Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Monday, June 2, 2008

Euro 2008

The European Soccer Championship 2008 will start on June 7 with the match between Switzerland and the Czech Republic. I'll travel to Germany to be closer to the action, perhaps even catch a game live in Austria, one of the host countries (together with Switzerland). I hope this will be a lively thread throughout the tournament (which ends on June 29) and that I will be able to contribute from over there.

For starters, here are the four groups in the preliminary round:
A: Switzerland, Czech Republic, Portugal, Turkey
B: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
C: Netherlands, Italy, Romania, France
D: Greece (the def. champion), Sweden, Spain, Russia

Conspicuous by its absence is England, basically b/c of a chronic weakness, goalkeeping. Their goalie managed to lose the decisive match in the qualifying round against a team (Croatia) already qualified.

In the preliminary round, the teams in each group play each other, round-robin fashion. A win gets you 3 points and a tie 1 point. The two teams with the most points in each group advance to the quarterfinals (I'm not going into the tie-breaking rules here). Group C is generally considered this year's "group of death"--it is indeed a pity that at least one of the perennial European power-houses (Italy, France and the Netherlands) will not make it past the first round--and Romania is no slouch, either. I also think that Germany's group is stronger than the Germans want to believe.

So, let's see what happens...

55 comments:

mac said...

Hi Ulrich,
I will be watching two weeks of the cup in Italy: we're arriving in Florence on the 7th and we're leaving on the 21st. Apparently Holland plays its first match on the Monday, I'm nervous already. You're right, it is in the toughest group, I was told by a Romanian taxi driver in New York a few weeks ago.

I certainly hope this rented villa has a decent TV or we will be very unhappy and will spend a lot of time at the local sports bar.

Have a good time on your trip.

Marion

PhillySolver said...

@Marion, could you use a chef in your villa? I can rearrange my schedule.

I am so into this soccer stuff (I still play but I am currently hobbled by a knee injury) I am buying a new TV this week to watch in High Definition. I have house guests from Germany staying with us starting this weekend and have a fellow fanatic to join me. He favors Germany or Portugal and I waiting to see if the French are competitive with their changes. I don't think we will have a repeat champion.

I will write often and predict the finals after the first two rounds are completed.

Ulrich said...

Many German mags have Italy as the odds-on favorite. However, there was really bad news for the Azurri today: Their world-class defender and captain, Fabio Cannavaro (really a joy to watch--a defender who hardly ever makes a mistake), hurt his ankle badly during practice and will be out for the tournament

mac said...

How sad for Cannavaro..... I think many national teams are mourning injuries of fabulous players. It may be a way of excusing a loss....
Been there.

@Phillysolver: thanks for the offer, the owners of the villa proposed we hire their chef, too, but to me and our son cooking is one of the main reasons we are there, checking out the markets and the great foodstores. Last time we had a vacation like this, we never used the livingroom and dining room, just the kitchen and the terraces with the barbecue!

Ulrich said...

As we are waiting for the fun to start, let me entertain you with with a story I just read in a German online paper. We all know the complaint that soccer is too low scoring a game to be entertaining, but this particular story proves that even this rule has its exception. A game in an amateur league at he county level ended 54:1 (yes, it's true), which means a goal was scored on average every 1.66 minute.

Well, in a game played by the rules this is not possible, no matter what the difference in the ability of the competing sides is. In this particular case, the winning team needed not only a win, but a win with a margin large enough to pass the team placed ahead in the standings and advance to the next higher league. Did I mention that the higher placed team had a 37 advantage in the goal difference? It's obvious that the game was fixed. What's amazing is the brazeness with which it happened (one almost has to admire the guys). The referee later said that he had never seen anything like it, but that it's not in his power to stop a game when one team obviously refuses to play.

Needless to say, the Deutsche Fußballbund (German Soccer Association) is investigating.

ArtLvr said...

Whew! I wasn't going to look in on your sports reports, Ulrich, but that just goes to show -- amazing is the word....

