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

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Euro 2016

Euro 2016 has started, with 24 national teams competing for the cup. For the intial group phase, these teams have been placed into 6 groups, where each team plays 3 matches, one against each of the other members of its group. The first- and second-placed teams in each groups and the 4 best third-placed teams overall will advance to the round of 16. Here are the groups:
Group A
Group B
Group C
N. Ireland

Euro2016 fever in Cologne, courtesy of kidbrother

Group D
Czech Republic
Group E
Group F

The mood in Germany is guardedly optimistic. Since they won the World Cup two years ago, the Germans have hardly ever played at the level they had shown during that cup. But then again, that just fits the pattern: They typically enter a tournament with a mixed record and then improve as they advance through the rounds.

The great strength of the Mannschaft is that it works as a team, a collective in which every player can, in principle, be replaced without an apparent drop in performance of the team as a whole. At the opposite end are sides whose performance depends on and is geared to a single dominant player. Such teams can be beaten if the dominant player can be neutralized—the Germans demonstrated this during the 2014 World Cup when they beat Portugal (with Ronaldo) in the group round and Argentina (with Messi) in the final. More about this in my first comment.


Ulrich said...

Morten Olsen, the great Danish former international and team manager, who played for several years in the German Bundesliga, had this to say about the performance of the Germans during the 2014 World Cup: "The Germans played not like a national side, but like a club team. This is the greatest compliment one can make to a coach." It was indeed the key to their success. This became most apparent in the final, and I like to remind people of what happened then because it's hardly ever mentioned.

The first thing my brother and I heard when we turned on the TV to watch the final was the news that Sami Khedira had injured himself during warm-up and was unable to play. We looked at each other with "a whiter shade of pale"— Khedira had been one of the architects of the, by now legendary, 7:1 win over Brazil in the semi-final and had been expected to play a similar role in the final. There was no time to discuss at any length tactical adjustments with the team—the coach had to send in a substitute on short notice and selected Christoph Kramer, who had not played a single minute in the tournament up to that point.

To everyone's surprise, Kramer fit right in and played well until, half an hour into the match, an Argentinian hit him in the head, behind the referee's back, and Kramer had to be taken out because of a possible concussion. He was replaced by André Schürrle, and again, there was no perceivable break in the performance of the Germans. In fact, the transitions were so seamless that less attentive spectators I have talked to were not even aware of these events, which could have been disastrous for a team more geared toward individual performances. In the end, it was Schürrle who played the decisive pass in overtime that lead to the deciding goal.

The credit for putting this team together goes to coach Löw and his assistants, and the Germans hope that he will be able to do this again for the present Euro Cup with a cast of players that includes some newcomers.

Kidbrother said...

Jetzt sind die ersten EM-Auftritte aller Teams vorüber. Zeit für ein paar Notizen: Von den „Top 7“ haben die mit Topstars gespickten Mannschaften von Belgien und Frankreich enttäuscht, beide Teams machten den Eindruck, nicht miteinander eingespielt zu sein, und es war auch kein Spielsystem erkennbar. England und Portugal haben gut gespielt, unglaublich gekämpft, aber zu wenig aus ihren zahlreichen Chancen gemacht, so dass sie sich mit Remis' begnügen mussten, was kein Drama ist, denn mit zwei Remis und einem Sieg kommt man auf jeden Fall ins Achtelfinale. Spanien wäre es fast genauso ergangen, wenn nicht das späte Tor eines Verteidigers sie gerettet und die tapfer kämpfenden Tschechen ok. geschlagen hätte. Deutschland und die Ukraine boten den Zuschauern in der ersten Halbzeit große Unterhaltung, weil die Abstimmung in den defensiven Mittelfeldern nicht stimmte und sich daher viele hochkarätige Chancen auf beiden Seiten auftaten. Dank Neuer und Boateng geriet Deutschland nicht in Rückstand, und Mustafi, ein von vielen immer wieder als "Wackler" kritisierter Spieler, wurde mit seinem couragierten Kopfballtor zum Liebling der Nation. Dass ausgerechnet Schweini in der Schlussminute das 2:0 gelang, nach toller Flanke des während des restlichen Spiels mal wieder fast unsichtbaren Özils, ist (Vorsicht Phrase!) "so ein Märchen, wie es nur der Fußball schreibt…" In Österreich herrscht Katerstimmung, denn die Alpenrepublik hatte mit Sicherheit gegen den k.u.K.-Nachbarn Ungarn mit einem Dreier gerechnet. Jetzt wird für Alaba & Co, die Luft schon etwas dünn, wobei das Remis der beiden anderen Gruppengegner noch alles offen lässt.

Schon vor der Turnier habe ich meinen Freunden immer gesagt: Unterschätzt niemals die Italiener! Bei großen Turnieren haben die schon so oft groß aufgespielt. Und jetzt hat das älteste EM-Team aller Zeiten (Durchschnitt über 31 Jahre!) den Mitfavoriten Belgien mit zwei Traumtoren ins Tal der Tränen geballert…

Ich denke, Jogi wird im Spiel gegen Polen mit Gomez in der Startelf beginnen, denn die Kritik hat doch arg auf dem, wie ich meine, nicht sooo schlechten Götze herumgehackt. Wo waren denn Müller, Özil und Khedira? Lediglich Kroos und Draxler haben sich in der Offensive gezeigt. Und eben Götze. Nicht sehr erfolgreich aber fleißig. Mit Tipp für das Spiel gegen Polen lautet 3:1.

