Time to throw out the bread, cos a meat sandwich always tastes better without the sandwich bit. That’s how it is when the knockout stages are upon us in a major tournament, all the group games out of the way, the drama and surprise of some big guns misfiring or some water pistol type teams squirting in the eye of the enemy and battling their way to qualification.
The most notable of the departed is Holland. Or the Netherlands. Also known as the Dutch. There’s no wonder they can’t all get along, they all think they’re playing for a different team. You’d think all that orange would set them straight but apparently not. People only ever talk about their big players and those big players went missing big time. There’s something in my soul that wants me to appreciate Arjen Robben, but whenever I watch him play for club or country there’s a sense that he’d rather just do it all himself or go home early. Well, Arjen, if that is your real name, you got your wish. Enjoy your holiday.
Things didn’t pan out much better for either of the host nations, Poland and Ukraine both enjoying short carpools home. It’s sad to see Shevchenko wave goodbye, but I always hated playing against him on Fifa so I won’t shed too many tears about that one. As for Poland, well, thanks for letting us all stay on your couch and watch your TV.
Ireland didn’t end up having as much fun as they were hoping for either. Turns out luck doesn’t have much to do when your team has Keith Andrews in it. I do hope Roy Keane will scare the shit out of everyone and become national team manager, cos even if they don’t do very well there will be a wildfire of retirements from all ages and people being told to stick it up their balls. Let’s all do whatever we can to make this happen.
And Croatia. Boys, what can I say? Maybe next time. Again. Somehow somewhere they need a final piece of the jig-saw and you fancy they might just start showing everyone how it’s done.
Denmark came, saw, started well and dropped their pants. Not to mention copping a nice little fine along the way. They tried to play some nice stuff and hopefully things will be a little brighter for them in two years’ time at the big show.
I put Russia and Sweden in the same mix, a sprinkle of top players and a bunch of other guys who all have names exactly the same that all seem to look pretty bloody similar too. Too many big tall bastards up front for Russia that there was no variety available, and the misfortune of being managed by Big Dick Advocaat, a guy who struggles at times to coach his way out of the front seat of his car. Sweden, well, they sorta tried, didn’t they? Never really got going til the end, Zlatan managed to get a goal, then buggered off on holiday straight after. I’ve never known a guy who can still talk great jive even after stinking up the place. Hats off.
So that’s everyone who has legged it outta the place, now it’s time to have a quick gander at those who remain. Quarter Pounders with cheese, baby.
We’ve all seen the result from last night, Portugal knocking out the Czech’s thanks to a nice little diving header from CRon, who has found his scoring boots at just the right time. Sure, he can be wasteful and a massive strop, but without him Portugal are left with Almeida and Postiga and no one wishes that upon anybody. So the Portuguese are the first team through to the semi’s and Republicized Czech’s czeching in their luggage.
Next up is Germany against Greece. Germany did their thing, flexed their muscles and shined their shoes to top off their group without too much bother. However, Greece did a mighty fine job and find themselves right amongst the action once more. A very attack minded German outfit will be up for a tricky night, with Greece able to absorb plenty of pressure and counter surprisingly quickly. I say surprisingly, cos even Samaras has looked half decent and reasonably quick. An early goal for either side could really throw a homeless cat amongst the pigeons, so stay tuned.
Our third quarter is a pretty awesome prospect on paper, Spain and France. Everyone knows about Spain, they’re good. Xavi likes to pass the ball four thousand times a game. And sometimes they don’t even bother playing a centre forward, just some other little central midfielder who will stand on his own and keep possession by playing those nice little triangular passing movements. However, I think you’ll all agree that France are looking pretty good. They were stifled against England and it worked, however don’t expect Spain to play that sorta game so it could be balls to the wall stuff. I’m actually going to tip, that’s right tip, France to win this game.
And so, our final bite of the burger. England vs Italy. Unbalding Wazza came back against the Ukraine and scored the winner, oh how they’ve missed him. If he decides to play. But to be perfectly honest, England are playing quite well. To a system too, believe it or not. Roy Hodgson might not be the boner inducing choice for most, but you must acknowledge that he has been around the block once or twice and the guy actually pays attention to who he is playing and works out a way to best approach that game. Capello used to do that and there’s no way Harry would’ve, so this could prove to be an enthralling fixture. Italy didn’t look like they would, but then they did. Cassano is a joy to watch (less so to listen to) and De Rossi is some kind of genius. A world class holding midfielder and a pretty smart and psycho cookie, seen at centre half this tournament too. Yes, Balotelli could be amazing or he could sit in the middle of the pitch and play solitaire on his Ipad. Who knows. But ‘impact player’ is the tag that certainly suits him best and for the Azzurri to make the most of this tournament, he’s going to have to put all his toys back in the cot and accept it. I’m too scared to tip this one, so I won’t.
There you have it, the who’s and what’s of the last week and a little taster of what’s to come. Get yourself excited, cos after all the exhausting drama and sleepless nights of this round, we head into Semi Final time late next week. And we’ll be here, whether you like it or not, to tell you allllllllllllllllllllllllllll about it.