Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Euro 2008 Qualifiers: Czech Republic v Slovakia

On the heels of the World Cup and the beginning of the various European seasons that have just started their long schedules, the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying matches have bullied their way into football fans' lives yet again, simultaneously robbing supporters and their respective teams of their time with seemingly meaningless matches and delighting others with flashes of brilliance, dominance, and for a few . . . retribution. I'm aware of the criticism concerning this drawn out stage of the tournament--that it's tiresome, pointless, and distracting from the start of the various club leagues--but I can't deny my hunger for even more games in an already overcrowded calendar. Yeah, I'll admit it's hard to get excited to watch the blitzkrieg bop of Germany dismantle San Marino (the third smallest nation in Europe behind Monaco and Vatican City) 0-13, but I also can't help loving the possibilities of the David and Goliath early rounds of the tournament. Wish fulfillment? Probably. But the upsets are bound to happen, right? Right? Stay tuned.

The a pretty move bunch gathered at headquarters for a brief time to watch the Czechs play their second round match against Group D rivals Slovakia, and unlike the punishing Germany/San Marino game that was televised right before it, there were no brutal ass-kickings or embarrassments, though Karol Bruckner's newly enhanced, relatively youthful squad (minus key players Milan Baros, Vladimir Smicer, David Jarolim, and Zdenek Grygera, due to injuries) dominated the game throughout. Midfielder Libor Sionko led the Czechs to victory with two impressive first half goals (10', 21') and in the second half the towering forward Jan Koller solidified the win with a swift goal in the 51st minute. It may not have been earth-shattering stuff, but the newly revamped Czechs played consistently well and have put their disappointing World Cup demise behind them with their two assured qualifying wins. Now if only the Czech players can manage to stay fit and focused for another two years as they meet up with the fierce gauntlet of teams awaiting them. Next up, San Marino on October 7th and then the Republic of Ireland on the 11th.

In other games today, there were two notable results--one upset and one with the taint of bloody revenge. Northern Ireland felled the mighty underachievers Spain 3-2, with green man David Healy scoring an impressive hat-trick against the Spaniards. Xavi and David Villa scored for Spain. And France exacted a sweet revenge against World Cup champions Italy 3-1, with two goals by Sidney Govou and one from Thierry Henry. The Azzuri's Alberto Gilardino scored the Italians' sole goal in the 20th minute.

No comments: