Day four of the Euro 2008 tournament saw Russia lose 4-1 to Spain and defending champions Greece lose 2-0 to Sweden.
Spain looked very impressive with a hat-trick from David Villa and a late goal from substitute Cesc Fabrigas. Russia were really not in the game at all and scored only a consolation through Roman Pavlyuchenko.
I don’t want to sound anti-Greek but the talk before the tournament was that they would be more expansive than they were in 2004. They weren’t. They were very, very, very boring. I didn’t mind who won but I cheered when Sweden scored!
With the first round of matches completed it is time to look at who is hot and who is not, so far in the competition. We will revisit this after each round of matches and the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
Hard to choose between Spain and Holland with Germany and Portugal getting an honourable mention. Spain were truly awesome against Russia, but how good are Guus Hiddink’s team? They only beat England 2-1 and finished just above us in qualification, so they can’t be that good! Holland, of course, won well against the current World Champions. For that reason, they have to receive the team of the tournament so far award.
Not hot team
Russia produced little in their game with Spain and Greece were so boring that they almost made me switch the television off, but there is only really one candidate for this award after the first round of games. France were so totally bereft of ideas and passion that no other team have come close to matching their ineptitude.
There has been little particularly good or particularly bad goalkeeping during the first few days. I’m going to give the best keeper of round one to Artur Boruc of Poland. The save he made from Ballack in their game against Germany was truly world class. Holland’s Van Der Saar runs a close second, but I think Boruc’s save was the best so far.
Not hot keeper
Nobody has had a real nightmare in goal yet, although I’m sure that will come. I might be being a little unfair here but I’m going to award this unwanted title to Buffon of Italy. Great goalkeeper he has undoubtedly been but I thought he looked a little short against Holland and worry that he might just be past his best.
There has been some great defending in the tournament first round games. The defences of the Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, France, Romania, Holland and xxx have done little wrong. It is hard to choose an individual but I am going to give this to Ujfolusi of the Czech Republic for three reasons. Firstly, I’ve always rated him. Secondly, he played pretty well. Thirdly, he managed to handle the ball in his own penalty area twice without conceeding a penalty!
Not hot defender
Nobody has had a nightmare really but I’m going to give this to Pogatetz of Austria. He got booked for arguing against the most clear cut penalty you could imagine and then tried ever so hard to get sent off by committing at least four fouls in the same incident. It was only due to very lenient refereeing that he stayed on the pitch. To get sent off when 1-0 down in a game of this magnitude would have been very poor indeed.
Again, there have been many candidates for this award. Modric started well and took his penalty with great calmness. Deco rolled back the years and gave a masterclass in passing. Ballack was forceful and inspirational. Iniesta and Xavi were mercurial for Spain and Sneijder was excellent for Holland. For me, however, the star of the midfield in the first round of games has been the German player Torsten Frings. He didn’t put a foot wrong and covered every blade of grass.
Not hot midfielder
No doubt in my mind with this one. Malouda of France was a total waste of space. He has been all season at Chelsea and he was again in the game against Romania. His only serious challengers for this title have been his teammates Toulalan and Makelele who were almost as ineffective.
David Villa notched a hat-trick for Spain against Russia. All three goals were excellent. He is a worthy winner and has staked a very early claim for the ‘Golden Boot’. Podolski, Nuno Gomez, Ibrahimovich and Ruud Van Nistlerooy all had their moments but you can’t argue against a hat-trick.
Not hot striker
I’ve always had a great deal of time for Jan Koller of the Czech Republic and believe he has been a hugely underrated striker over the years. Now however, at the age of thirty-five, he has to be the most static striker I have ever seen. Unless the ball is delivered absolutely one hundred percent accurately to him, he is not interested at all. His international days must be coming to an end. Nicolas Anelka is lucky that Koller was so bad!
Best of the tournament so far
David Villa. A hat-trick in a major championships is very rare indeed. For example, there have only been seven in the last five world cup tournaments. There were no hat-tricks in Euro 2004. They are special when they happen and Villa’s deserves to be recognised as the highlight so far.
Stinker of the tournament so far
France – No need to say anymore.
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