Archive for the ‘UEFA’ Category

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Representing for Die Mannschaft. German National Team Fan Club Smyrna, GA ready to go!

Here we are .. the end of day 5 Euro 2016: 12 matches, the opening group games for all 24 Euro teams, are in the books; 22 goals; 6 matches decided by one goal; 3 ties; Germany, Italy and Hungary managed 2:0 victories.

Based on the first week of play, here are some of our pleasant surprises, shockers, under performers and overachievers:

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Wales’ super sub Hal Robson-Kanu scores a late winner to shock Slovakia in its Euro 2016 opener.

Pleasant Surprise — Wales: The Football Association of Wales, the 3rd oldest national FA in the world, waited 58 years to field its national team  at a major international tournament. Not only did Wales’ superstar Gareth Bale score a goal, the team scrapped and fought it’s way to a 2:1 victory over Slovakia. With the win, Wales sits atop Group B (and England) … at least until Thursday when they battle the perennial underachieving English.

Shocker — Hungary: Many EURO 16 fantasy types picked Austria to go far … after all they took care of business in Euro qualifying plus have Bayern Munich superstar David Alaba and Christian Fuchs, proud member of this year’s Premier league winner Leicester City. Well, Hungary had an appetite for an upset and beat Austria soundly 2:0.

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Hungary’s goal scorer Adam Szalai does his best impression of the Lambeau Leap as his nation upsets Austria in their Euro 2016 opening match.

Biggest disappointment — Belgium: If this is truly the best Belgian’s ‘golden generation’ of footballers can do than it’s time to sell your gold reserves. Pound-for-pound, player-for-player, the 2016 Belgian national squad is easily the most impressive of the 24 Euro teams. They started their Euro campaign with a haphazard, uninspired performance versus the laser focused and disciplined Italians. Not all is lost, but the Red Devils may need to watch tape from the 1980s-1990s teams that delivered true championship caliber performances.

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Italian national keeper Gianluigi Buffon sings his heart out during the EURO 2016 pre-match country anthems.

Overachievers — Italy: Oh the irony … the team best known for defense and eking out boring 1 nil victories, topped the week 1 scoring charts with two surprise goals against Belgium. Entering the EUROS as one of the weakest Italy squads in many years, the Azzuri are playing light and burden free. Will they be the team to watch? Let’s see what their next match vs. Sweden brings.

As we head into week 2, we have finally warmed up our Euro 2016 diesels and are ready to hit the open road. Who will shine? who will whine? and who will continue to dream of Euro glory. Stay tuned!

SO. I have been holding out on all TRF followers and supporters … my last blog post was on July 13th, 2014, the morning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final between my mighty Germans and the persistent Argentinians. What happened that afternoon and evening is now part of global footballing and World Cup history.

 

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22 year-old German young-star Mario Goetze sends the German footballing world into utopian frenzy with his World Cup Final match-winner.

Mario Goetze’s epic strike in the 113th minute earned Die Mannschaft it’s 4th world cup star and provided the icing to the sweetest German Fussball chocolate cake any team could whip up. Why so sweet? On its way to the WC trophy, Germany accomplished notable ‘firsts’ and ‘mosts’ … most goals scored 18; best goal difference +14; most goals scored in a match by one team: Germany 7 v Brazil 1 (in the WC semis!), most passes by a team: 4,157 passes, with a 82% completion rate, and first European team to win a WC in a South American host nation.

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Miro Klose scored 16 goals in 23 world cup matches in four world cups including the record winner versus Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals.

A lot has happened to the German National Team since that magical night at the Maracanã: Match winner Mario Goetze went from national team hero to club (Bayern Muenchen) bench-warmer and sometimes goat; Captain Philip Lahm, defender Per Mertesacker and goal-getter extraordinaire Miro Klose retired from Die Mannschaft; country and Bayen hero Basti Schweinsteiger left for not greener pastures at Manchester United; and overall the team has had a less than impressive showing since Brazil, with 10 wins, 7 losses and 2 ties in various friendlies and Euro 2016 qualifiers. On a positive note: NT regular Mesut Oesil had a sensational season with Arsenal (19 assists, 6 goals) and was voted the team’s MVP; Mario ‘9 Lives’ Gomez resurrected his career once again and won golden boot (26 goals) honors with Turkish side Beşiktaş (he’s back as Germany’s striker); and a new crop of German Young-stars (including Kimmich, Sane, Brandt and Weigl) are all poised to make their Euro 2016 or Rio Olympics NT debuts.

match-schedule-euro-2016-smallLet’s talk Euros. For the first time, the European Championship final tournament (Euro 2016) in France will be contested by 24 teams, having been expanded from the 16-team format used since 1996. The group stage consists of six groups, four teams, followed by a knockout stage (sweet 16, quarter-final and semis) and the final.

