Day sixteen of the Euro 2008 tournament saw the long awaited quarter-final between the exciting, young and in form Spain side and the dull, old and out of form Italians.
The game turned out to be a major disappointment for anyone other than the most fanatical connoisseur of the game who may possibly have squeezed some enjoyment out of the defensive qualities of the Italians. For the neutral fan, it was simply the most negative display that you could imagine and one that seemed designed to take the game to a penalty shoot-out.
The tactic worked, but Spain won the shoot-out which was probably for the good of football as a whole.
With the quarter-finals 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 group stages? We will revisit this after the semi-finals and the final.
Holland have won each round up to now but the way they were totally outplayed by the Russians means that they can’t win the award this time. Germany were excellent in their victory over Portugal and Spain thoroughly deserved their victory. However, I’m giving the ‘Hot team’ award to Turkey who have reached the semi-final with the remarkable record of only having been in the lead in matches for a total of nine minutes!
I don’t think they have any chance in the semi-final but the ‘never say die’ attitude they have displayed deserves some recognition.
Not hot team
France have been worthy recipients of this award previously but they can now hand the title over to Italy. The performance they put in against Spain was pretty dreadful to watch. Defensively brilliant, but a horrible spectacle. It was sad to see the world champions playing in such a negative way.
This has got to Casillas of Spain. One great save in the game against Italy and then two saves in the penalty shoot-out. Buffon was good, Boruc was excellent earlier on and others have staked a claim, but the ‘Hot’ keeper at the moment is the Real Madrid stopper.
Not hot keeper
Petr Cech will retain his award and unless any of the keepers throw the ball in their own net to cost them a place in the final or winning the tournament. His calamitous clanger against Turkey will mean that the Czech Republic and Chelsea keeper will win at least one award this season!
In the absence of Cannavaro there was a great deal of pressure and responsibility on the shoulders of Italy centre-half Chiellini. Despite my distaste at the Italian performance last night the young Italian defender was outstanding. He hardly allowed two of the hottest strikers in the tournament to have a kick. He is a deserving winner of the ‘Hot defender’ award. Not sure it’ll make up for going out of the tournament but you never know!
Not hot defender
Eric Abidal was so awful for France the other night that I don’t think anyone is likely to take this title off his hands. All four defences through to the semi-finals have looked good and are far more likely to provide contenders for the ‘Hot’ defender award rather than the ‘Not’ award. Sorry Eric, it’s still you!
Cesc Fabregas had a wonderful season with Arsenal in the English Premier League and must be disappointed not to have established himself in the starting eleven for Spain. However, it is understandable when you look at the likes of Iniesta and Xavi getting selected before him.
In the quarter-final Fabregas came on in the second half and totally controlled the game. Everything Spain did went through him and he was constantly probing and looking to create. He looked like the best player on the pitch.
Then, fittingly, he confidently slotted home the penalty that took Spain to the semi-final. He has given the coach a real selection headache for the next game.
Not hot midfielder
Claude Makelele made the only sensible decision left open to him at the end of this tournament. He retired from international football. As a defensive midfielder over the years Makelele has had few, if any equals. He has been a wonderful player for club and country and has become one of only very few players to have a position on the pitch named after them. You quite often hear people say about players playing in the ‘Makelele role’.
So it is with a very heavy heart that I give this award to a very fine player and realise that it is unlikely that anyone will take it from him. He looked slow, cumbersome and out of his depth in this tournament which was quite clearly one challenge too far. It was a great shame. I wish he had retired prior to the competition.
Although not really an out-and-out striker, this award just has to go to Russia’s Andrei Arshavin who produced the performance of the tournament so far in their victory over Holland. He missed the first two games of the competition through suspension. The two he has played have seen comprehensive victories over Sweden and now Holland. He seems to be very important to the team for both creating and scoring.
If you didn’t see his performance against Holland it is difficult to describe just how good he was. If he performs like that again in the semi-final, don’t even think about betting against Russia making the final.
Not hot striker
Luca Toni has a fine reputation and a very good scoring record. I personally have never seen him play well and I think if I watched him in forty-four matches in this tourrnament, never mind just the four, I still wouldn’t see him score a goal. He was very poor and I suppose his inability may have been one of the reasons the Italians couldn’t play attacking football.
I know Toni must be a fine player but he was truly abysmal in this competition and as a striker he couldn’t hit the proverbial ‘Cow’s arse with a banjo’!
Best of the tournament so far
Russia’s quarter-final performance will take some beating. The Dutch had looked likely winners of the tournament by containing teams and hitting them with lightening fast, incisive counter attacking football. In the quarter-final Russia did exactly that to the Holland side, only they did it better. It was an astonishing performance by Guus Hiddink’s side and was a joy to watch.
Stinker of the tournament so far
Italy’s quarter-final tactics were an insult to the tournament. It has been so good that to see the world champions trying to progress with such a negative style was a real shame. I know that teams have to play to their strengths but surely a country like Italy could find some strength going forward? It really, really wasn’t pretty.
Do you agree with my nominations or do you think there are more deserving recipients for the HOT and NOT awards?
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!