Sunday, April 29, 2012

EM 2008--Round One

Let’s get this party started syndicate members,
EM 2008

You know the rules, you know the countries, you know more than you ever cared to about the young bookie from Old Europe. It all gets started in Basel’s St. Jakob Park on Saturday morning. Don’t sleep in. It’s go time. Bring on da game.


Czech Republic vs. Switzerland


The Swiss have the honors of kicking things off with a fete worthy of a gatecrasher. Will it be Koller or Galasek? Ujafalusi or Barros? It hardly matters in the end. Someone must reminds the Schweizer Nati that their nation doesn’t belong here. Light the lantern. Raise the curtain. Let the games begin and burn down the house.

THE LINE: Czech Republic +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Czech Republic 1, Switzerland 0. As expected, the Swiss were fired up by the ostentatious opening ceremony and thus played far above their rank. The first half was a street fight between the ailing veteran Koller and the young Swiss dynamo Alexander Frei. Both came within centimeters of scoring the opening goal. Seconds after the restart, however, Frei knocked knees with Grygera and had to be carted off the field in tears. Hasin Yakin burst onto the scene in a desperate effort to preserve Swiss momentum by drawing a free kick with some outrageous theatrics. Tranquilo Barnetta blasted the resulting free kick inches above the goalpost. Koller himself would be substituted in the 56th. His replacement was an unknown striker named Vaclav Sverkos who had only earned two caps for the national team after being a final call up one month prior to the competition. The inconsistent striker had been a Bundesliga disaster and was now back in the Czech League playing for peanuts. Plaisil chipped in a cross that Grygera headed forward for Sverkos to first time finish in the 71st. One had the impression that the Czechs deserved it, having been exerting pressure for the preceding twenty minutes.

Portugal vs. Turkey


Should the Turks wish to duplicate the shocking Greek upset over the Navigators on opening day four years ago, they are tasked with but one seemingly insurmountable mission: Shut down Christiano Ronaldo. He’s scored 42 goals for Man U this season, making him the answer to life, the universe, and everything. The holy avatar will start on the right wing, one step behind Benfica legend Nuno Gomez. They can throw four uni-brows on him, but this will only have the effect of freeing up Gomez along with fellow midfielders Deco and Simao. The Turkish re-initiation will not be pretty. Tough day ahead for the Döner Dudes. 

THE LINE: Portugal +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Portugal 2, Turkey 0. Nothing much doing for Terim and the tenacious Turks. Despite throwing half of the midfield and the two center backs in a Bald Bull-like charge at Ronaldo, they still couldn’t stop him from slicing through all the white shirts to throw three efforts on goal during the first 45. Terim subbed in two extra defenders in the opening minutes of the second half, presumably realizing that preserving the draw was the best the Crescent Stars could hope for. The Navigators finally got their well-deserved goal in the 61st, when Pepe engineered a sparkling dribble from deep in the backfield. He combined with Gomez for a clever little give-and-go outside the box that left keeper Demirel without a chance. Raul Meireless and Joao Moutinho combined for a similar draw play in injury time to make it 2-0.


Austria vs. Croatia


The Edelweiss-snorters will also perform above their station, buoyed by all the hype surrounding their return. The home team will eventually be worn down by Modric, Ollic, and Petric. After visiting Basel and Geneva, we’re off to Vienna. Feeling lucky? See if an improbable win in the rich city can improve your balance sheet.

THE LINE: Croatia +1 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Croatia 1, Austria 0. Austrian trainer Josef Hickersberger started former FCK Backstop Jürgen Macho, whose first touch involved picking the ball out of the back of the net. Luca Modric dispossessed an Emmanuel Pogatetz and stormed into the box with only Rene Aufhauser to beat. The nervy Aufhauser stuck out his knee and Modric beat him to the outside for a 4th minute penalty. Modric converted and the rest was history. Billic and the boys were content to hang back and defend for the remaining 86 minutes, keeping the ball away from the “das Team” as if they were a gang of blind dwarfs.

