Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Russia Are Through

The knockout round matches are now set as Russia cruised past Sweden today, 2-0. The score could have easily been five-nil as the Russians battered the Swedish defense with shot after shot in the second half. Guus Hiddink ( see South Korea, 2002 and Australia, 2006) has proven yet again that he is the most skilled manager in the world at motivating and inspiring an otherwise also-ran side to European or world glory. This is the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 that a Russian side has advanced through the group stage of a major tournament and they did so with great style. Their pressing attack and brutal counter attacks crushed the Swedes and set up what should be a wonderful match with Holland on Saturday. If each side plays as it has to this point, a fast paced and exciting game should result.

The Quarterfinal match-ups are as follow:

Thursday: Portugal v. Germany
Friday: Croatia v. Turkey
Saturday: Holland v. Russia
Sunday: Spain v. Italy

As the weekend approaches, here are my (MAO) predictions for the first knockout round:

Germany, Croatia, Holland and Spain.

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