viernes, 4 de julio de 2008

Euro 2008 as commented for World Soccer


(Lo que sigue son mis comentarios sobre la Eurocopa 2008 hechos originalmente para la web de la revista decana del mundo del fútbol, 'World Soccer', que colecciono desde hace años. Es muy largo y está en inglés)

I'm trying to put into practice an idea I had some time ago, and this is to count the number of scoring chances each team has during their games. I have done it in scattered single games, but I'd like to apply it to the whole tournament.

The thing is that it is actually harder and trickier than it sounds. How do you count goal-scoring chances? What do you count and what do you dismiss? It's not simply shots on goal, as some are not dangerous at all, and many clear chances do not even involve a shot on goal (plus, hitting the woodwork is technically not a shot on goal). So, it ends up being a matter of judgement. In the Switzerland v Czech Republic game I counted 12 for the Swiss and 2 for the Czechs, including the goal, which actually gives an interesting picture of the game.

I'm making it up as I go, but as a rule of thumb, I count the chance if you go 'oooow' as it is squandered. I don't mean only the clearest near misses. What I'm after is to see how many times each team creates a fair chance to score and therefore see who's the most attacking side. You know when after the game one manager goes 'we could have scored six or seven' and the other goes 'they hardly threatened us'? Well, I'd like to settle that with an actual count.

The few 'rules' I have are, so far:
-Goals are included in the count, however silly they are.
-Penalties are always included, even if they're awfully missed.
-Free kicks will only be included if they create some clear danger. For example, in this game I counted Hakan Yakin's kick, very near the post, even if Cech had it covered, but not Marek Jankulovski's, as it was very clearly over the bar.
-Chances have to have some danger in them. Not every cross counts.
-If in doubt, count it. It's good to be positive.

EVERY MATCH FROM THE FINALS

Match 1: Czech Republic 1 Switzerland 0
(Chance count: Czech Republic 2 Switzerland 12)

What a disappointment the Czech team has been. Their five-man midfield seemed to be playing basketball, looking for high passes up for the tall guy to score. The absence of Tomas Rosicky has robbed them of any subtlety whatsoever, and they have been lucky not to have lost heavily. Apart from the goal, I can only remember one chance from the Czechs, while the Swiss and many more, and better ones.

The first lasting image of the tournament is already with us. A big finals tournament is at your home, which happens only a couple of times a century, if that much; you get injured months before it, with just enough time to recover if you work hard at it; you work hard at it; you manage to hit a purple patch; you even beat the goal record for your country; the opening game comes and you're named captain of the hosts; your side is unfancied, but the match is going quite well as you manage to crack a few shots at one of the best keepers in the world... Surely it's a matter of time.

And then, in a 50-50 ball your knee is wrecked 43 minutes in. How's a big grown man not going to cry? I know we need perspective and we're not talking war or disease here, but it is hard not to be moved by Alexander Frei's tears.

Match 2: Portugal 2 Turkey 0
(Chance count: Portugal 11 Turkey 3)

Just when I was about to write that I wasn't at all convinced by Luiz Felipe Scolari's strikerless proposal in the last 25 minutes, along came Portugal's wonderful second goal, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho and Raúl Meireles completely bamboozling Turkey's defence to almost walk the ball into the net.

I'm not sure if Nuno Gomes's substitution in the 69th minute was due to the desire to give a good run to the idea of Ronaldo as a striker, or an early attempt at trying to run out the clock when 1-0 ahead, but it didn't seem to be working. The idea to use Ronaldo up front has much to recommend it: he's got the potential to do a Thierry Henry and switch from being a perceived speedy winger to a ruthless striker, impossible to catch given his pace. The only problem with playing Ronaldo up front would be the same any striker faces: he stops creating chances and becomes dependent on his midfielders' service. But Scolari says that he's got four of the best wingers in the world in Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma, Simao Sabrosa and Luis Nani, and he's right. So, problem solved, and with the added boon of being able to play three of the four at the same time. And besides, if Ronaldo can get 42 goals from midfield in a single season, what couldn't he do as a striker?

So what's not to like? Well, for some reason it looks a better idea on paper than it is later in practice. I think Scolari was right in starting with Nuno Gomes in attack, because pace is not the only thing a striker has to be good at. A tight defence will negate your pace, and then what do you do? Is Ronaldo any good at shielding the ball with his back to the goal and touching it every ten minutes only, and that for flick-ons? See how Gomes, a proper striker, responded: an assist for the first goal and a damaged woodwork.

Scolari passes for a canny customer with substitutes. Today another one got another goal. When it happens all the time it's not luck anymore.

Turkey? Cannon fodder, at least today. I think that they will have their chances against Switzerland and the Czech Republic, but they will have to take them, and be bolder. Tuncay Sanli was awful today.

Match 3: Croatia 1 Austria 0
(Chance count: Austria 16 Croatia 8)

The pundits had billed this one as a match between an inept team with no chance at all in the tournament against a dark horse with flair in midfield who can spring a big surprise, aided by the closed draw that keeps Italy, France, the Netherlands and Spain out of their way until the final. Well, on the evidence of this match it's difficult to know which one was which. Croatia had their creativity effectively self-stifled by their very early goal (they thought that was enough and seemed to be saving energies for Germany), while Austria looked like a machine for calibrating guns: their shots, at the beginning way out of target, got more accurate each time, and by the end Stipe Pletikosa must have ended with a good number of saved shots to his name.

The vast majority of the Austrian chances I counted came from long-range shots, some of them not very good, but I have decided to leave them in because they indicate a team willing to do something to compensate for their deficiencies. As for Croatia, they are the ultimate mercurial team, managing to go from brilliant or pedestrian in a matter of a few games. But they got the result, the other team didn't, and that makes all the difference.

Kudos to referee Pieter Vink too, for not considering that it was too early to give a penalty. It was a foul, not a terrible one, but a foul, and it happened inside the box, so the rulebook says penalty. And so it was. And later, even the decision not to show Emmanuel Pogatetz a second yellow card for a childishly appalling foul on Ivica Olic looked sensible for the sake of the spectacle. I say make him man of the match.

Match 4: Germany 2 Poland 0
(Chance count: Germany 12 Poland 10)

Omens looked good for an upset, as minutes before the start of the match, half a world away in Canada, Pole Robert Kubica won his first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix, ahead of four German drivers, among them team-mate Nick Heidfeld. So that was the first page sorted for the Polish papers, then. Could the football team follow suit?

