Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Reflecting on the quarterfinals

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source: Reuters

How We’ll Remember …

Portugal 1, Czech Republic 0 – As the game Cristiano Ronaldo teased everybody’s unreasonable expectations. Let me pause here and clarify: I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect Cristiano Ronaldo to perform slower to his Real Madrid levels for Portugal. There are, however, people who tie the magnitude of his performance (for both club and country) to his team’s results. They won’t be satisfied until Ronaldo carries Portugal to a major title. On Thursday, Ronaldo (for the second straight game) tickled those fancies, as unreasonable as they are.

Germany 4, Greece 2 – Despite the six goals, we probably won’t remember this one. If we do, it will be for Joachim Löw trolling the Greeks with three changes to a team that didn’t drop a point in group stage.

Spain 2, France 0 – In hindsight, as the match where France got unjustifiably indignant when Laurent Blanc didn’t go after Spain. Some saw Les Blues as employing the same, negative tactics every team uses against Spain. I guess France is supposed to be about this, I don’t know, because in the week leading up to the match (a week in which Blanc made it clear he’d adjust his approach for Spain), there wasn’t much uproar about the plan. I suppose it’s easier to be indignant after the loss.

Italy 0, England 0 – As a match we’d rather not see again.

Team of the Round

G: Joe Hart, England
LB: Philipp Lahm, Germany
CB: Joleon Lescott, England
CB: Laurent Koscielny, France
RB: Jerome Boateng, Germany
M: Xabi Alonso, Spain
M: Andrea Pirlo, Italy
M: Sami Khedira, Germany
AM: Mesut Ozil, Germany
RW: Marco Reus, Germany
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

Subs: Andres Iniesta, Spain; Joao Moutinho, Portugal; John Terry, England

Three Lessons to Take Home

1. Knockout rounds are a whole new tournament – The group stage’s quality had been one of the stories of the tournament. Too bad it couldn’t last into the knockout rounds.

In the quarterfinals, we saw four teams, having decided they were underdogs, play for survival. If you’re up against a better opponent in group stage and lose – fine. You’ve got two other matches to make up the points. In the knockout rounds, there are bigger rewards for playing out draws: Potentially winning through kicks; not being eliminated.

Unfortunately, those incentives produced a noticeable step backward in quality.

2. Groups were predictably bipolar – We thought Groups B and C would be the strongest. The quarterfinals were our affirmation. With four teams left in the tournament, all of Group A and D’s teams are out.

Sublessons: Giving hosts “seeds” in the group draw is unfair. Poland and Ukraine were treated as top seeds, making their groups weaker while driving better teams into B and C.

Hosts are already blessed into the tournament. They shouldn’t also get special treatment in the draw. When they are, a team like Croatia gets screwed.

3. Spain hate in full effect – I guess we’ve decided to do this? Ignore the fact that Spain’s play is a logical extension of how they’re defended and start exclusively blaming them for how they play? Wow, we’re bored.

I’ve been no fan of Vicente Del Bosque’s tactics, but they’re a secondary concern. The main reason Spain’s winning many 1-0s is their opponent’s tactics. Perhaps if Spain was playing the 4-3-3 they should, a few of those games become 2-0 or 3-1, but Spain’s 4-2-3-1/4-2-4-0 would produce those same scorelines if teams played them straight up.

Which, of course, those teams have no incentive to do, leaving aggravated critics with a problem: who to blame for these boring games?

I have no idea, but I’d like to make two points.

  • First, these games aren’t boring as much as they’re predictable. The possession game Spain’s employing is not that different than the one they’ve used over the last four years. We’re just tried to knowing how the story ends.
  • Second, why do we have to blame anybody? Even if you’re feeling morose about Spain’s play, you could just chalk it up to an unfortunate confluence of strategic choices. Do we really have to take a pound of tactical flesh?

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.

Transfer rumor roundup: Mari to Arsenal; Defoe makes permanent Rangers move

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League outfits.

[ MORE: Premier League January transfer needs ]

Arsenal are reportedly hours from adding a defender to Mikel Arteta‘s squad.

Flamengo’s Pablo Mari has reportedly arrived in London and set for a medical at Arsenal, Sky Sports reports. The 26-year-old Spaniard will join the North London side for the remainder of the season with an option to buy.

It won’t be Mari’s first time signing for a Premier League side, however.

In 2016, the center-back signed with Manchester City, but never featured for the defending champions, instead making appearances for Girona, NAC and Deportivo La Coruna on loan.


Jermaine Defoe is not returning to Bournemouth.

On Saturday, Rangers announced that Defoe signed a pre-contract to join Rangers on permanent basis in the summer.

The storied 37-year-old English striker has 20 goals in 57 appearances since joining the Scottish giants last January on a 18-month loan. Defoe’s new contract runs through the 2020-21 season, a one-year deal.

“It’s fantastic news,” Rangers manager Steven Gerrard told the club’s website. “It’s something we have been working on over the weeks and it is great to finally get that done and dusted.”

“He is an incredible professional with the way he goes about his work on and off the pitch – he is a credit to himself and his family. And also on the pitch, which is the main thing. He is still contributing heavily – he is a major part of this group, this team and this squad and hopefully together we can go and share some success as I think he deserves that.”

