I have been fortunate enough to catch just about every minute of the UEFA European Championship co-hosted by Poland/Ukraine. As of today all teams have played two of their three group stage games and only three teams are out of contention; Republic of Ireland, Sweden and surprisingly, the Netherlands. In my predictions I had the Dutch to make it to the finals. With all the talent and experience they brought to the European Championships, it just did not translate well on the pitch, scoring only 1 goal through two games.
Germany hasn’t been as impressive as many have reported. I do believe their defense is suspect, outside of Philip Lahm and Manuel Neuer in goal. I don’t even think it’s fair to compare on the same level as Spain, who have been much more impressive, especially in their 4-1 victory over Ireland. Yeah, it was just Ireland but I think Spain is only getting warmed up and should walk right into the finals.
Italy has pissed me off though. In 2 games they have played 90 minutes of good football, lost the leads both times in the second half and gone into a defensive shell to salvage a draw versus Spain and Croatia. They need to step up their performance and play 90 minutes against the Republic of Ireland to secure 3 points to have a chance to move into the quarterfinals.
France, my dark horse and England have both played well and sit on 4 points, which should see them both through to the quarterfinals. I was impressed with the changes Roy Hodgson made up front opting for Andy Carroll as his lone striker, a move that paid off. But more surprising was the fact England rebounded from 2-1, staged a nice comeback and defeated the Swedes, 3-2. I only see England stronger with Wayne Rooney returning in their final game versus Ukraine.
Finally, Russia. The have played very well through 2 games, including the 4-1 trashing of the Czech Republic, but could only muster a draw versus co-host, Poland. Not sure what sort of chance they stand once in the quarterfinals where they could face Portugal or Denmark. Offensive they have been strong with the attack mentality, yet the play of goalie, Vyacheslav Malafeev has been very good. Russia quietly making noise in these championships.
So far it’s been some enjoyable football, at times a bit sloppy from some teams. That might to be expected, even though these players are professional they aren’t playing with each other on a full time basis (unless of course you are Spain). Thankfully the play has been fairly fluid with not many games being decided by the officiating. I have liked the 5th official on the goal line, thankfully their decisions have not come into play at this point.