'Hubris' is a Greek word, but in the footballing world, no-one does it like the Dutch, and only a Dutch guy like Leo Beenhakker would dare to go against the Germans with their defensive lines so far upfield. Together with a permissive linesman, the combination was deadly for Poland in the first half. I'm curious to know whether Joachim Löw decided to go with Lukas Podolski on the left wing knowing that Poland was going to play with that kind of defensive plan. On the one hand it was strange for me to see five forwards among his 23-man squad, but if he was thinking to play Podolski there all along, it has worked wonders, because he's got speed and a good eye for the last pass (not so much for crosses, though, he's no winger). He scored two goals against the country of his birth, which he didn't celebrate, and another Polish-born German player, Miroslav Klose, ended up with both assists to his name too. Talk about the ones who got away. If only Jacek Krzynówek, a Pole who was born in Germany, had been so effective for the opposing side.

However, Poland have gone a-fishing abroad too, and after seeing the second-half display from Brazilian Roger Guerreiro, his rushed-through Polish passport looks justified. The whole country could see in the first half that he's there because they haven't got anyone else who can play as him, so I expect to see him start the next two games, in particular after the defeat. As I have said before in this forum, always trust the Brazilians. Well, almost always.

Match 5: France 0 Romania 0
(Chance count: Romania 3 France 11)

Romania got a lot of sympathy when the draw was made: you miss three tournaments and wait eight years to see your team play really big matches and now you get eight years' worth of big rivals in eight days (they don't come bigger than the two World Cup finalists!).

However, I don't know how much sympathy they're going to get playing like this. Of course you need to defend well to stand any chance at all against rivals like these (and I have said many times that a team shouldn't have to apologise for defending well), but if they're hoping to do a Greece, their support is going to dwindle rapidly among the neutrals. And besides, this time it might not work. Three draws just won't take you through, although maybe the master plan is to hold on against France and Italy, and then go for broke against the Netherlands while the Italians and the French sort each other out in the third matchday.

As for France, all the teams in this group must have come into the tournament wandering where their points are going to come from, and I don't think any of the other three have underrated Romania, but if you can't beat them, what guarantee have you got of a better result against the other two? Of course, their defences might not be as well-locked as this Yellow Brick Wall, and that might help. But in the meantime, it's shades of 2002 for a bleu team now, like then, Zidane-less.

Match 6: Netherlands 3 Italy 0
(Chance count: Netherlands 12 Italy 14)

Any match pitting any two from the Netherlands, Italy and France can't be said to produce a surprise result whichever way the victory goes (or none), but this particular match has managed to spring the first eyebrow-raising result of the tournament. I wasn't really that surprised at the 0-0 between France and Romania, but I think that very few could have foreseen the clarity of the Dutch victory. Mind you, Italy had very good chances to score, and as soon as I finish here I'm going like a bullet to another forum where someone was disputing me Edwin van der Sar's quality as a goalkeeper. Maybe the Dutchman will drop half a dozen clangers before the tournament's end, but until then I'll enjoy saying 'did I tell you or did I tell you', heheh.

The BBC are holding a vote for the second best goal in the history of the European Championships (the best unanimously considered to be Marco van Basten's volley against the USSR in 1988). Well, stop press: we have a new strong contender, also Dutch, with a sweeping counterattack from an Italian corner culminated by Wesley Sneijder after a wonderful pass by Giovanni van Bronckhorst. And against the reigning World Champions, too, which should help the pedigree.

It’s a pity that the opening Dutch goal was a blatant offside from Ruud van Nistelrooy. You never want to see things like that, even favouring your own team (and if you do, shame on you). I hope it doesn't start any conspiracy theories now (you know, Swedish ref, that 2-2 against Denmark four years ago, etc, etc). At least we know who is NOT going to referee the final.

So, the two favourites from the group have zero goals and one point between them after match one. That third-day face-off, which both were hoping would serve just to settle first and second place, looks ominous now. Who would have thunk it?

(Van Nistelrooy’s goal is explained as correctly given)

Put your hand up like a hapless centre-back if you were aware of this particular intricacy of the rule. For one, Christian Panucci didn't seem to be, 35 years old as he is, or otherwise he wouldn't have lain there playing everyone onside. Ruud van Nistelrooy didn't seem to be either, as he looked towards the linesman to see if he got away with it, not to check whether he had spotted Panucci.

So maybe the Swede will referee the final now after all.

By the way, can play be stopped if a player is injured outside of the field, as Panucci was? If he can play people onside, surely play can be stopped to treat him. Very fishy. But at least now we have all been educated. Nothing like a glaring example, with visual aids if possible.

Match 7: Spain 4 Russia 1
(Chance count: Spain 18 Russia 11)

'Spain favourites!', I hear. 'This time it's for real'. Well, I've seen all this before. Lots of Switzerlands, South Africas, Ukraines and Russias have been dispatched by the Spanish before being dumped unceremoniously by Belgiums, South Koreas and Yugoslavias. And twice by France, which rankles the most. Spain doesn't beat one of the other Big Nine in an official match since 1984. Count the years of hurt.

However, each thing in its own time. The Spanish will jump from that bridge when they get to it. For now they deserve huge congratulations for their splendid tiqui-taca game (at least a contribution from them to the football lexicon!), and a smack over the head for the goal they conceded. They always seem to let one of those in, and if it comes at the wrong time (I had Roman Pavlyuchenko as first to score, and he eventually did score), things could have gone the other way. As they still can when they meet one of the group-of-deathers in the quarters.

David Villa just became the hottest footballing property in the world bar nobody. Just be sure to bring along someone to feed him the right through-balls and you have a game plan.

I'm not sure how underachieving the Russians are considered to be in football. England and Spain are so obvious targets that no-one seems to be surprised by yet more failed eastern promises. Other than the wonderfully well-drilled Soviet side of the 1980s (which was Ukrainian in a big part), they have been as disappointing as the worst the Dutch, Spanish or English (even the Germans in a bad year) can offer. More's the pity. We could do with a permanent power from the east among the eternal cycle of ups and downs offered by Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine or Poland.