This season, Defoe has scored 16 goals in 28 games.


Crystal Palace are in talks to sign Belgium international Yannick Carrasco, according to Sky Sports.

Carrasco, 26, wants to leave Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang and is currently training in Belgium, ahead of a return to European play.

Carrasco has scored 24 goals in 52 appearances since making a move to China from Atletico Madrid in February 2018.


Norwich City are actively pursuing Danel Sinani, according to the Daily Mail.

The 22-year-old Luxembourg winger is out of contract with Luxembourg side FC Dudelange this summer. If the parties involved can’t reach a deal this week,  the Canaries are reportedly ready to propose a pre-contract agreement.

Mourinho hints Spurs to sign Lo Celso permanently: ‘I think the boy is earning the decision’

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Tottenham Hotspur loanee Giovani Lo Celso is closer to permanently stay in North London than he is to return back to Sevilla.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints draw and force 4-th round FA Cup replay ]

The 23-year-old Argentine, who arrived at Spurs from Real Betis last summer on a season-long loan, experienced a rocky start in the Premier League. Lo Celso – with only 44 minutes of English top-flight playing time under his belt – suffered a hip injury with Argentina, ruling him out two months in the fall.

Since, the attacking midfielder has worked his way up Jose Mourinho’s pecking order, featuring heavily in the Portuguese’s scheme over the past few months. Most recently, on Saturday, Lo Celso displayed his well-balanced virtues in Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Following the match, Mourinho addressed questions on whether or not his club is going to sign the midfielder on a permanent contract. Praiseworthy of Lo Celso’s learning abilities, Mourinho hopes the midfielder will be a part of the club’s long-term plans.

“It’s not an obligation, it’s an option,” Mourinho said of Lo Celso, who is reportedly available at reduced price of $35 million. “I think the boy is earning the decision. He’s making an easy decision for the club to execute the option.”

“Incredible evolution since I arrived,” he added. “Barely played a game, I think he played against Red Star Belgrade, with me a little bit difficult to come in the first few weeks. But he understood what we wanted. Good learner, good kid and I think by himself he made the decision that the club is going to execute the option. That’s normal, he earned it.”

With Christian Eriksen on the verge of departing the London side, Mourinho and company will have additional funds to land Lo Celso this winter before his price spikes in the summer.

Everything points to the creative midfielder having a future in London, but will Spurs brass follow suit and make it official soon?

Netherlands forward Rob Rensenbrink dies at age 72

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Rob Rensenbrink, the forward who was centimeters away from delivering the Netherlands a World Cup title in 1978, has died at age 72, the Dutch football association said Saturday.

“We have heard with sadness of the death of football legend Rob Rensenbrink,” the association said in a tweet.

Rensenbrink played most of his club football in Belgium with Club Brugge and Anderlecht, where his weaving runs earned him the nickname “Snake Man.” He also played briefly for the Portland Timbers in the United States in 1980.

He was a regular for the Netherlands national team in its period of dominance in the 1970s.

He played 46 times and scored 14 goals for the Dutch team known for its slick, position-swapping “total football.”

But he will always be best remembered for the goal he didn’t quite score in the 1978 World Cup final.

With the scores tied at 1-1 between the Netherlands and host Argentina and the seconds ticking away in injury time of the final in Buenos Aires, Rensenbrink’s shot hit the post. The match went to extra time and Argentina scored twice to win 3-1.

It was the second straight World Cup final defeat for the Netherlands, which has appeared in three finals and lost them all.

Rensenbrink was diagnosed with a muscle disease in 2012 and died as a result of the illness, according to Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

Anderlecht said he died Friday night.

“Thanks for everything Robbie!” the Belgian club wrote on its website. “We will never forget you.”

Serie A roundup: Ilicic powers Atalanta in historic win over Torino (video)

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Atalanta’s historic and overpowering win over Torino highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Torino 0-7 Atalanta

Josip Ilicic scored a hat-trick, including a center-line strike, as Atalanta humiliated Torino 7-0 on Saturday, handing the hosts their worst home loss ever in Serie A play.

With only nine men on the field towards the end of the match for Turin-based side, Atalanta were able to capitalize, elevating their goal count to 57 goals in 21 games this season. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men, who are back in Champions League contention, lead the league in goals.

Robin Gosens and Duvan Zapata, who scored a minute before the break, added to Ilicic’s first of three. A three-goal advantage after the first 45 minutes foreshadowed what Torino was going to encounter in the second half: more goals.

Eight minutes into the final 45 minutes of Saturday’s bout at the Olimpico di Torino, Ilicic quick-fired two more past an exposed Salvatore Sirigu.

With less than 10 minutes to go, Luis Muriel took the field for the visitors. And just six minutes after his first foot on the natural surface, the Colombian striker had a brace to his name.

“All we can do is apologize,” Torino coach Walter Mazzarri said. “In so many years of my career I had never had such a game.”

In fourth place with 38 points, Atalanta look to increase their seven-goal performances this season to three as they host struggling Genoa in a weeks time. Torino, on the other hand, meet AC Milan on Tuesday in the quarterfinal’s of the Coppa Italia.

Elsewhere

SPAL 1-3 Bologna

Fiorentina 0-0 Genoa