Take that William Hill, want to know where I keep my Crystal ball?
So one of the best teams of the tournament in Russia go out, and one of the worst in Greece, go through. I read a Greek journalist’s thoughts before the Euros that in among all the unemployment, the team is one of the few things that the people still believe in, that “This team allows Greeks to dream”. I had begun to suspect it might happen but never truly believed it.
The entire night was largely governed by a single goal at any time. Czechs score – they’re through, Pols score – they’re through, Russians score – they’re through, Greeks be impossible – they’re through.
To stop teams being Benjamin Boring, we are now only rolling with the two night games which is very annoying for someone trying to write about the two, so there better not be a single boring final game score, Platini. To make matters worse, after watching Czechs v Pols, I saw the Russia highlights and don’t really fancy watching the now atmosphereless game. So let’s push it under the rug and look at the game in Wroclaw first.
A genuine game of two halves, it could well be that the Republic had a master plan all along, or rather Polska didn’t. Twas a game similar to a mouse (Pol) fighting a scorpion (Cze). To begin with the mouse was quick and direct, peppering the scorpion with hits and moving quickly all around it. The scorpion bided, only occasionally poking the mouse in the side with its claw thing. The mouse was at its best when using the moves it picked up at Dortmund but was missing the scorpion too much.
Sure enough, as time passed the mouse began to wear down and run out of ideas about how to hurt the scorpion, which is the moment the scorpion chose to deploy its sting. The mouse was paralyzed and unable to do anything, eventually it was gone.
Don’t ask me what just happened up there.
With the Dortmund connection not firing, Poland were revealed as a team relying too much on key personnel which will never see you well at this level of football. It was made a fairly even contest for a while by the lack of Rosicky, but the result was always on the cards after Poland missed so many chances in the first half. Unfortunately, Poland should have had a penalty from one of the plagues of the game, handballs in walls. HBW really pisses me off.
Where Franciszek Smuda was during the second half I don’t know, but his team really needed some direction and to calm down in possession. Perhaps he realised this and has terminated his career in shame.
Still this mattered not to Russia, who knew that whatever those ex-comrades got up to, they only needed to win or draw against rubbish old Greece to go through, what could go wrong?
Well for a start you could have 31 shots with only two getting to the goalkeeper. Or you could have near 600 passes but be compacted so much that only a third go forwards. You could also let the opposition have two shots on target but one could go in. You did all these things? Oh dear.
You have to hand it to the Greek Catenaccio, they know how they want to play and that’s how they do it. Masses of defence, deep and compact, massive balls up field to play for any set pieces, last-ditch blocks (12 in all), and always look to Georgios Karagounis to make something happen. Zhirkov turned off for one sec and blam, the veteran captain is through on goal and you’re heading out of the tournament.
It was a perfect example of a captain’s goal; dragging his team, his whole country, into the quarter finals like a gigantic block of feta cheese. It’s rare you see one goal devastate so many teams, it shook Russia with the timing and it ruined Poland with pressure.
Many will feel that it was a fluke or an injustice to Russia that the hairy men from the Med are going through, but if Greece were that bad and Russia lose to them, who deserves to go through? Such is the bittersweet of group knockouts.