Suprises, surprises and more surprises. No doubt the Eurobookies are hurting, as only a deluded patriot would have gambled on Greece over France, and while the Netherlands are seemingly an eternal contender, who was expecting them to successfully navigate a penalty shoot-out for the first time, especially against a facile and team-oriented Swedish squad?
The Czechs came out flat against Denmark; the game was so slow, dull and poorly officiated that I almost didn’t bother returning to the television after halftime. That would have been a mistake, though, as they clinically executed two assassin-like goals stemming from sharp through passes to Milan Barros. Taken in its totality, the game was like watching a cat toying with a mouse, leisurely dispatching it with ease when it tires of the charade.
It forces me want to rethink my statement on the Northern Alliance show that the winner of the Sweden-Holland game would take all. But if Holland can win on penalties – we got two phone calls from SpaceBunny’s best friend, a Dutch girl who sounded on the very verge of expiring from nervous tension, during the shootout – perhaps it is finally their year. However, I don’t like the managerial matchup between Advocaat and Scolari, as the difference between the Dutchman and the man who doesn’t fear to pull Luis Figo in the biggest match so far is a stark one.
And then, of course, one would be a fool to dismiss the hometown factor in a tournament that has seen the most unusual mix of great – love all the yellow cards being handed out to the divers – and appalling refereeing. So, what to conclude?
The easy game first. The Czechs have not only been dominant, but play an Arsenal-like open attacking style that will have no trouble cracking open the Greek defense. They should win easily, by as many as five goals. Despite the above comments, I don’t trust Portugal. They should have lost to England even though they outplayed them. They’ve choked numerous times in the past and they have a Ewing Theory (see The Sports Guy) thing going with their best player, Luis Figo. I think we’ll see Holland against the Czechs for the whole enchilada.