Well, that's it for the home teams. The second round saw Austria's and Switzerland's exit from EURO 2008 - Austria and Switzerland.
I'm sitting here watching Czech Republic v Turkey right now (I love PVRs)...what a crazy game!!! Into extra time now. This game is just showing the importance of taking your chances when they come...Czech Republic had multiple chances to put this game away, then gave up 2 goals in short order. THE KEEPER JUST GOT A RED CARD!!! Milan Baros just got cautioned without even playing! This game is crazy - I'll finish watching, then post my team performance summaries. I'll put Group A's third-round performance into my discussions. Be excited.
Alright - here we go.
Portugal - Brilliant football against the Czechs - stunning stuff. Expect good stuff from them in the Quarter-finals! Christiano Ronaldo is finally starting to live up to his pedigree (in my eyes), playing unselfishly, staying on his feet (mostly), and running over opposition defenses. Against the Swiss, well, 8 new players in the lineup as they'd already qualified, there was no chemistry and it showed. Goalless first half followed up by some downright terrible defensive work. I have high expectations for this side in the latter stages though, as long as they keep their 'first-string' together.
Switzerland - They underachieved in this tournament like nobody's business. They played so well, given the terrible conditions, against the Turks. None of the goals came by any skill, and they lost in stoppage time thanks to a deflection off Muller. Against the Portuguese, they showed real stuff. Good for them to get a win in front of home fans, and raise some concerns for the Portuguese going into the next round. Like I say, they played well, and I look forward to watching them in future tournaments - with Alexander Frei fit they could turn a few heads.
Czech Republic - This is a team that needs to look at their offense. They play one man up alone, but he gets very little support from his five midfielders. It showed against Portugal, and it certainly showed against Turkey this afternoon! Lots of chances wasted and not taken due to a distinct lack of Czech kits up front, leading to their dismissal from the tournament. Obvious point for World Cup and qualifiers - concentration on offense is key. The Czech Republic carries a lot of offensive firepower, but they didn't use it this tournament and paid the price. Playing two strikers in the future wouldn't be such a bad idea, especially if Rosicky is out of the line-up.
Turkey - Two last minute wins saw the undeserving Turks through to the new round. They've played some awful stuff, pressure ending without a shot, miserable defense, and a lot of referee-crowding. Only positive point to them going through - their keeper is suspended for the next match and will be run over by whoever they meet in the first round of quarter-finals (probably Croatia). Looking forward to that.
Germany - Uh oh. Well, that wasn't the football I was describing for you last week. The Germans, who looked absolutely unstoppable, couldn't find their rhythm in this match. Their passes were slow and inaccurate, their runs weren't read by each other, it was a team performance entirely lacking in chemistry. They'll be hoping to use the Austria match as a confidence-booster for their likely trip to the quarterfinals (that said - the Swiss beat the Portuguese...who knows? Maybe the Austrians will play spoiler! That would seriously fuck up my EURO pool though.)
Croatia - Lovely stuff. What more can you say? The team that was, for all intents and purposes, held by the Austrians, created more problems for the Germans than a 3-front war (I expect to get in some trouble for that comment). Perennial dark-horse indeed - their match with Poland should be a lot of fun to watch.
Poland - Meh. Maybe they should have won, but their goal was offside and Austria's penalty shouldn't have happened, so a 1-1 draw is better than goalless. That said, this is a team showing no conviction, no effort, and no heart. Maybe they'll step it up against Croatia, now that they're staring elimination in the face, but if they hope to beat the Croats they're going to have to find a new set of legs than those they showed against Austria.
Austria - Too bad Austria's been knocked out, they impressed me. I'd expect their World Ranking to rise quite a bit after this tournament. They, like the Swiss, played great football, stifled opposition attacks and created more chances than can be counted, just no finish. Who knows, maybe we'll see them qualify on merit for future tournaments? Here's hoping!
Netherlands - Don't you love it when I'm right. I know, I know, it happens too much. Actually, most of my predictions for this round got absolutely shat on, but my big prediction is holding firm. Total Football is proving too much for anyone to handle, and I'm loving the Oranje. France was absolutely baffled, they could barely leave their own half. The defense certainly improved since the Italy match, and the offense was flying all game. It was nice to see van Persie back in action. They just beat the World Cup finalists by an aggregate of 7-1. Bring it on, the Dutch are here.
France - Le oops. Sorry, my grammar was bad there: l'oops. France had Henry in the lineup, but still couldn't find any offense. This team is in big trouble now, scoring a grand total of one goal in the past 2 matches. Of course, that one goal was returned almost immediately by the Dutch. Coupet (the French keeper) needs to take serious stock of his play against the Dutch, and pull a rabbit out of his beret against Italy to keep French hopes alive - it seems to be coming down to him.
Italy - Here was another missed prediction. Not only did they not win, but were it not for an extremely lucky kick-save by Buffon on a late penalty - the Romanians would have found victory. They tried bringing more offensive midfielders on, but couldn't find goal. And it will likely cost them. I don't know why di Natale wasn't played for the Romania match, he and Toni played wonderfully well together, and Del Piero is far more effective as a 60th minute substitute than he is a starter - he injects pace, skill and spirit when the team is tired, but he's not entirely spectacular for 90 minutes. I have absolutely no suggestions for their match against France...I hope they're not buggered but it's certainly looking that way.
Romania - They almost played the same way they did against France, but this time they created blazing offense too. It threw the Italians for a loop, and made the match very interesting to watch. Best part is - the Romanians now have more points than both France and Italy. A spoiler qualification? Who knows. This group's second spot is completely up in the air - Tuesday is going to be a wild day.
Spain - Impressive performance by the Spanish against a formidable opponent in the Swedes. They need to be sharper on the counter-attack, as Puyol, again, was bearing the brunt of the Spanish defensive duties. Offensively, this team is obviously very gifted, there's not much room for improvement there, but defensively the Spaniards will need to sharpen up if they hope to push on in the knock-out rounds.
Sweden - Zlatan has arrived on the international stage - good news for Sweden. They need him at his best this tournament, and he needs to take care of his knee in order to see the Swedes advance. Larsson was finally beginning to show his age against the Spanish, but he still managed to play 84 minutes of decent-to-good football. There's very little wrong with this side at the moment, if not a little slow at times, they're playing exciting stuff, reading eachother's moves very well, they just got outclassed by the Spaniards on the day.
Russia - Finally, Russia shows it's stuff. Although, being pitted against the Spanish in your first match will always make it difficult to find a groove. The 1-0 scoreline is flattering for the Greeks, they were mostly outplayed by the Russians, they were solid defensively and got back to basics in the attack. Qualification for the knock-out stage will be decided in the next match against Sweden, who are also playing well, and it will be quite the show to end the round-robin stage.
Greece - Bye. The former (accidental) champions showed some offensive merit against the Russians, but continued to play they're rubbish "sit-back-and-wait" crap, and paid for it. Good riddance to bad rubbish, enjoy the rest of your summer.
Well, there's round 2 (and some of 3). I don't have my predictions with me at the moment (they're at work), so I'll put them up tomorrow morning before the matches to ensure some degree of "really I'm not lying!".
Results thus far for my predictions (I'm almost afraid to post this):
Round 1: 6-2
Round 2: 3-5
Round 3 (thus far): 0-2
Edit - My predictions for Round 3
Switzerland v Portugal - Portugal win
Turkey v Czech Republic - Czech Republic win
Austria v Germany - Germany win
Poland v Croatia - Croatia win
Netherlands v Romania - Netherlands win
France v Italy - (I regret this given how they've been playing) Italy win
Greece v Spain - Spain win
Russia v Sweden - draw
Detailed match predictions can be found at Andrew's blog, Sporting Madness
Mike's done a small piece on Spain's chances, and about diving, at View from the Woods - a small amount of scrolling is required!