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Suck It, Switzerland

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Just like that, the tournament has crossed the halfway line, 16 games in the books, just 15 left. Already some of the drama has been removed as all four group winners have been decided, Portugal, Croatia, Netherlands and Spain. Also, Switzerland and Greece are officially eliminated. That leaves ten teams battling for four spots, starting with a huge clash between the Turks and the Czechs that I’m going to be sweating out.

Still, a lot of great games have been played and you deserve some recaps, so enjoy, dammit. I’ve decided to forgo accents or whatever all the weird squiggly things all these damn Euros use in their names and I’m just typing with the basic English alphabet, so sue me. I’ve never put the accent on Ginobili all these years, and he doesn’t seem to mind.

On a personal note, I’ve discovered that meeting no soccer player can phase me at all. I was perhaps 15 feet away from David Beckham today at his press conference after the LA Galaxy-San Jose Earthquakes game and even asked him a question about England missing out on the Euros. He said he feels sick to his stomach about it and can’t even watch the games. So basically, he’s an American now, I guess.

But yes, I still think interviewing Manu would be weird. He’d probably be wondering why I’m also naked I keep asking him about stupid nicknames.

Group A:

Portugal 3, Czech Republic 1

The one time in my life I’ve rooted for these bastards, and I’ve got to give them credit, they didn’t let me down. Their midfield controlled the game very well, particularly on the flanks with Cristiano Ronaldo on the left and Deco on the right. The pair terrorized the game basically and always seemed to be threatening for goals.

The way Portugal plays with their lone forward, Nuno Gomes, is very interesting. They don’t really look to him for goals all that much but rather use him as a holding player and a facilitator for onrushing midfielders on one-twos. Also, with Ronaldo, they probably take more long shots than most of the other teams and make the goalie work. Against Peter Cech that’s not the best strategy, probably, but against many keepers I would do the same thing.

On their first goal, just seven minutes in, Ronaldo and Deco had a two-on-one in the box and it looked like the Manchester United man was successfully tackled, but the ball trickled to Deco right behind him and he managed to claw it away from Cech’s clutches not once but twice and kind of leaked it past a couple of Czech defenders on the line. It was an ugly goal if there ever was one; but they all count the same.

The Czechs tied it nine minutes later when Jaroslav Plasil found Lubor Sionko (probably their best player in the first game against Switzerland) on a corner header, but really for them that was it. In open play they had almost no prayer and needed to rely almost exclusively on set pieces and hope to use their height against the shorter Portuguese. They started Milan Baros this time up front before he gave way to the towering Jan Koller but neither were very much effective at all, their peaks long behind them.

Portugal went ahead for good when Deco found Ronaldo dashing full speed into the edge of the box and he one timed a low shot past Cech for the winner in the 63rd minute. For good measure the two of them combined for the gift third goal as well. The Czechs committed a late foul in stoppage time and fell asleep, letting Deco boot the quick restart far up the pitch to Ronaldo, who timed his run so perfectly past his defender, he was alone by 20 yards by the time he got the ball. He could’ve gone for his second goal and probably had a fair shot of getting it, but he unselfishly dished it off to sub Ricardo Queresma for the tap in goal. Ronaldo has been a far better player so far than I had imagined and has had a hand in all of their goals. If he were a hockey player he’d have one goal, four assists.

While it looks meaningless on the scoresheet, that final goal the Czechs conceded might prove to be massively costly. Instead of being level on scoring differential 2-2, they’re now at -1, just like Turkey, two goals for, three against. Consequently, it robs them of the opportunity of playing for a draw their third game.

The Portuguese meanwhile have clinched their group and will use the opportunity to rest all their good players for the final game. The home Swiss will probably capitalize and give their fans a small measure of satisfaction with a home win. While it all looks great for Portugal now, mark my words: Their goalie Ricardo, and his overaggressive wandering will be the death of them.

Turkey 2, Switzerland 1

Sweet, sweet revenge for 2006, when the spineless Swiss denied my Turks a trip to the World Cup, where they would have had plenty of fan support playing in Germany (we’re their Mexico).

As predicted Turkey started wonderboy Arda Turan in the absence of Belezoglu Emre and instantly the team looked more aggressive and assertive at the onset, though the quality of their opposition might have had something to do with it. The game was going back and forth, both teams having a few minor chances, when all of a sudden God started just pissing on everyone and turning the field into an absolute swamp. The ball was a fucking rock, never moving anywhere on a kick or a pass, and the Turks were having a miserable time adjusting to the conditions. Turan hit the post on a header, and that looked like it would be their best chance.This is a running, passing team and they can’t play long ball anymore. If they could, they’d still have kept Hakan Sukur on the squad.

The Swiss had their own Turkish Hakan though, as their forward Yakin put us behind the eight ball in the 32nd minute finishing off a goalmouth feed from teenage running mate Eren Deryidok. Derdiyok got behind defender Hakan Balta on a long through ball on the right hand side and passed it somehow between the other three Turkish defenders to Yakin, with centerback Emre Asik in particular looking the worst. Deryidok and Yakin almost combined three minutes later on the same play, but this time the ball skipped past Yakin instead of stopping dead on a puddle for him to diddle in.

The second half though, just as quickly as the rains came, they left. The grounds crew did a marvelous job sopping off the field and it actually looked playable. All of a sudden the guys looked like they could run and pass and dribble and I regained some hope, especially with Mehmet (Manu) Topal checking in as a sub. Forward Nihat Coffeemaker had an excellent cross from the left to sub Semih Senturk and he out-leapt his marker to head home to tie the game. Already I was thinking, “Now we have a mathematical chance, we just have to beat the Czechs.”

In the 2000 Euros they lost their first group game to Italy, tied Sweden, and then shocked the hosts, Belgium, to advance to the quarters. In the 2002 World Cup they lost to Brazil, tied Costa Rica, and then beat China to advance. The pattern looked like it would hold and it was really all I was counting on, especially when Coffeemaker couldn’t quite run on to the end of a clever pass from Tuncay Sanli in the 73rd minute. It helped us out immensely that Switzerland blew a four on one break ten minutes later with Johan Vonlanthen Yakin hitting his initial shot too softly and Yakin being unable to fully pounce on the rebound. The draw looked immenent.

But what can I say, we’re shitty guests. We made the Belgian fans cry at home in 2000, and vanquished both Japan and South Korea in the ’02 World Cup. It was perfectly appropriate (and just) for us to score a goal in the 92nd minute to make the Swiss the first side eliminated out of the tournament. The story of Euro ’08 has been counterattack goals and this was no different. Keeper Volkan Demirel (sensational all game except for being a bit overeager on the Yakin goal) punched it out to right back Hamit Altintop in the corner who spun and booted it to the middle of the pitch to Senturk. He in turn scooted it over to Sanli who was facing the right sideline but quickly spun a 180 degrees and crossed the ball to Arda, streaking down the left. He beat his defender at the left edge of the box and blasted what looked to be a low, difficult (but savable) shot that somehow tipped off the boot of a defender and went on a low parabola right over the stunned noggin of Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio and just inches under the crossbar.

I screamed so loud, I scared the bloody hell out of everyone. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that before.

Now the task is simple for the Turks. They have to beat the Czechs with both teams on completely equal terms. I’m guessing both sides will play ultra cautiously, wary of making a critical mistake. I’m not very scared of the Czechs at all; they’ve looked very much like crap their first two games and got considerably more outplayed by the Swiss than we did. If the game ends tied after 90 minutes, there won’t be any extra time and the teams will proceed directly to pennos, thanks to a new rule change.

Yeah, that won’t be stressful or anything.

Group B:

Croatia 2, Germany 1

Speaking of stunning, I don’t know if anyone was prepared for this result. Croatia had looked so slow and sluggish in barely beating Austria and Germany looked to be toying with the Poles. This game however, it was as if the two sides had switched uniforms, just to fuck with us.

Ze Germans had no room, no passing lanes, no ambition, no flair. The flanks had been so successful for them in the last game and in all of the past World Cup, but the Croats took it away and Germany couldn’t exploit the defense by going through the middle. Michael Ballack was absolute horseshit and Torsten Frings wasn’t very much better. In fact, their entire midfield sucked, including subs David Odonkor and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who disgraced himself with a stupid late red card.

Croatia’s first goal, in the 24th minute, was set up by some intricate tight passing between Danijel Pranjic, Ivan Rakitic and Ivica Olic. In the end it was Pranjic who got some time on the right side and he crossed it into the box for Darijo Srna to volley home. He outmuscled his marker, the pitiful Marcus Janssen and deflected the ball past the helpless Jens Lehmann. They got their second in the 62nd minute when Srna’s long crossing attempt was deflected by Germany’s Lukas Podolski, right off the post and into the path of Olic, who touched it home into the yawning net. Podolski would go on to salvage a goal in the 79th minute, volleying home a loose ball in the box again with his left foot, and he’s now scored all three goals for Germany in the Euros.

