Day 5 review
Czech Republic 1 Portugal 3 (predicted: 0-2)
Portugal guaranteed their passage to the quarter-finals on the same day that their manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, was confirmed as the new Chelsea manager. Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo stuck another two fingers up at Alex Ferguson with a fine display that he capped with a goal and assist.
The Czechs spun a surprise by leaving out Jan Koller – the striker who had struggled to make an impact against Switzerland in the tournament opener. His replacement, MIlan Baros, played well but it was former Rangers midfielder Libor Sionko who stole the show, scoring once and unfortunate not to score a second equaliser.
It has been said that the Portugeuse have a problem up front with Nuno Gomes and Almeida not prolific scorers. But with the likes of Ronaldo, Simao, Deco and Quaresma (who both scored today) they have plenty of attacking options. They should win this group and will face second place in Group B, likely to be Croatia or Poland.
Switzerland 1 Turkey 2 (predicted: 1-2)
It may have come in the 93rd minute but Turkey’s winner was just about deserved over the plucky hosts who have probably achieved a lot more than they expected – even on the back of two narrow defeats. Arda Turan, the highly rated attacking winger from Galatasaray, made it 2-1 from 20 yards when his shot took a deflection.
The Swiss went ahead through the excellent Hakan Yakin on 30 minutes. With the rain pouring down, and the pitch turning in to a quagmire, their biggest fear is that the ref would call a halt to proceedings. But it stopped raining and the Turks got their act together after the break, substitute Semih Senturk heading home on 57 minutes before Turan got the winner.
The Swiss are out but it was another decent performance and they haven’t disgraced themselves by any means. And who knows – if they hadn’t lost star striker Alex Frei after 44 minutes of the tournament they could be looking at 4-6 points from their opening games. Come on, it’s possible.
Turkey meet the Czech Republic at the weekend in a battle for second place in the group (assuming Switzerland don’t pull off the shock of the tournament against Portugal). I haven’t worked out how teams on level points are seperated but I might assume it is results between the two teams and after that goal difference, perhaps? If anyone knows please leave a comment.
Day 6 preview
Germany will become the second team to qualify for the quarter-finals if they overcome Croatia. Coach Joachim Low will be keen to wrap up qualification and maybe rest a few players in the final group game. However he will be wary of the Croats whose only win over Germany came sensationally in the 1998 World Cup quarter-final.
But this Croatian team is nowhere near the standard of that one from 10 years ago. Their relatively lofty place in world football (currently ranked 13th) owes much to their stylish and crafty manager, Slaven Bilic.
I don’t think the Croats can be as insipid as they were against the Austrians but even with more fire and flair on display from Modric, Olic and Petric it probably won’t be enough. There is no team news available yet but I’d be surprised if Germany made any unenforced changes. Croatia may want to tighten up in midfield, especially down the flanks where Lahm and Podolski (who floated in to a central position to net two goals) caused the Poles numerous problems.
Prediction: Croatia 1 Germany 2
Austria did well against Croatia but they weren’t any great shakes. Watching them play reminded me of an exciteable and energetic English Championship team who would get their ass handed to them on the big stage (ref: Derby County, 2007/8).
On the other hand Poland battled well against one of the tournament favourites and showed they have the potential to bring the group to the last game. They must attack in this game, maybe bringing in Roger and Marek Saganowski from the start. There’s no point in Poland going in to the last 30 minutes at 0-0 or, even worse, behind. They should look to establish a lead and then batten down the hatches.
Austria had some awful players on show at the weekend. Emanuel Pogatetez should have been sent off in the first half; Roland Linz and Martin Harnik hardly had a kick. He probably won’t last 90 minutes but their inspirational captain, 38 year old Ivica Vastic, is likely to be fundamental to anything they manage to achieve.
It won’t be a cakewalk for Poland but I think the Austrians will be going home after this game.
Prediction: Austria 0 Poland 1