Match 8: Sweden 2 Greece 0
(Chance count: Greece 4 Sweden 7)

'Comeuppance' is probably too strong a word, but, yeah, this is what should have happened to Greece four years ago: a couple of 2-0 defeats, a 0-0 draw (maybe 1-1 in a good year), and then home to enjoy the beaches and wrangle a transfer to (delete as appropriate) Bolton / Frankfurt / Benfica / Mallorca / Olympiacos (if you aren't there already). Instead of that, Greece produced the biggest surprise in the History of World Football (go on, find me a bigger one, with clean sheets and no penalty shootouts in the last three games if possible) and has become a byword for 'everything is possible'. The small teams use their example to convince their own lot, the big ones to beware the draws bringers of gifts, and the mid-size ones for both, according to the rival. Slaven Bilic just referred to them the other day.

This time Zeus shouldn't be able to strike twice. Now it will be fascinating (or pathetic, a Greek word 'n all) to see how Greece react to having to play catch up. Will they get proper results or sink... without Thrace?

(OK, I'll stop that now)

Sweden. What about them? They did what others couldn't, for a start, and they do have a couple of big semi-finals to their name in the not-too-distant past, you know? Fly past the Russians, sting the Dutch on penalties and there you are again.

Many in the British press don't rate players who don't do all that well in international tournaments. This extends to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in spite of the absolutely wonderful goal he scored against Italy four years ago, you know the one, the outrageous backheel volley thing which he absolutely meant to put where it ended up. Let's see if he can prove doubters wrong.

Match 9: Portugal 3 Czech Republic 1
(Chance count: Czech Republic 9 Portugal 14)

Gavin Hamilton says in his column-blog that Portugal has got the complete package, and I agree with him... so far. Good in defence, midfield and attack, and with the extra gear champion teams have. After tonight's results Portugal are through, so whatever happens against Switzerland will be of little consequence, and then they should be good enough for whoever they get in the quarters. Then, Germany's defence in the semis is quite slow. So the final looks a formality. Can they resist complacency? With the lesson learnt against Greece in 2004 they should be vaccinated against it.

The Czechs again ended with less chances created than their rivals, and this time they tasted what it feels like to waste them and end up on the losing side. I didn't think I'd say this, but in this state I won't miss them if they don't qualify. I'd start fearing for their 2010 campaign.

Match 10: Turkey 2 Switzerland 1
(Chance count: Turkey 7 Switzerland 13)

After Germany's squad with three Poles, we now had Switzerland facing Turkey with three players with Turkish roots. That's the way of football -and the world- nowadays. And one of them, Hakan Yakin, went and scored too. The law of the ex seems to be extending to international football now.

I don't know whether Switzerland have done enough to be missed, but it's unlikely, after Frei's injury and the rules of the tournament, with their preference for head-to-head records, deny teams the possibility to try a late high-scoring surge on the last day. So it's one host down, one to go.

It's a straight elimination game for Turkey and the Czechs, then. An 'eighth-final', as they call it in many languages. Both have identical records (3 points, 2 goals for, 3 against), so what happens if they draw? Are penalties on the agenda... for a group game?

After being regularly treated to players who mute their celebrations when they score against a former team, now we have players doing the same when playing against former, or their parents', nations. Both of Germany's goals in their first game went from Pole to Pole into the Polish net, with scorer Podolski almost saying sorry, and against Turkey it happened again, Derdiyok feeding Yakin for a potentially hugely important goal he didn't celebrate. If this trend continues, Brazil will have a hard time in the next World Cup, heheh.

Match 11: Croatia 2 Germany 1
(Chance count: Croatia 11 Germany 9)

So Germany have got themselves a bogey side now. They can always console themselves with the fact that 10 years ago it was worse, eliminated 3-0 from France 98. Now they have the mother of all second chances, with a last match against Austria.

Five strikers, if you count Podolski, and only him seems to be working. Gómez and Klose are being two of the biggest disappointments so far. Fritz is one of those 'invisible' players (I hardly remember anything from him in the game), and out of the five men in defence, one looks world-class brilliant (Lahm) and the others slow, just-about-coping, or both. Suddenly Germany don't find so many reasons to be cheerful. They must be crunching numbers to see if there's some kind of three-way tie on 6 points that would put them top of the group somehow.

(I wonder what Portugal are making of this, too. They keep their part of the bargain, the Germans do not. They were always favoured to play each other, but not it looks to be happening earlier than expected. Some reward.)

Croatia. Are they doing all this on purpose, with a real genius master plan (Russia, England, Austria playing not that well, now Germany), or are they just living a charmed life, playing it by ear? I thought they were just OK, basically good and well organised, but I wasn't particularly stirred by any of their players or moves. I think their own 1998 side would wipe the floor with them, for example. And the fact that this not-so-great display was enough is another indictment against Germany (as it was against England). Maybe their big strength is finding the weaknesses of supposedly superior teams and stealthily exploit them: a dodgy keeper here, a weak left back there... Seeing who they've got in the quarter-finals (either Turkey or a spent Czech Republic), they must be fancying their chances.

Match 12: Austria 1 Poland 1
(Chance count: Austria 10 Poland 10)

Did Howard Webb, the English referee, think that half a wrong would undo a whole one? In the first half Poland's goal was offside, and maybe he learnt about it at half-time and he felt somewhat sympathetic towards the Austrians. Maybe not even consciously. But if he gives the penalty he did, how many more should he give every game?

By this point of the match, though, that decision should have been academic. Austria had a hat-trick of crystal-clear chances in the first quarter of an hour to have settled the game, but instead fell to yet more bad luck. After years of preparation for a historic opportunity, you give away the first game after a third-minute penalty, then in the second you miss all those chances, then concede a goal from an off-side position. And finally, even a penalty you got is a lucky break only up to a point, because just before, Germany hadn't been able to win their second game, so the Germans would need a result in the last game, and they wouldn't play a second-string side against you anymore. It might be slow strangulation, but I'm sure the Austrians prefer that to the ignominy of lasting just five days in their own tournament, like the Swiss.

You hear about Polish football, and what does one think about? Boniek. Tomaszewski. Lato. The guys from the 70s and 80s. Right. Why? Because not much more has come out from there since, especially in terms of international tournaments. It's a pity that successive Polish teams sink all the time into the grey, forgettable area of also-rans and never-got-theres. And then, Leo Beenhakker, a guy with an impressive coaching CV, among all his huge experience, he goes and chooses the extreme off-side trap as his main defensive weapon. Why? Maybe because it used to kind-of-work back when Poland were good, as used by Belgium, for example? But now? And with personnel that's not up to it? What a way of throwing away a good chance of progressing. Now, not even beating Croatia should be enough.

