|photo by StewieD||via PhotoRee|
Scott checks in with some thoughts on the Euros:
England may have been fortunate to avoid Spain in the quarter finals, but they won’t go far unless they get more creative on the attack and a little more solid on defense. Lobbing in crosses won’t cut it every time, especially if they meet the Germans’ superior air power. And on more times than I can count over the past 2 games, the back four have stopped and looked at each other when a loose ball presents itself at the top of their 18. Maybe the defense will gel quickly and maybe Steven Gerrard’s pinpoint crosses can do enough damage (his passing has been sublime), but unless they step up their game they may have reached their limit in the competition. Which, when looking at their lineup, is shocking since they have quality in almost every position. But, as dominant as these players are for their club teams, as a group and playing for country, they often seem nervous and play below their abilities. Only Gerrard and Joe Hart seem unfazed by the stage on which they are playing.
England’s ace in the hole may be Wayne Rooney’s return. Despite missing an absolute sitter of a header against Ukraine, he is fresh from his suspension and as hungry as ever. Roy Hodgson would be insane to contrive a lineup without him.
Andy Carroll played well against Sweden. His goal was brilliantly taken and his effort was tireless, tracking back repeatedly to pressure and win balls. And, of course, there was the usual, effective knock down and hold up play for which the big man is known. Most impressive to me was to see him sprinting at the 60 minute mark to track back and pressure. He probably knew he was coming out of the game but that is the type of consistent effort England will need.
Spain may have mastered the 1-0 win but they will need to score more to win back-to-back Euros. A dearth of goals has always been the weak link for this Barcelona-sans-Messi team (as previously discussed on these pages), but the now-injured David Villa always seemed to come through. The Fernando Torres-led 4-0 thrashing of Ireland seems to have been an aberration as La Roja returned to their parsimonious ways in a late 1-0 victory over an unlucky Croatia team. The fact is that the Spanish seem to have lost some of their invincibility. At one time, they never coughed the ball up in the midfield due to pressure or an errant pass. But those days are gone as they have proven to be mortal with a slew of lost balls in midfield now combining with their inability to score. They say great teams eek out results early and improve as the tournament goes on. Vicente del Bosque knows what to work on.
Sweden deserve some kind of consolation prize for their performance against France. To be completely eliminated from a tournament and yet still stick it to a team that was undoubtedly going to proceed – I love that. Also, while I have never been a huge fan of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he certainly earned my respect this tournament. At times he seemed to be the sole inspiration for the Swedes and his incredible volleyed goal against the French prompted several rewinds of my DVR. How does a 6’ 5’’ man follow through to a literally horizontal position in order to keep the shot low and in the corner? Amazing.
This is farlieonfootie for June 23.