Pedro said...

The Cup hasn't started well for Portugal, with a draw against Iceland. I don't think it is reason for great worries, but no one was expecting that result.

I think Portuguese team is still much dependant on Ronaldo, although it is not as it was two years ago during the WC. There are some newcomers such as Renato Sanches (who is going to Bayern Munchen), but he is very young and not enough experienced. And there is Quaresma, who is not young, but surprinsingly has appeared in good shape for playing in team.

After yesterday's result, I really, really hope that my team will improve. But I am hopeful that they will also increase the performance, as the tournament will continue.

Ulrich said...

@Pedro: Since only 8 teams will be eliminated after the group phase, it would be a miracle if Portugal would NOT advance. As kidbrother said (I will translate his comment later today), Portugal played well, but didn't do enough with its chances. I could watch only the first half and had the same impression so that I was really surprised when I learned the final result.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how long teams like Iceland or Hungary will last by making up for their lack of top players with tactical discipline and an unbelievable fighting spirit, i.e. toughness in one-on-ones, a willingness to run until their lungs burst, and a determination to never give up.

kidbrother (in translation) said...

Each team has had, by now, its first showing. Time for a few observations: Among the "top 7", the sides of Belgium and France, peppered with top stars, have disappointed. Both sides left the impression that players were not used to play with each other, and there was no recognizable system. England and Portugal played well and fought unbelievably hard, but didn't do enough with their chances and had to be content with ties. This is no cause for alarm because a side will certainly reach the round of 16 with two ties and one win. Spain almost suffered the same fate, but a late goal by a defender saved them and knocked out the bravely fighting Czechs. Germany and the Ukraine provided, in the first half, great entertainment because the defenses lacked coordination and therefore offered high-caliber opportunities to the other side. Thanks to Neuer and Boateng, Germany did not fall behind, and Mustafi, a player criticized by many time and time gain as "shaky" (see the Word of the Month of May, 2015, Wackelkandidat), became with his courageous goal by header the darling of the nation. Schweini, of all people, managed to score a second goal in the last minute, after a brilliant pass by the otherwise again almost invisible Özil;—this is (caution: cliché!) "a fairy tale as can be written only by soccer". The Austrians suffer from a hangover because they had certainly counted on three points against their neighbor Hungary. The air has gotten already thinner for Alaba&co, although the tie between the other two group members leaves everything open.

I told my friends already before the tournament, "Don't underestimate the Italians!" They have put on a great show repeatedly at big tournaments in the past, and now the oldest Euro-Cup team of all time (average age 31+ years) has catapulted Belgium, one of the favorites, with two "dream goals" into the valley of tears.

I think Jogi (the German manager) will make Gomez a starter for the match against Poland because Götze, who wasn't even that bad in my opinion, has been pounded by critics. Where were, after all, Müller, Özil, and Khedira? Only Kroos and Draxler showed up for the offense. And, yes, Götze—not very successful, but hard-working. My tip for the Poland match: 3:1 for Germany.

Ulrich said...

One word to summarize the reaction in the German media in response the uninspired performance of the German offense in the scoreless tie with Poland yesterday: puzzlement. Why is a player like Müller only a shadow of himself (to use a German idiom)? Why does a player like Özil not grab the opportunity to demonstrate that he can indeed lead the team to victory? We hear from the officials that the second game in a tournament has traditionally been difficult for the Germans; i.e. there's no reason for concern.

They may prove right, but there remains a profound sense of unease. The lack of movement, which is needed if a compact defense is to be breached; the ease with which balls were lost; the general sense that the offense didn't really want to win the match (as opposed to, say, the French in the second half of their second match) do not exactly produce optimism for the next matches. The best I can say is that I have no idea what to expect for the third (and last) match of the Germans in their group, against Northern Ireland, a side that will certainly not offer the German offense more space than the Poles did.

Ulrich said...

Quote of the day: The Spaniards play like the Germans want to play.

Pedro said...

I am glad that Portugal will follow on the tornament, but not happy with my team: after three ties, ending this phase in third place in a group where they should be qualified in the first position.

I still think that we have an exceptional great player, Ronaldo, that has a quality high above the other members of the team, which is in my opinion the main reason that he finds more difficulties in the National team than in his club, Real Madrid, where he plays with other very good players. But what disappointed me most was the defense. It is not suppose to happen that in a tournament such as this, a team suffers 3 goals in such a way. Thanks to Ronaldo we were able to offset this flaws of our defense, and I forgive the missed penalty against Austria.

It always happens a phenomenon with the Portuguese team: When our group or opponent team is easier, we always play worse, and sometimes the team is not qualified. But when groups/teams are hard, we play better, and often, the team is qualified. I think this phenomenon, this way of proceeding is something very Latin.
For this tournament, before it started, everybody was saying the group was very easy, and we would certainly end in the first place of our group. The result: We ended in third, and were qualified only because of the rule that qualifies teams in third.
I hope and expect that Portuguese players think the game with Croatia will be a hard game, so they will play better....

Ulrich said...

@Pedro: I'm just back from watching, at a pub, Ireland beating Italy, which means a world for the Irish, but very little for Italy because they were already qualified. But it does demonstrate that Euro 2016 remains unpredictable and will feature a completely unexpected match in the next round: Italy vs Spain. I have no idea how this will end--yes, Spain looks better on paper, but the Italians cannot be counted out. I still believe Spain will make it, which means that they'll meet the Germans already in the quarterfinals (in the likely event that the Germans will beat Slovakia)--who would have thought that?

In any case, the German offense was much improved in their match with N. Ireland--if the coach looked unhappy afterwards, it was because he felt (justly so) that his team wasted to many "100% chances". The hope here is that they will get their act finally together against Slovakia and will then be ready to face their first really big hurdle in the quarterfinal.

kidbrother said...

Obwohl von vielen kritisiert finde ich den Modus prima, dass 16 Mannschaften das Achtelfinale erreichen konnten, so war es in allen Gruppen spannend bis in die letzten Minuten der jeweils dritten Spiele. Interessant ist, da sowohl England als auch Spanien keine Gruppensieger sind, nun die Top-Five Spanien, Italien, Frankreich, England und Deutschland alle in der unteren Hälfte des Tableaus spielen und damit nur einer von ihnen ins Finale gelangen kann. Es kommt also schon in den Runden zuvor zu sehr spannenden K.O.-Spielen, und in der oberen Hälfte sind auf einmal Belgien, Kroatien, Portugal oder Polen heiße Favoriten für die Finalteilnahme geworden. Für Spannung ist gesorgt. Wenn die Deutschen gegen die Slowakei gewinnen, könnte es danach gegen Spanien und im Halbfinale dann gegen Frankreich gehen. Aber so ganz kann ich nicht dran glauben. Wobei die Kroaten gezeigt haben, dass auch Spanien verwundbar ist.

Ulrich said...

@kidbrother: I will translate your comment soon--I'm still recovering from a very long flight home from to Cologne to Northford. One observation right away: Yes, because neither England nor Spain won their groups, the two halves of the draw are extremely 'unbalanced'--the teams in the bottom half have 20 world or European championships between them, whereas the teams in the upper half have none! Which is to say that (i) one finalist at least will never have won the European Cup; and (ii) the "dream final" for many, including me, Spain vs. Germany, will not happen: Should the two sides meet, it will be in the quarterfinals, and this is not even unlikely: It would be the upset of the Cup if Slovakia would eliminate Germany tomorrow, and Spain is certainly the favorite against Italy (even if the Italians should not be underestimated--but I believe the Spaniards will prevail, if only by a typical 1:0)

Ulrich said...

Boy, what a let-down this first day of elimination matches was! Anyone who had hoped that teams would now start playing to win, rather than not to lose, was bitterly disappointed. Especially Croatia vs Portugal was a real downer (sorry, Pedro!), and if a team studded with top players like Croatia cannot produce a single decent cross until over-time, they deserve to lose. This is, in fact, a polite way of saying it--their crosses were simply atrocious, overhitting the mark by large margins or dropping right behind the goal line.

kidbrother (in translation) said...

Although it has been criticized by many, I like the modus that 16 teams could reach the round of 16—that way, it remained suspenseful till the last minutes of the third-round matches. It's interesting that, because neither Spain nor England won their respective groups, the top-five, Spain, Italy, France, England, and Germany, now all play in the bottom half of the draw and that therefore only only of them will be able to reach the final. Thus, there will be intereresting elimination matches already in the prior rounds, while in the upper half, Belgium, Croatia, Portugal, or Poland [this was written before yesterday's matches] have become hot favorites to reach the final. Suspense is guaranteed. If the Germans beat Slovakia, they could meet Spain afterwards and [if they win] France in the semis. But I cannot wholly believe this. Thoug the Croats have proved that Spain remains vulnerable.

kidbrother said...

Yesterday, the better teams lost with Switzerland and Croatia and with N. Ireland the unlucky one.

The 3 most beautiful goals:
1) Yesterday, the 1:1 by Switzerland
2) Hamsik's 2:0 against Russia
3) Ronaldo's goal with his heel against Hungary

Ulrich said...

France/Ireland was a much better match than those we saw yesterday, helped undoubtedly by Ireland's early goal. Let's see if the Germans will be able to follow the French into the next round (but, I hope, without conceding an early goal to the Slovaks).

Anonymous said...

jetzt schreibt tim einen kommentar: Deutschland hat sehr gut und souverän
gespielt.Ich glaube im viertelfinale spielt Deutschland gegen Spanien,doch dann gewinnt Spanien und im finale spielt dann Spanien gegen Belgien oder Portugal.

Ulrich said...

@Tim: It's very possible that you will be right. But it is not obvious to me that Spain will beat Germany in a quarterfinal, if Spain actually gets there. So, let's see, and I bet a German win against your prediction.

Ulrich said...

Belgium/Hungary 4:0 looks very lop-sided, which it wasn't. The Hungarians played courageously to win and were at some point closer to tying at 1:1 than the Belgians to scoring their second goal. 4:1, or even 4:2, would reflect the way the match unfolded more accurately.

Pedro said...

Ah, Portugal is back to victories again!
Those were 116 minutes of anxiety, Portugal-Croatia, a very tactical game. Both teams have played to not allow the opponent to play. I understand that for viewers from outside, the game was probably boring, but for supporters, the game was almost 120 minutes of concentration. In my oppinion, in the fisrt 60 minutes Portugal played fearing too much the opponent. But when replacements occured, Renato Sanches entered, introduced more dynamic to the team, and we finally scored. Portugal is not playing a "beautiful" type of soccer, but is playing a more effective type of soccer. I think our defense has improved since the game against Hungary, and I thing the trio Ronaldo, Sanches, and Quaresma is beginning to play very well together. Let's see how the team will play against Poland. Now I am breathing better....

And Germany beat Slovakia, not finding major difficuties, as expected.

Ulrich said...

Pedro: Yes, Sanches was a joy to watch (except for his foul)--he really RAN instead of standing around and popped up in unexpected places.

Alessandro said...

As an Italian, today a couple of friends wrote me that they wished to lose against Spain, only in order to avoid Germany in the quarter finals: Germany are too strong and this time Italy would surely not be able to defend their positive records. Nevertheless, now it's happening: as always, Germany are the favourite, they have the best players and play the best football... It seems impossible they won't be able to win against the old Italian team, but didn't it seem the same also the other times?? It sounds as a very promising and fascinating game!!

Ulrich said...

Alessandro: I'm somewhat surprised at your friends' reaction: Italy is an Angstgegner for the Germans in big tournaments--there is no other team that has beaten us in big tournaments as often as the Italians. Every German soccer fan remembers the semi-final Germany lost to Italy in 2012 because Löw made the fatal mistake of changing his tactics specifically to contain the great Andrea Pirlo (a favorite player of mine)--it backfired horribly.

So, yes, it will be very interesting on Saturday: One of the oldest teams in the tournament will play against the youngest (this is somewhat misleading because some of the very young players that lower the average age of the German team will probably not see action this time around), but anyway, the tactics that Conte employs require an unbelievable amount of running on the part of the outside backs, and it will be interesting to see for how long they can do this against a younger team that is also not afraid of running (you couldn't see this against Slovakia because they did not have to run).

One last comment: However the game ends, I expect it will end on friendly terms. I have the sense that both sides respect each other tremendously and each will congratulate the winner, no matter who it will be. I think your goalie, Gigi (?) Buffon, exemplifies this kind of grace, and I respect him greatly for this.

Pedro said...

Before the next round of matches begin, in my oppinion, I think the favourites are Germany and Italy (from your "side") and Portugal and Belgium (from our "side").
I agree also that Germany-Italy will be a great match - like a final indeed. I think those are the two strongest teams that are currently playing in the EuroCup, although I think Germany has so far, shown more possibilities to win the tournament.

Ulrich said...

Pedro: I won't be able to watch the match, but I wish you and your team good luck. I would have liked to see two of the best forwards in the world battling it out.

Pedro said...

What a Victory yesterday for my team Portugal ! And the team and the Country are motivated again !
Those were another 120 minutes of concentration, although Poland has scored very early, but Portugal was able to score in the first half. I perfered the 1st part, more dynamic, to the 2nd part of the match, which was more tactical. I shall also say that Poland showed to be a very strong team, that could suddenly go from defense to attack at any moment, and defended very well during all the match.
But speaking about my team Portugal, personally I liked very much the performance of Renato Sanches, who scored a great and important goal, Pepe, and of course our goalkeeper Rui Patrício, who defended a penalty, which gave us the advantage of the penalties.
But what I like most in this team of Portugal is the ability to ovecome situations when the team is loosing. That was clear in the match against Hungary (the last match of the group phase), that we were out of the tornament for three times, and for three times the team was able to score and get themself in the tournamnet again (final result 3-3). And yesterday that happened again, when Poland scored very early, but team could find its path to tie, and then, to this important Victory.

Ulrich said...

Congratulations! I caught a few minutes of overtime and the penalty shoot-out. I was impressed by the Portugese kickers: No more trying to guide the ball with the inside of the foot low into a corner--if the goalie guesses the correct corner, he will be able to save it; i.e. he has a 50/50 chance (you could see this with the penalty Özil could not convert for Germany against N. Ireland). The Portuguese instead hit the ball as hard as they could toward the goal at chest height, or even higher in Sanches' case--this was a gutsy kick by the kid. A diving goalie has no chance, no matter which corner he selects.

As to Sanches: I'm looking forward to seeing him play in the Bundesliga next season. I hope he will succeed in Munich--not the easiest environment for young and promising players (see Podolski or Götze).

Ulrich said...

Just saw the starting eleven against Italy and can't believe what I see: Löw changed the tactic and intends to play with 3 inside backs, which forces him to cut Draxler, who was one of the best against Slovakia. It was exactly a tactical change that led to our defeat by Italy in 2012--I hope and pray history will not repeat itself!

Ulrich said...

Italy vs. Italy—that's what we saw yesterday because that's what Löw's tactical change produced: Two teams that used the same defensive tactic to first and foremost avoid mistakes and not allow chances for the opponent. A commentator called it "lawn chess". Some found it dull, but my reaction was very much like Pedro's in the Portugal/Croatia match—I was glued to my chair because the tension under which the players stood and their utmost concentration were palpable. It was the type of match usually won by the team that scores first, and it almost worked for the Germans—but the highly skilled and experienced Boateng, among all people, played an inexplicable handball late in the match that led to a penalty and a tied score. And then we got into a penalty shootout the likes of which I had never seen before (and do not want to see again, at least not when my team is involved).

I was so stirred up emotionally in the end that I wholly agreed with the German TV commentator Mehmet Scholl (European Champion in 1996), who is known, and admired by many, for his bluntness: He lambasted Löw and his scouting team for the tactical change that almost backfired—why strengthen a defense that didn't need strengthening and weaken an offense about to face what's perhaps the strongest defense in the tournament? I shared his anger, perhaps as an outlet for the tension accumulated over more than 2 hours of watching the drama unfold.