Match 13: Italy 1 Romania 1
(Chance count: Italy 20 Romania 12)

A much better effort from two disappointing sides after their first game. This match should keep the highlight editors busy, in particular Italy, who beat Spain's high mark of 18 chances, but converted only one.

Are we seeing the birth of the 'Webb penalty'? I know UEFA are dictating a clampdown on penalty-box grabbing and shirt-pulling, but the English referee's example seems to be catching on. Why only at the end of matches, though?

Gianluigi Buffon. What a goalkeeper. This good since he was 17. So good that for a while it seemed to be taken as a given that only he could be called the best in the world, without right to reply. The competition is fierce, and the four goals he's let in so far will hurt him and his team, but how about that penalty save? A highlight of the tournament, and a potentially defining moment if Italy do their famed Houdini act once more and still qualify.

One of the most difficult things in this tournament is going to be to comment on Romania's performances. With the group that they have been given, plus a possible quarter-final against Spain, a semifinal against one of these three again, and a final against Portugal or Germany, the Romanians could end up having to play a whole tournament against world-class sides only, starting all of them as clear underdogs. How do you legislate for that? So how good are they, really? They seem to have more to offer than what we have seen so far, but if they were playing like they have done against Russia and Poland, for example, instead of against the two World Cup finalists, would they be harvesting any praises from the media?

Well, the plan is working so far. Mutu's penalty could have even put them ahead of schedule. Let's see what happens in the other match, because if the result goes their way, with a Dutch victory they could have an easy last game against a team already through as leaders, while the French and Italian fight for the grand prize of maybe taking the other down with them.

Match 14: Netherlands 4 France 1
(Chance count: Netherlands 13 France 18)

Nothing goes down better at a football tournament than a good Dutch team, if possible wearing their bright orange. When they click there's no better sight in football than a squad of flying Dutchmen (save maybe the same in Brazilian yellow).

So, they have beaten, and in what a way, the supposedly two best teams in the world. But something tells me they won't win this thing. Which probably means they will. Except if Sweden kicks them out on penalties.

Do you recall Arjen Robben's reaction to his goal, the 3-1? Shrugging his shoulders as if saying: 'Don't ask me how I did it, mate, I haven't a clue. If I had to do it again a hundred times, I'd probably score only that one'. And that's the thing with the Dutch sometimes. They do have impressive qualities, and a wave of brilliant players has always been following another since the 1970s. But then they can't take penalties, or they have 20 chances and score just one. An own goal. Then they start bickering, they get kicked out, and they make whoever was managing Ajax (or someone from the 1988 team, or both) their new coach to start all over again.

Cruyff's was Mark 1. Van Basten's Mark 2. Bergkamp's Mark 3. A new, successful model is due soon.

France was much better - because they came from a really low point. Their success of recent years had always been based on a good defence. A bad match like this doesn't mean they have forgotten how to keep attackers out. But a match against Italy next is not what they need to check that for sure.

Match 15: Spain 2 Sweden 1
(Chance count: Sweden 7 Spain 13)

That Villa kid is something special. He guarantees running and trying for 95 minutes a match, as he has demonstrated today, and how it pays off when it matters. And for those who worry about wet and windy Wigan in November, he comes from Asturias, in the north of Spain, which is as rainy as England. His club, Valencia, are only playing in the UEFA Cup. Hurry up.

Sweden denied Spain all the space Russia had given them, and it was a big difference. Plus, for a very predictable team, they have a genuine talent in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Henrik Larsson seems utterly spent this time, but I wouldn't rule out a telling contribution from him yet.

Match 16: Russia 1 Greece 0
(Chance count: Greece 13 Russia 15)

Too little too late from Greece, and they have swallowed a second helping of the medicine they administered their rivals four years ago: score and shut up shop. Besides, they're the only side of the 16 without a goal in two games and are already out. This time the gods weren't inhabiting Angelos Charisteas's head. They showed they can play some football too. A pity Otto Rehhagel didn't go for it from the beginning against Sweden.

Both sides were better, out of sheer desperation, and the match ended up being very watchable after their respective abysmal performances on day 1. Roman Pavlyuchenko looked again a very useful player, but I'm not sure he's getting all the support he should. I suppose that what we see is what we get with this Russian side.

Match 17: Switzerland 2 Portugal 0
(Chance count: Switzerland 16 Portugal 6)

What a difference tension and desire make. And in some teams, the lack of a couple of key footballers. Portugal simply did not care, and even looked pleased to see their Swiss hosts say goodbye on a high, feeling that their presence in the tournament wasn't undeserved. They will have one of the top scorers in the competition, too, with Hakan Yakin having bagged three from a tap-in, a one-on-one and a penalty.

A nice work-out for the Portuguese substitutes, among whom I think no-one has done much to threaten anyone's starting place against Germany.

Match 18: Turkey 3 Czech Republic 2
(Chance count: Turkey 12 Czech Republic 13)

Football, eh? Bloody hell. In tournaments such as this, many of the most telling moments come in games such as this, which are quite difficult to analyse in cold blood. The commentators were saying that the Czech were as good as safe when they saw Plasil's goal in the 62nd minute, and it was hard to disagree. They have experience, they're good as a team, and they know what the stakes are at this level. They even had notice of Turkey's abilities after Arda Turan's 92nd-minute goal against Switzerland. And then the Turks go and score 3 in 15 minutes. Commentators were dusting off the statistics about penalties (Turkey's first ever, the Czech have won all they've taken part in, Cech lost one with Chelsea and Volkan won with Fenerbahçe in the last Champions League). And then one of the safest keepers around, Petr Cech, makes the error of a lifetime.

I was thinking that Nihat Kahveçi was due a goal, and he got two. And Jan Koller has always been an extraordinary weapon for the Czech ('extraordinary' as in 'out of the ordinary'), and 50-odd international goals is a mark many strikers would kill dear relatives for.

Well done, Turkey. Their quarter-final against Croatia will be intriguing.

Match 19: Croatia 1 Poland 0
(Chance count: Poland 14 Croatia 13)

'If Poland don't win today, when will they?', I said in the prediction competition. And the answer is, well, never. If they can't against a Croatia side with about 37 changes from their best XI, they just don't deserve any more chances. True, a win would have been useless anyway given results elsewhere, but fans want to see players try. And be any good, if possible.

Ebi Smolarek had said before the start that his father was way better than him. No kidding. At the end of the day their best guy was Brazilian Roger Guerreiro and their second best whoever decided to speed up his passport. And then Artur Boruc, poor guy.

Again, it's a bad day to comment on the group leaders, with all those substitutes. However, there seems to be a spirit among the whole group that guarantees a good response from any substitutes who need to be called upon.

Match 20: Germany 1 Austria 0
(Chance count: Germany 14 Austria 10)

It was never in doubt, was it? Germany were nothing out of the ordinary, but this Austrian side, while not being as bad as we had been told, doesn't have much to recommend it either. If one man has stood out for them, it has been maybe Roman Kienast, hustling and bustling among defenders the three times he's come on as a substitute.

What happens with Germany, then? Their group was too weak to be a real threat, but they look really plain. And their strikers have been awful, even a proven international force like Miroslav Klose. We had been told that Jürgen Löw had taken Jürgen Klinsmann's raw blueprint from 2006 and had ironed out its faults with the clinical eye of a man with actual coaching experience. But it seems to be all solidity and no substance, good enough against lacklustre Poles and Austrians, but inadequate against the Croatians, and one imagines way below what they need to keep Portugal at bay. Against Poland everything worked, including a defence playing to Germany's strengths, and in the other two games they seemed to have been waiting for the same thing to happen by itself, for the holes to open up by themselves. You could almost feel them waiting patiently for that to happen while they wondered where was the fault with the programmed software.

Now's the point when one should say 'these guys never say die, they always come back, write them off at your peril', etc... But the Germans have failed more often than they have triumphed, like any other footballing nation. This time they're the underdogs.

Match 21: Netherlands 2 Romania 0
(Chance count: Netherlands 13 Romania 8)

So how good are Romania then? More people than I expected have been touting them as a good team (some even said 'a very good team'), but after the three games, was it merited? Of course, had they beaten a weakened Dutch side, it all would have been retroactively hailed as a tactical masterstroke, allied with resilience, luck, and the rules of the competition.

As I have said before, it's going to be tricky to judge the Romanian performance, and even more so in the way they have fallen. Avoiding defeats against France and Italy carries a lot of merit, but could they have done more? How much can they cry about that Mutu penalty miss against Italy? On the one hand, they have scored only one goal, but with those three rivals they weren't very likely to score many more. And at least they ended up above France.

The Dutch make it a third ‘unjudgeable’ team in as many days due to their being qualified. They do seem to have bench depth, though.

Match 22: Italy 2 France 0
(Chance count: Italy 16 France 9)

It was destined to happen, wasn't it? That Buffon save couldn't end up as a footnote, and now the Italians will very much fancy their quarterfinal chances against Spain: Spain never beat these teams, they beat Italy recently in a friendly and Luca Toni can't buy a goal. It has got all the ingredients to click into place at just the right moment. Plus, one should never underestimate those near-death experiences. Had Mutu scored, Italy would have been as dead as Switzerland or Greece after day 2. Now they're among the last eight, while France and Romania are not. We've seen them do this before.

France have been horrid. Blame their draw all they want, but they have been beaten by each team's main weapon: the Romanian defence, the Dutch attack and the Italian competitive edge.

Match 23: Russia 2 Sweden 0

I went for 0-0 in the prediction competition, reasoning that they would cancel each other out, but some things are there to be seen, and they make a difference, and in this case it's Guus Hiddink and tournaments. He does make teams overachieve, doesn't he? He's been doing it for some 20 years, and it's not luck when it happens all the time. And now, of all the teams in the world (OK, Europe), he gets his very own Netherlands in the quarters.

Sweden is one of those teams that either find you out or are found out. Once, in the past millennium, it was their turn to shine, helped by a certain H Larsson. But this one was one too far for them.

Match 24, QF 1: Germany 3 Portugal 2
(Chance count: Germany 10 Portugal 20)

I suppose that no matter where you live your commentators will have rolled out the clichés about the Germans never surrendering. Well, there is often a reason why a cliché becomes one, and this is one of them.

You could say that Portugal weren't that good or Germany that bad to warrant the billing of clear favourites against clear underdogs. Come to think of it, the two teams arrived with almost identical records of won 2 lost 1, but that wasn't fooling anyone: Portugal's defeat had come when already qualified, giving their second-string side an outing, and Germany had to sweat (mildly) until the last match, after a humiliating defeat against Croatia when the match mattered. As it could be the case with Italy against Spain this Sunday, the fact that Germany had a wake-up call against Croatia while for Portugal it had all been plain sailing could have been the key. That, and the format of international competitions, which has many defects but by now everyone knows the rules to: a mistake in the first three matches is forgiven, after that it's not. No matter how good your record or how bad that of your opponent.

Match 25, QF 2: Turkey 1 Croatia 1 (3-1 on penalties)
(Chance count: Turkey 8 Croatia 15)

Turkey must be the most hated team among journalists in the whole continent. Three times now they've made correspondents change their copy at the last minute... and beyond. They don't know when they're beaten. It's also very difficult to comment on them, because being inferior to the other teams for most of those games, sometimes clearly so, they ended up getting victories through late goals each time, which is what matters. Four in three games, which must be some sort of record, too. So the vivas for their imagination-capturing attitude must go hand in hand with scant praise for almost everything else: they’re suspect in defence and wasteful in attack. There's a statistic that says it all: Turkey have been in front on the scoreboard for less than three minutes in the whole tournament. Yet they're in the semi-final.

Croatia, like Portugal yesterday, have been left with the face that some footballers get when they're sent off and they complain to the ref saying: 'Hey, it was only my first foul!' Well, too bad. Bad timing, mate. There's no first foul or second in these matches.

More's the pity, because today I was keeping a really attentive eye to see if I could finally catch that brilliant Croat team everyone talks about. I have been impressed by Luka Modric. He looks very useful, in particular with the right players around. No-one can give the assist and score the goal as well, so if you make sure you surround him with better strikers than Ivica Olic, he should be a big hit in North London. Ivan Rakitic is definitely one to keep an eye on, and I also liked Josip Simunic in defence (very Croatian-like, looking dodgier than he in fact is) and left-back Danijel Pranjic.

(By the way, I just knew for sure that Modric was going to miss his penalty. Where are the bookies when you need one? )

So, this half of the draw is what it should have been, really, only backwards. With so many injuries and suspensions it will be a very tall order for Turkey to defeat Germany now. We won't know until the 96th minute, though.