Deutschland vs. Poland


Polska. We MUST stop meeting this way. Must I remind you, once again, that we’ll roll over you with all the fervor of a motorized infantry division hoped up on Pervitin? Must I, once again, point of the fact that your humiliation will come at the hands of your OWN players? Either Podolski, Klose, Borowski, or Trocowski will score a goal. Why do you even try? There’s no “Law and Justice” on the pitch. Oh right…taking a break from the trash talk for a spell, I would like to congratulate the Poles on the spring election of Donald Tusk. One more Kaczynski to go!

Go, Jungs, go! Kick some ass in Klagenfurt!

THE LINE: Deutschland +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Germany 2, Poland 0. One tends to forget that, after abysmal showings in 2000 and 2004, this was the first German victory at the European Finals in twelve years. Löw picked a curious starting eleven, with Podolski and Fritz serving as the wingers while Schweinsteiger and Borowski warmed the bench. In defiance of whatever the scoreline suggests, the Poles actually played a very up-tempo match, continuously challenging Lehman and very nearly scoring in the opening minutes. We received the first hint that the Klose-Gomez partnership lacked fluidity when Klose sent him an awkward square ball rather than shoot for a wide-open goal in the 4h. Gomez himself tried to return the favor by springing Klose past the Polish defensive trap throughout, but the striker was ruled offside nearly every time. Clearly the two weren’t communicating well and lacked the intuitive sense of what the other might be apt to do. There were no such miscues when Klose squared for Podolski in the 20th. He knew precisely where to place the pass to catch him in stride. The two Polish-born strikers’ celebrations were extremely subdued, perhaps out of respect for their heritage.

Ballack might have made it 2-0 thirty seconds after the restart, but couldn’t connect on a free header directly in front of goal. He managed perfect contact on a Lahm cross in the 71st, but Polish keeper Boruc was able to sensationally tip it over the bar. Schweine’s substitution kicked the tempo up a notch and a second goal felt imminent. He himself managed three distance efforts on goal. It was Schweinsteiger who astutely picked Pavel Golanski’s pocket in the 72nd to set up Klose, whose blocked shot volleyed into Podolski’s path for a terrific finish. Again, the celebration of the brace was muted. Schweine set up Podolski for a possible Hat Trick one minute from time, but he couldn’t keep the effort down. After the final whistle was blown, all Mannschaft players kept their heads down and marched like automatons into the tunnel. Following the street scuffles after the 2006 match, it was surely team policy NOT to in any way exhibit elation at another systematic dismantling of Poland. This bookie was not privy to those instructions. 


Romania vs. France


The “Group of Death” kicks off in Zurich with a chance to scout a whole new generation of frogs. Joining Henry up front will be the high-flying Chelsea Nicholas Anelka. According to Domenech, Jeremy Toulalan will get the nod in midfield. Benzema and Nasri chomp at the bit for their chance to inject some pace into the squad later in the match. It looks to be a fine debut for the upcoming holders of the EU Presidency. We’ll see if the Froggies can’t pick up where they left off.

THE LINE: France +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: France 0, Romania 0. Henry was left off for undisclosed reasons and all we got was a stinker. The rampant egoism of Anelka was on full display as he selfishly took every ball Ribery fed him and shot from impossible angles while wide-open players flailed their hands in disgust. As megalomanicaly unstable as this fucktard turned out to be, the disappointing showing wasn’t entirely his fault. Benzema and Toulalan weren’t ready for prime time either, booting multiple efforts onto the third concourse.

Netherlands vs. Italy


Time to make some bank. Who dares profess belief in this Azzuri team? Dream on, greasy dreamers. Absolutely lovin' the matchups here. Van Persie, Schneijder, Kuyt, and Robben can weave through that weak left defensive side all day long. Buffon is past his prime and won’t be able to withstand the onslaught. You will not be able to flop your way out of this one. I’m so confident I’ll give you the LOWEST POSSIBLE LINE AVAILABLE UNDER THE NEW SYSTEM. Let’s hear it for the remnants of the Flemish aristocracy!

