Sunday, June 22, 2008

UEFA Euro 2008: Spain-Italy Recap

Commentators like to say the penalty shootout is a cruel lottery, but there was nothing cruel about Spain prevailing 4-2 over Italy after a 0-0 draw. Only one team came to Vienna actively seeking a win, and while Spain battled fruitlessly for a goal for 120 minutes, at least they were battling. Spain outshot Italy 27-12, but it could have been a greater margin if Spain didn't so often seek the perfect play opposed to the quick release. The Italians, sans Pirlo and Gattusso, looked more like defensive-minded Greece than the reigning World Champions.

Referee Herbert Fandel frustratingly blew the whistle on at least two occasions when Spain was on offense and an Italian player lay behind the play "suffering" from a minor injury. Once players realize the ref will let them get away with this tactic, they take full advantage. Refs need to do a better job of letting play continue unless the injury is truly serious. And nine times out of ten you can tell when an injury is truly serious.

As for the shootout, Spain put an end to their June 22nd PK hoodoo, a date on which they'd fallen victim to spot kicks on three previous instances since 1986. Cesc Fabregas, who came on in the second half, put home the final kick to give Spain a 4-2 triumph. Spain now face Russia in the semifinals, a replay of the opener for both teams, which Spain won 4-1. Based on the way Russia has played since, don't expect the rematch to be another blowout. Italy end their tournament with only three goals and one win in four games.

No comments: