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JV
Posted on Saturday, June 12, 2004 - 11:23 am:   

Anyone else watching the European Championship? I just watched Portugal versus Greece. Portugal's defense was suspect early, they had no right winger on offense it seemed--at least, he didn't put in an appearance most of the time when crosses came over the middle to him--and although the offense was more imaginative later in the game, you could also say Greece went into a defensive shell and that allowed Portugal more room to work, and more time to think. Greece also played some very good, disciplined defense.

Spain versus Russia up next.

Who's rooting for what teams? Any observations? Predictions?

JeffV
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Luke Brown
Posted on Sunday, June 13, 2004 - 04:50 pm:   

Jeff, unfortunately the free to air stations are showing very few matches here, if any. But from the highlights I saw, France's comeback last night was amazing. Which is good because Australians always like seeing the English lose. Zidane is a wizard. Though giving away that penalty was sloppy defence. Funnier every time I think about it.

Who am I going for? Maybe Spain, because they always play exciting soccer but choke when it counts. I'd like to see them go on with it for once. I'll probably firm up on a team as the comp goes on. What about you?

BTW, finished your book. Couldn't put the damn thing down. If I fail my exams, it's your fault.
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neilw
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 01:26 am:   

Jeff - Euro2004 (as you know all football tournaments do) excites the pants off me. Unfortunately, I missed the first day of it due to my sister's wedding (Greece beating Portugal was a bit of a shock), so yesterday a bunch of the guests who were still hanging around settled down for Croatia v Swizterland. Most of us were asleep before half time. Awful, awful stuff.

Em and I drove home after that and caught the second half of the England,France match. Much better game, gripping stuff towards the end. England defended well for almost the whole game, but taking off Rooney for Heskey was a mistake, but as Luke says above, Zidane's kicks were just amazing. As a Scot, I will politely refrain from describing the glee with which I texted my brother (who was watching the game with my new English brother in law), "Ne gloatez pas".

I honsetly think just about *anyone* (with the exception of Latvia) could win this. I always think Spain have the potential, but they rarely fulfil it, and if the Dutch play as well as they can, they could storm it, but might end up fighting among themselves. France and England both looked capable last night. Who knows? I'm certainly looking forward to the rest of it now.
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Martin
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 01:47 am:   

Gutted about England's last minute collapse but you can't help but admire Zidane's strikes. Neil, anything involving Heskey is a mistake, I'm baffled by his repeated selection.

The Greece vs Portugal game was a great start to the competition.
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stuff
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 03:26 am:   

I had no idea you were a football fan, Jeff. Remarkable.
More remarkable still is why S-G Erikson took off the best player on the pitch for the first 60 mins play and replaced him with the worst player in the squad by a country mile. I can't describe my dismay.

After 60 mins of playing exactly the right way against a team so creatively destructive as France, why decide to defend so deeply that Beckham & Gerrard, players of the highest quality and England's greatest assets, became centre backs and unable to do anything of much worth?
Utter foolishness.

But the tournament is shaping up well I think. Looking forward to Italy playing tonight. I think that from a pretty wide open field, they might have the best chance this year. Solid at the back like none of the other big teams, but still fearsome coming forward. Although I won't rule out England just yet.
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neilw
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 05:30 am:   

You can only assume that Heskey's in the squad to provide the "old-fashioned-centre-forward" option (the long punt or the high cross into the box against especially burly defences). He certainly has more of a physical presence than Owen, Rooney and Vassell, but surely Alan Shearer could have been wheeled out again if that's what's in Erikson's mind.

Italy - you might be right, stuff, but they won't find any of their group matches easy. If I remember rightly, England found Denmark something of a handful a few months ago, and Sweden and Bulgaria are at least as good, if not better. Tonight's games are going to be good I think.
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keithb
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 05:56 am:   

Yes, I've been following it too. Good result in the England-France match, wasn't it? I watched up to the 90 minute mark, then had to go out. Doubt I missed much: England had it sealed up by then. 1-0 against France, eh? What a start!
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JV
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 06:06 am:   

I was gnashing my teeth here because I'd ordered the France-England game but through some kind of glitch, it didn't come on and because it was a Sunday, I couldn't get through to the cable company to have them manually get me the game...so I missed it...Argghh!!!

Of course, it's going to cost me $20 for each game I want to see, so I have to try to be selective, which is killing me.

Yes, "stuff," I'm a huge football fan. I used to play in high school--usually left back. I never miss a single World Cup game on TV if I can help it, even if I have to take vacation time.

JeffV
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 06:22 am:   

It's almost worse to have bought the entire 179 dollar package, which I did, then realize you have so many deadlines, you have to tape the damn games -- and so then you end up half-watching the games, half doing your work. Well, anyway, thanks to this thread, I know that I shouldn't worry about missing Croatia v Switzerland.
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neilw
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 06:31 am:   

We're fortunate in Europe that the broadcast rights are preferrentially given to public broadcasters. Here that means the BBC and ITV sharing the games and also providing later highlights shows every day - which is great if you miss them (as I will with Sweden & Bulgaria tonight).

My major challenge this week is getting work done by 5 and across the road to the pub in time for kick off. :D
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neilw
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 06:35 am:   

Lucius, missing Switzerland v Croatia is one of life's blessings.

