England 1, Ukraine 0 – As the last time a ball crossed the line in a major competition without a goal being given. At least, the last time it happened in the pre-replay era. We’re already pretty close to technology being tested in major competitions. After today, there’ll be a big push to have its use codified by Brazil. Don’t be surprised if it’s tested at the 2013 Confederations Cup, and it it’s there, we might also see it at the Gold Cup, Copa America, if not earlier at the Cup of Nations.
Sweden 2, France 0 – As the stumble that led to France’s premature exit. Now, instead of a quarterfinal against Italy, they get Spain. Beyond the pure quality of the two teams, Spain’s a horrible matchup for France. Stylistically, Italy would have been a favorable one.
Team of the Day
G: Andreas Isaksson, Sweden
LB: Ashley Cole, England
CB: Olof Mellberg, Sweden
CB: John Terry, England
RB: Glen Johnson, England
M: Kim Kallstromg, Sweden
M: Steven Gerrard, England
LW: Franck Ribery, France
RW: Sebastian Larsson, Sweden
AM: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
ST: Ola Toivonen, Sweden
Subs: Yevgen Selin, Ukraine; Yann M’Vila, France; Denis Garmash, Ukraine
Three lessons to take home
1. Something about counting chickens (I forget how it goes) – Had today’s Sweden-France match been played after December’s draw, nobody would have let their jaw slacken at today’s result. Sometime over the last six months, the French became acclaimed favorites in what was previously seen as a balanced group. During the group’s first two rounds, that expectation played out, but in today’s finale, France proved a young team in need of a few lessons.
We alluded to those lessons in today’s preview. Still, nobody was expecting France to fall on their face. It’s one thing to hit a wall, not break through, and end up drawn in Donetsk. It’s another thing to lose. Where the lesson could have about the painstaking work of closing out your group, France was reminded not to take anybody for granted. It’s a lesson taught so often, you marvel it has to be repeated.
2. Home field advantage is not always a given – Ukraine’s exit makes four co-hosts in a row to fail to advance to the knockout round. Prior to 2008, only the Belgians in 2000 had hosted and failed to make it to make it out of group. In 2008, both Austria and Switzerland stumbled, while this year, Poland and Ukraine are out.
Poland seemed crippled by the expectations of an easy group. In Ukraine, expectations were much lower. The team wanted to get out of group, but with the age of the squad and some pre-tournament in-fighting, nobody in Ukraine had their hopes up. Compare the post-match scenes of a crying Poland to a resolved Ukraine and you see the difference in expectation.
Now the tournament goes on without either of its hosts, something many claim diminishes the event. I’m not one of those people. In the past, when people didn’t get to see a lot of soccer played outside their own country, visiting squads gave them very little to latch onto. Travelling was also more prohibitive. Now, people in Poland know enough about the Portuguese national team to be informed about Thursday’s matchup. And if they aren’t interested in the event, there’ll be no shortage of enthralled tourists.
3. It’s OK to ask for help – England and Italy is a dream matchup … for people who are having trouble dreaming. If you know anybody with an untreatable sleeping disorder, prop them up in front of a television at 2:45 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. The national teams of England and Italy will put forth their best attempt to cure world insomnia. It should be a banner day for the sleep disorder community.
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