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The Pundit - Euro 2004
Euro 2004, the biggest football tournament since the last one! Read The Pundit's analysis and views on the tournament where Greece were the shock winners.
19th July, 2004 - Lightning strikes twice
Portugal 0-1 Greece - European Championships Final
Ricardo, in the Portuguese goal, was badly caught out of position and this time there was no refereeing decision to rescue him.
This goal, for me, just edges out the UEFA goal of the tournament which went to Maniche's effort against the Netherlands. Not only did Rui Costa finish in style, but he ran from the centre circle with the ball.
Portugal battled hard with Figo, Ronaldo, Deco and Rui Costa all trying to find a way through the tough Greek defence, but the same fate was to befall them as had befell France and the Czech Republic, both of whom had failed to score against Greece and lost 1-0.
The last major international surprise winner was Denmark in 1992, when they gathered a squad of players from the beaches around Europe at the last minute to take the place of Yugoslavia. Denmark however had a proven international pedigree and had star players such as Brian Laudrup and Peter Schmeichel. The tournament was also made up of only 8 teams. The Greek victory was a greater achievement in my opinion however.
Euro 2004 from Amazon.co.uk:
This tournament had 16 teams. Out of 6 matches, Greece won 4, drew 1 and lost 1. They did not require any penalty shootouts and beat the holders, the much fancied Czech Republic, and the hosts twice. Denmark in comparison won only 2 games, drew 2 (winning one of those on penalties) and lost 1.
Not a classic
The only time the Greek goal was breached was when a fan ran on to the pitch late on and flung himself into the net, before being pounced upon by a posse of security guards. The assistant referee diligently checked that no damage had been done to the goal, but he didn't need to worry as Greece would ensure it would not be troubled.
Greece were the exception to the rule however, and thoroughly deserved their victory in what has been a great and entertaining tournament.
[Apologies for the delay in bringing this final Pundit column to you. I've been on holiday!]
2nd July, 2004 - Reality Czech / Play it again
Semi final review
Portugal played Greece in the opening game. 30 games later, Portugal will play Greece again. The other 14 teams came, they saw, they lost, and they left.
In one of the biggest ever shocks in a major international tournament, Greece have reached the final of Euro 2004.
Euro 2004 Final
They beat the hosts, they beat the holders, and now they have knocked out the favourites from the semi finalists.
Once again I predicted their run to come to an end; once again they proved me wrong. And once again I am going to predict they will lose.
Portugal, unlike every other team that has played Greece, have one big advantage...they have already played them and already lost to them. They will know what to expect, they will have the huge support from the home crowd, and they will know that they will never have a better opportunity to win a major tournament.
Goal of the tournament?
The BBC and ITV have made up their shortlist. Here
is my selection of 10.
1. Larsson diving header for Sweden v. Bulgaria. Best
diving header ever?
View the goals on the net from the BBC or UEFA:
Perhaps the only blight on Portugal's impressive semi final victory over the Dutch was that Ricardo seems to be taking lessons from Porto goalkeeper Baia in the art of feigning injury late in a match, as Celtic fans will only remember too well.
Some of the more notable ones include the original favourites France and Italy, and players such as Beckham, Raul, Totti, Henry, Owen, Gerrard, Pauleta, Del Piero and Vieri.
For a long time there has been talk of a unified international footballing calendar. Surely it is time FIFA stopped talking and starting doing something about it. Set aside dates for internationals and international tournaments. All other matches, whether domestic or cross-country, can be arranged around these dates.
This will stop the nonsense of players leaving their clubs half way through the season, and missing important games, to travel half way round the world to play for their country.
30th June, 2004 - Quarter finals / Semi finals
Quarter final review - giants continue to fall
Quarter Final Results
It has been refreshing to see other teams do so well.
Germany are a shadow of the former great teams to have represented them, although Ballack had an excellent tournament.
Italy have some good players but their defensive tendencies have cost them, while Totti disgraced himself and let his country down.
France should have done better, but Henry had a poor tournament other than two goals against Switzerland.
Spain - distinctly average. Some thought this could be Spain's tournament, but when you look at their squad, they have a few quality players, such as Raul who underperformed, but lack star quality.
England - they came close against Portugal, but as was the case against France, they sat back too much and big players such as Owen, Beckham, Gerrard and Scholes failed to perform in the tournament, leaving too much to 'new' boys Lampard and Rooney.
Sol Campbell's 'goal'
The debate will rage on, but if that was Scotland I would feel hard done by.
As for the Swiss ref, despite UEFA's backing, he made a mess of the decision and once again a keeper gets extra protection from the referee in a way that outfield players do not. Anywhere else on the pitch, or on any other player other than a keeper, that would probably not have been a free kick.