I also wanted to thank PhillySolver for the Trope Review in Jim H's blog yesterday! And everyone should peek at Jim's link to the bio of Peter Muller, today's NYT puzzle constructor. More amazement.

∑;)

PhillySolver said...

artlvr

You are welcome. Perhaps I will write about the subcategories of some of those tropes. The terminology is a bit clunky, but the word plays they describe are entertaining.

Ulrich, Jim did a very nice job on his site this morning on the major trope categories. What if I sent you some of my notes from Rhetoric classes on word plays as a post in a couple of weeks while you are 'across the pond.' (and I explain what that device is all about).

mac said...

Isn't there some sort of grace rule that stops the game when one of the teams reaches 13 goals? One team not playing to allow the other team to score is bad, but I was at the Italy-France Europe Cup final where the Italians basically all stood in front of their goal. They were not a popular winner.

Ulrich said...

@mac: If there is such a rule/convention, it's certainly not known in Cologne County.

One of the useless games one can play before a tournament starts is predict a winner. I have a hard doing this this time around as I haven't seen a single qualifying match. But I found on a German site a ranking of the teams i.t. of preparation/being ready, and if I apply these numbers, I get the following tournament:

Prelim. (group winner/second)
A: Czech Republic/Portugal
B:Germany/Poland
C:Italy/Netherlands
D:Spain/Russia (toss-up really)

Based on these standings, the tournament would continue as follows (winners listed first):

Quarterfinals:
Czech Republic:Poland
Germany:Portugal
Italy:Russia
Netherlands:Spain

Semifinals:
Germany:Czech Republic
Italy:Netherlands

Final:
Italy:Germany (like World Cup semi)

Ulrich said...

More details have emerged today about that amazing 54:1 game (did I mention that I find the 1 goal the losing side was allowed to score a really nice touch?), which I report b/c they go to show the depth of the passions involved in the game of soccer.

The situation was this: Team A was in second place ahead of Team B; both teams had the same points, but Team A was leading before the final match by a goal difference of 37, which is to say, even if Team B won its final match by any likely margin, it could not get past Team A if Team A also won. This was important b/c the teams in first and second place advance to the next higher league.

I now happened that Teams B's final match was against Team C, which hated Team A b/c of some dispute in the past that got settled in favor of Team C, which did not diminish the anger the dispute had created on the part of Team C. Having no stake in the final match themselves, they decided to take revenge on Team A by spoiling their chances to advance--they basically rolled over and allowed Team B to score an unprecedented 54 goals. This was enough to put Team B ahead of Team A despite the fact that Team A won its final match 10:0 (there seems to be a huge difference in skills between the teams in the Cologne County League).

Since apparently no money passed hands, I'm not sure at this point if the game will be anulled--is there a rule that forbids a team to play as poorly as it can?

Ulrich said...

I've arrived in Germany--let the games begin!

mac said...

Good for you! We still have the travelling ahead of us: NY - Rome, then a 3 hour layover and a short flight to Florence. Hope they don't lose our suitcases, we have been having very bad luck lately. We are looking forward to watching as many games as we can, but we need to do a little bit of sightseeing and a lot of cooking!

We seem to time it this way a lot: were rented a house in Mougins, close to Cannes once, and we were watching tennis and soccer every day! We are not complaining, it is part of being in Europe.

Hope you get over your jetlag soon, I find it gets harder every year, although half a sleeping pill does help the first 3 days. Enjoy the wonderful food, what is it at his time? Strawberries, asperagus, and soon Maatjesharing?

Enjoy,
Marion

Ulrich said...

Group A on Saturday:
Czech Republic-Switzerland 1:0
Portugal-Turkey 2:0

Now that we have seen every team in Group A, a first assessment can be made. It looks as if Portugal is the team to beat, and that the Czech Republic has not found a replacement for their playmakers Nedved (retired) and Rosicky (injured). Of course, the first match a team plays can be misleading, and with this proviso in mind, it looks as if Turkey has as good a chance as the Czechs to end up second after Portugal (if not a better chance).

