Euro 2012

UEFA’s TV scandal: some tournament images cooked up

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If accusations against the European Championship broadcast elements turn out to be true, someone surely must answer for it.

The tournament was full of emotion on all sides, good and bad – it didn’t need images manipulated in ways that would make propaganda ministers proud.

Turns out that at least some of the swell TV pictures we watched from Poland and Ukraine over three-plus weeks were cooked up a bit, displayed well out of context in ways that distorted their true meaning.

For instance, the main feed showed images of a German fan crying after Mario Balotelli’s second goal during last week’s loss to Italy.  What seemed so poignant turned out to be less so.

In fact, that woman wasn’t actually defeated by the moment; those pictures had been taken before kickoff when she was overcome by emotion during the German national anthem.

Also related to Germany, manager Joachim Low was shown at one point playfully poking a ball out of a ball boy’s hand. I even commented about it on the blog; along with everyone else, I saw that shot as a steely demonstration of Low’s grace under pressure, his ability to brilliantly deflect the rising heat of the moment.

Turns out, that one also was a pre-game shot – but one inserted disingenuously to look like a “live” shot.

Viewers here watched the matches on ESPN platforms. So it should be noted that ESPN was taking the UEFA feed, just like everyone else.

ProSoccerTalk staff memories of Euro 2012:

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Yes, there were a few brush marks of ugly racism, but not nearly enough to truly stain a lovely European Championship tournament that just came and went.

The ProSoccerTalk staff quickly reflects on what they will best or most fondly remember when they think back on Euro 2012 from Poland and Ukraine:

Richard Farley

Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine swan song will always stick out. Though he went on to play two more times for his country, Shevchenko’s last hurrah will always be remembered as his second half double against Sweden – two goals that earned Ukraine their only victory at the championship they co-hosted.

The outburst came after a half where Shevchenko had looked his age, with commentators questioning whether the 35-year-old’s start was more ceremonial than deserved. Then, after Sweden had gone up one, Shevchenko summoned all the vigor of his Milan glory, heading home the twice to push Ukraine to the top of their group.

It was part of a stand-out tournament for some of Europe’s elder statesmen. Andrea Pirlo (33) was the tournament’s best player. Giorgos Karagounis (35) reminded us of 2004. Steve Gerrard (32) helped return hope to England. Xavi Hernández (32) hit top gear in the final.

None of those stories were the fairy tale. Shevchenko’s was. One week later, he announced his retirement from international soccer, his double against Sweden his final tallies for the national team. They were a part of a night few great players get to experience: Starring in a major tournament in front of your home nation.

Noah Davis

It didn’t end well for Italy, but to even make the final was an impressive feat. For me, the moment of the tournament came against Germany. Mario Balotelli beat the offsides, waited for the pass, took a touch, reached the 18-yard box, and ripped a shot. (The pace!) Manuel Neuer would have had a better chance stopping it if he was watching on television. Off went Balotelli’s shirt, down went my lower jaw. It was everything the young Italian represents: audacity, obnoxiousness, brilliance, and so much more. I’ll remember the Spanish domination in the final, but my favorite single image has to be shirtless Ballotelli flexing. It’s fine to let your actions scream “look at me” when you’ve just done something no one else can do.

Jenna Pel

It may not have impacted the course of the tournament, or heck, even determined who survived the group stage, but for the measure of unadulterated joy it elicited, I’m going with Jakob Błaszczykowski’s equalizer against Russia. The match was tinged with political tension that only upped the intensity.

Fate would ultimately see it differently, but at the time Russia and Poland were tipped as favorites to advance from Group A. Russia had arguably played the most convincing soccer of the tournament at that point while hosts Poland were eager to bring pride to its compatriots.

Facing a one-goal deficit and imminent elimination, Polish captain Jakob ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski came through with the most glorious of equalizers. The long-range screamer would end up being the final goal of Poland’s Euro 2012 campaign, and what an effort it was.

