Day eight of the Euro 2008 tournament saw Spain beat Sweden 2-1 and defending champions Greece go out of the tournament losing 1-0 to Russia.
In the early game Spain took the lead after fourteen minutes when Silva chipped the ball into the Sweden area and Liverpool’s Fernando Torres opened his Euro 2008 account at full stretch with a neat finish.
The lead only lasted until the thirty-third minute when the ball fell to Ibrahimovic in the Spain box and he mishit the ball past Casillas who should have done better.
Spain were denied a clear cut penalty on the stroke of half-time when David Villa was flattened but the referee inexplicably waved play on.
The Spaniards gradually took control of the second half but met their match in the Swedish keeper, Isaksson.
As we entered the second minute of injury time with a draw looking inevitable, David Villa latched onto a long through ball and calmly slid the ball past the excellent Isaksson for a deserved winner, despite an unconvincing performance.
In the later game, Greece performed in a far more positive and good manner than they had against Sweden in their first game, but were still unable to overcome Russia despite creating a number of chances.
Konstatin Zyryanov scored the only goal of the game from close range in the 34th minute after Sergei Semak cashed in on Greek keeper Antonis Nikopolidis’s mistake.
It was a pretty poor defence of their title after the shock of Euro 2004, but Greece were never really likely to repeat that amazing performance.
With the second round of matches 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 round? We will revisit this after the next round of matches and the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
Holland were my nomination for this award after the first round of matches and their magnificent 4-1 win over a much improved France means that it is not really possible for anyone to take that title away from them at this stage. Whether Holland will still be the best when it really matters, remains to be seen, but after two rounds, they have no challengers. The other honorable mentions in the first round went to Portugal, Spain and Germany. Portugal have enhanced their position with their 3-1 over the Czechs, Spain won but looked unconvincing against Sweden and Germany fell out of the top group by losing to Croatia.
Not hot team
France took the award after the first round and you would think that after losing 4-1 they would retain their crown. However, I actually think they didn’t play too badly in that defeat and they no longer deserve the title. Italy, however, as World Champions, have been immensely disappointing. After creating little against Holland we all expected them to get back on track against Romania. A 1-1 draw was only achieved by the width of a post and by the brilliance of Buffon. They have to win the ‘not hot team’ award at this point.
Poland’s Artur Boruc won the first round award and then had a cracking game in the second round as well. He is very unlucky not retain his title but I feel that I have to give this to Buffon of Italy. His penalty save was not only a great save in itself, it was also a save that kept his country in the toutnament. From winning the ‘not hot’ award after the first game, Buffon has taken his usual place at the top of the charts.
Not hot keeper
As I said, Buffon was the proud recipient of this award after the first round but he ruined everything by performing at his best against Romania. We have now seen some mistakes by keepers and Casillas certainly staked a claim by not stopping Ibrahimovic’s weak shot. Greek keeper Antonis Nikopolidis made a bad error for the Russia goal, but the award has to go to Switzerland keeper Benaglio. His mistake, when he got two hands to a header but, instead of saving it, could only divert the ball into his own goal, ultimately made the host nation the first team to be knocked out of the tournament. For that he has to be made the winner.
Ujfolusi of the Czech Republic took the first round award but a 3-1 defeat in round two means that he must be ineligible to retain his prize. I am going to give the best defender so far award to a man that I would not have ever considered likely to feature before this tournament. Blackburn’s central defender, AndrÃƒÂ© Ooijer, has been immense for Holland so far and has been unrecognisable from the average defender I have watched playing in the Premier League.
Not hot defender
Pogatetz of Austria was the title holder but a slightly improved performance in his second game means that he has to relinquish the honour. Unfortunately for Italy’s excellent full-back Zambrotta he made the prize his own with his awful, careless header back to his keeper, which Mutu intercepted and put Romania ahead. It doesn’t seem right to give an award such as this to such a great player, but he has left me no choice!
Torsten Frings of Germany took the first round and he continued to impress. However, he failed to prevent Germany losing to Croatia and therefore cannot keep his title. For me, there is only one possible winner of this award. Real Madrid’s Wesley Sneijder gave an absolute master class of the art of midfield play in Holland’s win over France. His wonderful injury time strike capped off one of the best midfield displays I have ever witnessed.
Not hot midfielder
Malouda of France won the award in the first round. He has won it again in the second round and if Raymond Domenech is foolish enough to pick him again, he will almost certainly win it again in the third round! OK, it might sound like I’ve got something personal against the Chelsea man. I haven’t, I promise. It is just that I have never seen him have a good game. Can anyone out there tell me why he is an international footballer?
David Villa deservedly won the award in the first round for his excellent hat-trick. The winner of the prize for the second round is surprisingly a striker who didn’t actually score a goal. Ruud Van Nistelrooy has been a top striker for a long time. If you are a coach or a parent of a young player who is asked to play up front on his own, get a video of the Holland against France game and say ‘just do what Van Nistelrooy did in this game’. Job done.
Not hot striker
Jan Koller was saved from the dubious honour of retaining this award by being dropped by his manager. There have been a few disappointing performances from strikers who are falling well short of their reputations but the winner after round two is Gomez of Germany. I had rarely seen him play bfore this tournament and was looking forward to seeing a player who had such a glowing and growing reputation. He has done absolutely nothing in his two games and has probably been the biggest disappointment of all.
Best of the tournament so far
Holland. Simply an absolute joy to watch.
Stinker of the tournament so far
Malouda (It isn’t personal!)
Do you agree with my nominations or do you think there are more deserving award recipients for the HOT and NOT awards?
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