The Swiss played their heart out after losing their captain and leader Frei due to injury, and they lost the match undeservedly--but it's doubtful that they'll find a replacement for Frei and that they can survive the prelims on heart alone.

PhillySolver said...

Celebrations here among my guests with a good show today (2-0 win). We will watch Italy with some Italian friends and watch the fire works. I worked in The Netherlands and will talk to friends there in the morning.

Ulrich said...

Group B: Croatia-Austria 1:0
Germany-Poland 2:0

The parallels to the matches in group A are really remarkable: A host nation loses undeservedly 0:1in the first match after playing their heart out, and the second match ends 2:0 for the favorite, while the losing team makes a better impression than both teams in the first match. Actually, both second matches could easily have ended 3:0--the first goal Portugal scored was declared off-side, when in fact the replay from the overhead camera showed that it was regular; and Germany managed to miss its first 200% chance.

In any case, the Germans are cautiously optimistic after their first showing, which had two very nice surprises (Fritz and Podolski in the offensive midfield). There is room for improvement (Ballack), and the defense may find its stride as the tournament continues.

With the usual proviso, given how early it is in the tournament, I currently think that Portugal and Turkey will advance from Group A and Germany and Poland from Grou B.

Ulrich said...

A follow-up on Podolski: He was born in Poland--that's why he refrained, after scoring, from any overt celebration. He grew up here in Cologne and advanced through the youth teams of our 1. FC--he still speaks with the heavy "ch" and sing-song intonation characteristic for the people in Cologne. And he already created one of the immortal soccer quotes some people collect: "Soccer is like chess, only without dice".

@mac: The asparagus season has still 2 more weeks to go. The fertile loess-plain west of Cologne is one of the asparagus-growing centers in Germany--it's only a short drive from my brother's house to a farm where one can buy from the days crop (and peel it automatically!). We had it for dinner before the match with Poland. The other thing I love about German food is Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake--where "cake" refers not only to cake in the American sense but also tarts and everything else one can buy in a Konditorei, the German version of a pâtisserie).

Ulrich said...

@phillysolver: Your Italian friends must be sad--the Italians I know are not ones to hide their feelings.

Group C: Romania-France 0:0
Netherlands-Italy 3:0

I can't say much about the first match--the French disappointed b/c of a lack of ideas on offence--their most creative player, Ribery, had always 2 to 3 defenders on him, and the rest could not take advantage of the holes this necessarily created. Let me then add a more general observation: My own private measure of the technical skill of a team is the average distance a ball bounces off of a receiver when he stops a pass aimed at him. With the Brasilians, the distance is close to 0; i.e. the ball appears to be glued to their shoes. With average teams, it's 1 to 2 meters, and with bad teams (like the S. Koreans I saw live in 2006), the ball just jumps out of control, which makes a passing game look like pin-ball. Applying this measure, the French were technically very good yesterday, and the Romanians barely average, which explains why they couldn't get a passing attack going: When a receiver who was closely covered stopped a ball, he lost it right away b/c all he managed to do was stop the ball for the defender, who ended up in a better position to run away with it.

The ease with which the Dutch beat the Italians was the biggest surprise so far in the tournament--will the Italians be able to come back?

PhillySolver said...

Like all Italians, my friends are sure it is a conspiracy. If only they could take care of their garbage, they would be believable. I see Hamburg is helping Napoli cope, but such a long way to go. I think the Italians are demoralized, but France and Romania looked weak, so forza Italae.

Boy, did the Greeks play boring soccer and despite wishing them well on their attempt to repeat, I don't think I would like to see them in the later rounds. My new HD tv is making the viewing too much fun. My friends from Germany left today, but will be back for the finals. Germany, Portugal and The Netherlands looked good. Spain has not been tested, but I suspect finalist from among those four.

Ulrich said...

Where's the conspiracy? The "off-side" goal that was in fact based on a rule extension unknown even to experts?

Anyway, Spain looked fantastic--so, after the first round of matches, they join the three teams you mentioned as the great four. I have no doubt that they all will advance--the fun is, then, to predict who will join them in the quarterfinals.

