Defending Champs Ousted

Four years ago, Greece stunned the world when they beat Portugal 1-0 to win Euro 2004 in Portugal. The Greeks scored only 7 goals in their ride through the tournament, making them one of the most offensively futile team to ever win the Championship. They weren’t going to sneak up on anyone with their super-defensive style of play this year and are now the first defending champions to be eliminated after only two games.

The championship defense which held opponents to only 10 goals in 12 qualifying games suddenly became a liability as Sweden and Russia both took advantage of sloppy plays at the back. Minutes after Zlatan Ibrahimović’s cracking goal in the first game to make it 1-0, Petter Hansson clamored home a series of miscues from Greece’s backline, putting an end to the champions’ hope of getting back into the game.

I was hoping for a better effort today against Russia, but instead I was treated to another lackluster performance. The Russians really could have finished with three or more goals if Roman Pavlyuchenko had made any of his efforts count. He was always around the ball and in a good position, which is commendable, but he constantly had his head down and was unable to pick out his wide open teammates. Instead, they settled for one goal from Konstantin Zyryanov. The goal came seemingly from nowhere when Greek keeper Antonios Nikopolidis tried to chase down Sergei Semak who bicycled the ball back across the face of the goal, giving Zyryanov a simple tap into the empty net.

After the goal, Nikopolidis was shown yelling at his defenders about something (I’m not proficient in Greek), but I can say that he wasn’t very happy with them. I’m not sure why, as Ioannis Amanatidis has closed Semak down, giving him very few options. If Nikopolidis stays in his net, he’s able to punch out or catch the Semak’s weak cross. That would have changed the game considerably, giving Greece a chance to play their style of game, rather than be forced to attack and press the issue, which they aren’t very good at, as they proved. Instead, the Greeks are goalless headed home after their next match against Spain.

In other Euro news, the four group winners are decided as Portugal, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Spain all wait to see who they will face in the next round.

David Villa scored his fourth goal of the tournament in the 92nd minute as Spain beat Sweden 2-1 to secure their spot in the quarterfinals.

France and Italy will square off in what will be an elimination match, but Romania can make it all obsolete with a victory against the high flying Dutch.

My pick to win, Germany, must beat or tie the host country, Austria, to qualify.

In the most intriguing of first round matchups, the winner of the Czech Republic-Turkey game goes to the quarterfinals, but if they tie they will go to a penalty shootout to decide. This would be a first in the first-round of the European Championships.

Also, if you all were wondering where Weller has gone, and I know you have, he’s in Oklahoma for a wedding, but he will return tomorrow to catch you all up on your daily trivia.

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