The June 10th France v Romania game kicks- off a 51 match, 10 venue celebration of Europe’s finest culminating in the July 10th Euro final at Stade de France located in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis. If all goes well, Die Mannschaft will be competing for a fourth European title , and the last since 1996. Also, according to my match-up math, if all tournament favorites hold serve, Germany will face German-killer Italy (Germany has never beaten Italy in an international tournament including a loss in the 2012 Euro quarters) in the Quarter-Finals on Saturday, July 2nd and Euro host and co-favorite France in the Semis on Thursday, July 7th.

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For those of you who can’t sit tight for the Euros to begin in a mere 12 days, you can exhale and set your sights on the Copa America Centenario. The centennial Copa will be held in the U.S. starting June 3rd and marks the first Copa América hosted outside of South America. It will be held as part of an agreement between CONMEBOL (the South American football confederation) and CONCACAF (the football confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean) as a special edition between the usual four-year cycle, and features an expanded field of 16 teams (an increase from the usual 12), with ten teams from CONMEBOL and six teams from CONCACAF.

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The Chilen National Team celebrate their epic win in the 2015 Copa America vs. Argentinia to claim the title

This is your chance to watch all the South American stars as well as the US and Mexican favorites including 32 matches culminating with the Copa Final at Citi Field in Queens on Sunday, June 26th. The U.S. National Team just completed an impressive 3 match tune-up tour and silenced the critics with victories over Puerto Rico, Ecuador (also in the Copa) and Bolivia (also in the Copa). The U.S. kicks-off the Copa on Friday night (9:30PM Eastern) vs. Columbia. Other countries they’ll face in Group A include Costa Rica and Paraguay.

Consider TRF open for business once again and stay tuned for periodic updates and features on all things Euro 2016 and Copa America. And oh yeah, the Rio Olympics including a world-class soccer competition start August 5th.

The Euro 2012 curtain has just closed and a resounding victory for defending Euro and World Champion Spain over reborn routinier Italy is now history. Still, this leaves us some time to offer up our reflection on Euro 2012 … 12 ‘food for thought’ delicacies to hopefully tide you over for a while.

Good Guys Finish Last [Poland]: Who was not rooting for co-hosts Poland to do well at Euro 2012? After all, their Borussia Dortmund super stars trio, Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek, helped power Borussia Dortmund to its second consecutive German league title. While they were eager to put on a good show for their home fans at Euro 2012 their collective team performance was anything short of impressive. Dismal goaltending and an underwhelming offensive performance kept the Poles out of Group A contention and the elimination rounds

Head Games Trump Talent [Germany vs. Italy]: A side-by-side comparison of the two footballing powerhouses showed a clear advantage for the Germans but history and head games prevailed as the Azzuri proved once again that history does indeed play an important role in future German NT performances. In trying to change the course of a loosing history vs. Italy, Germany’s Joachim Loew made major tactical changes leading to a clear victory by the Italians.

The Perfect Storm [Ukraine v France, Group D match-up]: Euro 2012 made history by delaying a group match due to bad weather. Thunder and lightning kept players sidelined for a while before being able to finish their Group D match.  Ukraine’s Group D showdown with France at Donetsk’s Donbass Stadium was dramatically suspended after thunderstorms forced the teams off after just five minutes.

Don’t  Believe the Hype [Euro Host preparedness]: All this talk about disorganized hosts and fears of ultra violence and hooliganism dominated the pre-Euro headlines. Yes, there were some reports of boneheads and idiots misbehaving and even more news of transportation and field condition issues, BUT, overall this tournament went off without a hitch.

How ‘beautiful’ is the game? [Spain]: Many have called this the most boring and uninspired Spanish performance in recent times. Why? Because they are so disciplined and routine that flawless play, even if not flashy has to be criticized? As a Germany supporter I can tell you, I wish we played boring and uninspired … it might have landed us in the finals.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers [Holland]: What happened to the fierce Dutch team that made it to the 2010 world cup final? ESPN’s Alexi Lalas called it early on in the tournament when he said Holland  had lost its shine. 0 wins and 0 points was an all time low for the Dutch

Against all Odds [Italy]: Betting scandals, economic issues, low popularity rating for the national team, and a 3 game losing streak headed into the Euros, all means  nothing when Italy plays in a World Cup or Euro tournament. They made it to the final, a lot more than expected.