The general reaction to the Greeks here is a mixture of exasperation and derision. They are coached by a German who claims that he is only interested in the bottom line: When asked if the Greeks will adopt a version of what is called here "modern soccer" (dominated by a super-fast offensive able to overrun a defense in lightning counterattacks with precision passing--as demonstrated in text-book fashion by the Dutch and Spaniards), he said: "Modern is, when one wins." But even he must know that not all is well with his team--at least when I went to bed, he had not shown up yet for an interview on German TV.

BTW This "modern" soccer is really exciting, and I am very pleased to see that the Germans have signed up for it: A complete reversal of what they were famous/notorious for in the past. All of this is the result of the "soccer revolution" Jürgen Klinsmann started as the coach for the 2006 WC team (against considerable opposition from the established powers) and continued by the current coach, Jogi Löw.

Ulrich said...

For the sake of completeness--Here are the results of yesterday's Group D matches:
Spain-Russia 4:1
Sweden-Greece 2:0

Ulrich said...
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Ulrich said...

Group A-Second Round:
Portugal-Czech Republic 3:1
Turkey-Switzerland 2:1

Most memorable: The second half of the Turkey-Switzerland match. Despite horrible conditions caused by torrential rain during the first half, the two teams engaged in an open, spirited battle to win b/c each team knew that a loss would mean certain elimination from the competition and a tie would probably not suffice in the end either. So, they went toe-to-toe and battled it out, creating tremendous suspense. Switzerland lost not b/c it was the lesser team, but b/c it had a tad less luck.

Turkey and the Czech Republic now have the same 3 points and the same no. of for-and-against goals (2:3), which should make for a very entertaining 3rd round battle between the two sides on Sunday. The outcome of this match will in all likelihood not prevent Portugal from winning the group: A tie in its last match against Switerland would keep it in the lead, and even if it loses, its goal difference (+4) is so commanding that Turkey or the Czech Republic would have to win by a very unlikely large margin to win the group.

So, the Turkey/Czech Republic match will be for second place and a berth in quarterfinals. Who will it be--Turkey or the Czech Republic? I find this very hard to predict, but since I guessed Turkey after the first round, I'll stick with it.

PhillySolver said...

Croatia adds some excitement to the tournament! Germany didn't give up, but Ballack hurt his reputation I think. Austria was game, but they are not in the same league with the other teams I think.

Do Croatia belong in the semi-finals? We may have a surprise entry.

Ulrich said...

I was really afraid of the Croats--they eliminated us once in quarterfinals 3:0 (that was in the back of my mind when I said the group is stronger than the Germans want to think). And the second in this group will meet Portugal in the quarters...bad omens for the Germans. And yes, Ballack really sucked--I can't remember seeing him with so many bad passes.

Ulrich said...

Correction: In earlier comments, I clearly implied that the goal difference will be used to decide the standings of teams with the same no. of points. I now realize that this is true only for teams whose match against each other ended in a tie; otherwise, the winning team is placed ahead of the other team, independently of the goal difference.

This is the reason why Croatia already won Group B. If it loses its last match, against Poland (not very likely--unless they play with a B team to give their A players a rest, a luxury they can afford), and Germany wins its last match, against Austria, Croatia and Germany will each have 6 points and Germany the better goal difference, but since Croatia beat Germany, it will retain its lead. Of course, if Croatia will at least tie Poland, it will lead also in points. By the same rule, Germany will need only a tie against Austria to finish second.

The upshot is that Germany, unless it'll have another total melt-down against Austria, will face Portugal in the quarterfinals instead of the semis, as I had expected. And should it, against all expectations, beat Portugal, it may meet Croatia again in the semis. None of this looks very promising for the Germans.

PhillySolver said...

I lived in France for a short time, but had an office there for several years. I love it when they do well, but the Dutch are scoring goals as if the stars are aligned and destiny awaits them in the finals. My friends in The Netherlands (I worked in Utrecht) are joyful and only a little nervous that they are dreaming. I think the Orange (sorry Amy) will rest and may lose their next match and Italy and France will be out.

Germany and Portugal will likely be the most interesting match in the next round. Croatia, The Netherlands, Spain and Portugal are not surprises for the Group winners. The outside chances for The czechs, the Germans and the Romanians will make the next round worth watching.

Ulrich said...

Netherlands vs. France last night was pure joy to watch--the best-played soccer match I have seen in a long time. The result somewhat hides how well the French played, but highlights, at the same time, what was the biggest surprise to me: How the 'no-name' Dutch defense allowed only one goal by the French offensive stars (well, the Dutch goalie is a big name), while the French defensive stars proved extremely vulnerable to the Dutch counter attacks--executed, one has to admit, by super stars. Whatever, it was great.

Ulrich said...
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Ulrich said...

Group D 2nd round matches:
Spain-Sweden 2:1
Russia-Greece 1:0

Spain will win its group no matter how the last prelim. matches end b/c even if Sweden will end up with the same no. of ponts, Spain will win the group b/c it beat Sweden in "direct confrontation".

I really, really dislike the direct confrontation rule to break a tie in points as opposed to using the better goal difference. It is b/c of this rule that the winners of three of the four groups are known before the final group matches are played, which eliminates a large element of suspense from those matches: If the rule weren't used, Turkey or the Czech Republic could still win Group A, and Germany and Sweden could still win Groups B and D, respectively--only the Netherlands have qualified for the quarters, no matter what rule is being used.

An even more significant drawback is that it allows the leading teams in Groups A, B, and D to field a B-team in their final group match: this gives an undeserved advantage to the team they play against, which may be in contention for second place. This may happen in Group B: If Poland and Auatria win their final group matches (against Croatia and Germany, respectively), the team with the better the goal difference will place second b/c they tied in direct confrontation. But the rule still favors Poland b/c Croatia has no stake in the outcome of the match and may field a B-team, whereas Germany has a very big stake b/c it will place second with at least a tie. If, on the other hand, the goal difference were the tie breaker, Croatia would also hava a big stake in the outcome.

Ulrich said...

Turkey-Czech Republic 3:2

The Turks were trailing 0:2 up to the 75th minute and managed--with an extraordinary display of heart and morale--to turn the match around, finish second in Group B, and thus advance to the quarterfinals. This match demonstrated why one can get hooked on tournaments like Euro 2008--it had me glued to the edge of my seat in total disbelief of what I was seeing.

True, the Czechs were denied an obvious penalty that could have put them ahead 3:0 and the game out of reach for the Turks. But their captain showed real class when he said, in the post-game interview, that it was not the denied penalty that cost them the match, but their inability to bring a 2:0 lead home through the last 15 minutes.

This type of honest, non-whining reaction is a welcome relief from the blame-everyone-but-oneself reaction and conspiracy theories the Italians seem to float as a result of the setbacks their team has experienced.

PhillySolver said...

I agree the Czechs are good sportsmen and I was sorry to see their collapse. The Turks surprised me, but they deserved their win. I guess the only real mystery now is what will happen to Italy and France. We are told the Austrians are emotionally charged for their match with Germany, but I cannot imagine an upset.

How is the food? I am going to a local Turkish restaurant tonight.

PhillySolver said...

Germany are through and played well against the high emotions of the Austrians. Tell me about the German Press and the banned coaches. What a story

Ulrich said...

About the banned coaches: We have nothing but speculation so far--the live commentator as well as the German coach afterwards claim that nobody did anything against the rules, that it is perfectly legitimate for a coach to coach from the sidelines. UEFA will "issue a ruling after it reviewed the referee's report", today's paper said.

