Monday, June 23, 2008

Holland and Italy Crash Out of Europe

The weekend featured two overtime games following the amazing Turkey-Croatia match on Friday. On Saturday Holland leveled the score late in regular time with a Ruud Van Nistelrooy header. Russia then battered Holland in overtime, scoring twice and cementing Andrei Arshavin's place as THE hot commodity going into the offseason.

On Sunday, Spain and Italy played through 120 minutes of stalemate without either side making too significant a dent in the other's defense. Gianluigi Buffon was terrific but so was Iker Casillas. Spain used strong shots on their penalties, not wasting time on dainty stutter-steps, to power through Buffon. Casillas twice denied the Italians and Cesc Fabregas scored the final penalty to give the Spanish redemption after so many years of unfulfilled tournaments.

The semifinals will be played accordingly:

Germany v. Turkey
Spain v. Russia

My (MAO) picks for the semifinal round are as follows:

Germany over Turkey. The Turks cannot possibly have miracle up their sleeves, can they? The Germans looked as good as ever in ruining Portugal on Thursday and I expect a heavily-German crowd to help the cause.

Russia over Spain. The Russians are playing better than anyone else at this point and have legitimate scoring threats across the front. Spain have played well and certainly have survived quite the test of wills in reaching past Italy, but the Russian energy and coaching acumen of Guss Hiddink will push the Russians over the top and into a major tournament final for the first time since the Soviets were defeated by Marco van Basten and the Dutch in Euro '88.

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