Day 9 review
Switzerland 2 Portugal 0 (prediction: 0-2)
Luis Felipe Scolari made eight changes to his Portugal team who went down to the proud Swiss and their three-tournament goal striker, Hakan Yakin. Helder Postiga, Nani, Ricardo Quaresma, Bruno Alvez, Fernando Meira and Raul Meireles were amongst those brought in.
With no Ronaldo, Deco, Petit or Joao Moutinho, Portugal lacked incisiveness despite having the better of the game for the first hour or so. Yakin put the Swiss ahead on 71 and a penalty doubled the advantage on 83.
For Switzerland manager Kobi Kuhn – who bows out of football on a high – it was a fitting reward. Even more importantly his wife, who fell in to a coma five days before the tournament started, was said to be on the road to recovery.
Scolari won’t be concerned by the result if you consider that being able to rest his key players outstrips the speed bump this placed in front of his squad’s momentum. And with Germany likely to be their quarter-final opponents (unless Austria can pull off the most unlikely shock since Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood briefly read the autocue correctly on the 1989 Brit Awards) Portugal will need to be at their best.
Turkey 3 Czech Republic 2 (prediction: 0-0, Czechs on penalties)
I know you weren’t there, but when Turkey got their first goal back last night to make it 1-2, I was certain it was going to finish 2-2 and go to penalties (which the Czechs would win). Ok so I wasn’t quite right but there was an attacking confidence about the Turks and something singularly unconvincing about the Czechs that pointed to the likelihood of the comeback that eventually occurred.
Koller deservedly put the Czechs ahead in the first half but the second half saw Turkey on top. It was against the run of play when Plasil made it 2-0 and the Czechs were inches away from going in to an unassailable three-goal lead when Polak hit the post from six yards.
Minutes later Altintop slid the ball across the box to find Turan. The attacking midfielder fired a low shot that beat Cech at his near post to halve the deficit. If Cech was disappointed with that one he probably encountered one of the lowest moments of his career in the 87th minute when he fumbled a cross in to the path of Nihat. The striker, who had played his best tournament football in the second half, rolled home from 10 yards. Cech is not the keeper he once was and this was a further example that his star is waning.
Just incase you thought penalties were looming (I did), Nihat located a wound, found some sodium chloride and rubbed said mineral in to said wound. Basically he rubbed salt in the wound when he curled home one of the goals of the tournament in the 89th minute to win the game for Turkey.
There was more excitement in injury time as Turkish goalkeeper Volkan pushed very slight Czech striker Jan Koller to the ground and received a red card for his momentous achievement. With three subs already made Tuncay went in to goals. But there was not enough time for the Czech Republic to take advantage and Turkey made it through to meet Croatia in the quarter-finals.
What a game. Turkey are the only team in the tournament to come back from a goal down to win … not once, but twice. Croatia beware.
Day 10 preview
It should be plain-sailing for Germany tonight as they meet co-hosts Austria in a game that the latter need to win to advance to the quarter-finals. Austria coach Josef Hickersberger admitted that his team are “not wetting our pants because we are playing Germany, we know they have problems and we know some are injured and they are not playing that well.” People can wet their pants for a number of reasons (alcohol, incontinence, being a baby) but playing Germany at association football is one that has never been recognised as a catalyst for such before.
Andreas Ivanschitz will captain the side tonight in the absence of Sebastian Prodl with the scenario being that an Austria win will put them through as long as Poland don’t beat Croatia by a greater margin.
Michael Ballack has admitted to there being tensions in the Germany camp but the Austrians might be shooting themselves in the foot by allowing themselves to be quoted saying stuff like “we scare the shit out of the Germans” (Martin Harnik) and “they can stick the FIFA rankings up their arse” (team manager, Andreas Herzog).
They have nothing to lose but lose they will as the Germans pick themselves up after the disappointment against Croatia.
Prediction: Austria 0 Germany 3
The qualification rules again rear their ugly head here as Poland can finish on the same points as Germany with a 10-0 win over Croatia but still go out due to losing the opening game to the Germans. But I must stop moaning about it. I think Poland will meet a Croatia team – already guaranteed first place in the group – with several changes. It’s not like Croatia will feel they owe arch-rivals Germany any favours.
39-year-old Dario Simic is set to start for his 99th cap and the likes of Luka Modric, Djarno Srna, Robert Kovac and Ivica Olic will probably drop to the bench. Poland are missing Zurawski and Blaszczykowski through injury while Ebi Smolarek may be benched following disappointing performances.
I have enjoyed Poland’s performances and all things considered I think they might sneak a win. It won’t be enough though.
Prediction: Poland 2 Croatia 1