After a night's sleep, I'm calmer now, and I can understand Löw's point of view. He wanted to lock down the center because that's where the Italians liked to attack, coming from the outside, and it would have worked as planned if it hadn't been for Boateng's totally uncharacteristic blackout. In the end, it was a match for the history books.

Pedro said...

Congratulations! That was a good match to watch, and very intense as well. I think it was a match between the two teams that were playing better, in my oppinion. I just think that the part of the penalties had not much to do with the rest of the match, and it was a bit surprising for both teams. The match itself was probably the best match of the tournament so far, with both teams trying to score until the last minute of the whole two hours.

kidbrother said...

Oh mein Gott! Dieses Elferschiessen war einer der Momente, warum man all diese ganze - oft sinnlos vergeudete - Zeit damit verbringt, Fussballspiele im TV zu schauen! SO ETWAS habe ich noch nie erlebt...

Zur Taktik: Jogi hat Erfolg gehabt, das Spiel war schlecht. Aber Italien war um eine Klasse schlechter als Deutschland. Nur 36 % Ballbesitz. Also: Verdient gewonnen. Die zweite gelbe Karte von Hummels schmerzt, und die Verletztung von Khedira auch. Jetzt werden wohl Mustafi, Can und Götze kommen. Ein Milchbübchen wie Weigl wird Jogi wohl gegen die kampfstarken Blauen nicht bringen. Mal schauen. Das Gute an der Sache: Nach dem überzeugenden 5:2 gestern Abend ist das deutsche Team nun krassester Aussenseiter. Mal schauen. Vielleicht kommt ja auf einmal Sane in der 75 Minute aufs Feld und schiesst das entscheidende Tor. Eines steht fest: Weder Deutschland wird vom Auftreten mit dem Spiel gegen Italien wiederzuerkennen sein, noch wird es Frankreich gelingen, am Donnerstag ein ähnliches Offensivfeuerwerk abzufackeln wie gegen die braven Isländer.

Für mich ist es ein Wunder, dass Deutschland mit DIESEM Kader das Semi-Final erreicht hat. Nun gönne ich Frankreich den Triumpf. Oder Wales ;-) Auf keinen Fall den Remis-Königen aus Portugal. Wobei das auch schon wieder was für die Geschichtsbücher wäre: Ein Team wird Sieger eines grossen Turniers, ohne auch nur EIN Spiel nach 90 Minuten gewonnen zu haben... Also: Wir haben noch drei spannende Spiele vor uns!

kidbrother (in translation) said...

Oh my god! This penalty shoot-out was one of those moments why one wastes all this time, senselessly, watching soccer matches on TV. I have never experienced something LIKE THAT before…

About the tactic: Jogi succeeded, [yet] the match was bad. But Italy was worse than Germany by a mile—only 36% possession. So, a deserved win. Hummels' second yellow card hurts, and so does Khedira's injury. We'll see now probably Mustafi, Can and Götze. I doubt that Jogi will start a baby face like Weigl against the combat-tested Blues. We'll see. The good news: After France's convincing 5:2 yesterday evening, the German side will start as the clearest underdog. We'll see. Perhaps Sane will come in the 75th minute and kick the decisive goal. One thing is clear: Germany will be unrecognizable from their performance against Italy, and France will not be able to ignite offensive fireworks like they did against harmless Iceland.

It's a miracle for me that Germany reached the semis with THIS cadre of players. I now wish for a French win. Or for Wales ;-) Certainly not for the tie kings from Portugal. Although this would also be something for the history books: A team wins a major tournament without having won a SINGLE match in regulation time…In short: There are 3 exciting matches till ahead of us!

Ulrich said...

Interestingly, Conte, the Italian coach, repeated in his press conference Morten Olsen's observation that I quoted in an earlier comment: The Germans play like a club team rather than like a national side. And again, it was meant as huge compliment. It is for this reason that I am a bit more optimistic than kidbrother about the upcoming match against France--if there is one side able to compensate for the loss of a couple of key players, it's the Germans. Remember Kramer replacing Khedira on the shortest possible notice in the 2014 World Cup final and conducting himself unexpectedly well, given that he had not played a single minute before? Perhaps we'll see the same thing happening with Weigl, who has faced international stars in the Champions' League after all (if I remember correctly).

This is not to say that the Germans are not the underdog--they are decidedly so, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how they will handle the situation.

Ulrich said...

@Pedro: Thanks! Goes to show that different people can watch a match with completely different eyes!

As to the likely formation against France: My guess is that given France's "offensive fireworks" (kidbrother) against Iceland, Löw will stick with 3 center backs (I do not know if there is an English word for Dreierkette [chain of three], or Viererkette [chain of 4], for that matter) substituting Mustafi for Hummels (yes, this hurts); start Weigl or Can for the injured Schweini (perhaps he looked so grim as he walked towards the penalty spot and kicked the ball into the night sky because his foot was already hurting) in midfield; and Draxler for Gomez up front; i.e. he has to do without a true forward because there is no one left in his cadre.

Tactically, the last one will be the most significant change, and it's up to anybody's guess how it will work out--it has been noted many times that true center forwards have been making a comeback during Euro2016, with France's Giroud being an outstanding example the German defense will have to deal with.

Alessandro said...

