Euro 2008 day 4

1. The Grecian defensive shell has finally been cracked. Nikopolidis had no chance at stopping Ibrahimovic’s excellent shot, but after stuffing Freddie Ljungberg on a one-on-one, he really should have had the ball when it popped up in the air in front of goal. The keeper always has a right to the ball; it may have been a freak ping-pong bounce that caused it to go in, but Hansson never should have had the opportunity to touch the ball in the first place.

2. For all their dominance last night, I don’t think Sweden is really all that good. I love Freddie, I really do, but when one of your most effective players can’t even hold his place at Arsenal anymore…. I was more impressed by Russia in their loss than by Sweden in their win. That being said, it was a great win for the Swedes and if they can manage to tie Russia and only lose by two or less to Spain, they’ll go through.

3. Spain looked awesome. Villa got the hat trick, but their entire attack was impressive throughout. It reminded me of the Arsenal machine carving up defenses during their undefeated season. This was the most entertaining game of the tournament even though at 4-1 it wasn’t close; the Russians never quit fighting and finally got rewarded for their efforts at the end. Considering that they’ve got Raul of Real Madrid on the bench, the Spanish really look like the team to beat despite their history of choking. Remember, prior to the tournament, Russia with Hiddink at the helm was a popular dark horse pick to win it all.

4. Admirable patience by Villa on his third goal as well as on the final one that Fabregas put away. He’s got speed and power, but it’s combined with the fox-in-the-boxiness of Filippo Inzaghi. He’s been really impressive at Valencia and it amazes me that it’s taken this long for him to get signed away by the big clubs. That hat trick should be enough to seal the deal for Real Madrid. The Galacticos strategy didn’t exactly work out well in the past, but pairing Villa with Cristiano Ronaldo on the wing sounds a lot more lethal than putting Michael Owen with Luis Figo.

5. I wish every midfielder in the world, at every level, would study the goals being scored at this tournament. Most of best chances are coming on quick through passes made on the ground behind the defense. I absolutely hate midfielders who insist on hanging onto the ball too long, then finally have to pass it out to the sides because the defense has fallen back from its offsides trap and is now set inside the 18-yard box.