Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Euro 2008: daily ramblings - Match day 4
Soccer is a game of patience and teamwork. Well-organized teams can be successful, occasionally very much so—witness Greece four years ago or, here at home, Canada at the 2000 Gold Cup.
But, those examples are the exception. You see, soccer also is a game of flair--the ultimate team game broken open by a flash of individual brilliance.
Witness yesterday at Euro 2008. The holders, Greece, were soldiering on, playing the same sort of dull but effective game that led them to glory in Portugal. Even with the crowd’s whistles reigning down on them, the Greeks stuck to their game plan. Slow but sure. Wait for an opening.
But, on this day, it wasn’t to be.
Just as the neutral fan was beginning to fear that the tournament’s second scoreless draw was forthcoming, Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced the type of magic that makes this game so wonderful.
Out of nowhere the Swedish star, snakebitten internationally for almost three years previous, pounced on half an opportunity to rip a 25-yard strike to rip the game open and smash the Greek’s will.
There was plenty of game left, but Greece understood: There was no way back, not this time. Not this team.
Suddenly Greece isn’t an intriguing defending champion, but simply another underdog hoping to nip one off the counter. The Greek fan will always have 2004, but he or she had best hold onto those sweet memories because it does not appear that there will be any magic this time around--not unless the Greeks can find some passion to go along with their discipline.
It doesn’t seem likely.
Passion is not in short supply with Spain, who thrilled fans and neutrals alike with a brilliant effort earlier in the day. Passion is what the Spaniards are all about. Yesterday’s 4-1 win over capable Russia illustrated that perfectly. Of course the tournament is young and Spain has a history of breaking your heart, so it’s best not to get too smitten just yet.
You should always read Brunt, but you should especially read him today as he describes Spain as perfectly as anyone could.
Today: Group A goes at it for the second time. The opener, Czech Republic and Portugal, features two teams that opened with a win. The Portuguese deservedly so, the Czechs not so much. If either team wins, they will assure themselves a place in the quarters. The day’s second match is a must win for both the hosts Switzerland and Turkey. The Portuguese should win, but the Czechs have that feeling about them of a team that might just start to win when they shouldn’t. If Switzerland doesn’t win it will be a shame. The hosts deserved better from their opener and, as a neutral, it’s hard not to cheer for the home fans to get something today.