Germany played better than against Croatia, but not nearly well enough to create high hopes for further advancement. The media still speculate: What happened to the team that started so well? Why do we not see players that are really willing to go to the limit (as the Turks did in exemplary fashion)? A striking example is a scene at the beginning of the second half when left back Philip Lahm (yes, it means "lame" in English :-), the best German player yesterday, streaked down the left sideline: he had to do it all alone b/c nobody ran with him. True, given his dribbling skills, he could be stopped from getting into the penalty area only through a foul, which subsequently lead to that spectacular free-kick goal by Ballack--but still, the scene was played and replayed as seen by the overhead camera on TV, and the question was raised again and again: Why did nobody try to come to his aid, as we have seen from the Dutch or Portugese as a matter of course?

I can't really see us beat the Portugese (which we did in the match for third place at the 2006 World Cup, though). But this cup is still an improvement over the last two Euro Cups, where we were eliminated in the preliminay rounds.

Halil Erhan said...

I came to Turkey on the same day with Czech-Turkey match. After I came out of the plane, the first thing I asked to the first person I saw was the score. When I heard the story it was really amazing! Of course everybody was celebrating the win. However, the majority of the people are not happy with Terim's decisions. I heard from many riends "regardless his decisions the dedication of the players took us to the victory". Terim has been so much selfish and over confident. His players choice is under criticism since he announced the team formation; furthermore the way he sets the players on the field has constant criticism in the press. There is a 'cold war' going between him and the press. He said he will take care of them when they come back to Istanbul... I believe he is making some legal implications.
This is Turkey! Anything can happen in a short time, so it happened during the Czech game.

It is still a victory, one that deserves special celebration until the Croatia match.

Mean while, Netherland is doing really good. I am not seeing the performance I expect from the German team. Let's see, the tournament is becoming more exciting.

Ulrich said...

I think we are headed toward a great series of quarterfinals, each interesting in a unique way--I expect Russia to make it BTW.

In general, my friends and I feel that the level of play is much higher on average than it was at the 2006 World Cup--starting with 16 instead of 32 teams seems to have this effect.

I'm not saying, though, that the World Cup should reduce the no. of competing teams--in 2006, for example, I was at a match involving Trinidad and Tobago and just seeing the excitement of the fans in their colorful costumes (the whole population of that island country seemed to have descended on Kaiserslautern, where the match was played) was wonderful--it's the stuff that makes the preliminary rounds of the World Cup unique.

Ulrich said...
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Ulrich said...

All quarterfinals have now been determined:

Portugal-Germany. A repeat of the 2006 match for 3rd place in the World Cup, which Germany won handily. But Portugal has gotten better, no question. The same may not be true for Germany, and based on the teams respective performances so far, Portugal is the odds-on favorite. The question the German fans are asking is this: Can determination and a concentrated team effort overcome the individual class and superior skills of the Portugese stars?

Croatia-Turkey. The hardest match to predict--any suggestiions, Halil?

Netherlands-Russia. Is the "golden generation" that appears to be emerging in Russia ready to go all the way? Probably not this time around--the Dutch are the team to beat for the cup, and the Russians have to improve when it comes to scoring opportunities--they will not get 10 120% chances against teams that are better than the Swedes, which means they have to score when they have the chance.

Spain-Italy: Can Spain put to rest its history of underperforming in international competition? And Italy has steadily gotten better during group play (what else is new?). A very intriguing match-up.

In brief: We should be seeing really exciting quarterfinals--let's hope everyone will be playing true to form.

PhillySolver said...

I came here to write that the best team may not have won today, but the more focused and hard working team did. I see you predicted as much. Congratulations. In a close game like this there are a lot of what ifs, but I think Italy, Holland and Croatia will also win and despite the press writings, I think they all can be decided before a penalty shoot out. I hope so.

Ulrich said...

I think the difference was that (a) the Germans had a plan, and (b) the plan worked, in that it neutralized over the better part of the match the famed Portuguese midfield--they were never given the space they need to work their magic. The Portuguese looked to me like New England in this year's superbowl: They seemed to be taken completely by surprise, especially after the first German goal, which capped one of the most beautiful counter attacks in the cup so far (involving, among others, two (!)Doppelpässe--I don't know the English term--1-2?).

Ulrich said...

