Tag Archives: Germany

Euro 2012 Final Showdown: Spain and Italy

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Mario Balotelli (pictured above) stole the show in the semifinals. Will he put on another big time performance against Spain?

By Nick Craddock

Spain or Italy has won each of the last three major tournaments (2006 World Cup, 2008 European Championship, 2010 World Cup) and either Spain or Italy will have its named etched onto the European Championship trophy after today’s title game.

Coincidentally, fate seems to have brought both teams to the cusp of a championship yet again.

Much like the 2006 World Cup, the Italian national team entered this tournament amidst a gambling probe into the top flight of Italian soccer, where all but three players on the national team play their trade during the course of the season.

Rather than succumbing to the pressure of the media scrutiny and the off-field distractions, the Italians, much like the 2006 Italian squad, have come together to play a solid team game and to manage a surprise or two (Remember, it was host Germany which the Italians defeated in the World Cup semifinals in 2006 and a heavily-favored German team which the Italians beat to advance to this final).

This Italian team’s version of Mario and Luigi is not exactly identical to the mustached, overall-wearing Italian brothers who morph by eating mushrooms with faces, but, weird mushroom diet aside, striker Mario Balotelli and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon are responsible for forming what has been a prolific one-two punch.

Just ask the Germans. Continue reading

Euro 2012 Semifinal Previews: Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy, oh my!

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Will Fernando Torres (pictured above) lead Spain to huge victory over a Portugal team led by the great Cristiano Ronaldo?

By Nick Craddock

Andrea Pirlo and company ripped the collective heart out of the English people on Sunday in the most dramatic of the quarterfinal wins, advancing via penalty kicks. As such, the Euro 2012 semifinals, slated for today and tomorrow, are now set and continental Europe’s collective fervor and excitement will surely drown the sound of the few remaining whimpers from English fans.

The semifinalists are four nations with strong football pedigrees, which should not only result in more evenly contested matchups, but also a higher quality of play thought to be absent at times in this tournament from teams more than capable of performing at higher levels. (*cough* England *cough* France *cough* Netherlands *cough*).

Here is what you should look for going ahead:

Spain v. Portugal

The first semifinal is the battle of the Iberian Peninsula and these two teams showcase a bevy of highly technical and gifted players.

Cristiano Ronaldo, usually a player who has drifted in and out of form for the national side has been dynamite for Portugal at this tournament, particularly in the last two games, where he alone outshot the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, netting himself the winning goal in the process, after bagging a brace against the Dutch in the final group game prior to that. In contrast, Spain has relied on offense by committee at this tournament with five different players hitting the back of the net. More impressive is that Spain’s offense didn’t slow down after opting for the atypical 4-6-0 formation in its 2-0 quarterfinal win over France.

Whether Spain will again field a starting XI without a listed striker will likely not be revealed until game time, but Spain’s most gifted natural scorer, Fernando Torres, is one of the few players on the planet, if playing at the level he was accustomed to during his prime (which was not so long ago), capable of matching, or at a minimum, challenging the brilliance Ronaldo could provide for his team.

That being said, Ronaldo might be the best individual talent on the field, but Spain has proven time and time again over the last four years that it is the most talented team.

Players to Watch: As noted above, Ronaldo controls the fate of Portugal more than any other player on his team. As he goes, so do the Portuguese. Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech was able to weather the flurry of Ronaldo’s attacks for a little more than an hour to keep the Czech Republic alive against Portugal in the quarterfinals, so it will be incumbent upon Iker Casillas, the Spanish captain and goalkeeper, to prove his worth when actually facing more than two shots, like in Spain’s last game, and to allow his team to work its magic in front of him.

Prediction: Spain wins 2-1 (ET). Expect the team to trump the individual yet again, as Spain should move on for a chance at an unprecedented third consecutive major championship. Continue reading

Weekly Nickel 6-25-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. It is safe to say that pitching has dominated the first half of the 2012 season. Ironically, two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum (pictured above) has struggled. Will he regain his old form Wednesday afternoon against the first place Dodgers?

