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It’s been Total Football, total respect so far

A superb hat-trick from Spain’s David Villa and goals of beauty from Portugal, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden have put an extra sheen on a bright opening round of matches at Euro 2008.

sports Updated: Jun 12, 2008 22:31 IST
Mike Collett

A superb hat-trick from Spain’s David Villa and goals of beauty from Portugal, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden have put an extra sheen on a bright opening round of matches at Euro 2008.

One hugely debatable goal plus defeats for the reigning world champions Italy and European champions Greece and both co-hosts Switzerland and Austria have also added to an intriguing first four days of competition.

The action has been relatively clean too with such high stakes — after eight games to Wednesday we had not seen a single red card.

Portugal, Germany, Netherlands and Spain all impressed in their openers, and Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari summed up the feelings of all his colleagues after his side’s 2-0 win over Turkey on Saturday.

“It is so important win the first game as every opponent is tough,” he said. “It doesn’t guarantee a place in next round but it helps enormously.”

Germany, who had not won a match in the finals since winning Euro 96, ended that run with a 2-0 win over Poland in Klagenfurt on Sunday.

Lukas Podolski’s second of the match, a stunning volley, finally broke Poland’s resistance.

The game of the tournament so far came when Netherlands beat Italy 3-0 in a match that evoked memories of Dutch Total Football of the 1970s.

Their second goal, a counter-attacking move ending with a volley from Wesley Sneijder, was simply breathtaking.

Their first, when Ruud Van Nistelrooy scored from what looked like an offside position but was ruled as valid because Italian defender Christian Panucci was deemed to be playing him onside even though he was off the pitch, was the biggest talking point.

David Villa’s hat-trick in Spain’s 4-1 rout of Russia has been the outstanding individual performance, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s incredible right-foot thunderbolt for Sweden against Greece is another contender for goal of the tournament.