We've had 3 quarterfinals by now, and all followed the same pattern: The group winner lost. Commentators speculate here that it's b/c the group winners won their respective groups already after the second match, which made their coach field a B-team for the final group match, which, in turn, interrupted any rhythm they may have had. Another theory is that since these teams did not have to deal with adversity during group play, they had nothing to fall back on when it materialized in the quarters. Whatever the reasons, Germany, Turkey, and Russia profited from it. And if the pattern continues, Spain, the last remaining group winner, will also be eliminated today in the last quarterfinal and lose to Italy.

Germany, Turkey, Russia, Italy in the semis: An intriguing mix of "usual suspects" and newcomers.

PhillySolver said...

I am a terrible predictor of futball scores. Italy has the most difficult challenge despite Spain;s history of folding under pressure. I don;t know the history of all International competitions, but I bet this is already the most wins by the second place qualifiers.

I can ruin these teams chances, but has Germany ever played against Spain in a final? I believe there have been several Italy/Germany matches for a trophy.

My German friends return for to Philly to watch the finals next weekend. I hope they get to see their home team.

PhillySolver said...

Italy deserve their loss. If you are playing to get to a penalty shoot out and display joyless soccer, you should be sure you can win in such a situation. I hold no grudges, but the better team on the field won all four quarterfinal games. Spain should make it through 2-1 since a key Russian is out and Turkey has lost their top three players, so Germany should win 3-0.

I do love this sport.

Ulrich said...

I totally agree--I'm glad the Italians are out: This was a throwback to the old days when they bolted their goal shut and tried to wear down the opposing team, waiting for a late goal--good riddance!

Who would have thought it: No team from the "group of death" made it to the semis--One of the reasons why this is such an exciting tournament. And things are playing into the hands of the Germans: they got their warning shot across the bow in time so that they still could do something about it, their major competitors are out, and they have grown as a team.

Should they meet the Russians in the final, though, all bets are off: The St. Petersburg players gave two German teams in the UEFA cup fits and embarassed them outright (and yes, Munich was one of them). But then again, the Germans will have a plan...

I just love this!

Halil Erhan said...

I would never imagine that Turkey and Germany will play semi-finals. Turkish team has so many injured and yellow- or red-carted. I also sense that they started to feel over confident. I don’t know if they will continue to be as lucky as they were in the past games. On the other hand, German team is going to be very cautious. I don’t think they will play offensive. My prediction for this game: slow and lack-of-football, frequent interruptions, and highly controlled game. If Turks scores first, things can be different.

Good luck to the both teams tonight.

Ulrich said...

The Germans sound way too confident in their comments for my taste--I hope they remember what happend to the teams that felt the same way vis-a-vis the Turks. Still, I would be really surprised if the Germans don't win--not b/c I disrespect the Turks, but b/c all streaks end in soccer sooner or later, b/c the Turks have to replace some key players, and b/c the Germans should have had all the warnings they need.

I would be interested in learning how the Turkish newspapers handle the pre-game commentary. The German papers are full of descriptions of the "divided loyalties" of Germans of Turkish origin, not in any negative tone, but with a clear indication that this is not any match-up, that there are unique political and emotional undercurrents. After all, the Turkish star, Hamit Altinhop, grew up and learned to play soccer in the heart of the Ruhr valley.

As to the other semi-final, between Spain and Russia, I find it impossible to pick a winner.

humorlesstwit said...

Ulrich -
If there is anything I can do for you back here in the States as you recover from your heart attack, please let me know.

A goal at 90 minutes?
A missed free kick from 30 yards 90% of the way through stoppage time?

PhillySolver said...

I think Germany are incredibly lucky. The stats in this game are so one sided except where it matters. The woodwork saved Germany, but they had three chances and made three goals. Had Turkey been at strength the better team may have won. By pulling this one out, they have either given themselves a chance for glory where little was expected or they could prove that Spain or Russia play better soccer these days. I think I'll drink a beer and celebrate the glory of the game and Germany's discipline. Best of luck on the weekend.

Ulrich said...

Well, this game showed once more why there is the old saw "Soccer is a very simple game--22 players run after the ball for 90 minutes and then the Germans win".

I watched this one not in the safety of my eldest brother's home, but in the little pub owned by my youngest brother. The way back by public transportation was more or less a trip through chaos, presenting at one point the amazing sight of a black lady draped in the German flag and sporting an afro wig in the German colors. And at one point, a group of revelers calling out the names of the most popular Germans players seemed to be believe that after Lukas Podolski (still the local hero, even after he defected to Munich), Angela Merkel was the greatest of them. As I've said before, one has to love this.

mac said...

Dear Ulrich, congratulations! You must be having a wonderful time. I like your line about soccer - Germans win. It has felt like that for many years.....
My husband was washing cars this afternoon so he taped the game. When I checked Rex's blog and the comments some anonymouse gave away the result of the first half.....
The atmosphere must be wonderful thee; I'm calling my friends in Hamburg tomorrow to find out how it is there.

PhillySolver said...

My, Spain looked good. I would suggest that Germany do what they can to score the first goal because the Spaniards know how to counter attack if too many men go forward. I thought the second half was a great display of Spanish defensive powers. I don't think they are known for that, but it was there today. A few days of rest and then a great match on Sunday. All good stuff.

I haven't been too good at predictions, but I think there is a reason Spain are undefeated in twenty games. Germany may find themselves the holders of the men and women's cups. Quite a feat just to be in the finals though.

ulrich.flemming said...

Spain is the favorite, no question.

The irony is that this plays into Germany's hands. The situation right now looks very much like the one before the match against Portugal: Germany the underdog and confronted with a superior midfield, which played so well against Russia b/c the Russians let them play so well. This is not slight Spain's achievement, but to stress that Germany needs, again, a plan. And if there is one team able to come up with one and execute it, it's the Germans. I won't predict a win, though; all I'm saying is that Germany has a chance

mac said...

Hope you will have a good time watching the game this evening! My youngest sister and family are travelling through Germany today on their way to Switzerland and Italy, and they are making sure there is a nice sports bar where they can watch the game!

PhillySolver said...

I hope no one there is too upset. Spain looked the better team and played well enough to win. Germany did very well to keep it close and to have a chance, but they couldn't manufacture a real threat. Spain had some luck as well. The sport was the big winner and we can now look forward to the World Cup. Anyone planning an African trip?

mac said...

Yes, Ulrich and Philly, we can look back on a wonderful Eurocup. I think it makes a big difference when the refereeing is good - they must have gotten very strict orders this time and it worked. We've had some very weird situations in the Worldcup over the years where the yellow and red cards were flying because the refs had a quota, sometimes selfimposed for a downhome charity. Don't get me started.....
I had a lot of fun with the games this year, and was happy to be in Europe for the first 2 weeks. Now on to SA; I'm not sure I want to go there again (don't like crowds) but the venues are great. Especially Port Elizabeth should be quite comfortable, Durban probably not so much.

Ulrich said...

I agree with all of the above. It was a really great tournament, an advertisement for the sport, and I never regretted for a minute having gone to Germany for it.

Spain was the best team throughout, and the final was more lopsided than the score suggests. For the first ten minutes, I thought, "Gee, we're really in this", but then Spain took over and, as one of the TV commentators said (Günter Netzer, member of the Euro 1972 championship team, considered here the greatest German team ever, with Beckenbauer as captain), "showed the limitations of the German team."

I didn't see the 1972 matches (I was in grad. school in the States, and the matches were not shown then), but I remember the 1996 champions well (I watched the final in Istanbul). To me, the biggest differences were (a) the goalie, Köpke, who won one or two matches for the Germans single-handedly, especially the semi (?) against Italy, and (b) the captain Mathias Sammer, who really dominated mid-field play and held the team together. Their counterparts on the current team, Lehmann and Ballack, did not come even close to those performances. I hope Lehmann will be gone soon and that the very capable coach, Jogi Löw, will be able to build upon what he's got.