Day twelve of the Euro 2008 tournament saw the already group winners Spain beat the already eliminated Greece 2-1. Sweden and Russia battled it out for the other quarter-final place with Sweden only needing a draw. They never looked like getting the point they needed and a good Russian side won 2-0.
Russia started well and they created an excellent team goal for Pavluchenko in the twenty-third minute to go deservedly 1-0 up.
Sweden gradually got back into the game but Russia held on until half-time. Less than five minutes into the second half Russia ripped Sweden apart again and Arshavin doubled their lead.
I’m not entirely sure whether Russia were really good or Sweden were really bad, but Russia certainly were impressive. They could easily have won by five goals and the score wouldn’t have flattered them. They will have worried the Dutch who are their quarter-final opponents.
In the dead game between Spain and Greece, Spain fielded a reserve side. Greece took the lead in that game on the stroke of half time when Angelos Charisteas headed in from Giorgos Karagounis free-kick.
Sixteen minutes into the second half Ruben de la Red equalised for a slightly disappointing Spanish reserve team.
Near the end of the game Daniel Guiza gave Spain the win to give them a 100% record, but their reserves were definitely less impressive than Croatia reserves!
With the group stages now completed it is time to look at who is HOT and who is NOT, so far in the competition. Have the award winners changed since the end of the first and second rounds? We will revisit this after the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.
Holland have won the previous two rounds and their only real challengers for the award at this stage are Croatia and Spain. Both Spain and Croatia managed to keep up their one hundred percent records even though they only fielded their reserves.
Another team staking a claim are Turkey who made a magnificent comeback from 2-0 down with fifteen minutes to go to pull off a 3-2 win and a place in the quarter-finals.
Despite the efforts of Croatia and Turkey, comprehensive wins against France, Italy and Romania mean that Holland must take the award again at this stage.
Not hot team
France have been very, very poor. So have Greece. Difficult to choose between the world cup finalists and the defending champions but because of the expectation levels it has to go to France.
PolandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Artur Boruc, Buffon of Italy, Coupet of France and Holland’s Van Der Saar have all been excellent. Boruc was once again outstanding in Poland’s final game and without him, the Poles could easily have been the tournament whipping boys. Whilst I accept that Buffon and Van Der Saar have a chance of wrestling this award away from him in due course, I believe Boruc has shown himself to be a worthy winner at this stage.
Not hot keeper
Switzerland keeper Benaglio won it for his horrible error in the second round of matches. This time the award has to go to Petr Cech, the man many people think is the world’s best keeper. If only for the simple fact that I drew the Czech Republic in the sweepstake and Cech’s error cost me a fiver, he is the worthy recipient of this award!
AndrÃƒÂ© Ooijer of Holland holds the award from round two but he didn’t play in the third game. For that reason he has to relinquish the title and he hands it over to Corluka of Croatia. He was supposed to get a well deserved rest in the third game but had to take to the field as a substitute after only twenty minutes or so. I am finding it hard to remember the immaculate defender putting a foot wrong.
He has been part of a defence who have conceeded only one goal and looked really well organised.
Not hot defender
Eric Abidal takes the award by some considerable distance. He really did have a quite dreadful tournament. After performing poorly at left back in the first game he was left out of the second. In the third and decisive game, Abidal was bizarrely picked at centre half. After one or two early errors he found himself out of position and chasing Toni who was clean through.
He even failed to bring down Toni with his first clumsy foul and had to hit him with another to ensure he conceeded the penalty and got sent off.
He really must wish he had been injured and missed the tournament. He could have told everyone how different it would have been if he had been there!
Michael Ballack has not produced performances of true world class but when the German team needed their skipper to help them out he struck a shot of such exquisite quality and tremendous power that he more than rose to the occasion. In that one moment, Ballack showed just what a great player he is.
Not hot midfielder
Malouda of France has been the runaway winner in this category for the past two rounds but he was spared an inauspicious hat-trick by being left out of the side for the third game.
That makes life difficult for me, but thankfully, his teammate Claude Makelele has totally failed to make any impact on the tournament other than to deliberately commit fouls which could and should have led to him being sent off, as well as arguing with every refereeing decision. He has announced his retirement from international football but I think most French fans will believe he retired three games ago.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy was exceptional in the first and second rounds but his absence from the side in the last game means he has to hand the award over. The new recipient of this pretigious award is the Turkish striker Nihat. He showed great alertness to pounce on the unbelievable error by Petr Cech in the 87th minute to secure an equaliser and then showed great movement and a wonderful finish to bag the winner two minutes later. Pure world class.
Not hot striker
Gomez of Germany was about to run away with the award when Luca Toni managed to miss at least six decent chances for the Italians the other night. It was difficult to imagine anyone being more disappointing than Gomez, but somehow Toni managed to achieve that difficult task.
Gomez managed to miss the easiest chance of the tournament so he produced the (lack of) quality, but Toni produced an unbelievable quantity of misses. It’s so difficult to choose.
The winner is…Gomez, no Toni, no it has to be Gomez for the total incompetence of that one particular miss.
Best of the tournament so far
Still Holland I’m afraid. Even their reserves are damn good!
Stinker of the tournament so far
Malouda escapes this award again virtue of his non-appearance in the third game. I’m afraid that it has to be one of his fellow countymen who takes the award at this stage. Eric Abidal has put himself in a strong position to take the overall award for the tournament. Someone really will have to have a stinker to take it from him.
As an England fan I am absolutely thrilled with the showing of Croatia and Russia! Maybe we weren’t that bad in qualification after all! OK, we were.
Do you agree with my nominations or do you think there are more deserving recipients for the HOT and NOT awards?
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