Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: How We’ll Remember the Semifinals

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The winners get one more game, but for the semifinals’ losers, a critical eye and a savage dissection is their immediate reward. Finishing one step short of the finish line, their demises tease one of our favorite questions: What if.

What if Portugal had ordered their kickers differently, or converted that counter attack at the end of regulation? What if Germany hadn’t played their worst half of the tournament in the face of their toughest opposition? What if they had done a little more to mitigate their predictable mistakes?

It’s a ridiculous but irresistible game, and for many, it’s all that remains. After their teams came tantalizingly close to the finals, scrutiny, blame, and questions are what fans use to offset unrequited hope.

We have two more days to dwell on Spain and Italy. Looking back on the semifinals, our thoughts dwell on the teams we’ve lost.

How We’ll Remember …

Spain 0 (4), Portugal 0 (2) – As a cagey if unremarkable affair, one that threw a more gas on the already tiresome “is Spain boring” debate. We’ve quickly became a world of spoiled toddlers, having spent of last Christmas’ gifts. Yeah, but what are you getting me this year. Given how we’ve embraced and discarded Spain, we’ll either finally get that pony or no gift at all. I know which one we deserve.

We should also come to remember this as a huge missed opportunity for Portugal. Portugal is a talented team, but they’re only modestly endowed compared to the teams likely to compete for the next two Euros: Spain, Germany, France. Toss Belgium in if you need a wildcard.

The point: Portugal isn’t one of the nations you see when looking out at the oncoming European landscape. Their performance in this year’s competition was built on a number of great performances glossing over a limited and (beyond the first XI) thin team. Is it reasonable to expect the likes of Pepe, Cristiano Ronaldo, Fabio Coentrao, Joao Pereira, Joao Mourinho, and Burno Alves to performance as well in Brazil and France? Perhaps one or two will, but all simultaneously again? It’s not going to happen. Other players could step in, but who?

Going out on penalty kicks to the defending World and European champions, Portugal may come to see this as a regrettably close call.

Italy 2, Germany 1 – As a reminder that the sport’s stories are told on the field, not with keyboards. It’s an important point considering Germany’s narrative arc, a path that saw them in Sunday’s final. That’s not going to happen, putting to waste all the time spent portraying Euro 2012 as a German coming out party. Instead, it’s an Italian renaissance.

Instead of relying on a story of German ascendance that started in South Africa, people like me are going to have to start writing about what is happening. Rather than the focusing on rosy story lines whose telling require no more than the dressed up recycling of a few timeless tropes, we’ve been handed Italy. Of course, there are plenty of clichés about Italian resourcefulness that could be used in lieu of tales of what Cesare Prandelli is actually doing.

For Germay, the Italy loss should go down as a learning experience. For the players who had trouble putting together mistake-free matches, the loss reminds them of international soccer’s small margin of error. Where talent gaps are not as big as in the club world and players don’t have as much training time together, mistakes can be much more difficult to overcome. When Germany fell two behind Italy on Thursday, they didn’t have the kind of tricks club teams develop over hundred of hours of preparation.

Joachim Löw may also take a few lessons from the tournament. For all the talk of his team wanting the title, Löw’s team inexplicably lacked urgency. They played more like a team that had already accomplished something than a still-improving squad. Löw also seemed rash to bring on the post-Miroslav Klöse world after the veteran showed himself healthy, and he never made the needed decision to bench a hobbled and increasingly ineffective Bastian Schweinsteiger. If the international game does feature of small margin of error, Löw did his team no favors.

Team of the round

G: Gianluigi Buffon, Italy
LB: Fabio Coentrao, Portugal
CB: Sergio Ramos, Spain
CB: Pepe, Portugal
RB: Joao Pereira, Portugal
DM: Sergio Busquets, Spain
M: Andrea Pirlo, Italy
M: Daniele de Rossi, Italy
AM: Mesut Ozil, Germany
AM: Ricardo Montolivo, Italy
F: Mario Balotelli, Italy
Subs: Jordi Alba, Spain; Xabi Alonso, Spain; Antonio Cassano, Italy

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Preview: Everton v. Newcastle

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  • Everton have won seven of their last eight games v Newcastle
  • Newcastle have won four PL games in a row
  • Wayne Rooney has more goals (15) against Newcastle than any other PL team

Everton host Newcastle United on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Toffees and Magpies both setting pretty in midtable.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game

The Toffees sit in ninth, with Newcastle in 10th and just one point behind Everton with a game in hand. Rafael Benitez has been lauded for taking his newly-promoted side into the top 10 with defensive solidity, while Sam Allardyce has been lambasted for a defensive style of play despite getting Everton out of a relegation fight following his appointment back in November.

In team news Everton have Mason Holgate and Gylfi Sigurdsson out injured, while Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu but Islam Slimani could make his first start.


What they’re saying 

Sam Allardyce on the job Rafael Benitez has done at Newcastle: “From a difficult period they have managed to recover and get in the Premier League and they have turned it around. They have put together a run of games and we’ll see a better Newcastle than we saw up there [when Everton won 1-0 in December]. Rafa has progressed very well. He has always expressed his disappointment with not enough funds – we can all say we don’t have enough funds. What he has managed with the funds he has, particularly in the January months, has been excellent.”

