A prediction-less UEFA Euro 2012 quarterfinal coffee-line roundup
June 21: Czech Republic versus Portugal
If Cristiano Ronaldo had his way, he’d be the new name of the team he plays for and the country he represents. In that spirit, Ronaldo, first, and Portugal, distant second, takes on the upstart Petr Cech-led Czech team, which can consider itself fortunate it made the final cut ahead of Russia and tournament cohosts Poland. Expect Ronaldo to do what Ronaldo does, and choose his moments wisely. If Portugal trails at any stage, he might switch on his afterburners and leave it all on the park. If Portugal is winning easily, he will kiss as many balls (soccer variety) and fans as he can and rewrite all history books pertaining to Cristiano Ronaldo.
June 22: Germany versus Greece
A romantic side of me likes this fixture, but Germany are well-organized, well-greased, and well-motivated to do a demolition job on lowly Greece, which arrived in the quarter-final on the back of a sensational 1-0 win over a well-drilled Russian team. It was a tournament highlight and an emotive game for the Greeks, but for them the Euro (the tournament and not the currency) could end right here. Hence, let’s not get too romantic and forget what makes German soccer what it is. They’re not even that great any more, but they still boast excellent keeper Manuel Neuer, well-organized defenders, midfield mavericks like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil, and then the small matter of tall guy and poacher extraordinaire Mario Gomez. Any coherent team has to have a plan against Germany, and at its heart that plan must first include the total and utter sapping and dismantling of Mario Gomez’s soccer mojo. I’m not saying you chop him; I’m saying you get to know how many hairs are on his head and know the exact colour of his eyes.
June 23: Spain versus France
Oh man, the French are in tough. After finishing runners-up to England in Group D—punishment for playing the last game (2-0 loss to eliminated Swedes) as if they had suddenly become England—they now get to play Euro champs and World Cup 2010 winners Spain. Some have said the Germans aren’t even trying yet. Spain is still fast asleep. Whichever version of Les Bleus shows up, they may be overmatched by whichever version of Spain (quiet or wide awake) gets its red-coloured asses on the park.
June 24: England versus Italy
A real humdinger in the offing here. In keeping with the prediction-less, superstition-free nature of this roundup, we’ll just leave it at that. Both teams are playing well, with Italy a tad undercooked and perpetually-underachieving England taking the tournament by storm by virtue of still being in it and being in it to win it, to quote England goalie Joe Hart. New manager Roy Hodgson may be in his 60s, but his force of personality (along with his support cast) has dragged a team mired in the shite that was World Cup 2010 and a 4-1 mauling by Germany to respectability and a quiet, measured and usually-un-English brimming confidence.