Keith - if you *really* went out at the 90 minute mark (and I don't believe that for a minute), that would be even more of a blessing than missing the earlier game - unless you were desperate for a lesson on taking penalties. Seriously, I feel your pain. That loss was the kind of stunt normally reserved for the likes of us!
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JV
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 06:40 am:   

As I emailed to Neil, watching Croatia/Switzerland was like paying to have someone slowly hammer a nail into your eyeball.

Lucius--I'm debating the package. I'm not sure I'll be around enough to make it worth my while--also not sure my cable company offers it. I should probably check.

Jeff
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Stuff
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 07:05 am:   

With regards to the physical presence of Emile Heskey, even that, which I agree is his most attractive virtue, is virtually non-existant in truth since he falls over if anyone comes near him. If presence was what Erikson was after I would have brought Alan Smith along for the ride.

Personally I'd start the next game with Defoe instead of Owen. And hide Heskey's boots. Vassel has a handy knack of picking up goals for England but I wouldn't want to be relying on him. I think Defoe could be a tremendous 'impact' player for England if they choose to loose him.

Italy do have the most challenging group, but I think they have the most 'complete' first XI as long as their Totti and Del Piero can bring something to the table and look bothered about winning.



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JV
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 07:08 am:   

Yes, the Italians always look so *bored* and languid, don't they?

JeffV
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stuff
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 07:15 am:   

Del Piero I think has been a little bit bored of football for about 5 years now, which is a shame since he's such a prodigiously gifted player.
Italy are so solid and organised at the back that if they find real danger up front they would be unstoppable.
If not Italy then I think Holland, France or England will take it, all of whom have great squads but undeniable flaws. It's been a great opening to the championship though. I get home from work just in time for the first of the evening's matches each night, as if I didn't have enough reason to get out of here at the earliest possible opportunity...
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stuff's narrator
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 07:17 am:   

He said, neglecting the Portuguese and Spanish... although in truth he was fearful of Portugal surviving a group in which they've already lost to the weakest member. Out of the two he considered Spain to have have the calibre, but after cruelly putting the Republic of Ireland out on penalties in the World Cup in 2002, he would be railing against them at every opportunity.
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neilw
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 07:32 am:   

That languid look can be deceptive though. Their defences are always well organised and very hard to break down and they have some exceptionally hard working midfielders. Yet, their appearance is almost bored isn't? I hear they are very focused this year, so we'll see what happens.
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JV
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 07:43 am:   

It is deceptive. It's just a reflection of their style of play, I suppose. What it takes England a lot of huffing and puffing to accomplish looks like it takes a tenth of the energy for Italy.

Jeff
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stuff
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 08:09 am:   

Absolutely. One thing you can be sure of with Italy is that when they go a goal up, they will barely ocncede a goal thereafter, let alone 2 in the last 2 minutes of play.
The only thing that Italy might suffer from is Trappatoni's team selection. Fiore and Pirlo tend be subs for Italy, when they are instrumental for their clubs, probably the two best midfielders Italy have. But they don't fit the coach's formation. It's like leaving out Viera and Pires, or Scholes and Beckham. Italy have a raft of awesome strikers (I didn't even mention Vieri earlier, or Montella, Inzhagi... England would torture puppies for that kind of depth in the front line) but they'll need some creative support, whereas Italy tend to go for a hard-grafting midfield these days rather than expansive playmakers.
I'll be watching them line-up in about an hour i think.
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neilwilliamson
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 08:24 am:   

It baffles me that he can leave Pirlo out, although if they have problems you might well see him and Fiore introduced to try a different shape. I like Gattuso as well of course. Perhaps, they're just spoiled for choice?

Jeff - I think it's a refelction on their style of living as much as anything else. If they were allowed to play wearing sunglasses, they surely would. They usually have the coolest couture strips as well :D
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 08:33 am:   

Jeff, way I figure it, I'm gonna have to catch the flu to watch all the games. But it might be worth it. :-)
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stuff
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 08:36 am:   

Gattuso is a great midfielder, and I think he should provide the meat while Pirlo and Fiore serve the sauce.

I'm leaving work now to go watch the match.
Enjoy it folks!

I'm glad we have this thread now. It'll make the tournament even more enjoyable to be able to discuss the ins and outs with such an international crowd.

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neilw
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 08:39 am:   

Absolutely. Enjoy the games, stuff.

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JV
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 09:22 am:   

Yes--enjoy the games. I envy you!

I think I might have to start going home at lunch and watching...

JeffV
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neilw
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 09:24 am:   

I'm just leaving work now, Jeff. Denmark v Italy is currently 0-0, but Denmark are bossing the game so far.

neil
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Erik J.
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 09:35 am:   

My local cable canceled FSW a year or two ago to add yet another lifetime/Oxygen/W.e. channel, so no more getting up early on the weekend to watch premier league or bundesliga. And thus, alas, i have not seen any of the games yet. I do hope to sneak out early tomorrow to catch most/all of Holland/Germany at a local watering hole with satellite that is offering the games. Although my ethnicity should have me pulling for the swedes or germans, I'm rooting for clockwork oranj. Holland, Italy, and France appear to be the class of a deep group. As usual, the german team doesn't look comparable, or even in the next tier in which i'd put at least england and spain, but also as usual, i wouldn't be surprised to see the germans in the final. In fact, i'll be very surprised if the final is not two of Holland, Italy, Germany, and France . Praying for a France/Holland final, won by Holland 4-2 (last dutch goal in closing seconds), all goals bits of sublime beauty scored in the run of play. Fearing a dull Italy/Germany 1-0 Italy win, header off a set piece.
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stuff
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 10:35 am:   

I've been watching and working at the same time for most of the match, but the work is done and I can devote myself to the last half hour.
It was an invigorating first half, great to see Denmark having a real go at the Italians. The Italians are beginning to swing things back their way though... I think Denmark will need to score soon if they are to get anything from the match because I don't believe they will keep up the energy needed to shut out the Italians for too much longer.

