Tag Archives: Greece

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

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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

“USA All the Way”

Kevin Durant is looking to lead a young Team USA squad to it's first FIBA World Championship since 1994.

Team USA continues to roll and show the world that even without our cream of the crop superstars, we can still be dominant.  And many are probably saying, hold your horses.  It has only been two games.  The team has not played any of the major threats yet.  And when they did play a tough competitor, they squeeked out a win by the smallest of margins (86 to 85 exhibition win over Spain).

Now I will admit, I had my doubts about this team when I heard that Kobe, Lebron, Melo, Dwyane, nor Dwight Howard would be playing.  And frankly, I still do.  But this team little by little is starting to put my mind at ease.  They are young.  Full of speed.  Boasting with athleticism.  Long at every position. They have some great shooters.  And they are being led by Coach K, who all he knows how to do is Win, Win, Win.

I realize, this team still has three more pool play games before they even advance into the real tournament play.  Can Kevin Durant and the boys take care of business against Brazil, Iran, and Tunisia?  You better believe it.  But the real questions start to arise when this team has to take on teams like Greece, Spain, and Argentina.

Well have no fear, Kevin Durant is here.  This guy is the real deal.  He is a shooting star that is still only 21 years old.  He has quickly developed into one of the top all around players in the NBA, and possibly the best all around scorer.  The kid has length, athleticism, and a pretty stroke.  No team in this entire tournament, much less probably in the NBA, can really check this guy.  Not to mention he has players like Derrick Rose, the human fast break himself to dribble drive and free him up. 

I mean take a look at the US starting lineup.  A major strength that top teams in the NBA have as of late is great length at every position.  Durant is 6 foot 9 and long.  Iguodala is 6 foot 6 with phenomenal athleticism.  Lamar Odom is 6 foot 10 and reminiscent to a tree.  Plus our backcourt of Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups are both 6 foot 3 guys who can really get up and down the floor. 

I will admit when Coach K picked this team, I did not understand why guys like OJ Mayo or Rajon Rondo did not make the squad.  But now after seeing this team play, I am seeing the logic.  He has a great chemistry going with this squad with a group of guys who really complement each other well.  This has been a problem for US teams in the past, who have not been able to capture the FIBA World Championships since 1994.

Talent is not everything.  Sure it helps, but it will not win you a major title by itself.  Coaching, discipline, and overall team chemistry are what will take you to that Championship level.  This team appears to have it all.

Look for Team USA to go all the way and bring back the FIBA World Championship to the United States for the first time in 16 years.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze