Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Three lessons to take home from the semifinals

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1. You have to win it in the ring

At some point, you have to actually win something, and although Germany’s young talent won the European U-21s three years ago, it’s been a long time since the senior team actually won anything. As even the casual soccer fan knows after a being bombarded by the fact on Thursday, 1996 was the last time the Germans won a major men’s title. While there’s nothing wrong with that – you absolutely have a successful program without winning anything – Germany’s set higher standards. They planned to win Euro 2012, a plan most of us bought into.

But as everybody knows, a funny thing happened on the way to Germany’s coronation, but rather than leaving us questioning how it happened (Italy’s win was pretty self-explanatory), we’re left examining why we so while-heartedly bought into the narrative that had yet to play out. How did we all become sold on Germany, and (more importantly) what mistakes led us to that state?

We probably over-valued Germany’s defense, took Bastian Schweinsteiger’s health for granted, and perhaps didn’t have enough skepticism of Mario Gómez slotting into Miroslav Klöse’s role. More than anything, we believed the young talent would work before seeing them knock off a world class international team.

It’s an understandable mistake, given what we’ve seen from these players at club level. But it’s still a lesson to take to heart. Germany had beaten England, Argentina, Uruguay, and the Netherlands in major international competition, but they had also lost to Spain the last time the teams met with something on the line (semifinals, World Cup 2010). That should have at least given us caution. Yes, they’ve had some impressive wins, but they need to do a little more before we anoint them.

2. Winning isn’t everything

Five matches, two wins, and a spot in the finals? It doesn’t sound fair until you attach Italy’s name to it. They’ve certainly earned their place in Sunday’s decider, even if an ideal world would have the finalists winning most of their games.

It’s a reminder that, for all the plaudits they’ve earned this tournament, Italy are far from great. They’re experienced, well organized, resourceful and (as evidenced against Germany) capable of a great performances, but it’s still unclear how good they actually are. Though they seem to have a knack of bringing out the worst in their opponents, Italy still seems like a team that can be beaten if a good team (like Spain) can play to their potential)

How good Italy appear to us has little bearing to Sunday’s final, nor should it detract from the story they’ve written to get there. If anything, it makes the story more compelling.

3. Can’t get there without a little luck

Penalty kicks aren’t a lottery. Some players are better than others at taking them. Some goalkeepers are better than others at stopping them. Just because penalty kicks level the playing field, giving the less-talented team a better chance of winning the match, doesn’t mean they’re a lottery. Unless I have no clue what the word lottery means. (Side note: That this paragraph needed to be written makes me very sad.)

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some strange things that happen in shootouts. Take Wednesday’s tiebreaker, when Bruno Alves apparently forgot he was fourth in Portugal’s order. Did having to be pulled back (after he’d approached to take the third kick) throw him off? Though unlikely, it may have provided the small percentage point push that moved the shootout in Spain’s direction. Even if it didn’t, Spain still dodged a bullet in getting through kicks.

Streaks like Spain’s (now 10-straight knockout round wins at major tournaments) are almost always a combination of skill and fortune. Italy losing on kicks in 2008, John Heitenga seeing red in South Africa, Cristiano Ronaldo skying an open shot on Iker Casillas at the end of regulation on Wednesday – they’re all points were capabilities and circumstances converge. The influence of neither should be overlooked.

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.

Aston Villa grab vital point at Brighton

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Injury-hit Aston Villa grabbed a big point at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

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Leandro Trossard gave Brighton a first half lead but Jack Grealish popped up with a second half equalizer to share the points in a fiery encounter at the Amex.

With the draw both teams remained embroiled in a relegation battle as Brighton have 25 points and sit three points ahead of Villa who occupy 18th, the final relegation spot.


3 things we learned

1. Grealish delivers, again: Riddled by injuries, Villa needed their captain to stand tall. He did. Again. Even in recent heavy defeats Grealish has tried to drive Villa on and he has now scored in their tight win at Burnley and grabbed them a point at Brighton. Against relegation rivals, Grealish has delivered for Villa and at 24 years old he conrinues to mature.

2. Brighton let another lead slip: The Seagulls have won just won of their last eight league games and they keep letting leads slip in tight games. Graham Potter‘s side have plenty of the ball and dominate games but just can’t score the second goal to finish teams off. They have only scored more than one goal once in their last seven games and for all of their fine attacking play, Brighton are three points off the bottom because they can’t finish teams off.

3. Relegation battle coming up: Both teams showed why they will be in a relegation battle all season long. Brighton can’t score or finish teams off, while Villa are too reliant on Grealish and have no real attacking options as they rode their luck at Brighton. Potter and Dean Smith are two progressive, young, English coaches but they will be pushed to their limits to keep their teams up this season.

Man of the Match: Jack Grealish – Villa’s main man popped up with the goal which grabbed them a point and he was everywhere. Villa had no central striker once again as they wait to bring someone in during the January window with Wesley out for the season, and Grealish made so many runs forward during the game to try and take the pressure off his team.


Jack Grealish smashed an effort just wide as Villa looked dangerous on the counter without a recognized striker.

The Seagulls then came close to the taking the lead as Bernardo‘s cross found Aaron Mooy and his volley was cleared, eventually, as an almighty scramble ensued.

Aaron Connolly then knocked a low cross just wide as he seemed to be surprised that the ball found him in the six yard box.

Brighton took the lead as Neal Maupay ran towards goal and teed up Trossard who fired home across goal and into the far corner.

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Mohamed Trezeguet was denied by Mat Ryan in a rare Villa attack as Brighton were dominating, with young American Indiana Vassilev coming on for his Premier League debut.

Moments later Grealish made it 1-1 as a poor mistake from Brighton saw Douglas Luiz play a long ball over the top and Villa’s skipper slammed home to send the away end wild.

Late on Villa debutant Pepe Reina made a wonderful stop to deny Maupay preserve a point as tempers flared towards and after the final whistle as both sets of players were involved in a huge melee.

Pukki leads 10-man Norwich City win over 10-man Bournemouth

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Both teams finished with 10 men but only one found a goal when Norwich City beat Bournemouth in a relegation six-pointer at Carrow Road on Saturday.

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Teemu Pukki scored from the spot to give the Canaries some hope and increase the Cherries’ despair.

Steve Cook was sent off for Bournemouth in the 31st minute, with Ben Godfrey leveling the field in the 76th.

Norwich now has 17 points, six back of the safe places, while 19th place Bournemouth stays level on 20.


Three things we learned

1. Pitch side monitor used to upgrade card: The Premier League told the refs to check the pitch side monitors on possible red card offenses, and it worked. Ben Godfrey cleverly disguised his ugly tackle by looking away from the contact, only earning a yellow card. The video monitors told the story, though, and Paul Tierney wasn’t shy to make the right call and turn the yellow into a red.

2. Bournemouth in the worst of ways: Eddie Howe‘s slumping Cherries played down a man for 45 minutes, and couldn’t make anything of the reprieve handed them by Godfrey’s awful tackle. There was proper desperation from the Cherries, but also never a feeling that Bournemouth would come back.

3. Steve Cook at full stretch is pretty impressive (and illegal): Referee Paul Tierney was almost laughing as he gave Cook a red card for his excellent “save” to push a ball off the post.

 

Man of the Match: Emiliano Buendia is Norwich City’s shining light. If the Canaries go down, he’s going to be the subject of a recruitment more like relegated stars Idrissa Gana Gueye and Andrew Robertson before him.


Pukki couldn’t get purchase on an earlier chance, but got the job done from the spot.

Cook handled a ball in the box and was shown red, with VAR holding up the clear penalty.

The Finnish striker had no problem making it 1-0.

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Todd Cantwell was very busy as usual for the Canaries, passing well but also blasting a shot into the upper reaches of the stadium.

Norwich was dominant, outshooting Bournemouth 15-3 when another moment of madness had both teams with 10 players. Godfrey’s late challenge on Callum Wilson sent Tierney to the monitor for a VAR-aided straight red card.

Jimenez leads stunning Wolves comeback

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Wolves were 2-0 down at half time at Southampton on Saturday and won 3-2.

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Jan Bednarek and Shane Long had put Saints in a comfortable position but then Pedro Neto made it 2-1 and Mexico’s Raul Jimenez scored a penalty kick and a winner to send the Wolves fans wild.

The win was Wolves’ first in six games in all competitions and moves them into sixth place, while Southampton saw their six game unbeaten run in all competitions come to an end in dramatic fashion.


3 things we learned

1. Saints implode at key moment: In truth, Saints were a little fortunate to be 2-0 up at half time in an even game. But after the way they’ve surged up the table with six wins in their last nine, you could see they were brimming with confidence. That is now gone. After beating Tottenham, Leicester and Chelsea spirits were high but Ralph Hasenhuttl will have to pick his team up from a shocking defeat. This feels like another key moment in their season as they now sit six points off the bottom three but a win or draw would see them much closer to the top six battle. Fine margins decide games and Long’s header hit the post moments before Wolves made it 2-1. Saints’ season can now go either way.

