Euro 2008 Final

Well, I have been gone since last Tuesday and my soccer viewing has been minimized. I was able to see Germany’s 3-2 victory over a very game Turkey side, but I did not see Spain’s easy 3-0 win over an annoying Russian team.

Those games set up quite a final this afternoon between Spain and my pick, Germany. Unfortunately, I can’t give any sort of thought or analysis on Spain’s 1-0 win, since I was driving for the duration of the game.

Spain was missing the tournament’s golden boot winner David Villa because of a hamstring injury. I didn’t think they’d miss him too much with Cesc Fabregas and Dani Guiza ready to step in and pick up the slack. I was a little concerned with Fernando Torres form in the tournament, but he proved me wrong with his game winner in the 33rd minute. All in all, it was a great tournament and Spain were very deserving winners. Now we turn our attention to Word Cup 2010.

Wow, We’ve Been Slacking

It’s bee quite a while since we last posted something up here, but it’s not from lack of events in the sports world. Basically, we’re just big slackers and we know it. Sometimes video games matter more than anything else.

The Boston Celtics won the NBA Finals, though I didn’t watch any of it. I’m glad for KG and Ray Allen, but I lost all respect for Paul Pierce. Not that I had much for him to begin with given his college choice. I’m just glad basketball is over so I don’t have to listen to Stephen A. Smith anymore.

The Mets cowardly fired their manager, Willie Randolph, in the middle of the night. I never thought Randolph was a very good manager to begin with, but what is Omar Minaya thinking? Two weeks ago he has a very public meeting to keep Randolph and then let speculation run rampant until firing him in the
middle of the night while the Mets were across the country in Los Angeles. This drew the ire of many people around the sports world, making Willie Randolph quite a sympathetic figure. Omar Minaya tried to make himself look like a decent human being by saying he didn’t want the firing to be leaked and have Randolph hear it from someone else. Omar Minaya is a doof and the Mets should be hang their heads on this one. The Mariners also fired everyone related to their team. I heard they were keeping Ichiro and Felix Hernandez and are going to try and win games only using those two.

The first game of the Quarterfinals in the European Championships was this afternoon with Germany taking down Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal 3-2. The Germans will take on winner of tomorrow’s Turkey-Croatia match. Finally Germany has looked like the team I picked to win, making me feel a little bit better about my decision. At this point, the Dutch have looked invincible. If they play close to the way they have up to this point, then I don’t see anyone touching them. A Germany-Holland final would make for a spectacular game.

Tiger Woods is done for the year. After his thrilling extra-extra hole playoff win in the US Open, Woods revealed that he’d have knee surgery that would sideline him for at least 6 months. I figured he’d be out until the British Open, but not this long. Apparently he tore his ACL while jogging last year. Golf ratings will take a massive hit around the country. I doubt I will watch any for the rest of the year.

Also, Dayn Perry wrote one of the stupidest articles of all time earlier this week.  Read it, try to make sense of it.  I’ve never been real sure why Foxsports continues to pay this guy.

That might catch us up a little. I think Weller has something planned for later, but tends to fall asleep like a narcoleptic person, so I don’t know what to make of that. We won’t slack this bad again, we promise.

Halfway Home

We’re two soccer games down and have made the final turn at the US Open.  So far, so good for anyone who has been following along with me.  First, we had the Elimination match in Group A of the Euros.  I had the Czechs winning 2-1 and that prediction looked great until about 3 minutes left in the game when the Turkish captain, Nihat, decided to take over the scoresheet.  He capitalized on a terrible error by goalie Petr Cech and then finished off a beautiful through ball in stoppage time, stunning the Czechs 3-2.

Then it was USA’s turn in their first qualification match for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  I said they’d score 4 or more goals and they put in 8.  There was never any doubt after Clint Dempsey scored 53 seconds into the match.  The two teams will play again next Sunday and the USA will have to keep Barbados from scoring 8 goals in order to move on.  I think we’ll be alright.