Woah! big chance for Denmark there, needed a great save form Buffon. This is great stuff.
I do think the Italians have needed the creativity mentioned earlier in the midfield though.
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stuff
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 11:40 am:   

A scoreless draw, then. Great result for Denmark but they'll be a little disappointed all the same. They could have nicked it at a couple of times. Denamrk look strong enough to go through the group stages and could conceivably challenge anyone in the competition.

Bulgaria-Sweden next... not just so exciting, but i'll be watching all the same. Sweden can be a force of their big players turn up.

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JV
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 02:04 pm:   

I've been keeping track of Bulgaria via ESPN game cast. They seem a bit...er, dismal.

JeffV
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Derryl Murphy
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 02:28 pm:   

Thanks to Neil for telling me this was going on; great to see a discussion happening. All I could do was gripe to my wife about the England-France game, singularly unsatisfying since she doesn't play, doesn't watch.

Canada has most of the games on free cable, although a few are on FSN Canada, which I don't pay for. Those re-run later in the day, if I choose to put my hands over my ears and eyes until then.

Big goaltending duel this morning; Denmark is really looking unlucky with the whole "score goals if you want to win" thing, and after Sweden manhandling Bulgaria today, I can see them paying dearly for not converting.

D
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Iain Rowan
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 02:50 pm:   

God, there's been so much crap talked in the media about how valiant and lion-hearted the England performance was, even though we lost (and oh Stevie, why you...).

And for stretches of the game, we really weren't too bad. But come on - you're playing one of the best teams in the world with *the* two best attacking players in the world, you go one up...and you sit back to defend and let them do what they do best. And you're not Italy. Madness.

Only thing that surprised me was that the goals didn't come sooner, there was that terrible feeling of inevitability for about the last half an hour. The French would have possession, an England player would win it off them - and then go into an impression of a headless chicken who despite having no ears, eyes or brain has just noticed something *really* scary -and hoof the ball upfield, where there is nothing but bleu.

We so needed someone who would put their foot on the ball, sloooooooow things right down, and keep possession. But nah, let's just give it straight back to the French so we can show again what lions we are in defence. Smart.

Still, at least it's only international football and not the really important kind.

The Greek result was great and made a friend of ours very happy, Spain did ok but will doubtless bottle it in spectacular fashion at some point, Denmark looked really good I thought, reminiscent of when they won the EC, because they play as a *team*. Croatia and Switzerland, erm, ok, don't book the hotels too far in advance chaps, and I think the result today flatters Sweden.

Holland v. Germany tomorrow should be a good one. Because they are both strong sides, and because the inevitable amount of needle between the two of them.
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JV
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 06:12 pm:   

It turns out that there is a package deal, so I'm getting it. But I won't be checking this board tomorrow until late, because I'll have to tape both games and watch them tomorrow night...

BTW--when we get to 100 posts, I'll archive and start a new thread.

I'm rather glad I finished my novel the week before this began, because otherwise I wouldn't have finished my novel until July...

Jeff
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keithb
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 12:12 am:   

Ha! Well done on finishing the novel, Jeff. Me? I still haven't quite started the novel I should have started a couple of months ago, and now, well, how am I going to start now?

I was down in London at a publishing do so I missed yesterday's games, which is a shame, as the Sweden game sounds like it would have been fun. I called home and my 9 year-old son told me it was 5-0 and Lampard had scored twice: with Ed's version of the games I get a whole parallel-universe Euro2004, which may not be an altogether bad thing.
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Stuff
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 01:37 am:   

Iain, there's no doubt it was a wrong-headed tactic to drop back so deep, but until the free-kick I still think Frnace never looked like scoring. They hadn't created a chance on goal the whole night and were just lumping balls in the area where they were easily (if short-termly) dealth with. Which is why Emile Heskey's Jackie Chan approach to tackling right in the most dangerous area of the pitch is all the more unforgiveable.

Sweden certainly were flattered by the result. I watched the first half and thought both teams were pretty even with Sweden a bit fortunate to be one up. then went out for a kick around with my younger sister at half time, got a bit carried away, came back in and it was 3-0. Cracking diving header from Larsson though. Bulgaria just gave up after that.

I'm hoping Germany get a similar thrashing this evening. I would love to see the Dutch play at their very best. It's always a joy. Although they've had an awful build-up to the tournament. If they remember how to play as a team we'll hope see something special this evening.
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neilw
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 02:03 am:   

Looks like we were right about Italy's group being a tough one. Denmark played very well, and Buffon had a fair bit of work to do to keep them out.

Bulgaria I feel sorry for, from their first half performance they were closer to Sweden than 5-0 suggests, but the Swedes took their chances well and Bulgaria didn't. I am so glad that Larsson/Lampard has left Celtic - that diving header was the kind of stunt he used to pull against us on a regular basis.

Like Jeff, I'm going to be taping the Dutch/Deutch clash tonight, but there could be fireworks at that one.
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neilw
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 02:09 am:   

Iain - to be honest, England just looked like they lacked a bit of experienceplaying at this level. I thought they did defend well, but like you say, the last 20 mins protecting a goal of a lead, you want your midfield in the midfield keeping posession - not in the box punting it back with a wave and a cheerful, "bad luck chaps, have another pop".

When it comes down to it though you might well have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for two mistakes.

You'll still get through to the next round at least though.

neil
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neilw
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 02:18 am:   

Stuff - we had Germany in the qualifiers - certainly not on top form), and in the play-offs we saw both sides of the Dutch. Away they were beatable, but on their patch they were devastating. *shudder* Sorry, bad memories.

Like you, I'd like to see the Germans humped, but I think it'll be close.
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Martin
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 02:32 am:   

The Denmark/Itlay game was great, lots of positive football on both sides. Denmark seem a bit of an inverse Holland - not exactly bursting with individual talent but a cohesive whole. Plus the European Championship aways seems to bring out the best in them.

Missed the Sweden game because I was drunk.
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Luis
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 11:42 am:   

Well, to say Greece beating Portugal was a shock is one way of putting it. :P The Portuguese team, which played like it was on sedatives, should have seen it coming. Greece defeated Spain in the pre-championship matches in very much the same fashion: scoring an early goal and then pulling back to defend with the entire team. The penalty goal in the second half just sealed our fate.

Portugal can't afford to lose any more matches now. I'm curious to see how we'll do against Spain.

Sweden, now there's a shock too. Bulgaria could have reversed the score by half-time, but like you said, they didn't take any chances.

I actually missed most of the France-England match, which sucks. I would have loved to see that one.

Outta here now. Germany vs. Holland starts in 10 minutes, I definitely won't miss this one, and will be rooting for the Dutch. Enjoy it, all!

Best,
Luís
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Luis
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 12:49 pm:   

Half time. Good game so far, it would be better if only the Dutch were playing at the top of their form. A team practically full of forwards and only two shots on goal. The coach may bring Kluivert in for the second part, here's hoping for a more aggressive Dutch team.

Germany, on the other hand, is energised despite the recent string of defeats (notably versus Romania in April, which they lost 5-1). Amazing how they bounced back.

Best,
Luís
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Dave G.
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 02:33 pm:   

Stuff, I'm a fellow Italy fan and you obviously know way more about the game than I do, but I was eating my heart out reading your assessment of how the Italians are unstoppable with a one goal lead. The final of Euro 2000 still smarts! :-)
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 06:08 pm:   

It's difficult to tell, now having watched the Dutch-German game, whether it was two heavy weights slugging it out, unable to find many chinks in each other's armor, accompanied by a few opening-game jitters...or whether both teams are overrated and not likely to make it much further. I have to say, I was much more impressed by the Czech Republic, although they were playing much inferior opposition.

JeffV
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 07:04 pm:   

Any predictions, based on play thus far, on who is going to win their respective groups?

JeffV
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Derryl Murphy
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 10:05 pm:   

France, pretty likely. The Czechs, maybe. Spain and Italy, probably. But there are so many teams that can't be ruled out.

Van Nistelrooy's goal today was a marvel.

D
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Luis
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 11:47 pm:   

Re Holland vs Germany: probably a bit of both, they played more like two former heavy-weights, etc. . . . The match wasn't as exciting as I had anticipated, although part two was livelier than the first. Still, the Dutch disappointed me, I hoped for a much more aggressive style of playing.

Likely winners: my bet's on France, and I wouldn't be surprised if they won the cup as well. Sweden (I don't know about Italy anymore, they'll probably get in second), and Spain (although Greece may yet have something to say -- either way, bleh). Group D is tougher to predict. The Czechs could win the group, alright, although the Dutch may have just had a bad day, while the Germans might still regain a degree of their former glory, if yesterday's match was any indication.

Best,
Luís
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neilw
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 01:34 am:   

I was disappointed by Holland v Germany as well. It felt to me as if they were both too afraid of making a mistake to commit to concerted attacks. Lots of hard tackling and very little incisive passing made it all very disjointed.

Having said that I think it's still too early to tell. Holland, Germany, Italy, Portugal, even England, have all started with a wobbler but if they find their form in the next match could end up winning it.

Spain, the Czechs, France and Sweden have started better, but the likes of Denmark and Greece could also go as far as the final if they keep their game on track.

Great - I love it when the competition is as open as this.
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Stuff
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 05:18 am:   

I was pretty impressed with the germans last night, comparitively speaking. After an awful build-up I thought they'd be a bit of a non-entity this year but they looked pretty tricky. Of course the Dutch didn't make it too hard for them in the first half and when they did make more effort in the 2nd half the match was altogether different.
The Dutch seem a little lost as to how to play to their strengths. Again they had a very disapoointing build-up to the tournament and never really conceived a fixed formation or strategy. Isolating van Nistelrooy is wasting one of the most clinical forwards in the game right now and they are fortunate that he is of the kind of quality to put away the one chance he got, and it was a half chance at that. Terrific finish.
I think both teams will get better as things progress. Like England, France and Italy they both met pretty tough opposition in their first match so it's maybe wiser to wait until the second run of matches to assess things.

I'll miss Portugal's match tonight, sadly. I'm still hoping they'll find themselves in this tournament and go through with Spain.
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stuff
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 05:22 am:   

Incidentally, what kind of commentary do you guys in America get on the games? Is it American presenters etc? I would hope it was possible for you to find the British coverage of it somewhere. the BBC do it very well indeed.
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neilw
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 05:47 am:   

That's an interesting point, Stuff. I was in the States during the last world cup and managed to enjoy the ESPN coverage (even though the gmaes started at 3.00am). I thought the American commentators were pretty well informed, and they used the odd Irish or whatever pundit to add the European slant. It was pretty good all in all - and a refreshing change from Motson.
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 05:47 am:   

Thankfully, I'm getting the BBC coverage!
Jeff
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Derryl Murphy
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 09:01 am:   

TSN has Canadian commentators (well, one's a Brit) for the pregame and half time, and then they go to the BBC. There's nothing like them, so I'm thankful for it.

D
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neilw
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 09:02 am:   

Luis - good luck tonight. I'll be rooting for Portugal, and Spain too of course. Really want that final group game to be a thriller!
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Luis
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 11:36 am:   

Thanks, Neil. I hope the Portuguese team can put last Sunday's match behind it and play like it did in the last European championship in France.

Just watched Greece vs Spain. God knows how the Greeks keep pulling it off, because even though they have a handful of good players (Charisteas, for example), the team as a whole is weak, especially when it comes to holding the mid-field. They are remarkably conservative in their playing style, it doesn't make for very exciting football.

Best,
Luís
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Dave G.
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 05:04 pm:   

I caught France-England and they were using British commentary from ITV. Exasperating in that they didn't introduce anyone. I'm sure they are all household names in the UK, but not to casual US fans. (They also throw in a lot of "common knowledge" type comments about this or that from the Champions League competition, much of which is, unfortunately, lost on me.) However, I love listening to the way they describe the nuances of the game. You can actually learn something about the game from UK announcers, unlike US color men, who mostly insist in talking about themselves.
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 06:36 pm:   

Some team will make Greece pay and they'll be out.

Portugal I thought played okay, but against Spain it'll be two teams with excellent skill levels who cannot seem to score enough goals. I'm not sure who will win that one, but I'll be watching.

Jeff
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neilw
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 01:30 am:   

Greece are a surprise, aren't they? And, in their dull but effective way, they've got themselves into an excellent position. They only need a draw against Russia - patently the group's weakest time on account of not being able to keep all their players on the field - and they're into the next round.

Portugal and Spain, I'd love them both to qualify but like you say, Jeff, they're passing up a lot of chances. Going to a dramatic decider between them right enough.

neil
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stuff
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 01:55 am:   

Yesterday's match really put me off the greeks, I have to say. They did well to get back in the game when Spain were dominating so much but I loathed the way they stayed on the ground every time they were tackled so that the Spanish had to kick the ball out of play to allow treatment when there was obviously nothing wrong. Terribly unsportsmanlike and not at all in the spirit of the game. So hopefully Russia will put paid to them. The Russians are a good team but both nationally and at club level they can never play away from Russia for some reason.

I have to say I think the Spanish will edge out Portugal simply because Portugal don't have a force up front, Both are creative throughout the squad but Portugal don't have anyone like Raul and Morientes up front to be clinical in front of goal. I think Spain have just shown a lot more cut & thrust, although I missed Portugal last night so I don't know how good they were. Anyone want to fill me in? Was it more encouraging?

Due to the England match's early start today I'm going to miss the first half I think. Grrr...

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neilw
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 04:11 am:   

Portugal were very slick. Good passing, good movement - but like Spain, their ability to stick the ball in the net was lacking. They should really have closed out the game alot earlier and been able to relax and enjoy themselves. Like you say, Spain at least have two of the two strikers in the game right now, but they've not warmed up to the tournament yet. Portugal don't have that luxury, and Figo has been an enormous disappointment for me, but they do have a fluid, penetrating system and younger players like Maniche and Cristiano Ronaldo are looking very sharp indeed.

It's all very close, but I think I've worked out correctly that if Portugal beat Spain by a goal and Russia beat Greece by a larger margin then Spain and Portugal can still both go through. I stand to be corrected on that by any passing statisticians.

Tonight should be the game that England get their challenge back on track - but the first round of games have shown that there's no certainties in this tournament. Switzerland might just frustrate you to the final whistle.

neil
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stuff
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 04:50 am:   

Absolutely. The Swiss have some great players in their team, most notably Hasan Yakin and Chapuisat. They could be a very frustrating team top play against. But hopefully England will manage to wake up Michael Owen and Rooney will continue his form, and if they defend as well as they did against france for 92 minutes then it shouldn't be a big struggle.
Erikson's gone back to the Diamond Formation, which i'm still unconvinced about, but with Scholes fit, it does suit his style better than having him out wide on the left.

Any thoughts on the controversy over Totti's spitting? Italy's most important player could get sent home after just one match in a tournament he was meant to make his own.

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neilw
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 06:13 am:   

England have a few players that need to be woken up - Owen and Scholes are two of them. I'm not sure Scholes' ineffectiveness against France was totally due to his being played on the wing, but we shall see what happens tonight.

Totti? Oh dear, the man's an idiot. He showed some sublime pieces of skill against Denmark, but the spitting was right out of order. I hear he's been given a three match ban - which means he won't play until the semi's if they get that far. I'd have lobbed him out of the tournament.
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JV
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 06:31 am:   

Today I'm unable to tape the games, so will pick them up via espn.com, text updates.

I really hope the Italy-Sweden game is a good one, since I plan to be home tomorrow to watch that one live.

There are a few teams that need to wake up, really. It's unfortunate.

Jeff
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JV
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 06:52 am:   

Re BBC coverage--I have to say I like it as change from American sports reporting. I mean, they sit around and just basically chat about the game. And there's stuff that just cracks me up, as when they flashed the stats on some French guy named Ballocks, which in one of the Scottish announcer's accent became "bollocks", and one of the other announcers said, "well, I think that says it all." I mean, it's very England-centric, but I really enjoy it. It has some flavor to it.

JeffV
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Martin
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 12:11 pm:   

Ah, that Wayne Rooney, he can move well for a fat lad.
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JV
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 12:43 pm:   

Ha.

Did England look as "dire" as ESPN makes out?

Jeff
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Luis
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 04:53 pm:   

Figo is getting old. The coach did well to take him out of the game in the match against Russia, it's quite clear that the team needs new blood in it. I hope to see Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo up front as soon as possible in the match against Spain, they've already proven their worth in the championship.

Also, Portugal needs to learn some organisation. Attacking, especially, but also when defending. Players tend to get way too anxious when the ball approaches either end of the pitch . . .

I'm not seeing many long passes forward, either. We seem to have forgotten those are partly the reason why Portugal survived to the final against France in 2000.

Croatia vs France -- did anyone see that?!

Best,
Luís
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neilw
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 01:34 am:   

I don't think England were "dire" as such Jeff, but they certainly seemed quite content to let Switzerland do all the attacking in the first half. I was watching it with a friend who commented, "The Swiss are going to have to score from one of these chances or they're going to regret it..." And thus it was. One attack and Englandwere a goal up. Thought Haas was unlucky to be sent off, and after that it was really a matter of time before England made the advantage count. Three nil is a solid scoreline, but it's a bit flattering. They'll have to start taking the initiative in games.

Croatia and France - a two each draw constructed entirely from fortunate goals. France seemed keen just to pack up and go home when they fluked their first one - after all there was no way little Croatia could come back against them was there? But in the second half Croatia really had a go and it became a decent match. Worth watching just for Zidanes flicks and tricks.

neil
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stuff
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 02:15 am:   

Emgland weren't dire, but they were workmanlike at best. I agree that Owen certainly needs to wake up. He looked very lazy (forgiveable perhaps given 40C temperatures) not offering a lot of movement for the midfield to pick him out. Rooney needs a partner up front (although he's doing pretty well with a comatose Owen so far), a lively Owen would really compliment Rooney's style and England would really look dangerous then.
But as just about everyone said after the match yesterday the result was the important part.
Croatia looked pretty decent against France (who again failed to impress me much). England only need a draw against them now, but I'd love to see England really liven up now, give Rooney a bit of support and really unleash him.
I would give Kieron Dyer a crack on the left wing and drop Lampard to allow Scholes a central role. I think if he was in the same role as he plays for Man Utd, he'd be able to link up the play more effectively and allow Rooney and Owen to play further up the field.

Incidentally, I'd prefer King back in defense to Terry, who gave away a lot of free kicks round the box yesterday. He didn't seem as in control of Frei and Chapuisat as King looked against Henry and Trezeguet - and that's telling.
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Dave G.
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 07:03 am:   

Indulge a relative soccer neophyte's observation: doesn't it seem as though England can only put forth about 45 good minutes' effort? They utterly wilted in the second half against France; I didn't see the Switzerland game, but it sounded as though much of the first half of that game, the Swiss were on the offensive.

Could there be some conditioning problems with the England side?
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stuff
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 07:29 am:   

The heat over there is fierce... Over here in Northern Ireland we start to wilt at anything over 22C; break 25 and we start looking up the record books and (personally) stay indoors to escape the "blazing" heat.
In the temperatures they are playing in over there I wouldn't reach the centre circle when the team first runs on the pitch before slowing to ambling 'jog'. (My jogging tends to consist of walking with a little more animation to denote effort).
I think teams playing in countries such as portugal, spain etc do have a slight advantage in that way. But some careful use of resources should allow players to stay fresh. When England brought on Vassel, Hargreaves and Dyer, the whole team seemed energised again because those players were fresh enough to put themselves about.

I think the entrenchment of England against France was psychological rather than physical. Even against Switzerland they sat pretty deep for much of the match, hence my comment about Scholes playing in the middle above. I'd like to see the England team en masse play from about 10-15 yards further up the pitch. They have holding "presence" players and competent enough passers of the ball who can make the midfield a lot tougher to play through than what it is at the moment because we're so deep. I'm a firm believer in attack being the most effective form of defence and there's no doubt England have been negative in their approach so far.
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JV
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 09:39 am:   

You know, I hate to be cruel, but I'm watching the Bulgaria Denmark game and even though it's 0-0, Bulgaria really looks like they would be more comfortable playing some other sport--like, say, bowling...

Jeff
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JV
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 10:56 am:   

I take that back--bowling is too good for them. I wouldn't want to see them play tiddly-winks at this point. What an excruciatingly bad match on their side.

JeffV
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Dave G.
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 02:24 pm:   

Italy's catenachio [sp?] defense cracks again, leaving them at risk of elimination from the tourney. When will Trappatoni learn what American football sages have known for decades, that a "prevent" defense only "prevents" you from winning. I could just scream.
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JV
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2004 - 05:51 pm:   

What a great Czech-Holland game! And a wide-open England-Croatia game.

On the other hand, not much impressed with France. Not much impressed with Italy. But chances are they'll wake up in time.

JeffV
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neilw
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 02:05 am:   

Yep, the games over the weekend have really brought the tournament to life. The czechs got what they deserved against Holland - I think they're plainly the best team in that group, and one of the best in the competition. Portugal v Spain had less great football (but still some!) but had tons of drama and emotion. And as for England - well I have to say I thought they played very well indeed last night and deserved their win. Croatia were always dangerous going forward, but gave the ball away too cheaply in midfield. And with Scholes back in the hole behind the strikers the last thing they needed was to gift England possession in that area. Four an hour or so England were just devastating breaking forward.

Mind you I stop short of agreeing with this morning's assessment in some quarters that Mr Potato Head Jr Rooney is the 'new Pele'... and Motson's orgiastic exhalation of "WaaayneRooooney" is getting decidedly pervy. :D

neil
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Martin
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 02:43 am:   

Following the rather uninspired Holland - Germany game I thought I could safely leave the house on Saturday. Bah. I tuned in just in time to hear the post-match hagiography.

Italy played very well for the first 60 minutes or so on Friday but then they just went to sleep.
Looking forward to England - Portugal, hopefully it will be the ideal start to Glastonbury. Rooney might not be the new Pele but the golden boot is a strong possibility.
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Dave G.
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 10:18 am:   

I believe the planets have got to line up just right for Italy: a woodshedding of Bulgaria and a narrow win by one team in the Sweden-Denmark game, or something like that. They are on the brink, are they not?
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Derryl Murphy
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 12:42 pm:   

It looked at the beginning like Bulgaria's game plan was to fall as often as possible when around the box and hope they draw some free kicks. Obviously the rain has something to do with all the gravity games, though, and the penalty kick was well-deserved. I await the second half to see if they can pull off the unthinkable.

D
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Iain Rowan
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 01:39 pm:   

Oh dear. I think it's fair to say that there are going to be a few conspiracies flying around Italy from this point on. First their exit from the World Cup, then this.

Although for a similar reason that Spain's exit was quite amusing, so was this. There is a sort of 'divine right' expectation about some teams that gets a bit wearing.

Iain
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Erik J.
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 01:50 pm:   

hmmm, so some football genius up there wrote that he'd be very surprised if the final did not involve two of the following four teams: Italy, Holland, Germany, and France.

now Italy has gone home.

tomorrow either Germany or Holland will do the same. and if Latvia beats Holland, and the Czechs beat or tie Germany, both go home.

yikes! it appear that that genius will likely be quite surprised ...

Go Svenske!
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Iain Rowan
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 03:17 pm:   

And so it starts: "There is no doubt that the way the Denmark-Sweden game developed shows that the two teams were aiming for a draw. Of course, proof of that is hard to find." (Italian football federation president Franco Carraro, munching his way through a bunch of grapes with evident distaste).
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 04:02 pm:   

LOL!!!!!!!

There IS a God, it appears--and S/He is not Italian!

I have to say, after the 87th minute of the Sweden-Denmark game (watched on replay), I was laughing like a madman. I honestly don't wish Italy any ill, but for some reason, this result has restored blue sky to an otherwise stormy day!

JeffV
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neilw
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 11:15 pm:   

By Jove! Or not, as the case may be. There's no way that anyone who was watching the Sweden Denmark game could believe they planned that, but it doesn't surprise me to hear the italians bleating about it anyway. Divine right mentality or not - they were pretty unlucky.

Great fun though.
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Dave G.
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 07:55 am:   

Jeez, are the Azzuri the Duke Blue Devils of soccer? Does everyone hate them?

The only good thing about this week's cockeyed results is that I didn't lose my bet about whether the Italians would go farther than the Germans. Imagine...losing to the Czech second team with everything in the world to play for! Say what you will about the Italians, at least they won when they had to.

And now, I have a renewed purpose in watching the competition, to root against the Swedes and the Danes.
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neilw
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 08:23 am:   

Oh Dave, what can you possibly have against the Swedes and the Danes? They're classic candidates for the "unfancied team with no big stars, playing a tidy game and could end up surprising us" role. Actually I'm fancying the Swedes less as the competition goes on, but the Danes could still do something exciting.

Germany's downfall doesn't surprise me but it just underlines how poor Scotland were during qualification for the tournament. If there was ever a time for topping a qualifying group ahead of a so-called superpower this was it but all we managed against them was a draw and a 2-1 loss (having said that without our draw away to the Faroe Islands and dodgy penalty defeat to Lithuania we might well still have beaten them).

I don't think the Italians are particularly hated - when they come out and play football, I think most people enjoy watching them. What people don't like is the national delusion that they somehow have a *right* to do well in competitions (a trait shared by the Germans, the Dutch and the English btw) and so there's an element of enjoying this kind of unfounded arrogance being cut down.

neil
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JV
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 09:27 am:   

Every team I wanted to survive to the quarterfinals has done so. It's kind of a dream tournament from my perspective. Now, how do I say I hope England wins without Luis and/or Neil beating the crap out of me?

