EURO A-Z: Part 2
In the second round of matches at UEFA EURO 2008, Croatia upset the favoured Germans, Marco van Basten's Netherlands side put four goals past the normally rock-solid French defence, and supposed no-hopers Austria thrilled their fans with a spirited performance against Poland which earned them a precious point. Below, some more alphabetical musings on the highlights of a EURO tournament that has lived up to expectations and more.
G is for
Golazo - the Spanish term for the sort of goal that makes
you jump out of your seat, or drop scalding coffee onto your lap.
And two Spanish-based players provided top-drawer
golazos for the Dutch to put the seal on the 4-1 victory
over France: first there was Arjen Robben's cracking
narrow-angled strike as three defenders converged on him, and then
Wesley Sneijder's classic pivot and right-foot rocket in the
final minute of the game. Two of the finest goals of the tournament
H is for heartbreak, which the Swiss co-hosts have
experienced in abundance at EURO 2008. First there was the early
injury to poor Alexander Frei, then the sucker-punch goal from
Vaclav Sverkos that handed Kobi Kuhn's men a first-up loss.
With Arda Turan's late strike in their 2-1 defeat by Turkey in
difficult conditions at St. Jakob-Park Stadium, the Swiss misery
I is for Ibrahimovic. The Swedish striker, one of the
stars of the tournament so far, has certainly answered those
critics who have cast aspersions on his poor scoring record for the
national side. Despite not having scored a goal for Sweden for
nearly two years, "Ibra" struck a memorable half-volley
to break the deadlock against Greece, and proved it wasn't a
fluke by applying a close-range finish against Spain for his second
goal in two games. Goal drought? What goal drought?
I is for the Joker, otherwise known as Croatia coach
Slaven Bilic. The guitar-playing, wise-cracking Croatia boss is a
breath of fresh air on the touchline, and the game against Germany
proved him to be a shrewd tactician as well. If there were an award
given to Personality of the Tournament, the former Everton and West
Ham defender, who famously called for England to "Wake
up!" after his team had eliminated them from EURO reckoning,
would be the hot favourite.
K is for Knife-edge. Groups A and D feature final
group matches between two sides jostling for a quarter-final spot,
with penalty kicks on the cards for the Czech Republic and Turkey,
should they be unable to reach a decision within the ninety
minutes. As for Group C, if the Netherlands defeat Romania and
Italy and France draw, a PhD should be offered to anyone able to
work out who will be going through to the quarters alongside the
L is for Late show, of which the Austrians have now
proved themselves the undisputed masters. Austria's last
appearance in a major international tournament was at the 1998 FIFA
World Cup France™, in which they scored a goal in each of their
three group games...and all three goals, extraordinarily, were
scored in second-half injury time. Now they've done it again,
with Ivica Vastic (who also, incidentally, scored one of those
show-stopping goals in 1998) securing the co-hosts a point against
Poland with a goal...in injury time.