No. No, he can’t. The Spanish midfield as a unit has to dominate so as to make Pirlo impotent. The Germany game confirmed what the England game hinted at; this Italian midfield is, right now, as good or better than the Spanish unit.

    • avoidswork says:

      Dude…
      (1) Doesn’t take much to make England not look like best footballers right now.
      (2) GER has been pretty steady in the tournament, but blew on-goal chances like Barca playing Chelsea.
      (3) Balotelli is a wild-card, sometimes shows up, sometimes not. Pirlo is lovely to watch.
      (4) Spain are scrappy, when all is said and done, AND did come out on top in Group C.

      (5) What will I watch after Sunday?!

      • Leeds man says:

        (2) GER has been pretty steady in the tournament, but blew on-goal chances like Barca playing Chelsea.

        I hope you’re not saying that Germany dominated the game, because that’s not the game I saw.

        Italy hasn’t been steady, but they don’t drop form once they’ve found it.

        And, for the record, Özil is even more lovely to watch, but so what? Pirlo is nothing without his support.

      • skidmarx says:

        Doesn’t take much to make England not look like best footballers

        Twas always thus, and always thus will be.

        My bus to Heathrow was departing Plymouth at midnight.

        I expect it was departing from Plymouth, unless it in some way made the town whole again after Argyle went into administration.
        #Pointingoutdifferencesbetweenenglishandamericangrammarisjustagoddamnhobbynotawayoflife

    • Josh says:

      This post, from the author of the “nerdy but brilliant” link in the post, breaks down Germany’s failures. (Basically, too narrow yet not enough pressure on Pirlo, and bad defending on the second goal.)

      • Leeds man says:

        No question, the second goal was a horrendous lapse by Lahm. But hindsight is especially deceiving when taken out of context, and most football analysis I read leads me to the conclusion that the authors should be making a lot more money managing sides than writing about them.

        Thanks for the link.

    • wengler says:

      The Italian midfield isn’t superior to the Spanish, but if Italy are able to press the Spanish like they did in the opening game it could be a very long game. The Germans had a poor game, from top to bottom, and the scoreline didn’t reflect that fully.

      What we do know is that Spain is lacking a world-class striker, and Italy currently look for lacking nothing. This doesn’t mean Italy will win, it just means Spain is going to have to break down the most formidable defensive team in the tournament…without anyone a large, forceful presence at the top.

      There’s a good chance this one goes to penalties.

    • Randy Paul says:

      Balzaretti (now there’s a name made for Beavis and Butthead) did not impress me and I give an edge to both Spain’s midfield and their back line. Buffon did a lot to keep Italy in the game.

    • The Lorax says:

      There is no midfield in the history of football that is as good as Spain’s right now.

  3. Leeds man says:

    this piece in the Guardian about the tactical questions facing the Spanish is “nerdy but brilliant”, and an excellent read.

    Sadly, those of us who eschew the abomination known as Facebook will never know, but I hope it’s one the good ‘uns, not one of the I’m-too-clever-to-have-to-be-right ones.

  4. The Fool says:

    Balzaretti did very well for someone playing very far out of position, aside from the handball. Pirlo was Pirlo, Buffon Buffon. Cassano was brilliant, Balotelli dominant. Prandelli’s been doing a very good job, tactically, while del Bosque’s not done nearly as good a job as he did in 2010.

    Of course, Spain’s still likelier to win it, because they’re Spain and have one of the greatest national teams of all time while Italy, well, don’t.

  5. pete says:

    Great! We’ve established that the final will be competitive (or not), will go to penalties (or not) and especially that the team that plays better on the day will win. Actually, given these two, I’d add “or not” to that last one too. Damned if I can predict it but I’m hoping for goals, and if Italy gets one early there might be several.

  6. pete says:

    Somewhat O/T, Platini is talking about getting rid of the geographical concept for Euro 2020, possibly playing in “12 or 13 cities all over Europe.” Which would spread the cost of hosting, but wouldn’t it reduce the impact of the tournament?

    • howard says:

      did spreading the world cup across north america in 1994 hurt the tournament (i was at the spain-italy quaterfinal in foxboro that year, as a matter fact, and i can still see roberto baggio scoring the winner on a fantastic counter very late in the match – of course, i can still see the uncalled penalty that would have given spain a chance to tie it at the end of extra time as well!).

      but the point is, i don’t think that geographical dispersion into major cities was a problem for impact.

    • bph says:

      The group play would still be geographically concentrated. The bigger travel would be for the quarters, semis and final.

      The other suggestion was to have 24 teams in the group stage, which seems….crowded.

      • Randy Paul says:

        That’s not a suggestion: there will be 24 teams for the 2016 Euro Championship in France.

        Hope for Luxembourg, Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, San Marino, Malta and Iceland.

        • pete says:

          Yes the 24-team approach probably does make more difference, in changing the character of the tournament, than the geographical proposal: grandiose and unnecessary unless (heaven forfend) your only interest is to squeeze the last possible Euro out of the event.

          But I think Americans, who are used to continent-wide culture and coverage, may underestimate the change that a Europe-wide tournament would be. Going to Kiev from Paris is nothing like going to Pittsburgh from Seattle (no specific invidious comparison intended).

          • Randy Paul says:

            Regarding distances that’s certainly true. I remember when we lived in Kaiserslautern, Germany, we could go to Paris for the day. The distance was roughly the same as from NYC to Washington, DC.

  7. Sean says:

    The originator of the nerdy/brilliant tactical breakdowns is Michael Cox. He still writes the brilliant soccer tactics blog Zonal Marking, where he really made his bones.

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