To paraphrase a line from the seminal '90s movie Reality Bites, "Euro soccer is a bit like pizza. Even when it’s bad, it’s good."
Make no mistake, much of what the weekend brought was bad. Dull Greece was thankfully put out of its misery and disinterested Portugal giving the hosts a gift are exhibits A and B, respectfully. And, much of the Spain/Sweden and Czech Republic/Turkey games, as well, were not to be mistaken for classic affairs.
But, things ended well—sort of like a big helping of poutine at 2 a.m. on a Friday as you’re walking home alone again. The first bite makes the rest of your forgettable night meaningless.
First Spain. After watching suddenly hot Zlatan Ibrahimovic tie the game at 1-1, a neutral observer with an understanding of how things work in international football when it comes to Spain, would have been forgiven for assuming that a draw was in the works. But then…
A little screw up—the type of thing that usually happens to the snake bitten Spaniards—and suddenly David Villa has scored his fourth of the tournament and Spain has won.
Amazingly that was just the appetizer.
Shakespeare himself could not accurately describe the drama of the final 15 minutes of the Czech/Turkey game. Even if he wasn’t still dead.
With four minutes plus stoppage to go, the Czechs were in full out dribble-it-to-the-corner mode. Then, bam!
Arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Petr Čech, shockingly lets the ball slip through his hands to set up a goal by Nihat Kahveci that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Greater Mudville Old Boys Sunday Recreation League.
Two minutes later Kahveci sucked what life remained out of the Czech's with a goal that most certainly would have looked out of place in the GMOBSRL
Fifteen minutes of wonder had erased nearly two days worth of mostly forgettable soccer.
Years from now people, mostly Turkish people, will talk about the game as if it were a classic. It wasn’t, really, but it sure was tasty—just like cold pizza the morning after the night before.
Croatia, who has clinched top spot and will draw a very shorthanded Turkey in the quarters, takes on Poland. The Poles must win big and hope for Austria to beat Germany.
Currently, Poland is –2 on goal differential and will lose a direct tiebreaker with Germany based on head to head. Austria's goal differential –1.
The Austrians will likely advance with an unlikely win against Germany. Germany will advance with a win or tie.