Too much bloody rain. Can anyone remember a tournament with so much rain!?!?! Ah well.
Yesterday's match was... interesting. Not exactly what I was expecting, mind you, but it was interesting.
The Spanish seemed to have shaken off their 44 year success drought, playing some fantastic stuff. They finally worked out how to play defense, or at least they seemed to have. The game wasn't so much won by Spanish brilliance as it was Russian collapse.
It really did come down to defense in the end. By the end of the first half, I had to remind myself it was still 0-0, I don't think I've seen such an exciting scoreless half. The Spanish were absolutely merciless on the attack, but the Russians seemed to be coping, and mounting an attack or two of their own. Both keepers were on top of their game, the Spanish defense was solid, but you could see the cracks in the Russians.
Then came the second half. Then came the goals.
All three goals were pretty fantastic, well thought out and beautifully executed. Fabregas really is ahead of his age, and played with the maturity of an old war horse, but the speed and creativity of a league fresher.
Two did piss me off a little though, not because of a lack of flair, but terrible, terrible defending from the Russians. The second goal, the scorer (Guiza) was clearly offside, yes, but it wasn't called, so get on with it. (Don Cherry moment) All you kids out there, whenever you're in a situation where you know the striker is offside, track back with him anyways - if it's not called you're giving the striker a free run at your goal.
The other one reminded me of a comment I'd made when Spain played Russia in the group stage. Basically, two Spanish attackers broke into the attacking zone, with multiple Russians trailing. I quote from my June 11th article entitled "Round One? All Done!"
"The defense was baffled and slow on the get-go, at least the second goal could have been stopped if one defender didn't decide to stop tracking back at the top of the 18-yard box, setting up an open low cross to Villa."
Substitute the name "Villa" for "Silva" and you have Spain's third goal. The defender stropped tracking back, Fabregas had an open pass, put it right through the 18-yard box and it was a simple tap-in. Terrible.
Not to take anything away from Russian keeper Akinfeev though. Three goals allowed isn't so terrible, considering he faced 12 shots on target and eight off-target. The boy's got a bright future in front of him.
Maybe after his performance today the Arshavin circus will quiet down. He seems to play really well in situations where his team are impressive around him, but he does not lift the rest of the team to play at a higher-level during the shitty times. In fact, he was quite the let-down yesterday, wasting a lot of potential chances with bad passes.
The weather clearly made an impact on the game - but it's all over. End result was probably the right one, Spain are through to the final.
This sets up an interesting run in with ze Germans. I have absolutely no idea how this is going to go - that said my predictions haven't been all that spectacular since the knock-out stages began. I'd like to see the Spanish win, but in the immortal words of Gary Linekar (said after being knocked out of World Cup '90 semifinals via penalties):
"Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win."
We'll see how right he is come Sunday.
By the way - I am going to be barbecuing for most of Sunday, those of you who can get in direct contact with me though telephonular methods, I beg of you - don't do anything to tell me who won, I'll be watching the game (as I have been with all the rest) at night.