In Italy, after the defeat there was an incredible sorrow... very unusually, also from my side: normally I'm not so much into the National team, but the way in which they replaced the never-so-low technical skills with passion and order made me fall deeply in love with them. It was really depressing losing a match in this way, with Pellè (much more than Zaza) behaving so stupidly and arrogantly, somehow confirming many of the stereotypes that on the German "tabloids" are continuously used to represent Italy – and that normally drive me crazy. But what to say: this time, selber schuld.

About the match, I don't think at all it was a deserved German victory, as it wouldn't have been if Italy had won: the German ball possession has been sterile most of the times, the best German players (Kroos, Özil, Müller and so on) have been completely anesthetised by the Italian defence, and the goal occasions have been more or less the same. Not to forget to mention the gap dividing the two teams quality-wise: on one side, Kedhira injured, enters Schweinsteiger; on the other, De Rossi injured, enters Sturaro, the 6th (!) midfielder in Juventus team.

Therefore, I would say that it was a very very beautiful, exciting and fair draw; that at the penalties the individualities of the teams came finally out; that Neuer is absolutely the best goalkeeper on Earth; and finally, that if Italy has lost against Germany – which I consider being without any doubt the stronger team on Earth – only at the penalty shoots, it means that "my" team have been just great, over any possible expectation.

The most sincere congratulations to Germany, with one recommendation: don't be too harsh on your coach, destabilising this group is the only way in which you can lose this tournament.

Ulrich said...

Alessandro: Thanks. It's interesting to hear an Italian point of view because as far as I can tell, most Germans, me included, see it somewhat differently—I think Germany was the better team, if only marginally so, because they were closer than Italy to winning the match in regulation time and would have done it if Boateng hadn't had this completely uncharacteristic blackout.

Be this as it may, I am glad that I will never, ever have to hear again about our "Italy trauma", which we, supposedly, have labored under because in 8 matches in major tournaments, we could never beat them (4 ties, 4 losses). To me, this is/was never more than a media fabrication, which almost turned into a reality because the media never stopped talking/writing about it (if you assert something long and often enough, people will start to believe it's true). It reached a point where some players became completely exasperated, like Toni Kroos, who snapped at a reporter, "Why should I have a trauma? I wasn't there!" So, next time we'll play against Italy, the media have to come up with something else to write about.

Ulrich said...

Another observation: In 2010, I created a post on German funk and the eagerness of many Germans to find fault in everything they encounter--as I said, they seem to be happy only when they find reasons to be unhappy. It's at work also in the aftermath of the win over Italy. Instead of being happy and relieved, some Germans follow up, eagerly, on Scholl's critique of Löw's tactic and join the chorus of Löw bashers (I have admitted that in the heat of the moment right after the match, I was one of them, but changed my mind afterwards--I am NOT a professional Nörgler [fault-seeker]). Some of them belong to those Germans who simply cannot be happy, period: They seem to owe it to themselves to always see the negative aspects of anything that comes their way. And then there is the vocal minority of Löw haters, whose favorite meme is that Germany did not win the 2014 World Cup because of Löw, but in spite of Löw, an assertion that lacks any credibility given, for example, what Olsen or Conte said about their coherence as a team--such a team does not form itself by itself, let alone against its coach.

In the same vain: Even people who congratulate Hector for converting the decisive penaly cannot do this, to a man!, without mentioning in the same breath that his shot was, in fact, weak and that it's a miracle Buffon did not save it. My fellow countrymen can be exasperating indeed...

Alessandro said...

I would like to make clear that I definitely don't want to say that the Germany is not a much better team in general, but only that, according to me and to some italian media, it has not been able to show its overwhelming superiority in goal occasions. I also think Boateng's mistake has been overrated, at least because also the German goal was also related to mistakes from the Italian defenders (De Sciglio e Giaccherini) and a fortuitous deflection.
Looking at the statistics (http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/season=2016/matches/round=2000449/match=2017903/statistics/index.html) the only better German performance was ball possession, and – notwithstanding the current football ideology – that's not enough to win a match. Again, I think that in the 120 mins the draw was a very fair result, and that in the penalties you absolutely deserved to win.

I would also like to say that Löw is a great manager: having a team so full of great players like Germany makes his job not easier but more difficult, at least because of the competitive dynamics that sometimes are born in the locker room. Moreover, I definitely agree with Conte (I also find quite difficult to say the opposite): Germany is probably one of the few teams of the tournament (with Italy and Croatia maybe?) that has a clear idea of how to play football. Personally I am not extremely in love with this idea (and I am also quite sure that many of Löw's criticisms are expressing German dislike for tikitaka) but having achieved such a cohesion and integrity is already a great achievement for a national team manager. So take care of him, and good look for your semifinal!!

Pedro said...

Today I will have the pleasure of watching the seventh semi-final Portugal plays in history. I shall mention that I have watched and remember six of these important moments: In EuroCups, France 1984, Belgium/Netherlands 2000, Portugal 2004, Poland/Ukraine 2012, France 2016. In WorldCups, I had the pleasure of watching, one of them in 2006, in the WC in Germany. I haven't watched semi-final of the WC 1966 in England (I wasn't born yet). To make a comparison, France has not reached the semi-finals so many times, and England even less (although both have won Touranments).

But for today, I am optimistic that Portugal will win the match. I am aware that Wales will not be easy to play with, and I will be suffering within a few hours. As na exemple, they have elimitated Belgium, which was one of the teams I most enjoyed to watch in this tournament. I can't remember a game against Wales, but the main reason for my optimism is that Wales plays the same type of game that England does, and usually, that goes well with the Portuguese game.

