The road to Vienna.
And then there were four: Germany, Russia, Spain and Turkey will compete in the Semi Finals of Euro 2008 from Wednesday as the competition enters it's final week.
A dramatic round of Quarter Finals produced some upsets as the World Champions Italy were knocked out on penalties and the highly favoured Dutch team came undone at the hands of the resurgent Russians.
Three out of four group winners had been knocked out in the first three days.
The fourth group winner, Spain had to overcome their demons, having been knocked out of three major championships on that date - June 22nd.
Sunday, 22 June 2008
Spain 0 - Italy 0 (Spain win 4-2 on penalties)
As often is the case when two giants face off against each other, this match was a tactical battle of wills, and both teams struggled to entertain. 90 minutes of bluster from both teams could not produce a goal and still in extra time it would not come.
On penalties, it was a battle of the goalkeepers. Casillas was the Spanish hero on a night where ghosts of the past were finally put to rest.
Unlike the 1986 and 2002 World Cup's and Euro 96 - this time Spain did not choke and will head off to the Semi Final with Russia in confident mood.
Saturday, 21 June 2008
Holland 1 - Russia 3 (After Extra Time)
Holland had won their group in some style, people had begun to talk again about "total football" but perhaps they had peaked too soon, and just as the Russian's were beginning to find their own form. Holland became the third group winner to go out, as the Andrei Arshavin show took to the centre stage.
Roman Pavlyuchenko had put Russia ahead early in the second half with a superb volley, but Ruud van Nistelrooy headed home an equaliser with four minutes left of normal time to extend the match.
Arshavin, playing his first match of the tournament since returning from injury, took control of the game for the Russians and fully justified the worldwide interest in the St Petersburg playmaker by providing most of the Russian creativity. With the scores still level and heading for penalties he unlocked the door, providing an assist with a brilliant through ball for Dmitri Torbinski on 112 minutes, then putting the match beyond the Dutch on 116 minutes as he split the defence and fired home to make it 3-1.
Manager Guus Hiddink said afterwards "I don't want to use big words but it is almost a miracle,"
"I'm so proud of these guys. Physically, technically and tactically we outplayed the Dutch and it is a huge achievement for us."It's amazing to see how fast they react to the technical concept."
Friday, 20 June 2008
Croatia 1 Turkey 1 (Turkey win 3-1 on penalties)
Turkey yet again proved themselves the comeback kings, and booked their place in the final four despite overwhelming injury problems. Croatia had felt they were in the Semi Finals when Ivan Klasnic headed them in front in what seemed like the end of extra time , but Semih Senturk had other ideas, volleying home an equaliser with the very last kick of the game to take it to a penalty shoot out. Turkey won the deciding penalties 3-1.
They now go into the Semi Finals with only 13 fit outfield players and most significantly without their key striker Nihat Kahveci who will miss the rest of the tournament with a thigh injury. This compounds the problems for the resilient Turks who will also miss Servet Cetin, Tumer Metin and Emre Belozoglu through injury.
Turkey will also be without Emre Asik, Tuncay Sanli and Arda Turan who have all been suspended for one match due to accumulation of bookings. They will possibly be looking into an option of calling up emergency players, something which UEFA may have to give special dispensation for under the extreme circumstances.
Luka Modric will join Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur when the transfer window opens on July 1st after signing for £20 million. On impressions of him in this tournament, they have bought a real star in the making and one of the outstanding players of this tournament. Croatia as a team did themselves proud, but it was not enough and the hurt was evident at the final whistle.
Thursday, 19 June 2008
Portugal 2 - Germany 3
The dream is over again for Portugal. An entertaining drama for the neutral, Germany impressed and Portugal disappointed. Cristiano Ronaldo once again had a poor game for his home nation and the rumour that he wants to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid will now take full focus.
The Portugese Football Association have pointed a finger of blame at Chelsea for announcing the appointment of Scolari before the tournament was over, but they will have to look closer at themselves.
A team of brilliant individuals did not perform well as a team against a determined and resolute Germany. Goals from Schweinsteiger and Klose had made it 2-0 for Germany before Nuno Gomes pulled one back on 41 minutes. Ballack made it 3-1 and Postiga's goal 3 minutes from time was too little, too late from the mercurial Portugese.
The Semi Finals start on Wednesday, The Final and presentation of the Henri Delaunay trophy is on Sunday.
Wednesday 25th June
Germany v Turkey
in Basel, June 25 1945 BST 1245 EDT
Thursday 26th June
Russia v Spain
in Vienna, 1945 BST 1245 EDT
Sunday 29th June
Winner of (Germany or Turkey) v Winner of (Russia or Spain)
in Vienna 1945 BST 1245 EDT