In the first half of a match, you have to put pressure on the Italians. I had already been advising this before their semi-final match against Germany. The Germans didn't do this and so Italy justifiably made it to the final.
And there, the Spaniards attacked the enemy like hungry
sharks, using their 2-0 first half as the foundation to go on to win by a final score of 4-0. There were many beautiful passes by Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas. And Xavi Hernandez's deep precision pass to Jordi Alba for the second goal almost makes me a fan even at my advanced age of 66.
After this phenomenal final match, my verdict about this Euro is now somewhat milder. But even these Spaniards, who became the first European champions ever to defend the title, were on the verge of a defeat by Croatia in the group phase and would almost have been eliminated.
This was not an outstanding tournament. There were too many weak matches. And so the debate has started up again about whether it makes any sense to increase the number of teams from 16 to 24 in four years' time. If 16 teams can't live up to peoples' hopes, then how are 24 teams going to? In this case, fewer would be more. The other plan of UEFA president Michel Platini to stage the Euro championships back and forth throughout Europe in twelve different cities, is not such a bad one, I feel. At least it should be discussed. One can take the idea a bit further, and in any case I can sympathise with such a thought.
A case for technology
I am still furious when I recall how co-hosts Ukraine, in its 0-1 loss to England, were robbed of a goal, even though the goal line official stood right at the line and the ball was clearly in the goal. I thought the goal line referee arrangement had proven itself. But now I think it would be best to work with a camera or some other technical means of assistance.
As far as I'm concerned, the game can continue with these two extra officials behind the goals. But the question remains: are there enough referees? It doesn't make sense to do this only at the major tournaments. I'm afraid that there will be shortages. It would be easier to install cameras in the goals.
But let's get back to the fantastic performance by the Italians in reaching the final. And then this incredible final match by the world champions of Spain. At times you had the impression that Xavi and Iniesta were playing at the edge of their physical limits. This time around it went well again. But to play this style of football can only be maintained as long as FC Barcelona is playing near the top of the table. And that with their Argentinian, Lionel Messi. With him, it makes it a lot easier for Xavi and Iniesta. As always, every team depends on what its players can do. It's the player who in the end determine the system, not the trainer.
Young and restless
By far the most flamboyant figure in the Euro 2012 was Mario Balotelli, who with his two goals in the 2-1 win almost knocked out the Germans all by himself. At 21, Balotelli is still developing. Italy's national coach Cesare Prandelli is a clever pedagogue, one who lets his players to get by with some things. Balotelli is automatically going to get older and more mature. That this youngster can really play is something that is beyond doubt. He just should be careful about not getting in his own way.
The claim that the Italians were the only team to play with two strikers is only half-true. Balotelli and Antonio Cassano also work back on the defence. And the Spaniards didn't have anybody up front, having unfortunately to play a 4-6-0 formation. The fact that Fernando Torres, coming back from injury, was the Euro's top goal scorer playing as a substitute speaks volumes about this tournament's scarcity of goals. The resignation of France coach Laurent Blanc took me by surprise. At the World Cup two years ago there was no unity in the French side. And this time around they could not rein in the egotism of each individual player. There are some egotists there who could care less about the team. Blanc probably told himself, I'm not going to do this to myself any longer. But in four years' time the European championships are going to be held in your own country. As a coach, you normally would not pass this up.
The author is Germany's world cup & euro winning captain.
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