Posts Tagged With: Spain

Some Short Thoughts on the Euro 2012 Group Stage

Wot No Posts???

Wow. So the entire group stage has gone by without a single post!!! Sorry about that.

It’s no doubt due to the fact that I’ve been glued to the nearest television set since 8th June and today is the first day without a single match although I suspect that I’ve also been avoiding posting anything too trivial to immediately follow my post on Panorama’s Stadiums of Hate.

Euro 2012 has however been a bit good. The format of 15 of the best teams in the world (and Ireland) makes for a brilliant and unique tournament on paper that it has certainly not disappointed (good job UEFA has decided to change it to 24 teams for France 2016 eh?).

The Greatest Strike Partnership Ever?

Unable to replicate the heroics of their last major tournament in 2002, the Irish equalled the worst Euro record of all time with 3 losses and a goal difference of -8 (equal with Bulgaria in 2004 and Denmark in 2000 as well as Yugoslavia in 1984 in the 8 team format, so not bad company actually!). As they were in a group with Spain, the top-ranked team in the world, fellow top-10 team Croatia and the 2006 World Cup winners Italy this is not of course surprising (they played Saudi Arabia in 2002) although conceding within the first five minutes of the first four halves of football you play doesn’t help either! Hopefully the fans won’t turn on Trap though, he has after all worked wonders to get them there after the disappointment of losing the World Cup 2010 qualification play-off to Thierry Henry’s ‘hand of god’ moment.

The second ‘worst’ team at this year’s Euros? World Cup runners-up the Netherlands, a team ranked fourth in the world that boasts the talents of Van Persie, Sniejder, Robben et al. Unbelievably they also crashed out like a British Eurovision entry by registering ‘nul points’.

The Oranje were of course victims of the Group of Death that featured four of the top ten ranked teams in the world. Russia meanwhile, everybody’s ‘dark horses‘ after one half of good football, also failed to make it out of the group, only their group was more like the Group of Life! It was a situation that as it unfolded had commentators and tweeters alike getting themselves all worked up that a team captained by Andrei Arshavin seemed to ‘lack a sense urgency’ without even a hint of irony.

It’s not our problem we didn’t meet your expectations. It’s your problem.

–  Arshavin to fans (and commentators… and pundits… and half of twitter…)

Howd’ya like them apples?

The final matches of each group provided a head-to-heads before goal-difference/3 team mini league-tastic mathematical scramble with everything to play for (unless you’re Ireland… or Sweden). Personally I feel most sorry for Croatia and to a lesser extent Denmark, whilst Sweden could equally have made it through too had they not succumbed to a sensational Shevchenko swan-song in their opening fixture.

England won their group comfortably in the end despite not thrilling and the fact that anything could have happened in the Sweden game. What about the Ukraine’s goal that wasn’t given I hear you cry? Well, whilst we clearly still need goal line technology, IT WAS OFFSIDE! Glad we cleared that up.

Final Group Stage Standings

 

Game of the Group Stage

My favourite game of the Group Stage was Spain 1-1 Italy, pitting del Bosque’s strikerless stars against Prandelli’s 3-5-2. It was a fascinating clash of tactical styles with Italy negating the Spanish system for long periods whilst also finding the gaps in it despite having far less possession. It was only when Torres came on in the 74th minute that the Italian back three, which contained a midfielder in De Rossi as the ball-player, came unstuck but luckily for the Italians Fernando wouldn’t find his shooting boots until the next game (against the lucky Irish). As a ‘false’ centre-back De Rossi did an excellent job against the false 9s and despite having to hang on desperately later in the game it was the Italian system that worked better over the match as a whole. If Prandelli adopted the 3-5-2 because knew that del Bosque would start without a recognised striker then it was genius, if it was primarily due to the absence of key centre-back Barzagli whilst he recovered from injury then it was perhaps less so, but it worked.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Right, now that the evening without any football has been filled with some football, bring on the Knockout Stage!!!

Let’s hope we all have at least one more opportunity to sing Three Lions at the top of our voices before the end!

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Sunday 13th May: Man City, Madrid, Milan & Memories

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you are probably aware that on Sunday 13th May Manchester City were crowned champions of the Premier League in one of the most dramatic climaxes to a title race ever, right up there with likes of Liverpool v Arsenal 1988/89 and the final day of the Eredivisie 2006/07 both of which have featured on Mountain’s Short Thoughts & Bits in recent weeks. Add in the three-way scramble for the final guaranteed Champions League place not to mention relegation battle controversy and it was some end to a truly memorable season.

 

In Spain and Italy the titles were already wrapped up but far from making the final day meaningless, it was still one that will be long remembered…

Real Madrid signed off in style by beating Mallorca 4-1 to end the season on a record breaking three figure points total, topping Barcelona’s record of 99 points from 2009/10, whilst the win also saw them break the record for matches won in a single season.

Their 121 goals scored is also a record (an average of over 3 per game!). Their goal difference of +89 is also a record. Their 16 away wins is also a record. Sunday 13th May was the day that Madrid set down a marker, they didn’t just successfully prise the title away from the current Barcelona team, they redefined what was possible in La Liga and placed themselves firmly back at the top of the domestic pile.

A  Very Special Season

In Italy Sunday 13th May saw four true club legends bring their AC Milan careers to an end in a 2-1 win against Navara. Having each given at least a decade of service (a combined total of 43 years at the club) Alessandro Nesta, Filippo Inzaghi, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf are moving on in search of one final challenge before hanging up their boots for good.

Thank you for Everything

The fab four’s Milan trophy cabinet contains 2 Champions Leagues, 2 Scudetti, 1 Coppa Italia, 2 Supercoppe Italiane, 1 Club World Cup and 2 European Supercups. As Cassano says injuries may have cost Milan the title this season having been leading as late as March, robbing the outgoing heroes of a fairytale ending. The truth however may be far more interwoven with the tale of the departing four as there is of course one man missing from the picture above, somebody who was also at Milan for a decade and was there with them for every single trophy but who found another challenge at the end of last season before it was too late to do so at the top level. That man is of course Andrea Pirlo who was instrumental for Juventus in 2011/12 providing more assist (13) than any other player in Serie A. Milan’s loss was Juventus’ sizeable gain and it seems likely that this may have been the real difference.

Despite having already missed out on the title ‘Super Pippo’ Inzaghi, who scored in the World Cup in 2006 on his last ever appearance for Italy, did not of course disappoint scoring the winner on his final, emotional appearance for Milan…

Elsewhere in Italy another outgoing legend did get his fairytale ending. Sunday 13th May saw Alessandro Del Piero play his final game for Juventus in a match, like Madrid’s, where only a place in the record books was at stake. A 1-3 victory over Atalanta, in which Del Piero of course scored, saw Juve complete an entire Serie A season undefeated; the first team to do so since Capello’s Milan in 1991/92 and the first ever to do so in a 38 game season.

Invincible

Those of you who read my piece on Ronaldo’s retirement last  year will know that these era ending moments in player’s careers give me pause for thought. That piece contained quotes from Del Piero about Il Fenomeno as well as one from Batistuta who said “For me, Ronaldo is football“, well for me (along with Paolo Maldini who retired in 2009), Del Piero is Calcio going right back to my childhood. Thank you for the memories.

Sunday 13th May 2012, quite a day in football.

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