|Football Bettor's Survey|
Late, late goal by Arda sends the Swiss one foot out the door.
With every team now having played at least one game, punters will be able to make a more informed decision about how Euro 2008 is shaping up.
It is not always wise to base your decision on opening games as this isn’t always an indicator of how the tournament will pan out but it gives a good starting point.
Will the early footballing matador performances of Spain and Holland last throughout the tournament or will the slow start of France and Italy build and peak at the end of the month?
There is little argument that the best games of the first round of matches were the Holland versus Italy or Spain versus Russia matches. Controversy raged over Ruud van Nistelrooy’s opening goal but with the Italian defender lying injured off the park, the Dutch forward was legitimately onside and swooped to put the Dutch 1-0 up. Holland were delighted, the Italians were raging and punters who had backed Ruud as first goal scorer or top goal scorer were probably the happiest of all at the decision.
Italy were not that bad and were caught out by two classic counter-attacking goals by the Dutch and this should send out a warning to any team playing Holland. If you want to get past the Dutch you will want to score the first as if you have to take the game to them they have the skill to pick you off on the counter.
No Group of Death for the Dutch
With France and Romania dragging out a bore draw, the Group of Death is no longer looking as ominous for Holland but the other teams will be approaching their second game nervously.
Group D was the last group to kick off but Spain got off to a great start by putting 4 past Russia. Yes, two years after they started their World Cup campaign by trouncing Ukraine 4-0, a David Villa hat-trick and Cesc Fabregas header meant that the Spaniards had opened with four goals once again.
Russia scored late on to get themselves off the mark and ensure they were the only losing team in the first round to have netted but it was a very convincing Spanish performance. Will this finally be the year that they live up to their hype or will the wheels come off in the knock out round as usual?
Sweden Stay Level with Super Spanish
The other group match saw the holders Greece start their campaign but they never really got going against Sweden. The cautious approach that served them so well the last time against the big teams never allowed them to put Sweden under pressure and a superb Zlatan Ibrahimovic strike sent Sweden on their way.
Inspired by a master class in linking play by evergreen forward Henrik Larsson, Sweden continued to hunt and were rewarded by a comical second goal. In his spell in the UK, Krygiakos proved himself to be a limited central defender more prone to diving and cheating than commanding his box and he proved this again by playing a comical role in Sweden’s second goal. At 2-0 up, Sweden closed the game out and joined Spain on three points.
Wednesday saw Portugal and the Czech Republic serve up another cracker with Ronaldo sparkling in a white shirt, possibly a hint of what to expect next season, as he scored one and was involved in two other goals as a 3-1 victory put the Portuguese on 6 points and into the knock-out rounds. That match had drama but nothing compared to Switzerland versus Turkey.
Co-hosts Caught by Sucker Punch
In a rain soaked first half Hakan Yakan put the co-hosts ahead but a second half fight back saw Turkey take the lead in the 92nd minute to ignite their tournament and to leave the Swiss on zero points. It was harsh on a brave Swiss side but Turkey showed immense courage to battle back to win.
Germany face Croatia with both teams knowing a win will secure victory and of the two teams, Germany looked the stronger in their opening match. It may be a group where both of these teams should be expected to qualify but Croatia looked under the cosh for quite a while against the unfancied Austrians and if they give as many chances to Germany, there is the likelihood they will lose a couple of goals.
The injury sustained by Eduardo means that Croatia appear to have a lack of bite up front and it is unclear where the goals will come from for them. If Germany play to form then they should be able to win the group and seal qualification before their last game.
Hold on, Germany versus Austria in the last group game with the chance of a stitch-up to benefit both teams? After the debacle of 1982 surely a similar outcome will not happen again.
However, for that to have any chance of happening, Austria will have to overcome Poland in their second group game. Both teams showed glimpses of skill and determination in their opening games but lacked consistency and failed to seriously trouble their opponents.
The outcome of this match is therefore crucial to both teams and its fair to say that anything less than a victory would be a disaster for either nation. Austria will have the host nation crowd behind them but Poland have a bit more quality about them. This game has the look of a draw or perhaps Poland by one goal about it and if Poland get the win, it sets the group for an intriguing final day showdown between Croatia and themselves.
Too Early to Play the “What If” Game?
Part of the fun of these international events is working out score permutations and determining the “what-if” element to matches.
If Germany and Austria win their second group games, then the final game between they two becomes an intriguing cat and mouse game where the group could see three teams finish on 6 points apiece.
Conversely, if Germany and Poland win on Thursday, the final game between Croatia and Poland becomes a huge game whilst the Germany and Austria game will be for little more than pride. All of these outcomes can have an impact on top goal-scorers or point spread betting within a group so there is still a lot to play for and keep an interested eye on.
On Friday, Italy face Romania and the high flying Dutch take on slow-attacking France in two vital matches for Group C. The early kick-off sees Italy looking to bounce back from their opening game mauling but a match against the defensively secure Romania is not one that many teams would choose to play to regain confidence.
The purists will criticise the tactics of the Romanian team but they would have been delighted with a point against France and had as many chances to win the game as the French did. Expect a similar performance from Romania against Roberto Donadoni’s men and if Italy do not score early, the nerves will start to build.
Alessandro Del Piero looked to be Italy’s best hope of scoring when he came off the bench against Holland but whether the coach thinks he has the legs to last all game remains to be seen.
Can Henry Hammer Holland?
Given the performances on Monday night, no one would bet against Holland teaching France a footballing lesson but perhaps the French will find their feet. If Thierry Henry recovers from injury, there will be a new sense of urgency about the French and Friday night looks like being an exciting night.
We're not even a week into Euro 2008 and it has been a thoroughly enjoyable tournament so far.
By Andrew Reilly
for The Silver Circle at www.footballtip.co.uk
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