So, the first round of matches for our mighty Cottagers came and went, and all in all there wasn’t too much to talk about. Pogrebnyak sat on the bench and watched Aleksandr Kerzakhov miss chance after chance, before the man picked ahead of the Pog to replace him, Roman Pavlyuchenko, scored a fine goal of his own. For the record, I thought Kerzakhov’s play other than shooting was brilliant; he played the role of dropping back to combine with Dzagoev and Arshavin brilliantly. However, even if he is benched next game for his wastefulness in front of goal (Opta provided the hilarious statistic that he is the first player to ever have seven shots off target at the Euros), it looks like Pavlyuchenko will be the one to step up, so don’t expect much time for Pavel unless injury or suspension hits.
As a side note, I was quite pleased with Russia, having decided to adopt them as my team to support during this tournament – due to Andrey Arshavin being one of the strangest people I’ve ever watched, the Pog, and Russia being an interesting place in general to me. They looked confident and fluid, but we’ll see how they do against a big side (assuming they make it out of the group, which they should).
On to our Irish representatives. Damien Duff played the whole ninety minutes against Croatia, and generally put in a pretty disappointing display, considering he is one of Ireland’s main attacking outlets. His crosses were decent, but he wasn’t consistently involved. That said, he worked hard on defense and made a couple of well-timed tackles and clearances. At Fulham, unfortunately, that isn’t what he’ll be judged on, so it wasn’t the best outing. He won a few free kicks, but his one shot I can remember was well wide (which should sound familiar). I’ve never quite understood managers playing him on the right when he’s clearly more comfortable and better at getting to the by-line and crossing with his much stronger left foot, rather than cutting in and shooting. There’s probably something I don’t know, but that’s my opinion based on what I’ve seen.
Stephen Kelly, the final Fulham player, didn’t make the field in Ireland’s loss, with John O’Shea appearing a lock in his position. Given Kelly’s unimpressive one-on-one defending most of the time this season and Trapattoni’s defensive tactics, I can’t say I blame the manager. Unfortunately for Ireland, their plan went awry early on with that strange headed goal, and they never quite looked like getting anything from the game – apart from a few minutes after their equalizer. Croatia’s cross-heavy tactic and two-forward system seemed to take Ireland by surprise. They pushed hard, but I honestly see them leaving pointless from this tournament. Their fans have still been fantastic, as was expected, and it’s a shame to see them likely leaving early.
Well, that’s about that for the Fulham update. Hopefully next time will have some more to talk about. Here’s some other random thoughts about the tournament so far:
First a little about the coverage from ESPN, so skip this if it doesn’t apply to you. Overall it’s been fantastic (presentation-wise), but I have several gripes.
Alexi Lalas is a pompous, egotistical know-it-all whose predictions thus far have consistently made me laugh out loud. Seriously, he’s said already that this tournament will see the “withering of Spain” and that the Dutch “have peaked”. Let the ball be kicked before you start throwing stuff like that around. He could end up being right (I sincerely hope not), but he seemed to be doom-saying just to doom-say.
Michael Ballack is a great addition. His insight and experience with a large portion of the tournament field give him a unique perspective, he’s got a nice sense of humor, and he looks sort of like Matt Damon. He’s struggled a bit with the English, but I think he’ll get better and better as the tournament progresses.
Kasey Keller cannot pronounce names. This was infuriating. His overall commentary was okay, but his absolute butchering of pronunciations was frankly embarrassing. Dzagoev: jay-go-ev (most annoying one in my opinion). Varela: Villa (with an “l” sound, naturally). Akinfeev: ah-ken-feh-nov (seriously!? Where did that come from?!). I’m sure there were more, especially from the Russia-Czech Republic game. I really don’t understand why he doesn’t just listen to Derek Rae and say things the way he does.
About the games themselves:
I thought the commentators were way too critical of Spain in the Italy match. It was always going to be a tight game, and their main issue seemed to be that the striker-less formation wasn’t creating chances, which is just plain wrong. That had at least six legitimate chances in the first half, and actually worked the goalkeeper on almost all of them. On comes Torres, who – credit where it’s due – created chances, but his finishing was even worse. Spain won’t be panicking, and none of their supporters should either; it was a decent performance, and I predict they’ll only get better from here.
The Czechs look weak at the back. They can pass well and create chances, but looked extremely vulnerable. I don’t see them getting out of Group A.
The Netherlands just seemed off. Their passing wasn’t crisp, and no one seemed on their game apart from Wesley Sneijder – to the point that the deadliest striker in the Premier League failed to even make contact with the ball on a great chance. They’d better shape up fast; if Germany and Denmark both win their next matches (which is entirely possible), they’re out.
So, hope you enjoyed this entry, please comment with any thoughts, criticisms, comments, corrections, knock-knock jokes, etc.