As always, I hope they can win in the first two halfes of the match, but in this phase of tournament, matches have a total of 120 minutes long that can be played...

So, I think my team is capable of winning this match, and hope this seventh semi will be the ticket to Portugal's second final.

Ulrich said...

I'm also really looking forward to the semis--I'm not prepared to make a prediction in either case (although I do have a slightly better feeling before the match against France than I had before the match against Italy--no reason, just a gut feeling).

BTW Since I'm watching in the US and we do not have a cable suscription, I have to rely on life-streaming on my MacBook to watch the matches--so far, it has worked surprisingly well, courtesy of the Austrian Public Broadcasting System ORF (I like the accent of the commentators anyway).
I hope this will last for the last three matches...

Pedro said...

To the Final!
Portugal's Victory yesterday was special.

I think the coach Fernando Santos who led my Nation's team to the final of the EuroCup desserves a special mention for many reasons:

Two years ago, when he started to coach the team, the first match was in Saint-Dennis (Sunday's final Stadium) and he made the commitment with the team that they would go to the final of the Euro. Before the Tournament started, he promised in public that he would take the team to the final. And he told repeatedly that this team was able to go to the final in any case. During the competition, and mainly during the group phase, the team was much criticized, and many had doubts about the team. And in France, the coach told:
«I say again that we will only return home on July 11 !». Well, there is the team in the final, and Fernando Santos accomplished what he promised.

As an Engineer he is, he is a pragmatic. He coached Benfica, Sporting, Porto, clubs in Greence such as Panathinaykos and Greece National team (he succeeded to Otto Rheagl). He set up a team that plays to win, instead of playing for the beauty of the play, as the precedent philosophy of Portugal's type of playing.

It is not that is rare to keep a promise. But on this occasion, when many doubted, with the pression of critics, I have to highlight the conficence that this special coach had in his team. He accomplished a very hard promise to all Portuguese. Thank you!

About the match itself, it had two diferente parts. A first part more tactical, and a second part more offensive. Personally I enjoyed most my team during the minutes 30-40 of the first part. But in the second, the team was able to score twice. Wales was a good adversary. In my oppinion, Wales was the surprise team of the tournament (along with Iceland). They had Bale, who was always very active during the whole match, and is the type of player that can surprise at any time. I have to say however that they have commited unnecessary faults after being in disadvantage, which was not pleasant. But as all the matches between Portugal and British teams, good plays and goals are allowed, as n yesterday's several occasions.

And now, Portugal will play our second final in History !

Ulrich said...

Congratulations, Pedro! Let's hope it will a repeat of Portugal vs. Germany on Sunday.

Pedro said...

@Ulrich: Thank you! What a great final that would be, Germany vs. Portugal, on Sunday.

Ulrich said...

Ah well...My bad feelings started when Germany could not produce a goal during 30 minutes of crushing dominance--I don't know how often I have seen a team getting punished for this sort of thing. And today was another one of those days.

Still, it is galling when each of the two goals against you are the result of a succession of defensive lapses:
Goal 1--Hector needlessly produces a corner, and then Schweini shows that he can play silly handballs like the best of them.
Goal 2--Kimmich shows his inexperience by losing the ball in the box while trying to be too clever--just kicking it out would have solved the situation. And then Neuer misjudges the ball and clears it insufficiently with his hand (but he was in a difficult situation to begin with because of the poor play of the guys in front of him).

And the French were supposed to have the weaker defense...

Pedro said...

And I thought this time our teams would both meet in the Final...
One thing it would be certain: At least one of us would be very, very happy and proud in the end of the Tournament.

I also think that during the first part, until the penalty, Germany was playing clearly better.

I find it is good to think that such Final, between our teams, may happen, someday.

Alessandro said...

It is really unbelievable that Germany didn't make it to the final. Germany is for sure the strongest team of the competition from the point of view of the individual players, and has also expressed sparks of very skilled football.
Could the only Achilles' heel be a bit too much of self-confidence? I see this in both the problems that Germany has showed by defending and attacking: on one side touching twice the ball in your penalty area (with very experienced players, like Boateng and Schweinsteiger) or not throwing away the ball in a dangerous situation; on the other, creating too little goal occasions in comparison to the ball possession and the technical-tactical qualities showed... Could the players be a bit too confident of being the best ones and part of the best team, and therefore sometimes lacking the concentration and the aggressiveness necessary to win??

Ulrich said...

The press is rather lenient, pointing out that Germany had the chances to at least tie in regulation time. But aside from that, two points of view emerge:

(1) The injuries to Gomez and Khedira and the inelegibility of Hummels created three vacancies that the Germans, with the cadre they had, could not adequately fill. And when Boateng had to leave on top of that, the defense lost its organizer, visible e.g. in the chaos that led to the second goal. But the absence of Gomez, as I have said before, was perhaps the most damaging since there was no substitute in the cadre for his position (Germany simply has a dearth of good forwards, which can be seen when one looks at the number of foreign players in that position in the Bundesliga). Inexplicably, in retrospect, when Reuss got injured and had to be removed from the cadre, Löw replaced him with a defensive player, Tah, who did not see a single minute of action. Which leads to

(2) Löw started with 3 "sixers" (which had worked well in the 2014 final), producing a dominance in midfield that simply overwhelmed the French in the 30 minutes before the half. The flipside was that this left not enough players up front, as shown by the fact that despite their dominance, the Germans didn't create that many first-class chances. And all of this crumbled when, out of the blue (pun intended!), the French got the lead at the end of the half.

