Monday, June 30, 2008

Coming Full Circle on Starting Eleven Guide to Euro 2008

On June 5, I posted a guide to Euro 2008, but more than a guide, it was spot where I could spout off about what I thought would happen during the tournament. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm going to call myself out, look back at my predictions, and slap myself upside the head because I got a bit of it wrong.

To get things off on a positive stance, kudos to me for picking at least one of the finalists: Spain. I had the all-Iberian final with Portugal beating Spain. Alas, 1 outta 3 there ain't bad. Check that, yes it is. Unfortunately, my final 8 picks go downhill from there.

My biggest bust was Poland. I had the Poles finishing second to Germany in the group stage--not quite. Same goes for the Czechs. Though not as big a darkhorse as the Poles, the Czechs were as big a bust.

I nailed Portugal winning the group, but missed out on Turkey. In B, I had Germany first, and missed that one too--ho-hum. Croatia got through instead, and I never figured Austria would get as close as it did.

And boy oh boy did I cough up a hairball in Group C, the Group of Death. The Netherlands were the stars of the G.O.D. in the group stage, and Romania was a darkhorse threat to make it to the quarters. I got Italy correct, but man did I overrate France.

In Group D, again, I overrated Greece and shame on me for doing so. These guys didn't play well in getting to the tournament, but I figured the Greeks' defense first philosophy might get them through. Defense wins, right. Oops, wrong kind of football! Spain, well I got that one right, but that was a gimme.

Clearly again, I blew it on Portugal getting out of the quarters. In fact, Spain was the only semifinalist I got right.

I did a little better with some general, more granular thoughts on Euro 2008. For example, I put it all on Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal. More dives than goals? I asked. Got that one. Portugal was undone by its lack of finishing, and Ronaldo's single tally wasn't enough in the end.

And Cannavaro's absence for Italy turned out to be massive. The Azzurri were a shell of themselves on defense and it cost manager Roberto Donadoni his job. Shoulda taken that severance package Robbi!

So far, so good.

Studs and Duds: Again, not too bad on the studs, well kinda. I got Ballack and Fabregas sorta right. But man was I off on the duds. Everyone I called out was immense in the tournament: Ibrahimovich, David Villa, Jens Lehman, van Nistelrooy, Deco. Thanks boys, appreciate it really.

Stud match? Pissed on that one too: Spain-Greece. Meaningless. Dud match? Got one! France-Italy

ESPN: I'll give ESPN a B for its coverage. Andy Gray was tremendous and saved the day for the worldwide leader. Derek Rae and Adrian Healey were also in top form. But Tommy Onion Bags and Julie Foudy and rest of that studio crew were laughable. Can we just simulcast the BBC next time? And not that it was their fault, but the blackout during the Germany-Turkey game must have given a few execs in Bristol the poops.

Aragones, meanwhile, another one I screwed the pooch on. Give it to the old man, Spain's keep-away style won them the trophy, and David Villa, Silva and Guiza were tremendous, and for good measure, Torres pots the cup-winning goal. Nice way to go out.

His Iberian counterpart, Big Fil Scolari, well, his announcement prior to the quarters that he was Chelsea-bound may have undone his team; not to mention him keeping EIGHT STARTERS ON THE BENCH against the Swiss. Continuity in a short tournament is kinda crucial Fil.

So it's over. Overall, I think Euro was an A-. Tremendous games, great personalities emerging and a great table-setter for the World Cup. Maybe I'll get better at forecasting by then too.


Fumas said...

that is the beauty of the game. it's the twists and turns, the unpredictability, the "roundness" of the ball. It's how players can rise to stars and how stars can get an ego check.
A just winner in my opinion, Portugal's offensive deficiencies did them in, an will continue to do so, until we have a real center forward. until then we can't be contenders, and until we have a world class gk, we won't win a damn thing.
Altough i favored the resting of players in the last game against the swiss, i have to agree with you about the continuity aspect. I also read that, by giving the "starters" a rest and putting in the subs, it gave the starters a sense of untouchability, hence weakening their motivation to remain starters. Does that make sense to you?

Starting11 said...

Fumas -- I'm not sure about the sense of untouchability; I just think it's a short tournament--six games in a month if you go all the way--and a game from the knockout stage, you need your best in there for at least 45 minutes. I understand Scolari not wanting a needless injury, but it's not like Portugal were taken to the final minute by Turkey or the Czechs that those guys needed that kind of rest. Who knows? Hindsight is 20/20.

And I agree totally with you:

Spain a just winner;
Portugal won't win without a center striker who can score;
Ricardo isn't cut out for these kinds of short tournaments.