Semi final preview
Hoping for a classic - Portugal v. Netherlands
Possible weaknesses for the Dutch could be in defence where Giovanni van Bronkhorst, better as a midfielder, and Reiziger could struggle against Figo and Ronaldo. I predict this game will be a tight encounter, finishing as a draw with Portugal winning on penalties.
Can the Greek dream continue?
Of course, I thought that in the last round against France...
23rd June, 2004 - The Italian Job
Nordic high as Italians cry
Quote of the week
Dutch assistant coach Willem van Hanegem was asked what he would do if the Dutch were leading against Latvia and Advocaat wanted to take Robben off again.
"I would punch him," he answered, before adding that his comment was, of course, a joke.
Italy 2-1 Bulgaria
The late goal from Jonson for Sweden, in the 89th minute, meant that the final minute or two of the match became a simple game of passing the ball about at the back for Sweden, with Denmark not interested in going anywhere near the ball and Sweden not interested in going anywhere with it.
The Italians were left to reflect on a poor showing at this tournament, where once again there tendency to retreat into defence once they were in the lead has cost them dear.
Portugal meet England on Thursday in the pick of the games, while France should be too strong for the surprise package of Greece on Friday.
22nd June, 2004 - Wayne's World
Today's Links - Strachanisms
Gordon Strachan has been providing expert analysis on the BBC for Euro 2004. He is also famous for his one-liners. Here are some of his best. See the links below for more.
Reporter: Gordon, Do you think James Beattie deserves
to be in the England squad?
Reporter: “Gordon, can we have a quick word please?”
Reporter: Bang, there goes your unbeaten run. Can you take it?
Reporter: So, Gordon, in what areas do you think M'brough were
better than you today?
"He's a big guy and to fall like that? My grandson wouldn't have fallen like that. I don't know how you face your mates after that. They say 'What did you contribute to the game?' and you say, 'Well, I fell like a big Jessie'" - After being asked to comment on Jardel's role in Michael Svensson's dismissal.
Rooneymania sweeps England
Croatia 2-4 England
These were some of the comments coming from England and their reporters as England went Rooney mad after the 18 year old scored two goals against Croatia to take England into the quarter finals and a showdown with hosts Portugal.
It is precisely this sort of reaction that can cause us north of the border to celebrate when England fall flat on their faces.
A bit of caution and calm would do them the world of good. Portugal, like England, are improving with every game and will be a tough team to beat with Figo, Deco and Ronaldo all pulling the strings. With home advantage and a passionate support behind them, England should not underestimate their task.
The weakness down the left of England's lineup could be badly exploited by the talented and quickfooted wide men of Portugal, and they may yet regret not taking Celtic's Alan Thompson with them on the plane.
Take off for Henry
The second goal was a wonderful effort, perhaps even goal of the tournament, as he picked the ball up wide on the left, drifted past two defenders before slotting the ball home, all the time making it look so incredibly easy. With Henry now off the mark, Zidane at the top of his game, and only Greece standing between France and the semi finals, the French are looking a good shout to retain their title.
The Pundit was denied a correct prediction (I said 3-0 France) because of a goal from the Swiss kid Johan Vonlanthen, aged 18 years and 141 days, who became the youngest scorer in the history of the European Championship finals tournaments when he broke into the area and shot low past Barthez, breaking the record set by Wayne Rooney only last Thursday, ironically against Switzerland.
Due to UEFA's complicated system of determining placings when level on points, a 2-2 draw between the Danes and the Swedes would see Italy eliminated no matter their score against Bulgaria. A 1-1 draw, which I predicted yesterday, will greatly complicate matters. However, I have decided to change my prediction to a 2-1 victory for the Swedes. Why? Larsson and Ibrahimovic might just have a bit too much class for the Danish defence.
21st June, 2004 - Czech mate
Today's Link - quite em, sick really!
A Swedish television web site has captured images that show Zinedine Zidane throwing up before taking the penalty against England that won the match.
Amazingly, after being sick on the pitch, he picked himself up and dispatched the penalty with ease past David James.
Advocaat loses the tactical battle
Czech Republic 3-2 Netherlands
The match hinged on a couple of crucial decisions. First of all, Dutch coach Dick Advocaat substituted wide man Robben, who was having a great game, for Paul Bosvelt. The idea was that Bosvelt would close down Czech dangerman Pavel Nedved who was also having a great game, but the move failed spectacularly.
Nedved picked the ball up wide on the left, stepped inside Bosvelt and played a cross on to the mighty chest of towering frontman Koller. He laid the ball off for Liverpool forward Milan Baros to smash a great goal high into the roof of the net to square the match.
