What Have We Learned From the Euro So Far?
by Trevor Whenham - 06/10/2008
We're only a few days into Euro 2008, and there's still a mind-numbing amount of soccer to be played, but already we have seen some very interesting action. Succeeding at the betting windows in a tournament like this requires you not only to have a good sense of the teams and your expectations coming into the tournament. You also have to constantly adjust and amend those expectations as the tournament proceeds so that you are betting on what is actually happening, not what is supposed to happen. With that in mind, here are seven things we have learned so far from what we have seen in Austria and Switzerland.
Portugal is ready - The Netherlands have been the flashiest side so far, but I've been the most impressed by Portugal. Their 2-0 victory over Turkey looks pretty much as expected, but it really was better than it looks. They narrowly missed open nets three other times, so the game could have been much uglier than it was. They dominated most of the action, and they asserted themselves impressively. They got a bit sloppy in the last half hour of the game, but they showed that they were aware of it by tightening up and getting an insurance marker in extra time. They have a group that they can easily win, and a path to the finals that could be harder. They have a ridiculous amount of talent, so they are every bit the team to watch that they seemed to be coming in.
Italy is in trouble - All you need to know about Italy's first game is this - they have never had a worse loss in Euro history than they had on Monday. They lost 3-0 to the Dutch, and that score was flattering. They were truly terrible. They couldn't hit the net, and they couldn't do anything right. When they did get any decent chances they seemed to shoot it right at the Dutch keeper. After falling down 2-0 they looked like they had found their offensive rhythm, but they completely forgot about defense and gave up the crushing third goal. They then lost their composure and looked more like whining babies than aspiring champs. The team is playing without injured captain Fabio Cannavaro, so they have a big challenge ahead of them to turn this thing around. I don't like their chances.
Deadly Dutch - As bad as the Italians were, it's important to note that the Dutch were brilliant. They were relentless on the attack, and they played a polished, disciplined style. Given the struggles of the Italians and French it now seems like they are the very heavy favorites to win the Group of Death.
Czech Republic looking for changes already - It doesn't strike me as a very good sign when a team panics and makes changes after a win. That's what the Czechs are doing. They beat the co-hosts, Switzerland, 1-0, but they weren't impressive doing so. Coach Karel Brueckner knows that the same type of performance will be disastrous against Portugal, so he is shaking up the front line to try to find a spark. Brueckner is usually the stoic type, so the fact he is openly discussing this suggests to me that he really doesn't much like his team's chances.
Croatia doesn't panic - The Croatians are as calm as the Czechs are frenzied. They also had a flat 1-0 win against the other co-hosts from Austria. It might just be rhetoric, but the coaching staff says that that is exactly what they expected. In their minds this team always starts slowly, so the fact that they won without being at their best is a good sign in their minds.
Injuries are going to be a factor - Italy struggled badly, and injuries have to have been a factor. France played without the injured Thierry Henry and it showed. Spain has injury woes. The overriding storyline of this tournament when we look back on it may be who didn't play, not who did.
Romanians could be dangerous - Romania must have panicked when they saw their draw. They landed in Group C, this year's group of death, with France, Italy and Netherlands. It's too early to say for sure, but it might work out okay for the team after all. The Romanians played the French to a draw, and they did it largely by boring them to death. If the Dutch remain dominant then it won't take many points to secure second place, so Romania could get lucky and get through. I like their chances better now than I did a couple of days ago.