Day 11 review
France 0 Italy 2 (predicted: 0-2)
Time restricted my analysis of this game but it panned out largely like I expected: Italy were the stronger team, deservedly won and France looked completely unmotivated. In the wake of the defeat Lilian Thuram (dropped for the game) and Claude Makelele retired (again), Raymond Domenech proposed to his girlfriend and France face a period of rebuilding. Domenech will surely be sacked next month when the French Football Federation meet to decide his fate.
Italy have been unlucky in this tournament and at the same time fortunate to have seen Buffon pull off a penalty save that would have put Romania 2-1 up in the previous group game. The 0-3 reverse to the Dutch was harsh on them and they had enough chances to win against Romania. Against France they could have been four goals ahead at half-time but for the inept finishing of Luca Toni. Pirlo, De Rossi and Cassano were all excellent against France and the latter two have surely booked starting berths for the quarter-final.
Italy meet Spain in that game and this one is not as clear cut as it might have seemed after the first round of games.
Netherlands 2 Romania 0 (perdicted: 1-1)
The Netherlands – with 9 changes – cantered to a win over an out-classed Romanian side who, depsite two decent performances in the group, must pay the price for failing to score goals. Their best chance fell to Codrea who blasted over from inside the box towards the end of the first half.
A close range finish from Huntelaar and a cracking finish from Robin van Persie ensured the Dutch progress and the only surprise of the game was another solid display from the Chelsea flop Boulahrouz.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger must be sweating on the form of van Persie. Not that it’s bad. Quite the contrary – it’s too good! With his squad unsettled, many dissatisfied with another trophyless season at “The Emirates” (which is an airline, not a stadium) and van Persie rubbing shoulders with the good and great from across Europe, how long before his head is turned?
It’ll be Sweden or Russia for the Dutch in the quarter-finals.
Day 12 preview
Russia meet Sweden in what should be quite a tight game. Sweden need a draw, Russia need to win. Zlatan Ibrahmivoic has recovered from a knee injury and that’s a big one for Sweden. They had nothing to offer after he went off against Spain but he’s a focal point for the side and holds the ball up very well. The one fear for Sweden is that the likes of Larsson (who was poor against Spain) and Ljungberg might tire as the game goes on.
Andrei Arshavin starts after missing the first two games through suspension and he will bring creativity and pace to their forward line. Pavluchenko, who has been off-form, will need to get his act together tonight if Russia are to advance.
It’s a hard game to call with two quite evenly-matched teams. Sweden, who are solid in defence, will play it tight. They did show vulnerability late on against Spain and if Russia play a high-tempo game and the pace of Arshavin can stretch them then we might be on for a surprise. I’ll go for Russia to advance.
Prediction: Sweden 1 Russia 2
Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas and Pepe Reina are amongst nine changes for their dead rubber against Greece. The Greeks make some changes due to injuries and suspension but very few people outside of Greece will have any interest in this. Even the Spanish will probably watch the Sweden/Russia game.
Let’s say that Spain are unsettled by the changes, Greece play a more attacking game with no pressure on them and claim a moral victory.
Prediction: Greece 2 Spain 2