The Spanish are flashing form that they always show in opening rounds before their defensive backline starts becoming a liability in knockout rounds. If you liked action by strikers and other up-front men, then this was your kind of game: the regulation time goals came from Fernando Torres and Zultan Ibrahimovic in the first half, and then it became a battle until stoppage time — when a catastrophic defensive breakdown by the Swedes left David Villa with a dribble move and a shot over a goalie in the splits for his fourth goal of the tourney and a 2-1 game winner in the 92nd minute. Roman Abramovich is trying to figure out just how much he’s going to have to shell out to get Villa to Chelsea for the next club season.
(Grazie, Real Clear Sports.)
Adrian Healy obviously was unaware of the American slang meaning of “Dutch oven” when he uttered his line about it and the French being toast, but after a 4-1 curb stomping that left French coach Raymond Domenech consulting the cards to see in advance how the French papers would be challenging his football intelligence and striker Thierry Henry wondering how many clean chances he could botch, the Dutch are on a mission to revive the “Total Football” ideal they had in the 70s. To my untrained and undeveloped eye, the Dutch have had some of the best looking goals of the entire tourney — Wesley Sneijder’s artistry from the first game against Italy is the best example. However, Ruud van Nistelrooy’s amazing dribble work on keeping the ball in to get it from Arjen Robben to the foot of Robin van Persie was nuts, as was Robben’s subsequent goal at a disgustingly sharp angle that normal footballers wouldn’t even hit post on. Sneijder added another goal after that, and let’s not forget Dirk Kuyt’s well-timed first half header off the corner kick. The Dutch have a Spaniard’s attitude about defense right now, but we’ll see if it hurts them — either way, the Group of Death is theirs.
Another aside note: I love Andy Gray, not only because of the “if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap” mantra, but because he just took no prisoners in calling out Henry for not making a chance or two in the second half, going so far as to say, “I mean, I’ve played the game and I know how difficult it is to score, but there’s no excuse for missing that.”
Italy’s hopes are only alive because keeper Gianluigi Buffon made an amazing save on an Adrian Mutu penalty kick in the second half, despite looking crisper and keeping a better handle on the action for most of the game with Romania. Mutu had scored earlier in the second half, quickly followed a minute later by Italy’s Christian Panucci — but the Azzuri had so many more chances off the heads and feet of Luca Toni and Alessandro del Piero that should have at least gone on goal.