2. Wolves continue to rally from slow starts: They have conceded the first goal in a league-high 16 PL games this season and it is now seven in a row. But they keep fighting and they showed incredible spirit with Jimenez and Traore leading the charge, once again. Imagine where Wolves would be in the table if they actually started games well?

3. Top four now on for Santo’s battered side: They are five points behind Chelsea and in the top four hunt now. Wolves have such a small squad and Santo wants to add to it, so expect them to do business with the Europa League knockout rounds and a possible top four push coming up. They are down to the bare bones with injuries to Vinagre, Boly and Jota hitting them hard but they are getting the job done in remarkable fashion.

Man of the Match: Raul Jimenez – He missed a few chances in the first half but was always a threat and finished his chances in the second half. Clever hold up play and pulled Southampton’s defense all over the place.


Wolves looked dangerous early on as Adama Traore’s deflected shot flew just wide but then Saints struck with their first attempt of the game.

James Ward-Prowse‘s free kick caused havoc and Bednarek cleaned up at the back post to slot home calmly and make it 1-0.

Saints should have doubled their lead as Cedric‘s header at the back post was a poor one, while Raul Jimenez went close on a couple of occasions.

After Jimenez flashed another shot wide Saints did double their lead, as Cedric’s cross was finished clinically by Long for his first goal in 19 games.

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Long hit the post with a header as Saints threatened to run away with things at the start of the second but moments later Wolves started their comeback.

Adama Traore surged down the right and crossed for Neto who controlled well then finished to half the deficit.

Wolves were level soon after as Jonny ran into the box and was brought down by a combination of Cedric and Jack Stephens in the box, as a penalty kick was awarded via VAR and Jimenez slotted home from the spot.

Nathan Redmond then went on an incredible run and smashed a shot from distance which clipped the crossbar and then Neto drilled over from a great position as it was end-to-end stuff in the closing stages.

Saints went close to scoring a winner as Jack Stephens couldn’t hook home from close range as Wolves somehow cleared, and then Jimenez finished after great work from Traore to make it 3-2 and seal the stunning comeback.

Stephens and Sofiane Boufal missed chances for Southampton to nick a point as Wolves, who are short on players as injuries pile up, pulled off an amazing comeback win.

Holgate, Pickford save Everton in draw with West Ham

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Issa Diop traded goals in Everton’s 1-1 draw with West Ham United at the London Stadium on Saturday.

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The draw has David Moyes‘ West Ham a point outside the drop zone, while 11th place Everton moves seven clear with 29 points.


Three things we learned

1. Toffees bailed out by Holgate, Pickford: Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford‘s last few weeks have been as good as he’s played since his Sunderland days, and he made a pair of incredible saves for the Toffees. But his young center back Mason Holgate was the star, with an assist on Calvert-Lewin’s goal and a key block to go with seven clearances and much more (See MOTM, below).

2. Calvert-Lewin sums up Toffees’ uneven play: The tempestuous young striker got another goal, but Everton’s point came mostly through Pickford and Holgate. Calvert-Lewin got his headed goal but also as many fouls (3) as chances created. His quick post-match comments really fit the bill.

“I thought today we under-performed. It was disappointing not to play to our strengths. We got ourselves back into the game but should have gone on from there and won it. I am happy to get on the scoresheet and get the point but I thought we could have performed better.”

3. Snodgrass is class: The 32-year-old Scot continues to turn back the clock for West Ham, providing power and craft in producing three goals and three assists this season. All of those score sheet moments have come in the Irons last 13 matches.

Man of the Match: Holgate’s assist was great, but how about seven-for-seven in ground duels, two blocked shots, a goal line clearance, and four interceptions. Fantastic stuff.


Tom Davies was stripped at midfield, leading to in-form Robert Snodgrass curling a shot to Jordan Pickford.

Snodgrass set up Pablo Zabaleta for a classy chest trap and volley, but Mason Holgate blocked the shot wide of the near post.

Lucas Digne gave the ball away to Mark Noble, who sent Sebastien Haller through the goal. Pickford made a fine leg save as Haller aimed to go low and near post.

Theo Walcott blew a chance to make it 1-0 when Digne spotted the ex-Arsenal star, who flubbed a ball right to Darren Randolph.

The Irons got their deserved lead through an Issa Diop header of Snodgrass’ free kick in the 40th, but Calvert-Lewin got one of his own from a Digne corner kick moments later.

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Pickford made an incredible save in stoppage time to keep it 1-1, reaching low to paw away a point-blank Irons chance.

The English keeper than slapped a deflected shot wide in the second half.