Match 27, QF 3: Russia 3 Netherlands 1 aet
(Chance count: Netherlands 21 Russia 25)

A tournament with no surprises at all would be a surprise in itself, but this year is being freaky now. Three teams that qualified with a game to spare, all praised for their good play, two of them with maximum points even when playing substitutes, and one of them, tonight's fall guys, having provided some of the best entertainment and performances so far, all of them are out in the quarter-finals. Were they thinking about the semi-finals already? 3-0 v Italy for nothing. 4-1 v France for nothing. And three teams who went through bad times, some of them really bad times, are now in the semis. Talk about momentum being more important than quality sometimes. Incredible. The final twist is that tomorrow an upset seems on the cards already in favour of Italy, so a Spain victory would be the actual surprise... Or not... I don't know anymore.

Is it fair, though? The rules were there from the beginning for all, but I suppose it's hard not to feel harshly done by with this format. However, there will never be another. Learn to manage it.

Can you win Player of the Tournament having missed the first two games? Andrei Arshavin looks well on course, and fully justifies Guus Hiddink's faith in him. His agent must be really busy right now.

Match 28, QF 4: Spain 0 Italy 0 (4-2 on penalties)
(Chance count: Spain 20 Italy 8)

24 years without semi-finals and without competitive victories over Top 9 teams. I don't know whether penalty shoot-outs count as duck-breakers, but such was the drought of footballing success suffered by the senior Spain team that the celebrations will be huge, in particular because the victory has come against a particular bogeyman for the Spanish, Italy.

Italy managed to throttle Spain's passing game without any problems at all. Of course, any team will always have their chances, even when playing badly, and this time both did, but you could tell Italy didn't mind the 57-43 percentage sharing of ball possession at all. They're very patient in defence, never lose their shape, and they learnt from their mistakes against the Netherlands, a team with too many pacy players for them. Spain didn't have as many, and in Zambrotta and Panucci Italy had two defenders with years of experience in the Spanish league. If they were going to surrender so much of the ball possession, Italy's main chance laid in counter-attacking when dispossessing the Spanish midfielders, but the problem is that right now they do not have either the wingers or the strikers for that. Luca Toni is terribly slow for that, and he's left the tournament without a goal. Five minutes in, I thought this was the perfect game for Alessandro Del Piero, with Andrea Pirlo unavailable through suspension - how he was missed. Roberto Donadoni paid the price for not trusting him enough.

The other weapon Italy had was their height - the Italian players were on average six centimetres taller than EACH Spanish player -, but the Spanish back four managed to make do with their anticipation or with making the Italian wide players cross hurriedly - several balls from them were too long for Toni. This game meant a very steep learning curve for Spain. After facing the type of teams Spain beat regularly without too much brilliance or trouble in qualifying (Russia, Greece, Sweden), all of a sudden it was Italy and all her demons. The Spanish were very self-conscious, and even players without any fault in Spain's underachieving past were burdened with rescuing x number of years of hurt. You could say that they're going from more to less, while Russia are doing the opposite. Intriguing semi-final.

But well, ever since penalty shoot-outs started they're increasingly part of a winning run. The Italians themselves had won their last two, the last of them two years ago for the biggest prize of all.

Match 29, SF 1: Germany 3 Turkey 2
(Chance count: Germany 8 Turkey 16)

The Germans reach finals more often than anyone, they're famous for not giving up more than anyone, for scoring late goals more than anyone (Turkey had outGermanned the Germans at that game during this tournament, so many people had forgotten about this), and they were the favourites from the upper half of the draw. So there's nothing to wonder at, no surprises here, eh?

That's only if you just came from Mars (or the USA, heheh) and just read the result in tomorrow's papers without any knowledge of what happened. Germany in a football final, yeah, what's new? Well, lots of things are new. For starters, the shocking first half by the Germans. I counted 7 chances for Turkey before Germany had their first, Schweinsteiger's goal. The only thing I can think of is that the Germans were too embarrassed by their advantage, with all the absences in the Turkish side, and could seem sort of concerned to look like bullies. But come on, this is a professional game. No feelings allowed. What really happened is that Germay have a huge Mehmet-Scholl-sized hole in midfield. Hitzlsperger is a bit-part player, Ballack doesn't do midfield orchestrating, Rolfes had a 'mare of a game, and Podolski and Schweinsteiger had to do their own thing to find goals, with a little help from Lahm. Frings should have been playing from the beginning (if not for anything else, because he's in my team!), but even that doesn't make them great.

Turkey must be thanked for the memories. Tournaments like these are a matter of emotions as much as of clinical analysis and fair-play wishes that the best team win. So there shouldn't be a problem in reckoning that they'll be missed and admired, but that they're just not one of the two best teams in Europe. They kept pacemaker-makers busy across the continent, though.

Match 30, SF 2: Spain 3 Russia 0
(Chance count: Spain 16 Russia 6)

Two years ago everyone saw how Germany felt revitalised by the World Cup, and it might sound silly, but if little things such as football put a spring in the step of hundreds of thousands of people, then it's not a silly thing anymore. Part of the talk during the quarter-final between Spain and Italy had derived into a strange discussion about whether some macroeconomic indicators in the press said or not that Spain, for the first time ever, was ahead of Italy, a G8 country. It was significant, because after centuries of inferiority complex from a nation that once had a worldwide empire, and after the dark years of dictatorship (when Spain, ironically, did win the tournament), this is being felt as a moment when Spain is back among the greats, with leading sportsmen in many fields. Success has come in tennis, athletics, Formula 1, handball, cycling, basketball, waterpolo, etc. But football is the people's game in Spain and they craved success in it more than anything. Yes, they've got Real Madrid and their tons of cups, but always with hired help. This is different.

And now they've done it, because whatever happens in the final, this Spanish team is stylish even in the design of their away shirts. If they win they will be rightly celebrated, and if they lose they should be saluted as the 1970s Dutch. Because Spain has been accused of being one of the supposedly greats, but without their own recognisable style, and this passing game full of short midfielders, which reached its zenith when Villa left the field, injured, is a joy to watch. Fábregas, Xavi, Senna, Iniesta, Silva. What a midfield. Tiqui-taca is the watchword.

As for Russia, they went back to their Arshavin-less version. No, he didn't miss the game, but he was starved of ball, as was Pavlyuchenko. And Russia showed that in this current incarnation they don't have much more, which puts them in their true place, and in an odd way gives extra sheen to their victory over the Netherlands.

What now in the final? Michael Ballack already has an unwanted double of runner-up medals in European Cup and World Cup (2002), and he could collect a similar one this year. That'd be one famous trivia question.

