When this tournament started, a lot of us I'm sure just saw the days Group A was playing as something to get through. Or maybe even the games you would be ok missing to actually see family, run errands, or leave the house in any way. It contained a couple teams I didn't know much about, what looked to be one team past it, and one squad we all thought would be terrible. So of course, it's ended up containing all the games that have been entertaining, the games where both teams score consistently, and basically all the excitement and drama. It's such a funny game, isn't it?
I suppose if the Greeks can keep getting their opposing goalkeeper to keep dropping or knocking balls to their feet with a gaping net in front of them, they could go through. But this is the second game in a row where for at least the first half they've been played off the park, and they almost got a point out of it again. But where the Poles were a bit wasteful, the Czechs didn't waste any time in grabbing a second -- after a gorgeous first goal -- and were able to outlast what is still a pretty punchless Aegean squad.
Considering the age of the key players on the Czech squad, the only way they can hurt you is if you don't pressure them and give them time to pick you apart. Tomas Rosicky is still capable of being influential, but he can't do it under intense scrutiny. He didn't face that today. Neither did Plasil. The first goal was just a wonderful pass, one of the best in the tournament. And the touch and finish weren't exactly low quality either. And it included a Petr Cech mistake, which is fun for all of us.
When Poland-Russia came up on the fixture list, I'm sure some of us feared a match that would mean too much to both teams, considering the day it was scheduled for, that would overwhelm both sides. There was some of that outside the stadium, sadly, but at least the passion of the fans translated to the pitch. It was full-blooded, committed, and inventive, and probably the best game of the tournament. Both teams spent portions getting at the other, with delicious passing and movement. The Russians really can be easy on the eye. And Kuba's finish? There's your goal of the tournament. That thing started a good foot outside the post until bending back. It's simply a better tournament when the host is involved as long as possible, and the atmosphere everywhere benefits.
And thanks to this group, it'll come down to the last day. The two hours on Saturday are going to be a blast. I see a lot of thrills and spills and things going every which way in both matches. At least that's what I'm hoping for. Of course, now that I'm counting on that from this group, it'll become what I thought it would be in the first place.
Day 6 Preview: Well the Group of Death can't get any more boring. Most of the drama will center on what Holland does against Germany. They have to go at them, which could leave them open to get smacked or expose a suspect German defense. There should be goals aplenty. Will Huntelaar come in for Van Persie? Will Vad der Vaart start alongside the very similar Sneijder? They've been reluctant to do that before, but they looked so turgid against Denmark...
As for the other match, Denmark put one over Portugal in qualifying, and considering the different mindsets of these teams, you'd expect it again. For all their talent, it's been about six years since that talent for the Portugese looked as threatening in a tournament as you'd expect. With the way the Danish simply swatted aside the Dutch attack, one wonders how much they'll laugh at Ronaldo trying to do it all himself or Helder Postiga wandering aimlessly or Nani dribbling himself out to the parking lot. But we keep waiting for Portugal to pop off, because we still think they're capable.