Two yellows make a red
In the dying minutes Nedved could have won the game with a contender for goal of the tournament, but his 35 yard effort hit the crossbar. The victory was sealed however when Poborsky squared the ball for Smicer to score the winner from close in.
Advocaat has come under heavy fire from the Dutch media, fans and his own players for his tactical blunder. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that the best form of defence is attack?
Can anyone hold on to a lead?
Other teams to fail to win after leading are Spain, Latvia, Germany and, of course, England!
Back in the studio the madness was spreading as Peter Schmeichel declared that Portugal should drop Luis Figo, who is having a great tournament, running at defenders, beating defenders and creating chances. Indeed no other team in the tournament has as many players willing to go on a dribble and take on their man as the Portuguese, and it was right that Portugal should go through at the expense of a distinctly average Spanish side.
It was left to Gordon Strachan and to a lesser extent, Alan Hansen, to talk some sense for the BBC, with Schmeichel getting lost as Strachan attempted to explain some basic tactical stuff that was occurring in the match. Not a good day for the Beeb.
Who's the Dado?
Who's the Daddy?
17th June, 2004 - Greece lightning
Greece 1-1 Spain
The final group matches always involve a multitude of permutations and 'if...but' situations. Basically however Greece will go through as long as they avoid defeat against Russia. Even if they do lose, they have to lose by a worse margin than a Portugal victory over Spain, or by the same margin but scoring less goals. Confused yet? What it really comes down to is that whoever loses between Spain and Portugal in the Iberian peninsula derby will probably be out.
"When we don't know what to do, we just give it to Zizou and he works something out." French teammate Bixente Lizarazu comments on Zidane's ability.
There are not many things that Zidane has not won. He has won the European Super Cup, the World Club Cup twice, the European Cup, the World Cup and the European Championship. He has also won various leagues and cups at club level.
He has been voted FIFA World Player of the Year three times and European Player of the Year once. He is currently the World's Most Expensive Player following his transfer from Juventus to Real Madrid in 2001.
He was recently voted the greatest European Player of the last 50 years, coming above legends such as Cruyff, Beckenbaur, Platini, Puskas and Eusebio.
Spain continue to flatter to deceive, and I predict this will be another tournament in which they leave empty handed, and possibly sooner than they would like. A lovely goal from Morientes, after a backheel from Raul, set them on their way, but Greece battled back to draw level and finish the day top of the group.
The other theme seems to be that there are no easy games at this level, unless you are Henrik Larsson and you think you are still playing for Celtic in the SPL! Many of the favourites have struggled against so called inferior opposition and many teams have failed to hold on to leads, most notably England and most latterly Spain.
Correct prediction! Russia 0-2 Portugal
Read up on his thoughts on the tournament so far, and find out why he never took the penalty that would have given him a hat trick.
Brazilian born Portuguese star Deco proved the spark that was needed to ignite Portugal's campaign, as his run and cross made the first goal.
The Russians became the first team to be eliminated and will only be playing for pride in their last game. They will do so without their captain Smertin who is now suspended along with their first choice goalkeeper Ovchinnikov who was sent off.
Did Ovchinnikov handle the ball? TV replays would seem to indicate that he pulled his arm back at the last moment, but unfortunately he was red carded and Russia's challenge left with him.
Totti - clearly a disgrace, but what was the bigger
End of story right? No. Something isn't right here. What Totti did, when he spat on the Danish midfielder Poulsen, was disgusting and showed a total lack of class. It is deserving of punishment and has rightly been condemned, but this was not his biggest crime in this game.
That moment came when he went in, studs up, nowhere near the ball, and caught Danish defender Rene Henriksen in the side of his leg near the knee. I am yet to see a man being injured by being spat upon, but as John Kennedy of Celtic will testify, reckless tackles can put you out of the game for months at a time or even threaten your career.
The fact that this challenge merited only a booking, yet spitting could likely be anything from 3-8 games, shows that sometimes, things don't always add up.
16th June, 2004 - Van's the Man
Germany 1-1 Netherlands
Pierre makes the difference
Gary Lineker once famously remarked, "A game of football lasts 90 minutes and at the end of it, the Germans win." For a long time last night it looked as if that would be true. Other famous sayings include 'never underestimate the Germans' and 'never write off the Germans'. While this German team is far removed from the greats of the past, they do possess good teamwork, organisation and a smattering of very good, if not great, international quality players.
Funny but true (I think)
We didn't underestimate them. They were just a lot better than we thought.
I couldn't settle in Italy - it was like living in
a foreign country.
For those of you watching in black and white, Spurs
are in the yellow strip.
I would not be bothered if we lost every game as long
as we won the league.
