It’s day four of the European Championships, and as far as we know, nobody got tear-gassed today. That’s positive, right?
The question all important questions was finally answered. Which Spain would we see?
The last major tournament Spain participated in, it opened with a horrible showing, taking a 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands in its opening game of the 2014 World Cup. What had been the team to beat in the run-up to the tournament fizzled out by the second game.
Monday’s 1-0 win against the Czech Republic was different. This was a game in which Spain looked like its normal self.
Did the scoreline reflect the showing? No. Did Spain deserve more? Probably. Did the Czechs do everything in their power to frustrate the Spanish? You bet your sweet ass it did.
The Spaniards went schoolyard on the Czechs. Spain controlled 72 percent of possession and fired off 17 shots — five on frame — compared to the seven shots and three on frame from the Czech Republic.
More telling: Spain amassed 14 corner kicks in the game. 14. How does that even happen? More importantly, how does Spain not score on any of them?
The game looked destined for a scoreless draw, and yet, Spain being Spain, pulled out the victory; albeit a late game-winner, but a win is a win.
Gerard Pique notched the game’s only goal, nodding home a cross from Andres Iniesta in the 87th minute.
The result has Spain sitting even with Croatia on points and goal differential. The Croatians dispatched Turkey Sunday on a Luka Modric volley from 25 yards out for the 1-0 win.
Spain will take on Turkey in the next matchday on Friday. The same afternoon, the Czechs will have to deal with Croatia.
Like everyone, I was so taken by Belgium before this tournament started. Look at their attacking options, I said! They’re strong all over the field, I said! And like everyone I said that, even though Vincent Kompany was hurt for the 83rd time in the last calendar year and couldn’t play, that didn’t matter, because Belgium’s central defense was sound. Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen – solid. They’d be fine.
They weren’t. Italy’s first goal was straight out of the FIFA-for-Playstation button-mashing playbook. Leonardo Bonucci mashed the “cross” button from midfield, it flew over Vertonghen’s head straight to a lonely Emanuele Giaccherini, and it was 1-0 Italy. From there, Italy could just keep on rope-a-doping Belgium, and when the Italians scored in second-half injury time to double their margin of victory, it was no less than they deserved.
If this were a normal tournament, Belgium might get worried about not earning enough points to get through to the next round.
Those Irish, they’re so generous. Why, they not only scored one themselves, they graciously scored one for Sweden, too! Ireland’s goal was actually quite nice, after a spell of pressure in the first half in which the men in green hit the bar, as Wes Hoolahan fired home a curling first-time volley from the penalty spot to take the lead.
Sweden, of course, is dominated by the regal figure of ZLATAN going forward. He had a couple of good chances to equalize, but in the end, the goal came as Ibrahimovic swept to the end line and fired a cross across the face of goal. Had Ciaran Clark not headed it into his own net, it might have hit two others. Really, Zlatan could practically have claimed to have scored it himself, as tempting as the cross was. It could hardly fail to glance into the back of the net.