Opening match: Switzerland VS Czech Republic
Honestly speaking,I had not expected the opening match to be as boring as it turned out to be. I mean,I wasn’t expecting it to be a goal fiesta,but I’d thought the desire to win their first match would be a strong motivating factor for both sides. Sadly speaking,I found the match rather unentertaining,although I must say that their efforts are commendable,and there were some nice saves by the legendary Petr Cech.
After like,10 minutes into the game,it became obvious to me that both sides are very lacking in the attacking department. Attempted shots were mostly on target,but the finishing was not polished,and most of the time ,the ball went straight into the goalkeepers’ solid grips,and then that was end of story. But I must say that the Swiss appeared more ernest and motivated in their attacking,and had it not been for Cech’s various unimaginable stretches and the knack for being at the right place at the right time,the Swiss would have bagged that first goal of the tournament. I think a few players to look out for are Barnetta (plays for Bayern Leverkusen) and Behrami (who plays for Lazio!). I thought the Swiss goalie was pretty steady too (not to mention quite cute haha),check out Diego Benaglio,who also plies his trade in the German league with VFL Wolfsburg.
Unfortunately,after the Swiss lost their inspiring captain Alexander Frei to a bad knee injury (which left him very visibly distraught and in tears), things began to look brighter for the Czechs,what with the Swiss’s stand-in captain Ludovic Magnin getting a yellow card and all. The referee also made some pretty controversial decisions such as deciding not to award penalty for a pretty obvious handball. It could have done the Swiss a hell lot of good.
And so Vaclav Sverkos,who plays club football with (yes,Bundesliga again) Hertha Berlin,scored in the 71″ and secured a win for the Czechs. Not very convincing,but then again,I really think if Cech didn’t stretch here and there to save his team’s ass,they might have lost like 2-0 or something. Too bad for blunt attacking efforts,and so much for having home ground advantage.
Portugal VS Turkey
This was a much more exciting match! I thought both teams started off a bit lukewarm and hesitant,with Turkey appearing a bit lost and unsure. But both teams also regained their pace and composure prety quickly,and as the game wore on,Portugal obviously had the upper hand (check out the statistics man,it’s quite crazy),with more ball possession and more shots on target. The Portugese players displayed more flair and style too,and it was very entertaining to see them play (small wonder they were awarded Most Entertaining Football or something).
As it is,in the early stages of the game,Portugal appeared to have squandered away many scoring chances,with many instances of hitting the goal post left right and centre,and with players like captain Nuno Gomes missing various chances at getting his team ahead.
I must say that Turkey put up a very good fight. But then again,guarding the Portugese goal mouth is yet another legendary keeper Ricardo,so scoring against them is really easier said than done. And the fact remains that they did not create many dangerous chances for scoring,so all cheers go to Portugal for being the more adventurous and ambitious side. All that hype around star Christiano Ronaldo proved to be just hype. I thought he maintained his standards,but didn’t deliver up to expectations. And I must say that he definitely looks less annoying in his Portugal jersey than his Man-ure jersey. Ahem.
Pepe’s beautifully executed goal came in the 60″,and the beauty of it laid in the accuracy and precision of the passing. “Pepe, carrying the ball forward with an assuredness not usually associated with centre-halves, played a one-two on the edge of the box with Nuno Gomes and burst through to finish past Volkan for his first international goal. Nuno Gomes nearly added a second soon after, only to see his header rebound off the crossbar. Turkey’s hopes of snatching a late equaliser vanished with Tuncay’s air shot before Meireles, also with a maiden Portugal goal, doubled the lead in added time, sliding the ball into an empty net after Moutinho’s trickery had taken out Volkan.” (from UEFA’s website)
That first goal from Pepe was so wonderfully executed,I was very impressed with how it worked out from the bird’s eye view of things. Very nice. And Nuno Gomes should have scored! I think the fact that both their goals came from surprising sources–both Pepe and Meireles have never scored for their national team–is a sign that Portugal has a more versatile squad now,and in a group where there really isn’t much doubt that they’ll top,they can go pretty far.
Group B: Austria VS Croatia; Germany VS Poland