Round two of Euro 2008 was ‘entertainment guaranteed’ with 23 goals off eight matches – almost three goals per match. Four of those came from the Netherlands, who continue to hog the headlines for all the right reasons. Fans of the Dutch team, the past two decades, would have got used to more news from their camps (infighting, bickering) than from the field, at these stages.
But, Marco Van Basten’s men have scored goals which would make even his mentor, Johan Cruff, proud.On this date, four of Holland’s goals would feature in Euro 2008’s top ten. So big is the influence that the ‘Group of Death’ is now the ‘Group of Dutch’. Van Basten’s mentality ahead of their last round clash, will decide who proceeds from Group C and who doesn’t.
Holland have some fragile players in their ranks (Robben, Van Persie) to whom, rest will do no harm; they can try alternate defenders to see if anyone better has been warming the bench; they might not want to stretch against Romania (to whom they finished second best in the qualifiers); and would like avoiding facing a rejuvenated France or Italy in the semis. On the flip side, no one wants to clip a winning momentum and it’s a great time to show Romania their place. If Van Basten opts for policy one, Holland will allow Romania to win and take second spot. If Dutch pride comes to the fore, then, several permutations and combinations come up.
Life in the other three groups is less complicated. Portugal will take it easy against host Switzerland and inflict minimum damage, enough to end as group leaders and brace up for a quarterfinal meeting (unexpectedly) with Germany. The other Group A match would be one for the strong hearts. A bloody encounter is expected between the physical Turkish and the inconsistent Czechs. This match has all makings of ending up exercising out UEFA’s new penalty shootout rule – to decide the group runners up.
Germany’s loss to Croats was the most unexpected result of Group B. Their inability to challenge the opposition much while chasing the game got exposed. This has started a slew of articles whether the German’s were over-rated so far. However the German machine is expected to crush the other host, Austria, and book the second spot.
David Villa’s magical goal on Saturday night was a just result for a team which showed more urge and adventure than the Swedes. Spain will take it easy against Greece and Russia face a must win game against Sweden (the penalty shootout not a possibility since Swedes are ahead on goal difference).
Surprisingly in Euro 2008, apart from Turkey against the hapless Swiss, no team, so far, has been able to make a successful comeback. So true has this trend gone that experts doubt whether even the Dutch can chase any game successfully.
Haradona’s Quarter final line-up
Portugal – Germany
Croatia – Turkey
Netherlands – Russia
Spain – Romania (80% likely, else Italy)
Also published in