I've had 14 bookings this season - 8 of which were
my fault, but 7 of which were disputable.
1-0 to Germany
The Dutch kept playing their nice passing football in their 4-2-3-1 formation without ever looking as if they could break down the tough German defence who were succeeding in making van Nistelrooij look decidedly ordinary. Further up Micheal Ballack was pulling the strings in the midfield. A couple of changes at half time improved things slightly for the Dutch but there still seemed to be no way through until big Pierre, there's only one, was introduced to the action.
"Pierre, there's only one Pierre..."
Never mind trying to play like your hero, get a mask and you can look like him instead!
Choose from Beckham, Henry, van Nistelrooij, Collina....and Sven?!?
With the massive frame of Pierre to aim for, it was lovely to watch as the Dutch defenders scrapped their total football and started to launch high balls on to his head. For the first time the German defence were under pressure and the ball was staying in the attack.
The pressure eventually paid off when the ball was won in the corner and a low cross put in. As the game had progressed I had increasingly wondered whether van Nistelrooij really was a top class striker able to do it at this level, and perhaps whether he would keep his place in the team when Patrick Kluivert, with 40 international goals (more than anyone else in the tournament), was sitting on the bench.
Top quality from Ruud
There were no more goals and the match ended 1-1. Special mention goes to Alan Hansen, who did himself no favours with the Scottish public when he committed the cardinal sin of referring to England as 'we'. Come on Alan, you should know better!
Czech Rep. 2-1 Latvia
Plucky underdogs unlucky to lose out
Playing against the 'relative Goliaths' of the Czech Republic, they took a first half lead just before half time with a goal from Maris Verpakovskis. They couldn't hold on however and the Czechs eventually won with two late goals from Baros and Heinz. Unlucky Latvia, you did us proud!
15th June, 2004 - Larsson steals the show
Larsson double in 5-0 victory!
This time was different however. This is the European Championships, Sweden v. Bulgaria, football at the highest level. If anyone still had any doubts about his ability they were firmly dispelled as Larsson put Bulgaria, along with their captain and Larsson's former team mate Stilian Petrov, to the sword. My only complaint was that a good competitive game was now over as a contest after Larsson's deadly double. If Barcelona are still unsure of whether they want Larsson, I'm sure many other clubs will gladly accept his services.
Sadly Scotland never made it to the party, but there are plenty of players for Scottish fans to watch out for. How is this for a Scottish dream team, led, of course, by former Rangers boss Dick Advocaat?
GK: Hedman SWE
Think you can do better?
Before the tournament many other pundits predicted that the Czech Republic are good outsiders to do well. After this performance you have to think that it will take a good team to stop Sweden.
Special comment for English referee Mike Riley - I thought he had a very poor game, blowing for too many fouls and giving too many cards. This isn't Christmas you know.
Back in the studio the conversation inevitably turned to England as Des asked his guests how England could really do with a player like the tall, skillful Ibrahimovic, who scored a penalty for Sweden, up front alongside Rooney. What? Instead of Micheal Owen?
Afterwards England complained of France singing songs of victory, but this was nothing more than sour grapes from a hurting team who only have themselves to blame. First of all Beckham had the chance to seal the match with a penalty, but this was brilliantly saved by Barthez, and to be fair to Beckham, the penalty was well struck and all players miss them from time to time, so no real blame could be laid at his cultured right foot. If only Johnny Wilkinson played football...
Sven Goran Eriksson then decided to replace Rooney with Heskey, a decision that led to much criticism of the manager from English fans, along with much criticism of the new Birmingham forward who fouled Makalele on the edge of the box to allow Zidane to step up to the plate.
There was more sympathy from England fans for the player to commit the next mistake - Steven Gerrard - driving force of the team and Liverpool inspiration. With two minutes of injury time played, he inexplicably decided to pass the ball back to James without looking. Quick as a, well, a Thierry Henry, Henry raced on to the loose ball only to be clattered by James. Step forward Mr Zidane for part 2 of the rescue act.
While much of Scotland celebrates the demise of the auld enemy at the hands of the auld allies, I couldn't help but feel sympathy for Sven's men. Anyone who has played or watched the game for any length of time knows the agony of a heartbreaking defeat; certainly anyone who has watched Scotland expects it. At least Beckham, Scholes, Butt and the Nevilles now know how Bayern of Munich felt after the 1999 Champions League final.
Results so far
Italy in 0-0 shock!
Rangers' new signing Dado Prso marked his entrance into the tournament with a booking for diving, he'll be popular in Scotland, as Croatia failed to get the better of 10-men Switzerland in a 0-0 draw, while Italy also battled to 0-0 scoreline against the Danes. All round a good day for Scandinavia.