Rafael Benitez on his Newcastle future: “I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time. I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.”

Prediction
Two teams who are very similar in terms of their style of play should see a bit of a stalemate take place at Goodison. 1-1 draw, which is a much better result for Newcastle and will pile more pressure on Big Sam.

Paul Pogba: “Transfers are not in my head”

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Paul Pogba has been discussing his future at Manchester United beyond this season.

The Frenchman delivered a stunning assist in United’s 2-1 win against Tottenham in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, with the midfielder now named Man of the Match in each of his last two games after plenty of speculation about his future at United in recent months.

Jose Mourinho left Pogba out of his starting lineup on multiple occasions, while Pep Guardiola claims he was offered to buy Pogba in January and speculation about him joining Paris Saint-Germain, going back to Juventus or heading to Real Madrid continue.

Speaking to French outlet Canal Football Club, Pogba had the following to say about his own future.

“Right now, I am at Manchester United and I am honestly only thinking about the present. Transfers are not in my head. We are in the [FA] Cup final and the World Cup is around the corner,” Pogba said.

Pogba also addressed the rumors regarding his relationship with Mourinho with reports stating that the duo do not get along and United’s manager is fed up with the Frenchman’s attitude off the pitch.

“I don’t have a problem with him, and I don’t think he has a problem with me,” Pogba said. “He’s the coach and he has to make choices. I am a player and I accept them. I have to answer on the pitch.”

Benitez happy to stay at Newcastle if he “has the tools to compete”

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Rafa Benitez is approaching something vaguely resembling sainthood in the northeast of England — with the Newcastle United-supporting portion, at least — but his future remains in doubt as the end of the current Premier League season draws nearer and the next one approaches.

[ MORE: Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the year award ]

Benitez and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have endured an unhappy working relationship for much of Benitez’s 25 months at the club. The Spaniard was true to his word, though, when he stuck around another season after being relegated from the PL in 2016, then again after winning promotion on the Magpies’ first attempt, but he’ll be faced with the same dilemma again this summer, even after guiding Newcastle to a mid-table finish (they currently sit 10th with five games left to play).

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

If he’s not given assurances that he’ll be handed the necessary funds to properly strengthen his squad during the upcoming summer transfer window, the 58-year-old could very well walk away and leave Ashley to play the part of all-too-familiar villain. Or, as Benitez put it this weekend, Ashley could fork over “the tools to be capable of competing” and make everyone, from the manager to the fans, happy — quotes form the Guardian:

“If they [Ashley’s representatives] want to talk to my people [about a new contract,] they can talk. The main thing is to be sure we share the same ambition.

“I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time, I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.

“We have to be sure to have all the tools to compete and achieve what we want to achieve because Newcastle is a massive football club and we want it to reach its potential.”

Of course, the perfect scenario for everyone involved would have been for any one of the numerous takeover bids to have gone through during the last two years, but as was most recently evidenced earlier this year, Ashley and the Toon can’t seem to quit each other just yet.

MLS: Timbers end NYCFC’s unbeaten start; Seattle get 1st win

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Sunday was a very good day for a pair of green-clad Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, as the former put to end the unbeaten start of the best team in MLS, while the latter picked up their first win of 2018…

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundupOther MLS Things — The Archive ]

Portland Timbers 3-0 New York City FC

Through their first seven games, NYCFC were almost inarguably the best team in MLS (aside: how much better is their opening-day walkover of Sporting KC looking these days?), but Patrick Vieira’s side might as well have not even shown up to Providence Park on Sunday. Chalk it up to “it’s only one game,” or “these things happen in MLS,” or “NYC to Portland is a long trip for Russian clubs,” or any other credible rationale you prefer, but they were nothing more than 11 passengers for the whole of 90 minutes.

A quick look at the defending on all three of Portland’s goals…

Vieira was right at halftime, when he said his side was lacking intensity and aggression, and that it’d be nigh impossible to get back into the game in the second half if they continued to play that way. Spoiler: it was, because they did.

Just as I’ll not be rushing to judgment over NYCFC’s no-show performance, I’m not yet buying into the idea that Portland have figured things out defensively on the back of one clean sheet (their first of the season).

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Minnesota United

Speaking of firsts, Seattle are the proud owners of points — as in, more than one point — after putting three past Minnesota but almost fatally failing to kill the game off after going 2-0 up. I’m not sure what any defender in black is doing on this sequence…

Alas, Gustav Svensson, Will Bruin and Jordy Delem were far more clinical with their chances than the Loons…

Still, though, Seattle were completely helpless when it came time to grab control of the game while in a commanding position. Osvaldo Alonso is nowhere near the player he once was, which is a massive problem against teams that set up to counter-attack, as Minnesota did on Sunday. It doesn’t help that Roman Torres and Chad Marshall are the plodding center backs behind him.

The obvious answer to the midfield problem is to play Cristian Roldan deeper, alongside Alonso as they did en route to winning MLS Cup in 2016, but injuries to a number of key attackers have forced him into a de facto no. 10 role for the time being. These things will work themselves out with a bit of time, I suppose.

Full MLS scoreboard

Sporting Kansas City 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (Friday) — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
New York Red Bulls 1-2 Chicago Fire
Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England Revolution
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado Rapids
LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta United