Celebrating club football and shining the light on incompetent and biased journos indulging in stereotyping and negativity.
Daily Archives: June 8, 2012
Russia – Czech Republic, June 8, 2012 – 20h45 kick off; 4-1
After this convincing display, albeit against an opposition that is more intimidating in terms historical achievements than present might on the pitch, Russia will certainly climb up in most specialists’ and especially tourists’ rankings as potential favorites. It’s always so with wins with significant goal margins. But to be fair, they did show good command of the ball and potency in attack, so it is actually not unfair for them to inherit the status of favorites to qualify from this group. A quick review of their essential features as per this tournament’s key assessment criteria.
Hollywood factor: Igor Denisov would be a great Russian baddie sidekick in a James Bond flick, but the problem is that the Russians have slipped down the bad guys’ pecking order.
Old/mean man kudos: With the singular exception of the youthful Dzagoev, the average age of the starting 11 is probably somewhere around 29 if not even 30, so there are many contenders for this role. Defender Aleksandr Anyukov looks the meanest though (see photo below).
French connection: There have not been many Russian players in Ligue 1. This is kind of surprising given the many lavish and luxurious facets of life in France. The low appeal of the hexagon may have to do with the high taxes, the absence of Russian owners, or simply the general lack of all round bling-bling status, though that may be changing rapidly as PSG prepares for another big splash this summer. But honestly, I don’t even feel like googling the players’ names, I am that unconvinced of finding anything (help is welcome as always).
New hype kid most touted to join the English Premier League: Alan Dzagoev – the very prospect of being able to lean on the simplicity of his first name for buddy-buddy post match interviews (for UK journos) places him above many on the shopping list for an early summer deal, not to mention his two great goals of the evening. If Roman doesn’t bite, don’t put it past Wenger to break the piggy bank (and try to definitely dispose of Arshavin in the process) for another promising quick-footed midfielder.
Hollywood factor: Although already 31, Arsenal’s own Tomáš Rosický conserves a youthful insouciance that is quite endearing (for example his haircut suggests he is no more than 15 years old). If Arnold Schwarzenegger is ever tempted for a reprise in his classic role, for example in Terminator 5, I would recommend Rosický to play alongside the former guvna as an older version of John Connor (that other kid in Terminator 3 was completely out of his depth). But really, let’s face it, it’s all gone terribly wrong since Jan Koller retired from national service. (copyrighted pun by prince O of Subfoot.com fame)
Old/mean man kudos: High of his Champions League performance, it should be Cech but that soft fuzzy helmet is suggestive of a lingering fragility not suited to the big boots that come with this responsibility. Though not exactly old at 26, Petr Jiráček’s has a potential bad boy/rock star look that put him in contention for this role (as well as a move to AS Roma). However, overall the boys in white are light on this key factor especially prized by Roy Keane, so they won’t be his favorites to make it through the next round.
French connection: Bordeaux’s own Jaroslav “mini-Nedved” Plasil, the talented but typically underachieving midfielder (as per the now established tradition of post 1990’s initially promising Czech talent). Seriously, it’s all gone terribly wrong since Jan Koller left Monaco.
New hype kid most touted to join the English Premier League: On a serious note, the young 23-year old Václav Pilař, who impressed with Viktoria Plzen in this year’s Champions League group stages, and elegantly converted the only Czech goal of the evening, could be a good buy for someone with a slightly longer term vision then the average EPL chairman. I bet David Moyes could make him fit in well at Everton.
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Historic moment of the match: The very smooth 2nd goal chip by Roman Shirokov.
Hero of the game: Alan Dzagoev, and notably for his convincing 2nd goal and passionate but classic celebration.
Harry Redknapp’s quip of the game: He’s good that Roman Pavlyuchenko guy, we should try to buy him for next season.
So the European national football championship is finally off to a great start, and I am not talking about the ceremony, which is scrupulously avoided by monitoring the Djokovic-Federer game that was on at the same time. No, the appraisal refers to the opening game opposing 1/2 hosts Poland to Europe’s boo boys, Greece. Although it ended 1-1 after Greek captain Karagounis failed to take the advantage for his side from a penalty kick, it was a most entertaining and fairly dramatic affair, with Borussia Dortmund’s in form hot commodity striker Lewandowski confirming his potential by grabbing his first of the tournament. The two red cards, one for each side, also raised the intensity. Though Greece will rue the missed penalty that could have brought them precious 3 points, they can probably be quite satisfied to grab one point from this first and always delicate fixture against the hosts where they were clearly not the favorites.
What follows is less match commentary than a team review, the format of which I will try to build on during the following games – enjoy, comments welcome.
Poland-Greece, Friday June 8, 2012 – 18h kick-off
Greece Team Profile
Hollywood factor: This one has to go to Giorgos Samaras as young Evan Almighy, although defender’s Holebas haircut and vociferous complaining to the ref (after claims for a penalty for a handball by Polish defender Perquis fell on deaf ears) could easily have him landing a minor role in Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.
Old/mean man kudos: Either captain Karagounis, for sheer experience, or Dimitris Salpingidis the goalscorer, for his greater “300” hard man coefficient (respectable beard helping).
French connection (1): A lonely Giorgos Tzavellas (on the bench, unsubstituted) featured in this year’s resurgent Monaco side. Otherwise it is difficult challenge to make the connection, as Greek players resolutely prefer the German Bundesliga as their main export destination. Who says Greeks and Germans can’t get along? Or that the Greeks don’t fancy the Euro?
New hype kid most touted to join the English Premier League: I could see Roberto Martinez fancying the deft footwork of young Ninis to rejuvenate his Wigan side. Otherwise, Sam Allardyce may already be on the phone for hard man Salpingidis.
Poland Team Profile
Hollywood factor: In the tradition of the inimitable Ralph Macchio, we could easily see the hosts’ goalkeeper, Szczesny, adopt the funky “Z-man” moniker (on the strength of the two Z’s in his name) and develop a great career playing nerdy kids up until the age of 40.
Old/mean man kudos: none whatsoever – this is clearly a bunch of young boys with plenty of acne to boot, à la Gunners quoi. The only alternative may be coach Smuda, but only if eligibility guidelines are relaxed.
French connection (1): Ludovic Obraniak, the “outsider” to this team who has shown his talent at Bordeaux this season after leaving Lille following their title win in 2011. Too bad he couldn’t demonstrate more of that on the few opportunities he had to make the difference this evening.
New hype kid most touted to join the English Premier League: Though his complex name may considerably reduce journo enthusiasm, Błaszczykowski’s carefully crafted metro-sexual (Beckham-approved) hairstyle, as well as regular forays into the final 3rd of the opposition’s half, and the superb cross for the first goal, will surely suffice to make him a UK tabloid darling for a reasonably priced move to the EPL – at the very least at QPR, maybe even for Liverpool (if Benitez was still there). Alternatively, Newcastle United might be tempted to increase their francophone credentials with Obraniak. Failing all that, Lewandowski might also find his way there, perhaps at Arsenal with his buddy Szczesny (especially if RVP moves on).
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Historic moment of the match: in a heavily symbolic moment that will have the rest of Europe cheering in approval, the unfortunately (Tintin baddie-like) named Greek defender Papastathopoulos sees the first red of the tournament, as Greece is reduced to 10 men. Cue riots in Athens.
Hero of the game: it’s a close call between super subs Dimitris Salpingidis (goal + won penalty for the Greeks) and Przemyslaw Tyton, the sub goalie whose first intervention consisted in saving the penalty shot from Karagounis.
(1) According to the official French media essential elements guide by the excellent Subfoot.com (read article), there has to be one.