Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Knockout Time

The riveting group stage of Euro 2008 is over, and now it's time for the do or die knockout round. I butchered my picks pretty bad, only getting 3 of 6 right, despite a 6 day delay in my picks. What can I say, there were some surprises. Now, to some readjusted picks.

The Czech's were all but a lock to advance as they had a 2-0 lead over Turkey with about 15 minutes to go. But, as I'm sure some of you know, the Turks had a comeback for the ages as they stormed back with 3 goals to stun the Czechs. With that, their confidence is surely sky high, but I don't know if they have much of a chance on Friday against Croatia. They will be without starting goalie Volkan Demirel who drew a boneheaded red card against Czech striker Jan Koller, after the Turks went up 3-2. For shoving him to the ground, he will be out for Friday's matchup (and the semifinal game if the Turks manage to advance). Because of that, they'll either have to go with the older veteran in Rüştü Reçber or the unproven kid, Tolga Zengin. I don't think it matters. The Croats, led by Ivica Olic and Luka Modric (who my Tottenham Hotspur recently signed) will carry Croatia to a 3-1 victory.

Croatia will continue to give their fans something to cheer about (Getty)

Tomorrow, the Portuguese and Germans will square off in what should be a great game. While I do think the Germans certainly have a chance, I won't back off on my pick that Portugal will take the crown. The Germans will be without head coach Joachim Löw for this game after getting sent off for "constant bickering" (that was actually the literal, official reason). While I don't think that will matter too much, the injuries to Lukas Podolski and Torsten Frings will. The Germans can win this game if Michael Ballack plays like he did against Austria and Mario Gomez plays a lot better than he did against Austria. Will they? I hope so, but probably not. The Portuguese are well rested after benching their regulars in their group stage final against the Swiss. Christiano Ronaldo will net one as Portugal wins 2-1.

Over the weekend, the Spaniards square off against the rebounding Italians. Italy got pounded by the Dutch in their opener but have since tied the Romanians and defeated the French. For some reason, I think the Italians have turned it a degree. Goalie Gianluigi Buffon has been stellar in the past couple of games and I think he will keep that form against Spain. I did pick Spain to be Romania, but I don't know if they can take out the Italians. The Spanish are notorious for choking and this seems like an ideal situation for it. Not only that, but it has become pretty obvious that they emerged from what was easily (in my mind) the weakest group of the tournament. I think that it will be an incredibly close game, but Italy emerges victorious in the end. Italy wins on PKs after a 1-1 draw.

Netherlands against Russia? No commentary necessary... The Dutch roll 3-0.

The Dutch have managed to easily trip up everyone in their path so far (Empics)

I will continue to stand by my semifinal and final picks from my previous post but I hope to comment on them beforehand and predict scores. For those of you who whine that football (or soccer as you call it), just give it a chance and flip on ESPN one of the next few afternoons and watch. Happy viewing, all.

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