Now Tiger is on the 13th hole at Torrey Pines with a one shot lead over Rocco Mediate.  Tiger and Lee Westwood just put back to back shots into oblivion.  This is Mediate’s chance to take the lead and become the oldest US Open Champion in history.  My money is still on Tiger.  Bum leg or not, he’s just incredible.  Woods just decided to take a drop while Westwood had decided to go search for his ball.  This finish is going to be something.

Quite a day ahead of us

Sunday around my house are reserved for watching sports…much like every other day, I just feel like things get started earlier so it takes up all day. Today, there are so many sporting events, I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch everything I want to.

Right now, Turkey and the Czech Republic are 14 minutes deep in an elimination contest in the European Championship. If they tie, it goes into a shootout, which is always fun…unless you’re emotionally involved somehow.  I’m taking the Czechs 2-1 in this one.

Then at 3:30, Tiger Woods tries to keep his lead after his Kirk Gibson-like performance on yesterday’s back nine. I’m just convinced that he’s no longer human.

At 4, USA takes on Barbados in the first of a home and home series in the first round World Cup Qualifying. If you don’t like soccer because they don’t score enough, tune into this game. USA should put in at least 4 and could get more if they play like they can.

Then at 7:30, the Celtics try to close out the Lakers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. I probably won’t watch any of this since the Braves are on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, but maybe Weller will be home for that.

So call your Dad, grab the remote and enjoy the day. If you’re watching from Missouri like me, it’s raining anyway so stay inside.

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.

What’s Wrong with the Braves

As most of you know, I’m an unapologetic Atlanta Braves fan. I have watched them for as long as I can remember and will will continue for as long as I live. Lately, however, I have been forcing myself not to watch their games because it makes my blood pressure rise too much. They’re finding all kinds of ways to lose and it’s driving me crazy. Exhibit A would be today’s blown save in the 9th and then losing in the 11th on a walk-off hit by pitch. That makes it six losses in a row.

We’re now seven games back of the streaking Phillies and five games back of the How-Are-They-Good Marlins. The Braves’ statistical leaders page on Yahoo! only shows 2 pitchers in the ERA category because only Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens have enough innings to qualify. We’ve now lost John Smoltz for the year and Tom Glavine is back on the DL (glad we gave up that first rounder for him). Jurrjens missed his scheduled start against the Cubs after twisting his ankle while walking down the clubhouse stairs at Wrigley. Mike Hampton is probably dead by now so I won’t even start with him. With the rotation in shambles, I don’t think Jorge Campillo and Jeff Bennett can keep this team near contention. Hopefully the starting pitching will get a boost when under hyped prospect Charlie Morton gets the start on Sunday. Morton may be the first prospect in Braves history that is actually under hyped. I don’t know if this is good or not.

The second area that is crushing this team is the bullpen that could be so strong. Last year when we stole Rafael Soriano from the Mariners and traded for Mike Gonzalez, I thought we set ourselves up to have lock down bullpen. Well, Mr. Gonzalez has been lights out for the 18 games he pitched for us in the last 2 years. Soriano was great at the first part of last year, but then had trouble keeping the ball down and therefore had trouble keeping it in the ballpark. This year he’s been struggling with tendinitis issues. Our huge bright spot in the ‘pen last year was Australian Peter Moylan. His stuff looked absolutely filthy and we went for 90 innings with a 1.80 ERA. He started this year just as well, giving up only a walk-off homer to Ryan Zimmerman in the first game of the season. Then he decided to join the Tommy John parade and is done for the year.

In the place of these three, we have several rookies. Manny Acosta is one of those rookies. I’m not sure quite what to make of him yet, since he didn’t give up an earned run from May 12th to May 31st. Since the Jay Bruce walk-of homer, Acosta has gone 0-4 with 2 blown saves and has seen his ERA rise by almost 2 runs. That’s 4 losses in 7 appearances. I understand trying to give him the vote of confidence or whatever, but can we throw someone else in these situations? Just until we win a couple games, please?

