Its Quarter Finals at the European Championship. England are still in, so are Italy and Spain. Denmark are a little surprising, but Switzerland and the Czech Republic? If you had those teams on your multi for the Euro’s, wow! Pay off the mortgage first.
Like the Round of 16 our key three words are still Arrogance, Determination and Joy. We could add fairy tale as well. There are four with a fairy look to them. England, Switzerland and Czech Republic have a fairy tale quality. Which is totally eclipsed by Denmark.
Sure “Football Coming Home” is being sung across England. Denmark have resurrection on their fairy tale scorebook. Hard to ignore that. But the fairies are not going to get the Dane’s there alone. Hard to win a three week tournament consisting of 51 games across twelve countries.
Switzerland v Spain
The reality is that all the determination you can muster might not give you the win. You still need to put the ball in the back of the net. Switzerland did that once in normal time. Problem was, so did Spain.
For those watching the tension only grew as one goal was all either team could muster. Switzerland kept trying, though each attempt either went wide or was well defended. Spanish Goal Keeper Unai Simon, still hurting from the own goal against Croatia, was valiant.
Once again Shakiri, Sefereovic and company had to push their way through a game. Behind early, due to Jordi Alba’s strike deflecting off defenders and past Swiss keeper Sommer. Push they did, the whole game. It did feel like Spain parked the bus in front of goal daring the Swiss to score again.
Spain are full of talented players. Spain has been at the top of world football for a while now. Yes the golden generation has passed, but the shine is still there. Enough to win this game.
You cannot trust on one goal to win a game. Mid-way through the second half Shakiri found himself on goal, slotted the equaliser, game on. Spain and Switzerland slogged it out. Past regular time, through extra time, arriving at….penalties.
Sigh! I feel for Switzerland. Tenacious, determined, talented. Spain won on penalties which they will accept. Can I say that Spain fill me with confidence. Not really. There is a presumption, an expectation of victory. Though there is no spark of brilliance to confirm this.
Winner Spain, just
Belgium v Italy
What do you say about a team that looked happy to be there? Italy were able to brush off Belgium with a smile and fair bit of Italian funny business. Belgium posed and attempted to flex their way into this match. It was rather comical because Italy just did not care.
To say that Italy walked away with this game is too simplistic. In the first half they scored twice. All was Azzuri blue. Then the penalty to Belgium was given. Suddenly it was argue with the referee time. Italian players hands out, thumbs and index fingers clenched, as Italians do.
Lukaku slotted the penalty with power and finesse as only Lukaku can. Belgium swaggered off the pitch at half time. I do not understand the Belgium football process. They play minnows regularly to warm up for tournaments where they play very good teams. There is something out of place.
You can see a difference between the managers. Mancini beloved by his players, his coaching team and now the nation. Mancini has won as manager in Italy, England and Turkey. Any coach can be loved when you are winning like Italy is. We will see what happens if it starts to go bad.
Belgium’s manager Roberto Martinez is no slouch. He has great amount of experience across European leagues. Yet there is touch of elegance and sophistication that is lacking. Something is amiss and it is not just that Eden Hazard is out and de Bruyne is probably playing injured.
Winner Italy, allegro.
Cezch Republic v Denmark
Fairy tale versus wunderkind. It describes this game in a nutshell. If young Patrik Schik scored more than once then Denmark would be up against it. Even the small crowd in Baku for this match knew fairy tale trumps wunderkind.
Unlike Sweden there was no question that Denmark could score enough to win. Denmark are fit and at this end of the tournament match hardened. Only cold steel is harder than the Danish national resolve right now. You have to wonder just how far one tragic event can take them.
Determination has lead to joy for the Denmark team. Czech resolve and belief is high and they have a wonderful window for a decade of success. Four minutes in Delany unmarked at the far post heads the opening goal in. Advantage Denmark.
The Czech’s regrouped, kind of. Denmark kept looking for the next goal. There is something clinical about the way the Dane’s go about searching for opportunities to goal. Eventually, Dolberg cool and calmly slotted the second.
We expect strikers to be all emotions, roaring and shouting. Dolberg is calm, iceman. Yet what you should notice is the cross. Joakim Mæhler crossed the ball from the left, to Dolberg’s feet with the outside of his right boot. Try get that much swerve from the outside of your right foot. Ridiculously skilful.
Schick popped up scoring in the second half, but to no avail. Denmark were dutiful in defence with only a few gaffs. Danish keeper Schmeichel runs a tight ship. Watch out for the Czech team in the years to come. World Cup qualification is not out of the question for them.
Winner Denmark, the fairy tale continues
Ukraine v England
Ukraine coach and all around great footballer Andre Schevchenko deserves a bit better. Certainly better than what Ukraine gave. Were England really that good? Is football coming home? Has the travel required of Ukraine been a factor?
Schevchenko has said that Ukraine achieved their goal. He sold the team on a Quarter final appearance, they got there. How do you gather the troops for one more assault? Once more unto the breach. That’s Shakespeare, Henry the Fifth. England know that one. Well, I hope the England players know it.
It did look like Ukraine had done all they could in this tournament. England were very good. A combined perfunctory performance. It was football, well played, well organised, so unlike England of the past. Have I started believing England can win this tournament?
Harry Kane is back. Macguire and Sterling were great. Shaw was let run rampant. Mount, Pickford with Macquire defended with aplomb. Winners across the park for England. Whatever Southgate has done has worked on the day. Take away the draw against Scotland and this a great tournament for England.
Ukraine can hold there heads high. Perhaps new talent will be inspired from their efforts this time around. Schevchenko will learn as well from this. Ukraine are in a good place. England, are in drivers seat.
Winner England, coming home?
Semi Finals are on Wednesday and Thursday Morning. I have not watched them at the time of writing this article. It will all be over for two teams. For the two remaining glory or defeat. Will arrogance and over confidence rise to stall determination? Will the fairy tale end happily? Let us find out.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.