Germany couldn’t claim any kind of bad luck or referee error in this one, they got completely outplayed from whistle to whistle. In fact, they were extremely fortunate to surrender just the two goals. The Croatian midfield buzzed around Lehmann’s net all night, Niko Kranjcar in particular, and Luka Modric was much more effective and on the ball than he was against the Swiss.

I blame the manager Joachim Low for trying to fix what wasn’t broken by making changes to his predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting line-up. He should have had Schweinsteiger starting at left midfielder from the beginning and had Podolski up front with Miroslav Klose. Mario Gomez, the guy he’s got up there now, clearly isn’t ready for prime time. Also, I don’t know why he saw fit to replace Arne Freidrich, his starting right fullback the entire World Cup ’06 with Janssen, who couldn’t mark my right testicle.

Thanks to their impressive performance the Croats have claimed Group B and will now rest people against Poland when coming in just about everyone thought that game would determine second place in the group. Croatia will face the winner of Turkey/Czech Republic in their quarterfinal and figure to be slight favorites against either one.

Germany, on the other hand, can’t really afford to take it easy against host Austria, knowing a loss would knock them out and a draw might not suffice if Poland wins by three against Croatia. They’ll have a set of eyes and ears on that other game and will look to be very unaccommodating to the Austrian fans, winning by at least two goals if not more.

Austria 1, Poland 1

I confess I didn’t watch very much of this game (do you blame me?). I had to miss it to cover practice for the San Jose Earthquakes, a side that makes the Austrian team look like Brazil.

Actually early on Poland was making them look like Brazil as well, minus the finishing. Forward Martin Harnik had two glorious chances on keeper Artur Boruc and Roland Linz had one as well, all before the first 20 minutes were up. It should’ve been 3-0 or at least 2-0. I couldn’t believe how dynamic and free flowing they looked.

Of course, in soccer whenever one team misses a certain goal it always comes right back to bite them in the can. Marek Saganowski darted around a defender on the right side in the 30th minute, it deflected off a second guy, Emanuel Pogatetz, and right into the path of Roger Guerreiro (there are hot dogs that have been Polish longer than him) to slide in.

At that point, I had to leave and from all accounts I missed absolutely nothing, especially from the Austrians, until the 92nd minute. That’s when Mariusz Lewandowski got called for a pretty weak shirt-tugging penalty against Sebastien Prodl and reserve Ivica Vastic rocketed one into the corner from the spot a moment later. Afterward, in a show of good sportsmanship, the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk opined that he wanted to murder Howard Webb, the English referee working the game.

Yes, it was the wrong decision, especially in light of all the penalties they haven’t called, but I’m not going to cry for Poland. Come on, they’re Poland. What non-Polish person roots for Poland to do anything? The only stereotype the whole country has is of being the home of millions of dimwits. That certainly sounds unflattering, so it’s better off they disappear so we don’t have to think of them at all. As they say, out of sight, out of mind.

Both these teams still have a shot to qualify into the quarters and become cannon fodder for Portugal. In theory, Poland has the best shot, because they’ll be playing a Croatian squad that’s resting all their guys. On the other hand, Austria has the better goal differential. If they can beat Germany by even one goal, they would need the Poles to beat Croatia by two. But if let’s say Austria wins 2-1 and Poland beats Croatia 2-0. In that case I have no idea what happens. Both teams would have a 1-1-1 record and 3 goals for, 3 against. So yeah, don’t ask me. I don’t know. Seriously, don’t ask me.

Group C:

Italy 1, Romania 1

Otherwise known as The Other Game People Are Bitching About the Refereeing. And it involves the Italians! Imagine that.

In a match far more free-flowing than I’d imagined, the surprising Romanians outplayed the defending World Cup Champion Azzurri for large stretches and would’ve beaten them outright if they converted a penalty in the 81st minute. That they didn’t was perhaps a strong message from the footy gods that Norwegian ref Tom Henning Ovrebo and his linesmen erred badly in disallowing a 45th minute goal for Luca Toni, calling an off-sides that never was. Afterward Italian Football Federation president Giancarlo Abete tried using “the whole game would’ve been different if we scored first” ploy, but that’s faulty logic. The goal Italy ended up giving up was so fluky and misplayed, it could’ve happened to them at any time, whether they were up five goals or down five goals. Grow a pair, Abate, excuses are for losers.

It’s not like Spurs fan claim they would’ve beaten the Lakers if Manu wasn’t inj- eh, bad example.

Well, at least we’ve never blamed the zebr- oh fuck it all, never mind.

Anyway, both teams had a few chances in this open game, even though Italy was enjoying the edge in possession, as one would expect. I thought their rookie manager, Roberto Donadoni showed his inexperience and his immaturity by making so many changes to his line-up after the first game. I’m telling you, I don’t think they played that bad against Holland. The first goal was a bad call and the other two were great counters. Their offense created chances but couldn’t finish. I don’t care if y’all think I’m insane, I’ve seen Italy play much worse than that at least a dozen times and win.

A couple changes I can understand, but Marco Materazzi is the most rugged centerback they have. Removing Gennaro Gattuso, the heart and soul of the team, is lunacy. Even Antonio De Natale was pretty decent last game, I thought. These were panic moves by the manager and I very much doubt he’s long for this job, especially if Italy flame out in the group stages.

Anyway, the way Romania scored was when Italian backliner Gianluca Zambrotta tried to nod the ball back to his keeper Gianluigi Buffon. Only he got way too little of it and it was stolen by the ambushing Adrian Mutu, who neatly tucked it by the startled Buffon. Of course, these being the cock-a-roach Italians, they tied things up before the Romanians had finished celebrating, with Alessandro Del Piero booting a corner from the left over to his fullback Giorgio Chiellini who headed it over to the far side of the post for his bookend Christian Panucci to knock home into (a theme developing here) an empty net.

After both sides knocked the ball around for a half hour, Mutu and Panucci turned from Cinderfellas into pumpkins. Panucci grabbed Daniel Niculae by the neck in the 80th minute and brought him down for a penalty kick, with Mutu chosen to take it. He stepped up and got it off clean, but probably not as high as he wanted it and Buffon made the clutch save diving to his left. If Romania scored there, Italy’s tournament was over.

But he didn’t, and it isn’t. Italy can still advance for a quarterfinal date with the Spaniards if they can beat France and get some help from the Dutch, holding Romania to a draw at most. I very much doubt the Netherlands will be in a generous mood and they’ll be playing their “B” team against the Romanians, but they’re so challenged for goals it may not matter.

But yeah, it’ll probably matter.

Just a miserable showing here for Italy.

Netherlands 3, France 1

Meanwhile, speaking of disgraced champions, it’s time to discuss the French. Coming into the ’02 World Cup they were the defending Cup and Euro winners, and they left Japan/South Korea after the group stages and without having scored a goal. While they won’t repeat that dubious double here, it still doesn’t look very good for them to make it to the quarters either.

In fact, it doesn’t look good for anyone, because the Dutch are kicking royal ass.

Nobody had a tougher opening schedule; playing the two World Cup Finalists back to back is insane. And all the Netherlands did was beat them both by a combined 7-1. All predictions have to be revaluated and Holland have to be considered the favorites the rest of the way, playing the way they’re playing. Nobody mounts a more clinical counterattack, no goalie is playing as well as Edwin Van der Saar, and having the luxury to bring Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben off the bench is just plain unfair.

Netherlands got the scoring started just ten minutes in with Dirk Kuyt outmuscling Florent Malouda and heading in for goal. It went back and forth for nearly 50 minutes after that, with a desperate France getting the better of it, but they were just miserable with their final touch, despite the creative and heroic efforts of Franck Ribery. The French definitely had the edge in speed and perhaps even ball skills, and they were very into the game, but all of their attackers, Thierry Henry, Sidney Govou, Malouda, and later Nicolas Anelka and Bafetimbi Gomis either wasted their ample chances or saw them parried by the ancient Van der Saar.

In the 59th minute the Dutch struck again on the counter and you could see it coming. Ruud Van Nistelrooy had maybe the pass of the tournament, spinning on top of the ball and backheeling it behind him right before it crossed the touch line over to Robben on the run. He went off on a two-on-one break down the left side. He dished it off to a wide open Van Persie and even though he had the whole right side of the net to shoot at, he went left and was lucky to trickle it past the very average French goalie, Gregory Coupet.

Finally, ten minutes later Henry cashes in on his fourth or fifth bona fide great chance. Just a moment before Van Persie’s goal he should’ve tied the game. Malouda made an incredible bicycle pass over to him and he was one-on-one Van der Saar, and he oafishly chipped it way over the net. This time, after Willy Sagnol sent him through, he tried the less is more approach and just nicked the ball with his toe, changing its trajectory and tucking it inside the far post. 2-1 and still over 20 minutes to go, maybe France had a chance, no?

No. Not 30 seconds later Robben latched on to a long ball from Rafael Van der Vaart, again running down the left, only this time he was covered by two defenders, Lilian Thuram and William Gallas and had no room to pass. Really he had no room to do anything, but he kicked the ball hard as he could anyway and it ripped into the top shelf of Coupet’s near post, where he keeps the Kleenex and perhaps the Midol, and again in an instant France was back down two and out of the game. Wesley Sneijder bended a fourth goal in from the edge of box in the 90th minute for good measure.

The Dutch lead the tournament with seven goals (from six different scorers) through two games and have already clinched “The Group of Death” a most unbelievable accomplishment. Now they partially hold the fate of Italy and France in their hands. If they try and compete, even with their backups, then one of these proud soccer superpowers will still have a chance. If the Dutch lay down for Romania though, that game won’t matter no matter what happens. I for one hope they play hard, because the footy gods will be watching and as with everything else good karma gets rewarded and bad karma gets punished.

Group D:

Spain 2, Sweden 1

And here we had another classic tale of two halves type of game. In the first 45 minutes, Spain pretty much scored on the one great chance they had, with my man Fernando Torres volleying home a cross in the 15th minute from David Silva after the Iberians played a corner short. Besides that Sweden really controlled the flow and had all the chances, and they cashed in when my other man Zlatan Ibrahimovic deadened a long cross from right midfield from Fredrik Stoor (the same guy beaten on the Torres goal), held off Sergio Ramos nipping at his heels at the right edge of the goal and turned and shot into the far post in the 34th minute.

It looked like a real game, and what’s more the goal seemed to energize Ibrahimovic who was moving around fairly slugglishly on the pitch for the first half hour.

The game turned though, on a non-call, of all things. Ramos tried to redeem his defensive lapse at the other end, as he often does. He did well to cross a ball into the box and it was heading straight for Silva, seemingly unmarked in the 45th minute. But then Swedish forward Johan Elmander slammed into him from behind for what looked to be the most obvious slam dunk penalty of the tournament. Astonishingly referee Pieter Vink didn’t call a foul. To add insult to injury, he blew the half time whistle a minute later when Spain were on the attack and a change of possession hadn’t just occurred, something zebras don’t usually do at the end of halves or games.

Some teams might pout or whine about their missed fortune, but the awful calls seemed to galvanize Spain and they came out a lot more aggressively in the second half. The sight of Ibrahimovic on the bench with a sore knee no doubt strengthened their belief. They had all the good chances rest of the way, save for one, when grandpa Henrik Larsson would’ve had the easy tiebreaker for Sweden if he could’ve just caught up to a cross from Olof Mellberg. Spain’s best missed opportunity was in the 63rd minute when Silva’s shot in the box was saved by keeper Andreas Isaakson, who then managed to get a piece of David Villa’s goalmouth rebound attempt as well (not to mention Villa’s knee getting a piece of him). Villa played that carom back to Torres, and while the net had no goalie occupying it, there were two defenders in the way and they blocked his hurried attempt on goal. If Torres was calm and cool enough to take two steps to his right and round these emergency goalies, it’d have been an easy goal.

It didn’t matter in the end though as again Villa, the Man of the Tournament thus far, saved his bacon. In the 92nd minute he caught up to Joan Capdevilla’s long breakout pass on the left side, deftly tapped it inside the path of the off-balance Petter Hansson, and then slid it behind Isaakson’s far post before Mellberg could intervene from behind. Just a spectacular effort from him and far more difficult than any of three he scored on his hat trick against Russia.

Sweden lost, in shock.

Because of Villa’s miracle goal, Spain get to rest everyone against Greece, and will do so without the slightest bit of guilt or animosity from the footy gods (see why below). Their quarterfinal opponents could be any one of the trio of Italy, France or Romania, but the latter is the way to bet. Sweden on the other hand, will have to go full tilt to hold off the Russians and secure their date with the Dutch. They need at least a draw, so I’m guessing they’ll play super tight and keep Ibrahimovic on the bench as a reserve, bringing him in only as an emergency if they’re trailing and need a second half equalizer.

Russia 1, Greece 0

And like that, the defending champions are gone; eliminated as quickly as the math allows. With them disappeared a tidy little Euro ’08 streak of at least two goals in ten consecutive matches, and of course it had to end with the coma-inducing Greeks.

Actually, I shouldn’t pile on. They’ve been roundly criticized by pundits and analysts the world over for their over-defensive tactics and time-killing play in the back. Really, I thought some of the criticism was unfair. Against Sweden as unwatchable as the game was, the strategy was working for the first 65+ minutes. Greece looked like they were purposefully killing off the game to the frustration of everyone watching, but they did have almost all the chances before Ibrahimovic’s winner in the 67th minute, Sweden’s first shot on goal of the match. Sweden actually had made a few careless turnovers up to then and the annoying Greeks damn near capitalized.

As miserable as it is to watch, their style works for them until they’re trailing. Then they’re in trouble, as we all saw.

In this game though, the scoreline may have read 1-0, but both teams had many opportunities and just lacked the ability to finish them off. I thought both keepers were quite good and all the forwards were piss poor. The difference in the game was that Greece’s keeper, Antonis Nikopolidis, in what is surely his last international game (we can only hope) made one humongous gaffe and his counterpart, Igor Akinfeev, did not.

In the 33rd minute Nikopolidis didn’t trust his defense and decided to chase down an over hit cross from his right side to the left from Diniyar Bilyanetdinov to Sergei Semak. Semak, perpendicular to the goal line and facing the wrong way, flipped it backwards over his head, and the Danson-like mug of Nikopolidis as well, and right in front of a grateful Konstatin Zurianov to tap home into (yup) an empty net.

After that, as I said, both sides came close multiple times. Greece’s best player was Giorgos Karagounis and he should’ve started instead of coming on as a sub in the 40th minute. Their best chance came in the 87th when Traianos Dellas played a through ball to emergency striker Sotorios Kyrgiakos, and after he collided with somebody, ’04 hero Angelos Charisteas put the rebound in. Alas, the play was ruled off-side, perhaps in error, by Italian ref Roberto Rosetti, whom I’m sure the Greeks would like to have stoned.

Rosetti? Stoned? Get it?

Ha.

Manolis didn’t laugh either, and neither did his old man, whose awfully colorful and descriptive running commentary during the game certainly added to the experience. The Greek strikers may not be much good at scoring, but according to ol’ Chris, they can do some amazing things anatomically that I’m not sure even David Villa can pull off.

Or would want to.

So now the Greeks are gone, still scoreless and masters of the all-or-nothing tournament experience. Their last major tourney before the ’04 Euros was the ’94 World Cup in the States, and they went 0-3 there, conceding ten and scoring none. They’ll get the chance to redeem themselves in the ’10 World Cup because trust me, they’re going to be in. Their qualifying group is a sham.

The Russians though are still very much alive in the here and now, poised to pull off another miracle for manager Guus Hiddink. Thanks to their negative goal differential they’ll have to beat Sweden to advance, but at least they control their own destiny and don’t need help. An early goal in that game would certainly make things interesting.

2nd Games Starting XI: (with apologies to the Dutch)

G: Artur Boruc – Poland. Austria doesn’t have the most fearsome attack, yet Boruc made more point blank saves than anyone. Turkey’s Volkan Demirel deserves a mention as well.

LD: Joan Capdevila – Spain. Assist on Villa’s game winner and Sweden didn’t test his side of the field much. Italy’s Christian Pannucci scored, but gave up a penalty too.

CD: Servet Cetin – Turkey. All bandaged up and hobbled, he was a lion in the back for the Turkish defense.

CD: Robert Kovac – Croatia. A rock in the middle against Germany who refused to give Klose or anyone else much room.

RD: Philipp Lahm – Germany. I still think he’s peerless. No one ever attacks his quadrant and he’s always looking to make something happen.

LM: Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal. At this point, no room for debate.

CM: Deco – Portugal. Very artsy, very clever.

CM: Arda Turan – Turkey. Cheating a bit to put him in the middle, but he has to be somewhere.

RM: Darijo Srna – Croatia. Big first goal against Germany and helped created second. His only competition here is France’s Ribery.

LF: David Villa – Spain. Still the Euro frontrunner with four goals and two game winners.

RF: Fernando Torres – Spain. He created so many high quality chances for himself and was never hesitant to shoot. Could’ve had his own hat trick easy.