July 1, 2012

Euro 2012 reaches its boiling point

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

As a German fan, it pains me to admit this, but the two best teams in the semifinals are going to be competing for the European title.

Spain did exactly as I predicted, clamping down on Portugal’s attack while playing some of the most boringly precise football we’ve ever seen. In this tournament, Spain has taken only one shot for every 58 passes completed. To put that into context, in winning Euro 2008, it was 33 passes per shot and at World Cup 2010, it was 44 passes per shot.

What do these guys have against taking an attempt on goal? Do they relish possession and passing stats that much? They’re an attacking that’s terribly negative. But the thing is, Spain is winning because of it.

They did have some help from Portugal though. For some reason, manager Bento felt it was a good idea to use Cristiano Ronaldo as his fifth kicker in the penalty shootout – not a slot you want your best player in. Why not? Because as Wednesday proved, there’s no guarantee that they’ll even get a chance to step to the spot.

That massive error probably cost Portugal a trip to Kiev for the final and it could have cost Bento his job. At least it should cost him his job. It’s a shame too, since the Portuguese played really well at this tournament.

As for the Germans, well, they got what was coming to them.

Their defence was always an issue throughout Euro and a team finally capitalized on their mistakes. To take nothing away from Mario Balotelli and his two stunning goals, both came off of terrible defensive miscues. Mats Hummels’ over-pursuit on Antonio Cassano gave the Italian an easy cross to Balotelli while Philipp Lahm’s egregious misjudging of the lobbed through ball led to Mario’s super finish.

On the other end, for all of Germany’s supposed creativity, nobody could finish those chances. The German attackers played like Italians had in previous games, wasting opportunities.

Appropriately, on the final play of the game, the Germans didn’t opt to lob the ball into the box one last time, instead kicking a short pass off a free kick. That gave the ref the opportunity to blow the whistle and end the game – something he gratefully did to end Euro 2012 for a nation that were once favoured to win it all.

So how will Sunday’s final play out? Well here’s one man’s prediction:

Spain 1, Italy 0 – Spaniards will do what they’ve all tournament: Clamp down on D and pass the ball around.

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