By Josh Kramer

What a week it was in sports. The King finally won his ring.  England’s hearts were ripped out once again in the form of penalty kicks.  Plus, the combination of the CWS and Interleague Play gave us all the privilege of watching some outstanding baseball.  Last week was great, but this week will be fun it its own right.  Here are the events to keep an eye on.

5.  See you later Sonoma.  Now it is time to visit the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky.  This event could not even dream of being more poorly planned than it was last year.  I guess that isn’t saying much after the debacle that occurred last July.  Tune in to TNT at 7:30PM on Saturday or make your way on down to the track.

4.  The All-Star Game is just 15 days away.  Is it me, or has this season been moving at warp speed?  It feels like just yesterday that the season got underway with the ridiculous opening two game in Japan between the Mariners and Athletics.  We are already near the halfway point of 2012.  It is safe to say that pitchers have dominated.  19.6% of plate appearances have resulted in strikeouts this season, which is a record pace.  Plus, there has been an average of 14.9 strikeouts per game.  And we are all already aware of the two perfect games.  Pitching is the name of the game.  Just ask teams like Philadelphia and Boston that were supposed to be prime contenders.  My matchup of the week occurs on the west coast.

Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants:  It is no secret who the top two teams in the NL West are these days.  They also happen to possess two of the elite pitching staffs in the National League.  Coincidence?  I think not.  The Dodgers got off to a red-hot start and have never really slowed up despite many doubters.  After a slow start, the Giants really got it going towards the end of May and are now right in the thick of things.

The key to this series is where it is being played.  Both of these teams have been two of the best in baseball at protecting their home turf.  AT&T Park will surely be rocking as the Giants look to gain a little ground on the team that they are chasing.  Also, do not be surprised to see Tim Lincecum put together a big time performance in the series finale, as the Giants take two of three and gain a game on the Dodgers. Continue reading

Euro 2012: Knockout Stage Primer

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Will Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured above) lead Portugal to a quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic?

By Nick Craddock

The Euro 2012 group stage concluded on Tuesday with England ruining any chance of co-host Ukraine advancing further in the competition by virtue of its 1-0 win, and France stumbling into the knockout stage after a 2-0 loss to the previously winless Swedes.

France and England will be joined by the Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Italy in the quarterfinals, which begin this afternoon.

Although Euro 2012 has served as a flash point for some of soccer’s most contentious issues on and off the field, such as the constant call for goal line replay technology and racist displays by groups of fans, the group stage offered a largely wide-open style of play with at least one goal scored per game, the first time such an event occurred in European Championship history.

And after three games of ironing out the kinks, tweaking lineups and getting settled in Eastern Europe, the eight remaining teams have simply three more games to win to become champs.

Here’s what to expect from the quarterfinals:

Czech Republic v. Portugal

The Czechs are deserving recipients of the “Most Resilient Team” award through this tournament thus far. Following a 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Russia in their opening game, the Czechs rattled off two straight victories to secure top place in a wide open Group A. However, testing their mettle against a Portuguese team, which navigated its way out of the Group of Death in second place, will pose the biggest challenge to date.

When compared to Portugal and the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, who managed a brace and 10 shots last time out, the Czechs are severely lacking in offensive firepower. Their best hope will likely be playing in a defensive formation, perhaps a 4-5-1, and hoping their lone striker can capitalize on a Portugal miscue. If any player is capable of battering down the defensive hatches, it’s world class Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech and his protective skull-cap.

Players to watch: Milan Baros, once a top scorer at the European Championships, has lost a step or two in the twilight of his career, but maybe the Czech veteran’s savvy will be enough to deliver a winning goal. For Portugal, Ronaldo grabs the headlines, but the continued excellent play of Nani, particularly in delivering quality crosses and through balls to Ronaldo, will make this game much easier for Portugal.

Prediction: Portugal wins 2-1. Continue reading

Weekly Nickel 7-4-2011

Photo courtesy of loop48.com. Joey Chestnut (pictured above) looks to win his 5th consecutive Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest today.