Match 31, Final: Spain 1 Germany 0
(Chance count: Germany 4 Spain 15)

Thoroughly deserved. And by the end of the tournament, I'd venture to say that Spain are the champions with the blessings of all the neutrals. Only one thing was missing from Spain's tournament, and that was to beat one of the big teams, as they couldn't defeat Italy in 90 or 120 minutes. Well, mission accomplished. Spain's last competitive victory had been against West Germany in 1984, the last time Spain reached a final. Michel Platini, today giving out the medals, put the Spanish to the sword that day, and Andrés Palop, Spain's third goalie, has gone to receive his prize wearing Luis Arconada's jersey from that day. That's how much Spain needed this and how much they rued the missed chances and the times in the past it didn't come together.

The match was a new confirmation of the triumph of this passing game that the Spanish team, whether by design or stumbling upon it, have brought to the international scene. The Germans just haven't seen any of the ball, whatever the possession figures say. They had the correct idea, trying to play their possessions quickly, while Spain was content to be patient. In the end, Fernando Torres had five high-quality midfielders all looking to feed him killer balls, and it just was too much. To the German defenders, it must have felt like playing tennis against five rivals in the other side of the court. Had David Villa been on today, he'd have gone home with two match balls under his arms. Joachim Löw paid testament to the importance of not falling for that trick when Philip Lahm wasn't brought back for the second half.

Besides, Germany compounded their helplessness by being absolutely awful in their other weapon: crosses from the sides. Germany's aerial power was -is- awesome with the team they put on the field. Klose, Ballack, Metzelder, Mertesacker, even Podolski... They'd be queuing up to score if the right ball came. But it just didn't. Just four chances the whole game is the worst performance of any side in the whole tournament.

Meanwhile, Spain's suspected weak point, the defence, have held so firm that they matched Greece's feat of not conceding in the elimination stages. Maybe nobody managed to push them really hard, but that's not Spain's fault.

Enhorabuena.

THE POST MORTEM

16 Greece (0 points, goal difference -4)

In 2004, from zeroes to heroes, and in 2008, from heroes to zero points. A performance like this would guarantee any other manager the sack, but such is the importance attached to the events of four years ago that Otto Rehhagel can name the day he goes or for how long he stays. Too cautious in their games against Sweden and Russia, this time the ploy didn’t work and they had to chase games, rather than using their favourite recipe of score first and defend like at the Thermopylae. Many big names from this team will retire and prospects for 2010 look grim.

15 France (1, -5)

Looking back, it seems that France only do either big triumphs, by winning things (1984, 1998, 2000) or getting very nearly there (1982, 1986, 2006), or big catastrophes, by exiting ignominiously (1992, 2002, 2004, 2008) or not even qualifying (1988, 1990, 1994).This time it was catastrophe time. They have a ready-made excuse in the events of the first half of their third match, with the injury to their key midfielder, Franck Ribéry, and that penalty-cum-red-card, which is too much of an advantage to give the World Champions, but it doesn’t really cut it. Whoever had finished out from among the Big Three of the group of death had another excuse in the bad luck of the draw, but France finished out of the quarter-finals in almost the worst possible way, being clearly inferior to the Netherlands and getting easily handcuffed by Romania.

14 Poland (1, -4)

Another show of quintessential also-rans from Poland. They have enough to make you work for your victories, but they just roll over when you have a little oomph in you. A safe bet for a ref to try and impress UEFA with a dodgy penalty, then.

13 Austria (1,-3)

They weren’t the disaster that was widely predicted, and their defenders ended up being good value for money in fantasy leagues, with just one goal against in each match. They showed that any full-time team in the world today plays tidily, in particular when you’re at home, and that no-one is to be underestimated if you have motivation. Very willing to shoot from everywhere, they didn’t seem to have many other game-plans. Late surges aided by the incorporation of Roman Kienast as a substitute in each game gave a good final impression, but they weren’t enough. Looked happy to avoid serious embarrassment. When will we see them again?

12 Romania (2, -2)

Being drawn against Italy, France and the Netherlands was the story of their effort since November. Any team analysis you read mentioned this fact as much as their own abilities, and it seems to have affected them too. I’m not sure if the master plan was really to draw the first two and beat the Dutch in the third (even better if the Oranje were through already), but it almost worked. However, the Romanians were inferior to each of the three, and as it had been predicted, a) they had just too much for the Romanians, and b) there were three of them, one after the other. If they ran France very close it was because they kept their discipline and defended first: had they gone for the win, they might have lost the match to a quick counter-attack. The good news is that many players look good for 2010, none more so than an Adrian Mutu with a scar to heal.

11 Czech Republic (3, -2)

The theme couldn’t be the end of an era, because that had already happened. It wasn’t the last tournament for Nedved, Poborsky and Smicer, because they weren’t there at all. The theme had to be the birth of a new generation, and it just didn’t happen. They were bad and lucky against Switzerland, bad and justly defeated against Portugal, and bad-but-better-than-their-rival and unlucky against Turkey. No team has missed more a player than the Czechs have Tomas Rosicky.

10 Sweden (3, -1)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be written off again as an underachiever in spite of two very good goals and an injury. The only thing wrong with him is that he plays for Sweden, as he must. What is not up to much is the rest of the team, good enough to qualify for everything since the number of tournament entrants have been enlarged, but increasingly incapable of much else. This was a textbook appearance as strictly supporting cast: beat the featherweights, lose to the heavyweights, and go to last-chance saloon against the guys your size. One will get obscurity, not even drama, and the other a crack at the elimination games. Henrik Larsson says he will still hang around, not necessarily until 2010, but if there’s no-one better, who can blame him?

9 Switzerland (3, +0)

Don’t be fooled by these numbers: they were out before anyone else, having lost the first two games and improved their scores against a sleepy Portugal Reserves. All their three goals go to Hakan Yakin, who at least picked up the pieces after the decisive injury to Alexander Frei, an event that left the Swiss as shell-shocked as a host who had laboured all year to throw the perfect party and then saw a lightning bolt burn his tents in the garden with all the nice surprises. What did they do to deserve it? Nothing. But it still happened. ‘Football’s football’, as Vujadin Boskov used to say.

