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The VBR Euro 2008 Primer, Part III: Another Sedan?
Eugene Karlik
| June 6, 2008
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Iíve made my group stage prediction. Based on those predictions, here are the quarterfinal match- ups: Quarterfinal 1, Basel: Portugal-Croatia A very exciting quarterfinal. Both teams play fast paced, attractive, attacking soccer. Both are teams emphasize technical play, and fluid, quick passing. Both squads are very talented, but Portugal is more so. It has multiple world class players, including arguably the best player in the world. Croatia is full of very good players, but no one is world class, and the loss of striker Eduardo to injury hurts. Still, the Croatian team is greater than the sum of its parts. As it showed against England, it can overcome a superstar deficiency. The Croatians play with a pride and fearlessness that is almost unmatched in the world. I believe they will win this match with their heart and mental toughness. I also feel as though the sports deities wonít allow Ronaldo, an incredible talent, but a truly spineless, detestable character, to win three titles in one season. Croatia wins 4-2 in a thriller, and advances to the semi finals. Quarterfinal 2, Vienna: Germany- Switzerland Switzerland is a co-host of this tournament, so one would think home pitch advantage could help. However, this quarter-final takes place in Vienna, so this advantage is not only negated, but reversed. The Germans will feel right at home in the German-speaking capital of Austria. Germany will enjoy the home pitch advantage, although they donít exactly need it. The quality gap between the two sides is enormous. Germany 3-0. Quarterfinal 3, Basel: France- Russia Nothing to talk about. Russia is decent and well-coached. France is a top side in top form. France 2-0. Quarterfinal 4, Vienna: Spain- Italy Holy smokes. This would be a classic final. The World Champions, against the most talented team in the world. Pirlo, Toni, and the aging stars of the past decade against Torres, Fabregas, and the rising stars of the next decade. Toni and Torres, the two best strikers in the world, one against the other. Spain has a slight advantage in overall quality, especially in attack. Italy has experience, and a proven winnerís quality. Spainís mental fortitude has been questioned. If the Spanish can overcome their choking history, they will win. Can they do it? I have no idea. In their friendly against the U.S. on Wednesday, they dominated play, but they never played with any urgency or determination. This doesnít sit well with me. Still, Spain has more truly game-changing players than Italy does. Torres, Villa, Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta, or Silva can all create a brilliant scoring chance out of a mundane play. For Italy, now that Totti is gone only Pirlo and maybe Del Piero have this capacity. This game is nearly impossible to predict, but I have a hunch (or maybe, as a Liverpool fan, just a hope) that Torres does give us one of his moments of brilliance, and turns this game. 1-0 Spain. On to the semis Semifinal 1, Basel: Germany- Croatia This is a rematch of the group stage matchup. Just as Portugal, Germany has the overall talent advantage over Croatia. However, Germany also plays the most disciplined, team-oriented, flowing soccer in the world. This will be an outstanding match, but Germany will prove too much for the Croats, especially as they will have a relative home pitch advantage in Switzerland. Germany 2-1. Semifinal 2, Vienna: France-Spain Like the fourth quarterfinal, this is an instant classic. Both teams are supremely talented. Both have some of the great young stars of world soccerófor France it is Benzema, Ribery, and Nasri. For Spain, it is Fabregas, Torres, Ramos, and Silva. France has plenty of veteran leadership to fall back onóPatrick Vieira, Claude Makelele, and Thierry Henry are extremely well-tested and accomplished stars. For Spain, the veterans are Iker Casillas and Carles Puyol. Unlike Italy, France has a number of spark plug players, who can create chances out of nowhereóHenry, Benzema, Anelka, Ribery, and Nasri excel at this. The only problem will be getting them on the pitch at the same time. This is also a rematch of a Round of 16 match-up from the last World Cup. Then, Zinedine Zidane led France to a classic 3-1 comeback victory against a young Spain. Match-up wise, I have to think that Franceís monstrous defensive centre-midfield, with Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele, will be very troublesome for Spainís much more attacking minded duo of Cesc Fabregas and Xavi. Vieira and Makelele could disrupt Cesc and Xaviís movement in the centre of the field, and give France control over the flow of play. Spanish manager Luis Aragones might consider fiddling with his line, to try and avoid this. Iím a Liverpool fan, and thereís nothing Iíd like to see that the four Reds, Torres, Alonso, Arbeloa, and Reina, advance to the final. But unfortunately logic tells me this wonít happen. France 1-0. And the finalÖ France-Germany, in Vienna, on June 29th. The match-up is about as even as it can get. Both teams have impassable central midfields, and even less passable central defenses. Both have incredible fullbacks, and terrific strikers. Gregory Coupet at this stage is probably a better goalie than Jens Lehman, though Lehman is more experienced internationally. With Ribery and Malouda, France has better wingers. Both teams were in great form during qualifiers. However, Franceís Raymond Domenech is not a great tactical manager, while Germany is flawless tactically. France has more creative playmakers, but the problem is not all of them can be on the field simultaneously. Germanyís total football, playing basically at home in Vienna, will mean a second consecutive major international final defeat. Germany 2-1 in overtime. The Germans, favored to win it all before the tournament, are the European champions for the second time in the last 12 years. Have any thoughts, comments, rants, or predictions? Share them in the comments. Stay with the Sports Blog for continuing coverage of Euro 2008. The show starts tomorrow, I canít wait!
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