Euro 2008: Quarter final Previews
Euro 2008 has been full of mouth-watering affairs.
Thus far, the tournament has provided 57 goals in 24 games, with seven of those coming during added time in the second half.
The Netherlands have proved themselves formidable, with both starters and substitutes contributing to the orange machine. Sneaking into the quarter finals, the Italians are looking to prove to the world they are still the best. Here's a look at the upcoming quarter final match-ups.
Portugal vs. Germany
Two distinct styles will clash on Thursday the 19th on the freshly laid pitch at St. Jakob Park in Basel. Quick passing and aggressive dribbling from Portugal will meet the confident size and deadly set pieces of the Germans.
Following heavy rains during the opening round tournament, officials made the decision to relay the field. The Portuguese have since held training on the ground, and given it their seal of approval. Certainly the new grass will benefit the Portuguese more than the Germans.
Germany, unlike Portugal, had to fight their way into the quarter finals, and they are the worse for it. Lucas Podolski is nursing a calf injury, while Frings suffered a broken rib in the game against Austria. Expect both players to make the start, especially in Frings's case, who missed the World Cup 2006 semi final loss to Italy.
Rest and relaxation was the theme for Portugal in their final game against the Swiss. Scolari sacrificed the possible momentum a third win would have given his team for fresh and healthy players. Fitness is sure to play a role in this game.
Scolari is worried about the size advantage that Germany will enjoy over his squad. "I have to worry about finding some way of dealing with their free kicks," said Scolari.
On average, the Portuguese give up a little less than 4 inches (7 cm) to the Germans.
Both teams are looking to prove themselves on the world stage after coming close in previous major contests. The Portuguese are coming off of losses in the Euro 2004 final and the 2006 World Cup semi final. The Germans came third at the 2006 World Cup after beating Portugal in the consolation game.
Croatia vs. Turkey
Fitness will again be a big factor in this match. Croatia were able to rest their main players against Poland, but they still pulled out a win. The confidence of both Croatia's starters and their subs is sure to be high.
Turkey, though, is dealing with several injuries and suspensions that will make a victory against the Croats unlikely. Goalkeeper Volkan Demirel and Mehmet Aurélio will both miss the game due to suspensions.
There are five others who are nursing various injuries with varying degrees of seriousness. Turkey is certainly lacking the personnel to mount a solid attack at Croatia.
One thing that Turkey will not be missing is heart and desire. They are the classic overachievers which almost every tournament encounters—a team that plays so hard and so well that its players can overcome the lack of talent to make some real noise in the tournament.
But, make no mistake, they are technically sound and well-coached. Their last two victories have been snatched from their opponents during injury time. Croatia will do well to keep their guard up against Turkey.
Netherlands vs. Russia
Goals may be the theme of the night on the 21st when these two teams meet. The Dutch have been on an absolute tear, and the Russians got Arshavin back from suspension, who, coupled with Pavlyuchenko, scored during a 2-0 victory against Sweden.
Pavlyuchencko's nickname is the "Sleeping Giant" because of the dormant talent that supposedly lies within him. Solid performances in the first two games were finally rewarded with a goal in the game against Sweden.
It is possible that he is ready for a break out performance against the Dutch. Coupled with the shot of adrenaline that Arshavin has given the squad, the two will be trouble for the Dutch defense.
Wait a minute, there's a Dutch defense, right?! Apparently, they are pretty good, too. Van Basten has implemented a 4+2 rotating defense which has conceded only six goals in 15 previous Euro games. With that said, the offense-minded Dutch can leave themselves vulnerable at the back, especially to counter-attack.
Both squads are coming in with lots of confidence, so this should be a wide open hotly contested match.
Spain vs. Italy
The final game of the quarter finals presents two teams with perhaps the most to prove on the world stage. Spain are perennial underachievers—a squad with tons of talent that recently has not come through on the world stage.
Italy are coming off a World Cup victory in 2006, and would have been bounced from the tournament if there hadn't been for Buffon's stellar play in goal. A loss by either of these teams will be considered a failure by their countrymen.
Italy are still without Cannavaro, though they may have finally settled in without him. Missing a central defender of his caliber is like the Ravens defense being without Ray Lewis during his prime. As the tournament progresses, the Italians will become more and more comfortable with themselves.
The current wave of Spanish players seems to have much of what their predecessors possessed, but it remains to be seen if they can deliver under pressure. Torres may be the man to deliver what Spain needs. Having played significant games in his recent experience with Liverpool should help the Spaniard rise to meet the challenge that the Italian defense will provide.
This year's Euro is on its way to being one of the best ever. Set up has been completed for the stage that is the quarter finals. In a field of many, teams who have the talent to win the Euro trophy look for coaching to be a deciding factor.
The fifteen-minute span between the 61st and the 75th minute has produced 15 goals, almost double the amount of goals scored during any other 15 minutes of the game.
Half-time adjustments and second half subs are having a clear impact during this critical juncture in the game. Coaches will certainly be trying to tweak their teams just right in order to get the result.
These four matches promise not to disappoint unless you find yourself in the inconceivable position of a loss.
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