THE LINE: Italy +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Netherlands 3, Italy 0. Damn. Even I didn’t foresee it getting this bad. The ever-eccentric Van Basten picked van Nistelroy over van Persie, van der Vaart over Robben, and Bouhlarouz over Heitinga. Pangs of doubt stung me as the lineups were revealed and the discomfiture failed to subside as the Wops controlled for most of the first quarter of an hour. Toni could have easily scored twice in the first ten minutes. Finally, around the 17 minute mark Van der Vaart began generating a few through balls. Van Nistelroy latched onto one of them and should have scored after he leapt over Buffon and found himself in front of an empty net. Finally, in the 27th, Buffon punched out a Van der Vaart set piece while simultaneously running into his own defender. The Italians had been under constant bombardment and Panucci thought he might feign injury to stem the momentum. Sneijder and van Nistelroy were having none of it. Sneijder fired an effort that van Nistelroy redirected while Pannucci writhed on the pitch.

Toni and Buffon immediately rushed to the ref, wilding gesticulating, claiming that play should have been stopped while their “injured” player was attended to. There would be no dissent. The Swedish referee mouthed something to the effect that they had “injured” their own player and he gone to ground in the absence of any serious contact. Shortly afterward, Toni would be booked for being a “Whiny Wop”. Immensely satisfying. An awesome play developed four minutes later after Giovanni van Brockhorst cleared a Pirlo corner of the line. He then proceeded to charge the length of the pitch on a vicious counter than ended with a gorgeous switch to Sneijder for a beautiful volley-in goal. Kuyt would later cross for van Bronkhorst to complete the worst thrashing Italy had ever endured at the finals.

Spain vs. Russia


There will come a time to buy into the Ruskie Hype. Not just yet. Whatever fate eventually befalls this Spanish side in the knockout rounds, they’ve never failed to debut strongly. “Fernando Fernando” and David Villa will have a field day showcasing their skills for their future opponents, who in turn will devise a solution based on the tape. Wait a second. I do believe I’ve figured out why this team always loses. You there! Imaginary Secretary. Get me the editor of “El Pais” STAT!

THE LINE: Spain +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Spain 4, Russia 1. Forklifts of money came in on the Russians from the Berlin immigrant contingent, exerting downward pressure on this line until it was a pick. It was not especially ambitious to predict that La Roja would come out guns blazing. The promise of a Hiddink-led Russia was…well it was fucking insane how they were the darlings of the press.

David Villa brought them crashing back to reality with a historic Hat Trick and crucial role setting up the fourth goal. Torres set him up wonderfully in the 20th and nearly did so again in the 38th. After a seamless string of passes involving Capdevilla and Iniesta, Villa provided the clinical finish, going five-hole on the Russian keeper in 44th. The Torres-Villa partnership continued to provide the perfect one-two punch until Aragones elected to play things a bit closer to the vest by calling Torres off in the 54th. One might speculate that one reason this Spanish squad succeeded where so many others had failed was Aragones clever decision to remove Torres early from most every match.

La Roja weren’t done yet. In the 75th, Fabregas chipped an inviting ball towards Villa in the area, who then marvelously out-deked Roman Shirkov before snapping in a low goal. Villa proved he could pick out a colleague as well one minute into injury time with a tightly roped cross for Xavi Hernandez. Fabregas scooped up the rebound for the fourth Spanish goal. The Russians were able to orchestrate one moment of class, courtesy of their Ukrainian striker Roman Pavlyuchencko. He headed in a corner for a meek consolation in the 87th.

Greece vs. Sweden


Allow me reiterate, Rehhakles. I’m not putting up with any more nonsense from you and your “Feta Cinderellas”. You’ve had your day in the sun….as if the Greeks don’t already unfairly get a disproportionate number of days in the sun. You’re not pulling this shit again. No more molesting my pocketbook. Go get em, Blaugult!

THE LINE: Sweden +2 Goals


Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Sweden 2, Greece 0. Yawn. Boring teams. Boring match. Ibrihimovic and Larsson tried and failed to get on the clock throughout much of the first half while the Greeks, true to Rehhagel’s championship strategy, kept back six in defense waiting to pounce on a counter. Ibrihimovic and Larsson finally got it together in the 71st, with the former pelting in the finish. The ordinarily well-disciplined back six got sloppy a few minutes later, failing to secure the goal line as an aerial rebound was contested. Peter Hansson stroked in the second.