Anyway, I know this is sort of a knee-jerk post, but a week of nothing but losses will do that to you. I just keep telling myself, “At least you’re not a Mets fan,” and that usually gets me through.  Maybe a gigantic cow will help.

In unrelated news, we had our first upset in the Euros when Croatia upended Germany 2-1. Austria and Poland then drew 1-1.

Also, I said a while ago that we would get a new contributer around here and we finally got that set up. He’s going to be our “Special Basketball Correspondent.” Neither Weller or myself really knows much or cares about basketball, so we decided to get your hoops needs covered by someone else.

Euro Match Days 3 and 4

Day three at the European Championships brought about some surprises. It was “The Group of Death,” or Group C’s turn to show their skill. I was able to get the games while at work, but couldn’t watch them straight through. My boss probably wouldn’t have liked that.

The first game was between France and Romania, which ended in a 0-0 tie. The French missed Thierry Henry’s presence up front. The one thing I really remember about the game was that Karim Benzema really should have put away a second half chance and given the French the 3 points. One sidenote is that France’s Lilian Thuram became the first player to ever play in 15 European Championship games, which is quite a feat.

The second game of the day between the Netherlands and Italy produced the shocker. It wasn’t so shocking that the Dutch were victorious, it was the very decisive 3-0 scoreline that got everyone’s attention. I didn’t think Italy was being outplayed that bad until Ruud van Nistelrooy’s 26th minute strike. I thought he was clearly offside, but I missed the injured Italian player, Christian Panucci, laying on the sideline. Apparently, that’s good enough to qualify as being “in the play” and the goal stood. Right after van Nistelrooy’s goal, the Italians looked for an answer off a corner kick but Giovanni van Bronckhorst cleared it off the line and started the most perfect counter attack I’ve ever seen. Van Bronckhorst ran 70 yards to give the initial cross that was headed down by Dirk Kuyt and finished superbly by Wesley Sneijder. Italy only gave up two goals in the entire 2006 World Cup, so obviously they missed the presence of center back Fabio Cannavaro. Van Bronckhorst deservingly got his name on the scoresheet with a header with about 10 minutes left. It was another clinical counter attack, finished off by the dwarfish van Bronckhorst. It was the best performance of the tournament so far. Holland is looking good for the second round after the morning tie between France and Romania. As for Italy, I’d hate to be Romania who will get the full wrath in their next game on Friday.

Today, Spain gave the Dutch a run for the best looking team when they thrashed Russia 4-1. David Villa scored the first hat trick in European competition since Patrick Kluivert did it against Yugoslavia in 2000. His goals were set up perfectly by Fernando Torres and Iniesta, all he really had to do was tap them in. His third goal had a little more individual effort, but was still set up by a great ball from Cesc Fabregas. The Russians pulled one back late and Fabregas got a garbage goal of his own. The Spanish looked fantastic today. They changed their formation after only scoring a late goal against the United States before the tournament. This allowed David Villa to crack the starting lineup; there were doubts that he would play against the Russians. He responded to this by netting at hat trick…I think he’ll be in against Sweden on Saturday.

In the nightcap Sweden downed the holders Greece 2-0. Greece threw their defensive play at the Swedes, putting seven or eight men behind the ball at all times. Sweden really had no space to move in the first half and looked awfully frustrated to me. It looked like we were headed for a second 0-0 tie when Zlatan Ibrahimović lashed a ball into the top corner of the net in the 67th minute. It gets my early vote for goal of the tournament. Petter Hansson scored what gets my vote for the worst goal of the tournament five minutes later and the Swedes got all three points. Both of these teams will have to step up their game in order to take on Spain, who looked like the title contenders everyone predicted. Sweden put themselves into a great position to go through, with a victory over Spain or Russia. I doubt any surprises come out of this group.

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