Thankfully for FIFA and Euro 2008 in general, Spain’s Iker Casillas came up money in the PK stage twice today against the Italians as a nil-nil match turned into a 4-2 PK win for the Iberians. The Italians make football cry — theirs is a brand only second to the Greeks in terms of defensive hard-headedness and boredom for anyone who dares watch. The Spanish not only had to overcome that, but the lousy job the German referee did — ignoring Italian diving and acting jobs, making the Spanish side kick the ball out of bounds on some of these Oscar-worthy performances (always when the Spanish had numbers), and yellow cards for fouls that were not called when the Italians did the exact same thing.
They also had to overcome coach Luis Aragones’ own insane decisions — like waiting so long to bring on Cesc Fabregas, who wound up hitting the final PK — and subbing out Fernando Torres with Daniel Guiza, who not only made a couple of bonehead plays (like playing a cross with his arms), but fucked up his PK badly, resulting in an easy save for Gianluigi Buffon (the only Italian player I can at least have some respect for; he’s truly an elite keeper.)
So now, we’ve got the semis ahead of us, and one game looks exciting while the other looks like a foregone conclusion:
Germany-Turkey – The Turks’ luck is probably going to run out here because they have four players out for yellow card suspensions and five others injured (striker Nihat Khaveci being the latest, and out for the rest of the tournament). Keeper Volkan Demirel is still out as well, leaving Rustu Recber (who did a great job against the Croats on PKs and in the match in general) with a decimated hodge-podge of a squad in front of him. If Fatim Terih can find a line-up that will at least keep it close with the Germans’ attacking firepower, I will be impressed.
Spain-Russia – A match of two teams with their own transfer darlings: David Villa still holds the lead for the most goals in the tourney and Andrei Arshavin is now drawing serious interest after the Russians mounted their extra time defeat of the Dutch yesterday by totally aping their all-attack style. Russia holds a defensive advantage, as Spain’s back line always seems to take some risky moves, but Casillas is an obvious advantage in goal. I am openly rooting for the Spanish, and hoping Aragones can stay out of his own way with the line-up. Honestly, why is Cesc Fabregas not starting, and after watching Guiza, in what way should he ever be allowed to sub for Torres again?