Natural Born Captains [Euro Goalies]: I have the advantage of having watched the finals, but Iker Casillas is a bad ass. He did what he needed to do in Spain’s convincing 4:0 trashing of Italy in the final, and like his other goalie captains Buffon (Italy) and Hugo Lloris set the tone for his side’s attitude and aim. It’s not coincidence that 6 of the 16 Euro 2012 captains are defenders.

(No) Luck of the Irish [Ireland’s disappointing Euro tournament]:Who was not  excited about having Ireland back at an international tournament? Especially since an old Italian icon led them there. Unfortunately, they fizzled much like a morning after alkaseltzer and left no lasting highlights or memories. They are actually to blame for Italy’s advancement to the next round based on a lopsided win vs. the hapless Irish.

Down but not Out [Greece]:I picked Greece to finish last in Group A of Euro 2012, thinking Poland, the Czechs and Russia would all be stronger and leave the Greeks behind. In an impressive show of resiliency, the Greeks delivered Russia a  crushing defeat and much like their Euro 2004 run, surprised the experts by advancing to a Euro 2012 quarterfinals.

Decisions, Decisions [Germany’s talent ‘problem’]: Is there ever too much thing of a good thing?  Well, in Germany’s talent (and deep bench case) the answer may be yes.  Every pre-game discussion this Euro started with who should start – Podolski or maybe Schuerlle or maybe Reus instead of Mueller. This lack of conviction on the national coach’s end led to a lot of second guessing as well as a good measure of over confidence due to the depth of talent at Loew’s disposal. In fact, the number of talented subs available to Germany vs. Italy may have led to the sketchy decision-making  and play calling.

From Russia with (no) Love [Russia’s fast start and slow finish]:  It seems like no one really likes Russia; be its political views, how it’s citizens are treated or its national  football team. The few international stars have worn out there welcome in England and elsewhere so an opening 4:1 thrashing of the Czech Republic made for some headlines.  In the end (last game of the Group A matches), the Russian lost out to the surprise Greeks and entered the tourney without much fanfare.

The Euro semifinals are here at last and our match predicting canine Dude is once again ready to give it his best. Today, he’s focused on Spain vs. Portugal and tomorrow he’ll reveal his picks for the classic match-up between Germany and Italy.

Then, there’s this business of the mole in the Germany camp that leaked the Germany starting lineup before the Greece quarterfinal match. While we know it wasn’t the actual hole digging mammal that dun it, the distraction might be the perfect remedy to pre-Italy match jitters.

Welcome to week 3 of Euro 2012 and the beginning of the elimination round. With two more quarterfinal match-ups upon us [Ronaldo’s Portugal beat the Czechs 1:0 Thursday & Jogi Loew’s Germans dismantled the hapless Greeks 4:2 last night], it’s ‘brass tacks’ time and a good opportunity to review some interesting Euro 2012 numbers, stats and facts …

500,000+ Germany fans gather at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to celebrate Die Mannschaft during Euro 2012

860  A record for most passes in a EURO match, achieved by Spain in their Euro 2012 Group C match with Ireland. Spain’s midfield maestro Xavi led the way with a new record of his own, completing 127 of 136 pass attempts vs. Ireland.

368  The total player count at Euro 2012 represented by 16, 23-man European national teams.

120  The total number of national team appearances for Miroslav Klose after yesterday’s start against Greece.

64  All goals scored by Miroslav Klose in a Germany shirt since his national team debut in 2001. His 64th goal yesterday puts him only four behind Gerd Mueller’s DFB scoring record.

64  Goals scored by Germany at the UEFA Euros after their latest 4-2 quarterfinal win over Greece, putting them seven in front of the Netherlands as the competition’s all-time leading scorers.

58  With it’s recent win over Croatia, Spain has now enjoyed more possession than its opponents in each of the last 58 matches.

38  The age of the oldest Euro competition player to score a goal [at Euro 2008, Ivica Vastic found the net for Austria]. 35 years and 256 days was the age at which Ukraine’s Andriy Shevchenko undid Sweden with a decisive double goal performance and established himself as the second-oldest goalscorer in the history of the UEFA European Championship.

27   The age at which Lukas Podolski won his 100th cap on Sunday, becoming the youngest European player to reach this landmark in the process.

19  Germany have now scored at least once in their last 19 matches dating back to November 2010.

12  The group of players who have scored at least twice in a match at both the Euros and the FIFA World Cup. Ukraine’s Andriy Shevchenko joined this elite club with his Euro 2012 goals.

7  Goal total for Greece during their 2004 Euro Championship campaign compared to Germany’s 9 tallies during 2012 Euro Group and quarterfinal play.

5  The number of major international tournaments that have been graced by a Cristiano Ronaldo goal. The Portugal star struck twice in a Group B win over the Netherlands and once in the quarterfinal victory over the Czechs.

4  The total of consecutive semi-final appearances made by the German National Team. This includes the semi-final loss to the Italians at the 2006 World Cup in Germany; the 2008 Euro match-up with Turkey (who Germany beat only to lose to Spain in the final); the 2010 World Cup semi-final loss to Spain, and the upcoming Euro 2012 semi-final match on Thursday, June 28th against either England or Italy.

0  The Netherland’s point total in Euro 2012 Group B competition after losing all three group matches at a major tournament for the first time in their history, and suffering three successive defeats for the first time in 22 years.

With five Euro 2012 matches remaining and European football powerhouses England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain still competing for Euro glory, there are bound to be more records broken and ‘firsts’ recorded. Stay tuned.

Euro 2012 day 6 features two fantastic match-ups in Group B, the tournament’s so called ‘group of death’. While the Dutch are looking to rebound from their loss to Denmark, but face tournament favorite Germany, the ‘butter cookie’ nation is hoping to continue their Cinderella run with another result against Portugal.

Dudestradamus, our trusty canine Euro 2012 prognosticator, continues his predictive ways with today’s match picks.

 

Are you sick of the Euro 2012 international football tournament yet? Well, regardless of your answer, buckle in for 18 more days of  some of the best international soccer action you’ll see, probably until the 2014 World Cup.  Here’s TRF’s short list of Euro 2012 Group notables based on the first 8 matches:

  • Biggest upset: The mighty Danes stole 3 points from the Netherlands Express which looked more like the local mass transit during Saturday’s group B face-off. An ‘honorable’ mention’ goes to Ukraine for a come from behind victory vs. Sweden in group D
  • ‘What a goal’ award: Robert Lewandowski’s opening match zinger not only got the Warsaw stadium Polish supporters going, but also qualified for the nicest finish we have seen of the 20 goals scored in the first 8 games
  • Worst referee call: This dubious distinction goes to Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo who sent-off Greece’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos shortly before half-time in a highly questionable second yellow card call. He issued another red in the 69th minute when he sent off Poland’s goalkeeper

  • ‘Feelgood’ win award: Ukraine scored two second half goals against Sweden to win their opening match on Tuesday. It was great to see the co-hosts, who have been repeatedly criticized for controversial political actions as well inadequate Euro 2012 stadium conditions, play so well, led by 35-year-old striker Andriy Shevchenko who scored two headers to lead his country
  • ‘Clutch’ play award: This one goes to Polish reserve goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton. Tyton came off the bench in the second half for the co-hosts after Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny had been sent off for bringing down Greek substitute Dimitris Salpigidis. He promptly saved the resulting spot-kick from Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis to secure the draw for Poland

  • Biggest blowout win: Russia beat the Czech Republic 4:1 (2:0 at halftime) in their group A opener on June 8th completely dominating the Czech’s midfield and back-line.  21-year old Alan Dzagoev netted two goals and in-form Andrei Arshavin added two assists to cap a great evening for the Russians
  • Biggest tactical surprise: Out of all the opening games at Euro 2012, the one that stood out from a pure tactical point of view was Italy vs. Spain. The surprise came from the Italians showcasing a mere three defenders at the back and Spain, who started without a center forward. An unbelievable decision when you consider their striker firepower including the two Fernandos — Torres and LLorente

  • Biggest waste of talent on the bench: This one goes to Holland’s benching of Klaas Jan Hunterlaar, the Bundesliga’s leading scorer and top goal-getter during Holland’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. In their loss to Denmark, the Dutch stuck with Robin van Persie until late  int the second half when they inserted Hunterlaar … too little too late

Dudestradamus’ day 5, Group A, 2nd match predictions …

 

 

Another day of Euro 2012 is in the books and Dude, our Euro 2012 match prognosticator, is at again. His focus today — Group D including the thrilling England vs. France match up.

 

Dude-stradamus had a tough day yesterday and missed his first ever prediction when Denmark upset the mighty Dutch. However, after much soul searching and a promise of many more juicy treats, he is back to his predicting ways. Check out his Spain-Italy and Croatia-Ireland picks du jour.