Day 6 review
Croatia 2 Germany 1 (predicted: 1-2)
Yes, this took me by surprise.
Unfortunately I had to make do with highlights and match reports for most of today’s games but it seems that Croatia turned things upside down in Group B. The Croatians were as good as they were lackluster in their first game. The Germans, possibly overconfident, were left shellshocked.
The first Croatian goal in the 23rd minute from Srna Darijo came about after German left back (and weak link) Marcell Jansen showed ludicrous indecision to allow Srna bundle the ball home. The Croats were 2-0 up just after the hour when a deflected cross left Madman Lehmann scrambling about like a balding old man, Olic tapped the loose ball home from six yards.
The Polish German, Lukas Podolski, smashed home his third of the tournament with 11 minutes left but there was little threat of an equaliser after that.
At least I was right about the second team qualifying for the quarter-finals after today’s games – just got their identity wrong. Croatia are through.
Austria 1 Poland 1 (predicted: 0-1)
I caught the last 20 minutes of Austria v Poland and if I never see another game of football in my life I think I can safely declare Mariusz Lewandowski as the most stupidest thing ever. I know footballers think that tugging at opponent’s shirts and dragging them to the ground in the penalty box is ok given how few referees have the balls to penalise them. But why the hell would you risk it when your team is 60 seconds from a crucial victory in tournament finals?
I was predicting well here too. I had Poland down to win 1-0 and for Roger and Marek Saganowski to start the game and help Poland in to a position of dominance. Against the run of play, Roger put them ahead after 30 minutes and from then on Poland were coping well with their limited opponents.
But a further prediction – that Austria’s 38-year old Ivica Vastic might have a say in anything his team achieved – came true. He smashed home the 92nd minute penalty without a hint of nerves and Austria remain in the tournament until Monday night. When they play Germany. Yikes.
Day 7 preview
Italy need a radical overhaul of their starting XI following the 0-3 reverse to the Netherlands. I think Roberto Donadoni knows that a second draw won’t be good enough and I fully expect him to bring Alessandro Del Piero, Fabio Grosso and perhaps even the excellent Antonio Cassano in to the team.
Romania don’t offer too much up front but they are very well organised and strong through the centre. Adrian Mutu did not play the full 90 minutes against France and he should be up for playing against the country where he makes his living with Fiorentina.
I thought the Italians were hard done-by against the Netherlands and I think with a few positive changes they will edge out the tough Romanians. Equally this could finish 0-0.
Prediction: Italy 2 Romania 1
It would be easy to suggest that this result is a forgone conclusion given how good the Netherlands were and how average the French were in their opening games. But if Raymond Domenech gets over himself and puts out a good French team (including starting Henry and Diarra and not letting Florent Malouda anywhere near the pitch) then they will be more of a match for the Netherlands than Italy were.
I’m not utterly convinced by Franck Ribery but people seem to salivate over him so we’ll see if he can rise to the challenge against Gio van Bronckhorst – that’s if van Basten plays the attack-minded left back or takes a risk with Wilfred Bouma.
But if there is a risk to the Netherlands it is at the back with the likes of André Ooijer and Khalid Boulahrouz (although he was solid against Italy) not inspiring much confidence and perhaps lacking in pace against the likely forward line of Benzema and Henry. No, I don’t expect Nicolas Anelka to be considered – maybe not ever again after his dismal performance against Romania.
Very tough game to call in an exciting group. It’ll be close and cagey but we’ll go for a draw.
Prediction: Netherlands 1 France 1