The first game of a tournament is always the hardest for every team, especially the favourites. That's how the 1-1 draw between Spain and Italy came about. As usual we saw two teams playing neat, combination football without threatening the goal very much.
Way back in 1954, German coach
Sepp Herberger said, “If you don't shoot, you can't win.” At the end of that tournament, Germany were world champions.
It was thanks to the Italians in the end that it turned out to be an entertaining game after the Azzurri managed to shake off all the pre-tournament upheavals caused by the match-fixing investigation back home. Unusually for Italy, they had two main strikers in Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano. They seem to play with amazing freedom under coach Cesare Prandelli.
Nothing is worse than losing a first game in this quality-packed Euro, as it happened to the Dutch against Denmark. They did not have much luck. Robin van Persie, who has scored 37 goals this season for Arsenal, and his team-mates had enough chances to put the Dutch in front before Denmark took their first real chance to score.
Tough for Dutch
In normal circumstances, if you lose the first game it's best to ring up the travel agents to start provisionally planning your journey home. The Dutch now have a final when they play Germany on Wednesday. They have to win, for a draw might not be enough before the last game against Portugal.
Germany also had some luck in beating Portugal. I have a lot of respect for their performance though Cristiano Ronaldo could not continue his Real Madrid goal form and was well watched by Jerome Boateng.
For Germany, nobody disappointed although a few like captain Philipp Lahm and Lukas Podolski on the left flank were average. If you consider the fact that Borussia Dortmund defender Matts Hummels learned his craft at Bayern and Podolski spent three years at the club, there were nine Bayern players in the side plus two from Real Madrid — Mesut Oezil and Sami Khedira. In other words, the team should be a real unit.
In the opening game, you could sense the immense pressure on co-hosts Poland in Warsaw. It was a wonderfully worked first goal between the Dortmund trio Jakub Blaszczykowski, Lukascz Pisczek and goal-getter Robert Lewandowski. But after a few missed chances nervousness seemed to creep in and Greece came close to achieving more than a 1-1 draw.
I was really annoyed that Poland ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny was shown a red card after a harmless foul on Dimitris Salpingidis. The penalty for Greece was justified but it is wrong for a team to be penalised twice in this way. I ask myself why I am leading a FIFA task force which has come out against this regulation.
It’s the goalkeeper’s job to prevent goals being scored. With the rules as they are now, if I were a 'keeper I would let the opponent have a free run at goal knowing that if I touched him, I could be shown a red card. That's surely not the point of football. If FIFA and UEFA continue to work against each other, I will have to consider whether it makes sense to continue working in this task force or whether it might be better to resign.
HAWKEYE COMMUNICATIONS/ CHIVACH SPORTS
The writer is germany’s world cup wiining captain and coach