Steve Davis

I guess I’m a sucker for true fan passion, and probably for a lost cause, too. But when I think back on this tournament, about regal Spain and a more pleasing tactical way for Italy, about a German side that looked so capable before it fell to pieces in one stinker, about Shevchenko’s heart and Balotelli’s emotional eruption, about Zlatan Ibrahimović’s athletic feat of wonder … while I’m thinking about it all, I’ll be hearing the Irish fans reminding everyone what being a true fan is all about. I absolutely adored the 10 minutes the proud fans of the Republic of Ireland belted out “The Fields of Athenry” (an Irish folk ballad about stoicism in the face of suffering) as their team tumbled from the tournament in a loss to Spain.

That moment reminded us that supporters may suffer, but their love for their land and their team prevails.

Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Memories, Crystal Balls, and Awards

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source: Getty Images

How We’ll Remember …

Spain 4, Italy 0 – As the signature performance of Spain’s dynastic run.

Having won their previous finals 1-0 (versus Germany in 2008; versus the Netherlands in 2010), La Roja had provided too much fuel for detractors. Now, after a tournament where Spain’s passive aggression wasput on trial, the best international team of our time provided an irresistible closing argument.

Facing Italy for the second time in three weeks, there was no reason for caution. Spain knew what to expect, and they exploited it, posting the most lopsided win in European finals’ history.

Crystal Ball: What Needs to Happen, Going Forward

If Spain can defending their world title with a win in Brazil, they’ll be no argument as to who’s the best team of all-time. A European squad winning a World Cup in South America would be impressive on its own, but for Spain to do so on the back of three consecutive major titles would be provide an inscrutable claim to greatness.

The team will likely need adjustments ahead of 2014. Winning this title, they’ve discovered they can win without Carles Puyol and David Villa. Villa should be back for Brazil, but Xavi Hernández will be 34. Xabi Alonso will be 32. Both players will go through two more years of grueling club soccer for Barcelona and Real Madrid. Come Brazil, Spain will need backup plans, if not outright replacements.

Italy’s obstacles are more daunting. Of their major contributors, only Mario Balotelli (21) is under 25 years old. The rest of their regulars are already in the prime of their careers, with a handful likely to lose effectiveness before the 2014 World Cup.

For a team that won only two of six matches in the tournament, it’s incredibly discouraging. Though they’ve made this final, there isn’t much margin for error. Grouped with Denmark and the Czech Republic in World Cup qualifying, Italy can’t afford to regress.

But with Euro 2012’s success, head coach Cesare Prandelli has solved one problem. He’s reestablished an identity for the Azzurri, on that involves more than just waiting for their opponents to screw up. But the lingering issue, one which may be out of his control: Italy’s not actually producing any players. Come 2014, Italy may have no choice but to take another recycled team into a World Cup.

PST Team of the Tournament

Best XI Reserves
G: Iker Casillas, Spain
LB: Jordi Alba, Spain
CB: Sergio Ramos, Spain
CB: Pepe, Portugal
RB: Joao Pereira, Portugal
M: Andrea Pirlo, Italy
M: Sami Khedira, Germany
M: Xavi Hernández, Spain
AM: Mesut Özil, Germany
F/AM: Andres Iniesta, Spain
F/AM: Cesc Fabregas, Spain
G: Gianluigi Buffon, Italy
G: Joe Hart, England
LB: Fabio Coentrao, Portugal
CB: Daniel Agger, Denmark
CB: Gerard Pique, Spain
RB: Theodor Gebre Selassie, Czech Republic
M/D: Daniele de Rossi, Italy
M: Luka Modric, Croatia
M: Sergio Busquets, Spain
F/W: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
AM/F: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
F: Mario Balotelli, Italy

PST Player of the Tournament

source:

For the third straight championship, there was no true stand out player, with voters left to pick greatness from a number of good candidates. Andrea Pirlo, however, fits a number of different definitions of best player. In terms of absolute quality, he heads the discussion. He was also the most valuable player to a competitive team, and with Italy making the final, his value was part of a team important to the competition. And if you’re looking for an emotional angle, Pirlo sustaining his resurgent club success helped revitalize a world power.

For us, he was simply the tournament’s best player, and although Xavi Hernández’s final performance gave 2008’s top performer a late push, Andrea Pirlo gets our nod.

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.

Spain’s three-week master class in prudent, patient application of effort (a.k.a., playing Spanish possum)

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Admittedly, claiming a major tournament on a thoughtful platform of efficiency and “prudent conservation” isn’t so sexy.

It’s certainly not as alluring or intoxicating as, say, creating history by mercilessly punishing a litany of hapless opposition, by winning through a series of lopsided results.

Spain may reign today, but everyone had hoped for more of that flashy 4-0 flourish along the way. We wanted to be treated to more of the Spanish hammer (as in Sunday’s Kiev kick-around) rather than seeing the champs chisel deliberately away with the precision tools.

But the manner in which Spain just made history really deserves proper recognition. Because the Spanish just stitched together a masterpiece – never mind some unappreciative grumbling along the way about Spain making its case in underwhelming style.

But Vicente del Bosque didn’t bring Spain to Eastern Europe to wow and impress in first-round matches or in some early elimination contest. They came to make grand history, and such high ambition cannot be entrusted to breathless unrestraint.

We may have wanted to be entertained; but Spain simply wanted to win, coveting that unprecedented third major tournament title (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012). So win they did, through patient self-regulation, through the tricky tenets of “doing just enough.”

We talked for three weeks of Spain never achieving the best version of itself, about apparent contentment and the need for blessed discontent, about possibly lacking that final, telling pang of hunger.

But did we have it wrong all along? Was del Bosque (pictured) simply having his men play a little Spanish possum en route to Sunday’s final in Kiev?  We all wondered where the “real” Spain might be hiding. In reality, they just didn’t need to be “full Spain” very often.

source:  They wisely determined just how much of the full Spanish treatment three successful weeks in Poland and Ukraine would require. So they got a lead and then got smart time and again, dropping the energy output a smidge – while the rest of us selfishly shouted “Go, go, go! … Why won’t they go?”

All that passing, passing, passing – the possession for possession’s sake that sometimes looked like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and the rest were cruising down a highway but content to travel at a safer “school zone speed.”

It made us wonder if Spain was vulnerable. In truth, we weren’t giving Spain sufficient credit for thinking this one through.  Italian manager Cesare Prandelli took in ample praise for getting things right against Germany, and deservedly so. But what about that wily ol’ del Bosque, a cunning Spanish fox who got it right in a bigger way.

Let’s not forget, this really is a grueling tournament. The teams Sunday in Kiev were playing their sixth match in 22 days. That’s one contest about every three and a half days – and what a taxing, debilitating slog it is.

Early Sunday the ESPN announcers wondered why del Bosque’s men couldn’t look more like they did in extra time against Portugal, when they leaned in for further offensive push, pinning the Portuguese back with the extra run, the quicker pass, the earlier ball forward and the higher intensity, generally.

But again, perhaps we weren’t giving Spain enough credit for managing the energy level, for always keeping a restrictor plate on this classic car, for doing just enough and leaving plenty in reserve.

Don’t forget, this is a Spanish team that won a World Cup by scoring eight goals (Just eight, in seven matches!), another lesson in patient application of effort. So perhaps trophy acquisition at Euro 2012 by way of wise conservation shouldn’t have been surprising at all.

By the 60th minute Sunday, Italy looked exhausted. Yes, it was unfortunate the Azzurri had to finish with 10 men, but Prandelli’s unit would likely have been similarly pooped with 11.

The Italians, not quite good enough to hold something back and still steer through the elimination rounds, were spent.

Spain, one of the best teams of all time (there can be little argument now) could afford to pace the enterprise a bit. They did so expertly.

Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Spain 4, Italy 0

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source: Reuters

Man of the Match: Even without his two assists, Xavi Hernández would have been the game’s best player, providing his typical, metronomic, tempo-setting performance. He was the impetus behind a team that showed an uncommon assertiveness from the opening whistle, staking an early claim to their third European title. The two assists were mere symptoms of the constant probing and stretching he used to unlock Italy’s defense.

NBC Sports: Spain reigns once again, winning Euro 2012 title

Packaged for takeaway:

  • From the get go it was clear: This wasn’t the same Spain team we’d seen through most of the championship. Perhaps it was the occasion. Perhaps it was the knowledge they’d gained in their first 90 minutes against Italy. Perhaps it was Italy’s tactics. Regardless, Spain was much more energetic and direct than they’d been throughout the tournament.
  • Two symptoms of that assertiveness:
      Spain was taking an uncommonly high number of shots from 20-24 yards. Xavi and Andres Iniesta each had multiple cracks from distance, and while most of them were blocked before reaching Gigi Buffon, the tried hinted at a markedly more aggressive approach – one that was willing to give the ball back to Italy.
      That same view was evident in the team’s willingness to try low-percentage through balls. Again it was Iniesta and Xavi, and again the strategy had limited early success. But these were noticeably more direct choices that Spain had made throughout the tournament.
  • It didn’t take long for Spain to break through. Int he 14th minute, Iniesta hit Cesc Fabregas with a long through ball as Spain’s false nine ran into the right of the box. Fabregas made for the line and chipped a ball back to the edge of the six, with David Silva heading the opening goal high into the left of net.
  • It was the first time in the tournament the Italians had trailed.
  • Spain maintained their intensity for a few more minutes before (surprisingly) ceding the ball to Italy. At halftime, the Italians held a 52-48 possession edge (per UEFA), though they’d generated no real chances. Aside from an early sequence that won three corner kicks in the span of a couple of minutes, Spain was largely untroubled.
  • Iker Casillas deserves most of the credit for that. Whenever Italy played a ball into his area, he was there with a small push, a one-handed punch, a slap or an outright block (when needed). It didn’t look especially pretty, but it was effective. Casillas often chose the less dramatic, more controlled option rather than do something to take himself out of position.
  • Toward halftime, after Italy had been dictating much of the game’s tempo, Spain caught them. A long ball out of the back was chested down to Jordi Alba, who went on a run after giving to Xavi. Hernández put a perfect through ball into the left of the area, where Alba was able to easily beat an oncoming Buffon.
  • Prandelli starting tweaking immediately after halftime. Antonio Cassano came off for Toto Di Natale. Ten minutes later, Thiago Motta was on for Ricardo Montolivo, a move that would quickly bring an end to Italy’s chances.
  • In the first half, Giorgio Chiellini had to be brought off with an injured left leg, making the Motto sub Italy’s last. Just past the hour, Motta’s hamstring appeared to give out. He was stretched from the pitch, eventually hobbling to te locker room. For the last half hour, Italy played with 10 men.
  • With his team down two goals, Cesare Prandelli will get a lot of sympathy after his third sub blew up in his face. It was still a risky, probably misguided, move.
  • From there forward, the match was typical Spain, the champions hogging the ball until the final whistle. Along the way, Fernando Torres scored (84′, from Xavi), Juan Mata scored (88′, from Torres), and Spain put up the most lopsided score in European Championships’ finals history.
  • And with the assist, Torres improbably won the Golden Boot. What? Yes: Among the handful of players who had three goals, only he and Mario Gómez had an assist (the first tiebreaker). Torres wins the award, having played fewer minutes than Gómez.
  • Not that they needed it, but the match played out as a statement game for Spain. With the determination they showed at the start of the match, it was as if La Roja wanted to answer everybody who’d complained about the way they won games. The way Italy played (not cowering into a shell) may have helped, but with a four-goal win, Spain provided a retort to those choosing to nit-pick at their style.
  • It was also a claim to being the best team of all time. The debates can never be settled – discussions of which team, across time, is superior – but by giving a resounding performance in a major competition final, Spain may have provided the trump card that can sway those barstool debates.
  • That makes two Euros and a World Cup in succession, the first time a European nation has won three straight major titles. It beg the question: How long will it last? It’s a question that will have to wait until Monday. Tonight, Spain gets one day to bask in the glow of their shockingly easy championship-clinching performance.
  • 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.