8 Italy (5, -1)

Starting and ending with historic defeats against the Netherlands and Spain, one has to question the wisdom of extending Roberto Donadoni’s contract before the start. International football starts and finishes in the cycles marked by tournament finals, you’re as good as your last position, and I doubt it very much that football fans in Italy, from the terraces to the FA, see this performance as satisfactory. The draw against Romania was a below-par match too, and the only victory, against France, was helped decisively by an injury and a penalty and a red card. The faith in Luca Toni was justified after the season he’s had at Bayern, but a bit of variety was lacking. Maybe they were too conscious to avoid another ridiculous result like that 3-0 in the first match and didn’t have the necessary flair to romp forward.

7 Portugal (6, +1)

If you’re not ready to take your place in footballing history, there will always be a run-of-the-mill German team to do it for you, danke very schön. I suppose that the Portuguese didn’t need reminding of this, and maybe they trusted Luiz Felipe Scolari’s brilliant record as a national team manager, but somehow they lulled themselves into a false sense of security. Yes, the German defence was slow, and Portugal managed to put two past them, but they were caught napping three times, which is too much in international football. Now the talk will turn to ridiculous excuses about Chelsea or Real Madrid interfering. Nonsense. You can’t win without 100% commitment any more.

6 Netherlands (9, +6)

Nine points and a +8 goal difference in three matches is a phenomenal start to any tournament at all, and much more when you see the kind of opposition faced by the Netherlands. Comparisons were being made with the finest clockwork oranges in the past, and merited most of the time. The Oranje were attacking ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion and watching c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. But, as the Dutchman continued, ‘all those moments will be lost in time like tears in the rain’.

5 Croatia (10, +3)

Good, neat, tidy team gets eliminated by another with not much to recommend them other than their never-say-die spirit. Welcome to the wrong end of giant-killing. The Croatian team has a good number of very useful players who will be value for money at assorted Western clubs come August. Meanwhile, the big team you upset are still in it and you’re out. They will feel very unhappy with the reward they have got after Played 4 Won 3 Drawn 1 Lost 0.

4 Turkey (7, -1)

If this was a league, Turkey would now be two points behind the Netherlands and three behind Croatia, both of them having played a game less. Yet the Turks will be one of the treasured memories of the tournament. As I posted before, sport is not only about clinical analysis and robotical efficiency to achieve your technical best, but also romance, daring and overcoming of the odds. We can't have both 'let the best team win' and 'come on you underdogs'. A series of plucky losers would be just too boring. Something has to give, and Turkey made it give.

'Turkey: The miracle as tactics', ran a brilliant headline during the tournament. I doubt it very much it was the Plan A, but if the Turks knew that there would be moments when they would be up against it and they had what it takes to refuse to concede defeat until they say so, that's the kind of spirit any manager wants. And fans too, even neutrals. Producing that kind of moment in four separate consecutive matches is the stuff legends are made of. Four years ago the feeling was that Greece can't repeat that trick again... Can they? Turkey gave us the same feeling, only with a higher and more entertaining thrill to it.

3 Russia (9, -1)

Guus Hiddink does have the overachiever's touch, but it seems that it lasts only up to the semi-finals, unless he's managing a proper top dog, like Real Madrid or PSV in the days when being Dutch champions meant something in the European Cup. I, particularly, think that Russia, both in qualifying and now, are just a mildly interesting side which have had the important virtue of the well-placed victory. The one against England, the one against Sweden, the one against the Netherlands... And here they are, third in the tournament, which is not bad at all.

But they were clearly living above their means. Andrei Arshavin was being compared to Diego Maradona for his ability to raise an ordinary side to world beaters with his only presence, but Maradona did it for years for club and country since he was a teenager. Arshavin is 27 and a boyhood-dream transfer to Barcelona just in the nick of time might be the fairest reward. Let's see who else plumps for one of the others, though.

2 Germany (12, +3)

Germany has got the knack (and the graft, and the quality, let's not grudge them that) of reaching finals, but also of losing an awful lot of them. Their record is so phenomenal that yet another runners-up spot might not guarantee the 2008 model a particularly distinguished place in the national pantheon. A good victory against Portugal probably was the only bright moment in six games, together with Philip Lahm's goal against Turkey, reminiscent of the times when you could hear the white and black machine say 'we are going to beat you whatever you do'. This time they were shown up at least twice, by Croatia and Spain, and even Portugal and Turkey put a couple of goals past them in defeat. I don't think they're a bad team at all, but if they had won this time, it would have been by default of almost everyone else.

1 Spain (16, +9)

If Spain were due a good tournament, football fans everywhere were also equally due a Spanish performance with some backbone beyond the teams that a top nation is expected to beat. Their triumph leaves not only the satisfying flavour of seeing a deserving winner, but also a memorable team with distinguishing features, in names and tactics. The version with Torres and Villa is devilishly difficult to defend against, treating us to the unusual spectacle of seeing two Spain strikers who are genuinely good and fearless. But the one with the Five Dwarves in midfield just run rings around people and is very exciting to watch.

Remember Brazil 1970? No, really, hear me out. That team is famous because their manager just took all the number 10s of the day, all of them brilliant players, and found a way of accomodating as many of them as possible in the same team. Luis Aragonés has done something similar, only with number 4s.

It has been coming for a while. Since the times of the FC Barcelona team which Johan Cruyff took to their first and also long overdue first European Cup in 1992, featuring Josep Guardiola, Spain has cornered the market in ball-distributors of metronomic precision, which Cruyff numbered with that 4 on the back. He organised the youth teams to play exactly in the same way as the seniors, and if any of his starting players got injured he just said 'bring me up the nearest 4, 8, 10, etc'. In that way, that type of player became indispensable, and other teams followed suit. Xavi was so good that Guardiola was allowed to fade away and Fábregas to leave untried. And today Xavi, Fábregas, Alonso, Iniesta and Silva still leave no room for Everton's Arteta, for example.

The decision to stop looking for wingers of more or less mercurial disposition (no Vicente, no Joaquín) and play all of them at once was risky, valiant, and deserving of success. It will be interesting to see if this trait becomes Spain's durable contribution to world football or it will be just the signature of this particular one.

For now, enjoy it while it lasts.

3 comentarios:

Anthie dijo...

Sooooo, you're still alive. Nice to see ya.

Rogorn dijo...

Hi, bayb. Yes, I am. Thanks for dropping by. Hope the little elf is fine. Mua mua.

Anthie dijo...

The little elf is doing great. If I had your recent email address, I'd write you something more and send some pics if you like. Dunno which one you're using at the moment.
Mua :)