Before you read this you’d probably better nip back onto your bookie’s site and attempt to salvage your accumulator because it most likely took a rogering yesterday as Holland’s great imitators Denmark did one over on their new rivals.
The Danes did of course beat the Netherlands on the way to winning the cup in 1992, likewise the Dutch lost their opening game when they won it in 1988 – coincidences? Yes, obviously. Wenger can be pleased that nobody is going to want to buy Robin after that performance though.
Elsewhere we saw a good Portugal side stunted by their tactics like a chain-smoking midget, metronomically leading to their demise by the Germans.
I have my suspicions they would have lost anyway, but if they could just have begun the game with all the attacking impetus they ended up with, they could have at least scored and we wouldn’t have to spend the time dozing off witnessing Portugal’s back four meet their back three every time the Germans crossed the halfway line.
Who’s up today…
Spain – Xavi Hernandez
*Insert any of Spain’s 23 man squad* Seriously they are all beasts of the game. The few changes – Jordi Alba in for the retired Joan Capdevila, possibly Sergio Ramos replacing Carles Puyol, none the Fernandos switching with David Villa (instead a midfield six with no striker is mooted) – none make the Spanish weaker.
But the pick has to be Xavi. He is like a rare single malt Scotch to a whisky lover, so considered, so enjoyable. Marvel at his hundreds of passes per game with a 95%+ success rate and other statistics, or simply enjoy the absolute close quarter control of the ball – the ability to receive while marked, turn through his opponent, and caress a slide rule pass straight to the forward (or not). Eyes all over his head and feet all over the ball.
Prediction: Seeing as it takes so much to get a draw against them, Spain have to be winning the group.
Italy – Mario Balotelli
Of course. As likely to get sent off as he is to bend one in on the edge of the box, Super Mario usually catches the eye somehow. When he isn’t providing the red-tops something to fill the back of the paper with, he actually puts in some good performances on the field. Sure it ended a bit messily for him, but Mancini did improve him over the season.
Thus far he hasn’t pulled any antics while under the wing of the national team either, which could generate better football, providing he doesn’t get up to anything with fellow nuisance Antonio Cassano.
Prediction: How Italy will do in any tournament is a mystery but they should find their way out of the group.
Republic of Ireland – James McClean
Bought as ‘one for the future’ by Steve Bruce, his career soon changed paths with he came on for Martin O’Neill’s trailing Sunderland and proceeded to ruin Blackburn. Ever since, he has been one to watch in the Prem and will continue to be in the Euros. Strong, driven, capable of a dangerous shot, the Irish Oxlade-Chamberlain has one attribute his English counterpart doesn’t – he is comfortable and effective at tracking back and helping defensively, something that will be vital for the emerald isle’s hopes.
Prediction: Have found themselves in the unfortunate position of being the ‘three point team’ – will have to use that to their advantage to survive.
Croatia – Eduardo da Silva
More famous for having some of his ankle on the outside, the Brazillian born Striker lit up the Arsenal team several times whilst over here and is twice as good for the team with the checkers. Coming in behind only the legendary Davor Suker in international goals, ‘Dudu’ often provides for his adopted home. With the central creativity of Tottenham top Luka Modric and Tottenham flop Niko Kranjcar, and the crossing ability of Darijo Srna – Croatia just need da Silva to reach into his locker and provide the silky finish he possesses.
Prediction: Good team, but better than the others? All relies on them beating Ireland to have any hope.
England’s competitors tomorrow.