Interesting thing about the four quarter finals at Euro 2008. With the exception of Spain, all three teams that rested their best players for their final group game got beaten in the last eight. Portugal waltzed through their group but were undone by new tournament favourites Germany. Croatia must have thought they were on their way after a group win over the Germans but reckoned without the come back powers of Turkey while Holland, who were magnificent in the group stages, were simply outplayed by Russia who progressed to the semis after extra time. All of the above lends a lot to the argument that you should play your best team all the time. No exceptions.
Spain on the spot
Congratulations have to go to Cesc Fabregas as he put an end to Spain’s appalling run of penalty shoot out defeats at major championships. The always seemingly underachieving Spaniards lost out on pens in the quarter finals of the World Cups of 1986 and 2002 and at Euro 96. Astonishingly, all 3 of those losses came on June 22nd, the same day as their game against Italy in Vienna. Perhaps that’s why the Italians seemed intent on playing for spot kicks from the first minute of a desperately disappointing match, ending up with exactly what they deserved. Zilch.
Referee’s rarely hold up their hands and admit mistakes but hats off to Lubos Michel who did the unthinkable the other day and gave a player a rare reprieve. As the clock ticked close to injury time in the Holland v Russia game, referee Michel gave Russian defender Denis Kolodin his marching orders after he picked up a second yellow for fouling Wesley Sjneider. But before the cards were back in his pocket, he raced over to assistant who confirmed that Sneijder had previously failed to keep the ball in play and therefore, the foul, and subsequest booking, should be overlooked. Without turning a hair, Michel awarded Russia a goal kick, rescinded the yellow card and allowed Kolodin to stay on the pitch. The entire episode took a matter of seconds and based on the assistant referee’s viewpoint, the correct decision was taken and common sense prevailed. No surprise then that Uefa has overlookd Michel for the final and given it to Roberto Rosetti ? without doubt, the best performing Italian by a mile at the competition, players and managers included.
No sooner had the dust settled on Portugal’s quarter final defeat by Germany before the Portuguese authorities laid the blame at Chelsea’s door for announcing that Luiz Felipe Scolari would be the new manager at Stamford Bridge whilst Big Phil’s national team was still involved in the tournament. To be fair to FPF chief Gilberto Madail, he’s got a point, the timing stank. But it’s hard to see how it could have affected Scolari’s ability to do his job properly. In fact, he should be thanking Chelsea for taking Scolari off his hands as his record at major championships has been on a downwards spiral since he won the World Cup with Brazil. Over the past 4 years, he’s taken Portugal to the final of Euro 2004 (which they lost) the semi finals of the 2006 World Cup (which they lost) and now the quarter finals of Euro 2008 (I take it you’ve caught on by now). Chelsea to lose in the 3rd round of the League Cup to (insert name of lowly ranked League One side here) anyone?