So, I do not believe that the Germans were overconfident. It's simply that the injuries and one yellow card too many exposed imbalances in the cadre that otherwise may not have become significant. But all of this is Monday-morning quarterbacking. The Germans played well enough to win the semi, but not that much better than the French to overcome some bad luck. I can live with that...

kidbrother said...

It was the best match of the German team since 2014 against Brazil (7:1). But the "soccer-god" was a French ghost this time. For the Germans, it's good enough to reach the semifinals, after they won the world-championship in 2014. It's more important for France and Portugal to reach the final. I hope we will see a final-thriller with a decision in penalty-kicking on Sunday.

Pedro said...

So tomorrow is the final, France vs. Portugal. And this is most likely, my last post before the final.

For Portugal this is a very important day. And now everybody is thinking in that match.

It is an important match for us, for the following reasons:

- It is a final of a major tournament, and for a country of the size of Portugal (aprox. 10 m. on mainland + 5 m. emmigrants) it is an unique oportunity to win a major competition. In Football, at a Juniour level, Portugal has won two WorlCups (1989,1991). But at a Senior level, The National team has never won a major tournament such as the EuroCup or the WorldCup. The general feeling is that this match is an unique opportunity to finally win such an important title.

- France is the foreign country where more Portuguese emmigrants live. A decade ago, Paris was the second city where more Portuguese were living, righ after our capital, Lisbon. And for those Portuguese that live there, this match is a dream that has become true.

- France National team is our "bête noir". Portugal has lost most of the most important matches againts France, all of them in the semi-finals of these events. We were elliminated from the EuroCups France 84 and Belgium/Netherlands 2000 by France in the semis. And we were elliminated in the WorlCup in Germany 2006 by France in the semis as well. So, there is a general feeling of wanting to win France, definitely.

- Tomorrow will be Portugal's second final but the first final outside our country. The other final we have reached was in the Eurocup 2004 that was in Portugal, againts Greece, match that we lost, unfortunatelly.

So, it is a very important match, against our fearest opponent, playing at our opponent's home. Those are the main reasons why France is the favourite of the match, among others such as that they have defeated Germany, the World Champion.

However, although not being the favourite, I think that is is possible that Portugal can win this match. Precisely, because it is a very important match for Portugal, and an unique opportunity that players will do everything not to give away.

France has surely a very strong team. That is clear. But when taking a closer look, Portugal has for instants, two players playing at Real Madrid (Ronaldo, Pepe) while France has not any. Naturally, a team doesn't win a match because of these facts. But, I want to highlight the experience of the players in such decisive moments such as finals. For example, Ronaldo has a total of 15 finals of which 11 he has won, so far. Speaking about this example, I hope Zidane and Deschamps won't exchange information about these two players,- a common problem of today's football, everybody knows every player quite well (this is just something that came to my mind during these days...). And about being the favourite, in 2004 Portugal was the favourite then, and in the end, Greece has won.

For many reasons, I think it will be a very hard match to play. But since Portugal has this opportunity, I am sure that every player of the team will do all his best to win this tournament. And Ronaldo always had the dream of winning something for the National Team. I am certain that they will do everything.

So, France is the favourite, the game will be very hard for Portugal, but I have hope that Portugal may win this European title. It is time to dream.

I hope my team will be conveniently supported, and particularly, by the emmigrants living in France. I think they would disearve this special present.

Ulrich said...

Pedro: Following kidbrother's reasoning, I'm also rooting for Portugal--after all, France has won the Euro Cup already twice. Good luck!

And I do remember the 2004 final, which I watched in a Portuguese bar here in New Haven. Greece basically parked the bus in front of their goal and got off one lucky punch. Their German coach, Otto Rehagel (who was already a legend in Germany before he took on the Greece job), excused their tactic by saying it was the only one he could do, given the players he had: "Give me Messi and Xavi and I'll show you how offensively we can play." Portugal certainly has some very good forwards--perhaps they'll have better luck in cracking the French defense than the germans had.

Pedro said...

Ulrich: Thank you for rooting for Portugal.
It is time to dream !

Ulrich said...

Pedro: Heartfelt congratulations!

Pedro said...

Ulrich : Many Thanks !

I could never imagine that the first Cup I would ever see my team winning would be against our fearest opponent, playing at his home, without our best player. But, they finally won ! They did it !

I had celebrated yesterday and today I went to see the team's arrival.

I have never seen such a celebation. I have to say that I have never seen my people so happy. The faces expression of the people in the streets is remarkable for me.

It is allways a pleasure to blog here. For all my blog-mates, Ulrich, Kidbrother, Alessandro, it has been a special pleasure this time.

Ulrich said...

Let's do it again in 2 years!

I checked the groups for the qualifying round. Portugal seems to be with Switzerland and Hungary in a stronger group than Germany is with Norway, the Czech Republic, and N. Ireland.

It will be tough to qualify: You're through for sure only if you win your group and out for sure if you place third or are the worst second-place team. The other second-place teams will face each other in a play-off round.

Pedro said...

Let's hopefuly do it again in 2 years.

What a happy coincidence it will hopefully be:
With Germany as the World Champion and Portugal as the European Champion.