Here's what I *hope* will happen:

England over Portugal
Greece over France
Netherlands over Sweden
Czech Republic over Denmark

But I think France will probably win against Greece. And I hate to see Denmark out--I like their tenacity.

I think Czech Republic wins it all, unless France comes up with better play.

JeffV

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Luis
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 10:11 am:   

Hah, in your dreams! Portugal is the best team EVAR! We'll see who's right at the end of the day.

Here's what I hope will happen:

Portugal beats the living shit out of the English
France puts Greece out of its misery, but it doesn't really matter because either will lose against the Czechs in the semi-finals
Sweden will most likely win and then, of course, lose against Portugal
Czech Republic again triumphs spectacularly

Portugal will continue undefeated, and face the Czechs in the final, at which point spiteful Scandinavians will call up Ragnarok to destroy us.

Cheers,
Luís
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JV
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 10:17 am:   

Luis:
Why do you hate the Greeks so much?
JeffV
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Luis
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 10:19 am:   

Well, guess. :-)
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JV
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 10:32 am:   

Did they invade Portugal at some point in the distant past?

Jeff
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Dave G.
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 11:04 am:   

It would be patently unfair for Sweden to have the cutest women and the European title, too. :-)
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Dave G.
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 04:51 pm:   

Damn these matches at 2:45 in the pm on a weekday! Just "watched" the line-by-line text message descriptions on espn.com of the Portugal-England thriller. Sounds like one of the all-time greats. Too bad I had to miss it!
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JV
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 06:28 pm:   

Wow. An amazing game--I watched it on tape. If Portugal plays like that the rest of the way--great to watch!!!

Jeff
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neilw
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 01:29 am:   

It was indeed a highly exciting, highly entertaining game. Em was jumping off the sofa with excitement.

I think England can feel unlucky about not getting the goal at the end of normal time, but then that would have robbed us of the excellent goal by Rui Costa in extra time.

And I have to say, you have to be positive to deserve the result, and for long periods of the game Portugal were the positive team.

Great drama. Love it. Suspect Greece and France might not live up to those high standards however.
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Iain Rowan
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 03:49 am:   

Well, we went out in now-traditional English style, with a botched penalty shoot-out and a disallowed goal to give us something to feel indignant and self-righteous about. Sorry, I mean disallowed Sol Campbell goal, to be even more specific.

But as I said to a friend yesterday, we shouldn't let the usual thing happen (as it did when we played France) of letting the fact that we played a valiant and dogged game with loads of heart obscure the fact that we were um, not very good. Because normally everyone just remembers the passion and the commitment and forgets that we appear to have lost the ability to do some reasonably important things, like get the ball, keep hold of it, and pass it.

Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole were fantastic - Cole especially impressed. Even (and it pains me to say this) Gary Neville had a decent game.

But Beckham was anonymous, and Gerrard looked like he'd run a marathon that morning for a bet, and Scholes was anonymous too, and too often we did the same (baffling) thing we did against the French, which was defending so deep our back line were virtually sitting with the fans behind the goal, and essentially giving the ball to the other side all the time and saying come on, come and have a go. Fatal.

So it makes for exciting watching, but Portugal attack - desperate English tackle - hoof the ball anywhere, including to our midget attackers who would be lucky to win a ball like that once in ten times, lose possession - Portugal attack - desperate English tackle etc repeated for sixty minutes is a risky, risky strategy. One goal and sit on it is not the way we should be playing.

Ah well.

I want the Czechs to win now, partly because I've really enjoyed the style of football they've played and its refreshing lack of dour defensive tediousness, and partly for juvenile team with the most Liverpool players playing reasons. The Dutch winning with a goal from Van Nistelrooy is my biggest fear.
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neilw
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 04:26 am:   

I'll agree with you there, Iain - Cole was absolutely outstanding. He got in about Ronaldo and snuffed him out before he even had a chance to get his step over into action. It's a real shame he ended up on the losing side. It doesn't matter who you are playing, you can't afford to try and sit on a lead like that at the top level. Not when the opposition are expert passers and movers, if not expert finishers. It just shows a lack of belief, doesn't it. When they had to come back at the end of extra time, England they could do it - I just don't understand why they couldn't be positive and put on that kind of pressure during the 90 mins.

I'd like to see the Czechs win too. Or Denmark, I've enjoyed them too. It's all up for grabs now.
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Tamar
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 05:13 am:   

England played great until Wayne Rooney went off. Then they turned back into the England of old. Like the prince being transformed back into a frog.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 06:54 am:   

I just watched a tape of England-France, which was a wonderful game with the wrong damn result. I'm wondering, after Beckham's tepid performance on the field, and horrid performance on the free kicks, is he personna non grata in England? Or was he already...? Credit to Portugal, but like somebody already said, you can't just sit back and let 'em attack. It's like playing a prevent defense in American football. Doesn't work.
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des
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 12:38 pm:   

I think the referee decision re Sol Campbell's 'goal' will go down in history in the same way as Maradona's 'hand of god' decision.
des
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JV
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 01:02 pm:   

Possible. But what will they call it? "Hand of God" sounds really good.

So far the Greeks are frustrating the French, and I rather wish I had taped the game after all.

JeffV
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JV
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 01:03 pm:   

I'm going to start a new thread since we're up to 100 posts here.

Jeff

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