We have to note that none only two more of the matches from here on out will feature our new favorite Scot, Andy Gray, on color commentary; Derek Rae and the old leprechaun Tommy Smyth will be calling the rest of the games, it looks like. I presume Gray will be in the studio with Rece Davis and Julie Foudy, but it seems a waste. I know Tommy Smyth has rank on Gray in the Bristol hierarchy but the fact that the last two days of matches will be the last of Andy is somewhat less than fair. My personal favorite was when Gray and Rae were calling a match on Sunday, and this exchange happened:
Rae: “Derek Rae and Andy Gray here with you for Euro 2008. The two Scots are here, even though the Scottish team is not, but that’s okay.”
Gray: “Speak for yourself!”
Update: I totally boned this up originally. I thought Andy Gray and Adrian Healy were done calling games. Awful Announcing tells us this is not the case! Hooray! (Although I would really prefer teaming up Rae and Gray as the A-team.
Nothing like trying to cut through brogue to translate. Anyway, on to the match-ups (all games at 11:45 AM Pacific)
Portugal vs. Germany (Today)
The Germans were expected to roll right through their group and not even be in a position to have to see the Portuguese until the semis. An abject failure from Joachim Low’s strikers (we have an APB out for Klose, Miroslav, and Gomez, Mario, that is an All Points Bulletin) contributed to a loss to group winner Croatia and they needed a Michael Ballack free-kick score against Austria to get over the hump. Given the injury troubles of Lukas Podolski and the non-existence of the strikers, I’m not inclined to bet against Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo. This is a match-up of teams with shitty strikers (Nuno Gomes appears to be a joke for Big Phil’s squad); I give the edge to the team with the best player in the world.
Turkey vs. Croatia (Friday)
Yes, the Turks are down a goalie on a dumb red card given to Volkan in stoppage time in their second comeback against the Czech Republic in group play, but I’m not willing to tack against a team that’s made two comebacks with tenacious defense and the way the midfield and forwards have played against the gun late. Croatia will have to take them out first.
Netherlands vs. Russia (Saturday)
Russia made 2-0 mincemeat of a Swedish squad apparently unable to generate offensive opportunities unless they are off the foot of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and got themselves a date with the Netherlands on Friday, which brings Guus Hiddink against his native country (and the national team he used to helm). This Dutch team is too damn loaded on the offensive end (when Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie are your big bench guys, you’re talented) with guys like Ruud van Nistelrooy, Giovanni van Bronckhurst, Wesley Sneijder (who scored the prettiest goal of the tourney so far), and Dirk Kuyt (whom Kanu labeled “the best no-talent footballer in the world.”) The Oranje face no serious test unless they make the finals.
Spain vs. Italy (Sunday)
The Spanish have taken to calling themselves “Los Punas” to reflect their choking streaks in Euro and World Cup competition. Not this round, though. Spain has a lousy backline of defenders right now able to make a boneheaded move defensively at any point. That said, it’s incumbent upon Italy actually scoring. Luca Toni hasn’t shown up yet and I think Alessando del Pietro is out this game. To advance, the Azzuri wil need another outstanding game in goal from Gianluigi Buffon, and Spain has way too much firepower up front this time.