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Nihat Kahveci: Turkey’s Golden Boy
No matter what sort of form has been shown in the group stages, all the teams know that it is down to what happens on the night and one moment of brilliance or one defensive mistake or refereeing error could be the difference of going through and going out.
With the added spectre of extra-time and penalties in store, nerves are also going to play a part and could well be a deciding factor in the outcome of the quarter finals.
Maximum Points Hard to Earn
Only Croatia, Holland and Spain achieved maximum points in the group stages so these are the teams carrying form into the knock-out round but this does not necessarily mean they will easily march past their opponents. There is no doubt that the Turkish team will be flying due to their dramatic late victories over the Swiss and the Czech Republic whilst Italy will be mightily relieved to have snuck through the Group of Death, albeit rather unconvincingly.
Portugal versus Germany is the first quarter final and is probably not the match that most people expected. Portugal were the favourites to top Group A but Germany were tipped to do much better than finish runner up in Group B.
A surprise defeat to Croatia handed Germany the difficult task of shackling Ronaldo and Deco. One interesting aspect will be Germany’s Michael Ballack coming up against his new club manager in Phil Scolari. Perhaps Phil will have a quiet word in his ear to remind Ballack who he will be working for this coming season or perhaps the German will be out to show his new boss exactly what he can do.
Ronaldo vs White
The match will also feature Christiano Ronaldo playing against a team wearing a white top, something which may not happen too often if his move to Real Madrid comes off. Yes, the protracted potential transfer of the summer is still no further forward and is unlikely to progress until Portugal finish with the European Championships.
Perhaps Germany may do everyone a favour by knocking Portugal out and allowing Ronaldo to sort out his future before the football world dies of boredom. With both defences having their shaky moments, the game may come down to whose forward line performs the best and on current form, the Portuguese appear to have their shooting boots on compared to their misfiring rivals.
Friday night sees the second quarter final where Croatia take on Turkey in a match that may not seem glamorous but has the potential to be a tremendous match if both teams to play to their full potential. It is a great opportunity for either to make the semi-final when on paper; they probably thought they would be facing a tougher opponent. Croatia’s reward for defeating Germany is avoiding Portugal and facing a Turkish team who have shown two very distinct sides in the tournament so far.
Turkey - The Team of Two Halves
Turkey were abysmal against Portugal and very poor in the first half in their water-polo match against Switzerland. A tactical switch at half-time brought life to Turkey and a late winner against the co-hosts put them back in the hunt.
As for their performance against the Czech Republic, it was non- existent for 70 minutes and then wonderful for 20 plus injury time as they overhauled a two-goal deficit. If the Turkish can channel the effort and emotions they use in overturning deficits, they may have a chance against a Croatian team who have shown indifferent form in the past week.
One notable line-up change is that Turkey will be without their first choice keeper, Volkan Demirel. Red carded late on against the Czechs for a push on Jan Koller, Turkey will likely turn to Rustu Recber for the quarter final match. Whether this has an impact on the Turkish rearguard remains to be seen but Croatia may be keen to put the new goalkeeper under some pressure from the first whistle.
Saturday Nights Alright for Football
There has been no doubting that Holland have been in immense form so far and with 9 goals from their three group matches, they certainly have the firepower required to win a major tournament. The big test will be if they can take this form into the knock-out round when they know that one mistake or slip could be fatal. They will be up against a Russian managed by Guus Hiddink, the well-travelled and much experienced Dutch manager.
With Arshavin free from suspension, there was an increased sense of fluidity about the Russian play in their triumph over Sweden. Both teams are capable of playing breath-taking football and the prospect of a mouth watering match is leaving most fans eagerly awaiting Saturday's clash.
No matter the tournament a match between Italy and Spain is always highly anticipated as it features two of the best teams in Europe but for once, Spain enter the match as favourites. Italy may be the World Cup holders but they have looked far from convincing so far and failed to beat Holland or Romania in their group games. Spain on the other hand booked their qualification after just two matches and were mightily impressive in dismantling Russia and extremely industrious in overcoming Sweden.
Deadly Duo vs Brilliant Buffon
David Villa and Fernando Torres have looked to be the most impressive partnership so far but given that many teams have been playing a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 hybrid, there hasn’t been a massive amount of competition for the best 4-4-2 strikers. That said, 5 goals in 2 games from them is impressive in anyone’s eyes and it is likely that Villa will be moving on this summer.
His initial response has been to welcome bids from Barcelona or Real Madrid but unsurprisingly, Chelsea are waving an open chequebook in the direction of the Spanish striker. Mind you, Chelsea are allegedly also interested in Fernando Torres as well which suggests they will be chasing many of the top players of the tournament this summer.
Spain may have a fantastic forward line but they are up against Buffon, one of the best goalkeepers of the tournament so far. His penalty save against Romania is one of the key reasons why Italy have made it out of the group stages and the Italian stopper is likely to feature in most peoples top 3 keepers of the summer. There is no doubt that the Italians have missed Cannavarro but worse is to follow against Spain. Suspension is set to rule out Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso from the midfield battle on Saturday night and this may have a pivotal impact on the outcome.
Will Form be Enough for Spain? If the game goes to current form, the Spaniards will be well on their way to convincing people they now have what it takes to excel in a major tournament. At the back of their minds though will be the fact that it takes a very brave man to rule out the Italians at any stage.
By the time the weekend is over, Euro 2008 will be down to the final four teams and the next few nights promise to have many twists and turns in store for every football fan watching.
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