A guest post today previewing the upcoming Euro matches by Griggers. Former high school and college star in the United States, he’s currently completing his coaching badges and managing on the high school and club level.
At the beginning of the tournament, when ESPN opened its North American coverage, Alexi Lalas said something along the lines of, “this tournament features the best teams in the world with the exception of Brazil and Argentina.” Amazingly, the quarterfinals are now upon us, and Greece and the Czech Republic are going to play important roles as they come out of Group A with upcoming matches against Portugal and Germany, respectively. It would be tough to imagine the Greeks withstanding Germany’s all around play, however the Czechs could do some damage to the Portuguese.Prediction for Thursday: Czech 2-Portugal 1. Prediction for Friday: Germany 2-Greece 0.
On the other side of the bracket, four of the ‘glamour’ nations will tie up the boots and do battle. If France plays anything like they did against Sweden, Spain could score more goals than they did against Ireland. The French were an embarrassment in the last World Cup with the way they treated their coach and the way the players trained. If they want to have any sort of redemption just two years later, they are going to have to pressure the ball for 90+ minutes like their lives depend on it. The Spanish are trying to complete three straight major tournament trophies. Their possession football is more than aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and with France coming off a lackluster performance, it will be interesting to see how the game unfolds. Prediction for Saturday: Spain 3-France 1.
UEFA got a dream matchup for the Sunday quarterfinal simply based on the words, “England” and “Italy.” However, this could really be the first scoreless draw of the tournament. Both teams have been playing well on the defensive side of the ball, and both managers will have Spain on their mind as they prepare for the next eight days so defense will be a priority in training. All of the English defenders have seen Ballotelli before so they have that going for them. Steven Gerrard is playing better than he has played in recent memory (for club or for country). He is seeing the field with incredible vision, and his cross-field passes have been spot on. If Walcott starts instead of Milner, England will win because Gerrard will be able to find speed on both flanks and Rooney and Welbeck look good together as usual. That should be the difference.
If Roy Hodgson decides to stick with Milner, the game will probably lack flair and those that do not understand soccer in America will be stuck watching “this great game” on a Sunday afternoon. Prediction for Sunday: England 1-Italy 0 (with Milner)/England 2-Italy 1 (with Walcott).
Goal Line Technology Debate
Sepp Blatter wants Goal Line Technology. Awesome. So, when the assistant referee misses an offside call, and Ukraine manages to barely squeak a ball across the line, the review will come from the booth. Ukraine will be awarded the goal despite John Terry’s best efforts to get back after he forced Ukraine’s forward to be offside at the beginning of the play. That all sounds just great. Let’s just get rid of the officials altogether and let the players run around like chickens with their heads cut off. How does that sound? If there is going to be goal line technology, other parts of the game will need to be looked at too. This discussion needs to happen, but it should be brought to a table of minds that understand American football, because they have been working out kinks for too long now in a sport that it already stop-and-go. Real football will be ruined if you have to look at too much through a replay booth. The best way to go about it might be the way they do it in hockey. Let play continue until the ball goes out of bounds. Go back and review quickly. If the goal is awarded, add time to the end of the half. But, will this ever happen? Only time will tell.
ESPN North America Review
Twellman and Keller have been good additions to the color commentary. Keller had a fantastic call in the first game he did for Germany telling them to just put it in the box and see what happens right before Gomez scored. Each host in the studio has been good as well, and ESPN has done a good job of making sure they cover the games with all sorts of different opinions from multiple cultures. It is just too bad that they could not get the rights to the US qualifying games in Guatemala, Jamaica and Antigua. That is probably Sunil’s fault though with the US Soccer Federation. [Editor's note: I think ESPN North America's work has been less than stellar other than Rae and McManaman, and Bob Ley in studio. Will have to agree to disagree.]
Is there a better fan base in the world than the Irish? Down 4-0 with ten minutes left, you would have thought the Irish were about to win the World Cup with how loud their fans were. I was very fortunate during the 1994 World Cup to travel with the Irish team during World Cup 1994. That experience made me appreciate international football at a whole different level. Traveling to the World Cup in Germany and seeing the Spain-Tunisia game further enhanced my belief that football fans are the best. The media might harp on the flairs going onto the field, the hooligans outside the stadiums, or the march from Russia to Poland. What really needs to be understood by the laymen out there is that passion for sports does exist in America. But it does not rival the enthusiasm shown by the aficionados in the international football world.
Enjoy the rest of Euro 2012.