By Josh Kramer

Happy 4th of July to all of you. It is time for another big week in the sporting world.  What should you be watching for?  What should you be in the known about?  Have no fear, because the “Weekly Nickel” is here.

The following are the top five sporting events for the week ahead.

5.  At least the NHL is having some positive action.  Despite the current lockouts in two of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States, at least the NHL is still doing its normal thing.  Lots of action in the past couple of days.  And do not expect that action to stop.  Brad Richards signed with the Rangers for 9 years and 60 million dollars.  Goalkeeper, Tomas Vokoun is now a Washington Capital.  And of course one of the greats of all time, Jaromir Jagr is returning to the NHL for one last go around. Continue reading

Food for Thought 6-27-2011

Photo courtesy of wareagleextra.com. Former NC State standout, Russell Wilson (pictured above) is taking his talents to Camp Randall.

By Josh Kramer

The past 48 hours have been an absolute world wind in the sporting stratosphere.  Things like the Gold Cup Finals, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Wimbledon, and the Dodgers fiasco have been at the forefront of the discussion.  Here is what has caught my attention.

Badger time in the Big Ten?

There has been zero dull moments in the Big Ten this off-season.  A split into two separate divisions.  The addition of Nebraska.  Mayhem in Columbus.  And now the addition of Russell Wilson to the Wisconsin Badgers.  I feel like all the puzzle pieces are falling into place for Badger Nation.  This was going to be a very good Wisconsin team to begin with.  A great offensive line.  Solid defensive unit.  But the one thing they appeared to be lacking was a quarterback that could perform on the big stage.  Well it appears they have found their man. Continue reading

“American Pride”

The biggest names in competitive food eating, Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi battle it out in last year's "Nathan's International July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest."

So today there have been many grand scale events.  Serena Williams captured her 4th Wimbledon Championship in a dominating fashion.  Germany absolutely massacred the “it” team of this year’s World Cup, Argentina, 4 to 0.  Which is the equivalent of losing an MLB baseball game by 10 runs.  It just doesn’t happen, especially this far into the tournament.  The other soccer game today was also very exciting.  In the end, Spain scored a late goal to advance for a semifinal date with Germany.  So the Final Four of the World Cup features Uruguay, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain.  Even if the Euro is struggling, the level of soccer sure isn’t.  Lastly, Wimbledon holds their final dual tomorrow between Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych (a very surprising finalist).

But let’s get real.  There is one big time sporting event going on this weekend that trumps them all.  An event that you have to love if you are an American.  An event that represents patriotism to the highest degree.  An event that may make you want to throw up after.  Yes I am talking about the “Nathan’s International July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest.”  One of the greatest events that we have to offer in the States on our country’s most special day.  A tradition that is entering it’s 95th year.  The fattest country in the world has a gluttonous display in the form of a food eating contest on the anniversary of our founding.  Who would want it any other way?

But this event has developed into so much more than just a simple food eating contest.  It has developed into a “us” vs “them” type of event.  One where we put all of our faith into the Michael Jordan of competitive food eating, Joey Chestnut.  The 26 year old  Chestnut holds the hope of a country in his mouth and his stomach every year on July 4th.  Chestnut over the past few years has developed a big time rivalry with a 6 time champion of this contest, Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi (a 32 year old who may be over the hill).  This is the food industry’s form of a Kobe vs Lebron rivalry.  Who is better?

Well Chestnut has developed into the greater champion over the past few years winning the crown three consecutive times.  But previously, Kobayashi had dominated the game winning 6 titles.  This year is up for grabs again though.  America needs a hero to stand behind in these tough economic times.  We need a Joey Chestnut to keep the belt in America on this most grand of occasions.  Screw the fireworks. 

America needs to win the “Nathan’s International July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest” first.  Without a victory in this event, most Americans will have a depressing holiday and not enjoy the day to the fullest.  Times are tough.  Therefore, a higher stress has been put in sport.  Joey Chestnut and his mouth/stomach combo hold the key to providing people all over the United States a happy 4th of July.

Talk about pressure..

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze