Thursday, June 19, 2008

Euro 2008: smells like team spirit

Two weeks into the tournament and Euro 2008 is teaching us one thing: it's all about teamwork, rather than the 'star players'.

The quarter-final stage began tonight. I have always been a big fan of the Portuguese national team, but this time round they were just lacking the "oomph" needed to drive them on in this competition. The problem may have been that it was less Portugal, more "Team Ronaldo" if the TV commentators were anything to go by. Ronaldo is an extremely gifted and talented player, but in this tournament he left me cold. This time his lacklustre performance - well out of proportion to his ego - coupled with "Big Phil" Scolari's ill-timed 'bye bye Portugal, see ya, I'm off to Chelsea' announcement, may ultimately have hastened their demise.

There are some certainties in life: price rises, disappointing second albums and ...Germany will always make the last 8. At least. Again they don't quite play exciting enough football to thrill me, but I get the feeling that we have yet to see the best from them.

I'm ashamed to say this, but I haven't seen Croatia play yet - that will change tomorrow when I give their potentially exciting clash with Turkey my full attention. Turkey are a battling, spirited, never-say-die team and after their performance against the Czechs, we might just expect a further shock result.

No offence to reigning champions Greece, but I'm glad they're gone as they bored me. Ditto Austria, Switzerland, Poland. France...were just shocking. And Sweden...I love your country but this time round, I couldn't say the same for the lifeless performances by the national team. (Apart from the mighty Henrik Larsson, a true legend).

Quite appropriate that the tournament is taking place in (Austria and) Switzerland, as I'm feeling a major sense of neutrality now and can't decide whether to support Holland or Spain, both of whom have played great attacking football. That's what I really wanted from Euro 2008 and it has (mainly) delivered. I'm particularly impressed by Holland, who are playing a delightful passing game, as indeed are Russia - no surprise as they're managed by Guus Hiddink - it's a pity that both will meet as early as Saturday's quarter-final as I'd liked to have seen that tie at a later stage. I've got that feeling that Holland might just do it this year and repeat their triumph of 1988!

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