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Your friendly bookie wholeheartedly endorses a German velvet revolution. Let's go Europe!
Day 18: Recap
Straight up: 20-17-9
Alright Philly contingent and wop enthusiasts everywhere: It's your day! You may not have beat the spread, but that's no excuse for not taking the car, the girls, and the flags out for a spin. Your friendly bookie didn't quite care for Immobile's theatrics and the shameless clock milking in injury time was uncalled for.
Your nevertheless put together quite the worthy performance. The defensive work from Chiellini, Bonucci, and (on that unforgettable play) Spinazzola was simply marvelous. Great goals from Insigne and Barella too. Something about white kits in this tournament seems to translate to epic exploits. Well done!
....and just when you thought Italian footballing celebrations couldn't get any more homo-erotic, we somehow went from white kits to tighty-whiteys.
Er....what? Really? Since when is it a custom to report for de-pantsing after winning a big match? Only the Italians. I personally don't associate the taste of victory with a scrotal aroma. I suppose the traveling Azzurri supporters in Munich felt differently.
Andrea Belotti and Giovanni di Lorenzo were more than happy to oblige.
Aaaahah! This happened. This really happened. Massive Italian de-pantsing in München! Christ, now everyone has to root for the Spaniards in the semis. We definitely don't want to see this again.
S.S.S. Tactical Breakdown
Your friendly bookie isn't entirely sure how to segue from that to tactics, but pointing out that Roberto Mancini's constellation was anything but flaccid seems apt enough. Like most of us predicted, Chiesa got then nod over Domenico Berardi. Contrary to most of our expectations, he kept Marco Verratti in the XI with something unique.
Lineup—Italy—Match Five (4-3-3) (7/2/2021)
Fascinating. Just bloody well fascinating. The midfield axis was about as flat as it gets....and it worked after a little while. One would have to say that the Belgians looked more in control for the opening 20 minutes. What would ordinarily be considered an absolute distribution killer still enabled Jorginho to service Verratti and Barella on the right lane cuts.
As evenly matched as the first half was, the Squadra never ceased playing attractive attacking football. Somehow, Spinzzola and di Lorenzo worked overlaps through the crowded midfield seamlessly. The level of coordination and communication was top notch. Everyone also made it back to help out defensively. Absolutely loved seeing Chiellini back coordinating the set-piece marking. What a leader!
This did slow up around the hour mark and, as noted above, the number of dives and feigned injuries left most of us observers in a pissy mood. Immobile's antics are available online for all to see. Be forewarned that his actions just prior to the first goal, along with most of the shenanigans in second-half injury time will leave you feeling sick to your stomach.
One serious injury that had absolutely nothing to do with simulation might spell serious trouble for this team heading forward. Spinazzola rescued his team with the undisputed play of the match to prevent Belgium from equalizing in the 61st. The hero of the day deserved a much better exit than this:
That's about the most obvious ACL tear you'll ever see. Everyone knew it as soon as they saw it. He knew it as soon as it blew apart. That's why he's sobbing. Forget the tournament. The AS Roma fullback won't be back in action until 2022. Bookie states that with full conviction I don't need it confirmed.
Emerson Palmieri will soon be tasked with trying to emulate Spinazzola against a very tough Spanish right. Well, to be fair, the entire Roja set-up continues to look pretty menacing. Here's were we are after this one:
Lineup—Spain—Match Five (4-3-3) (7/2/2021)
Definitely not as aggressive as anticipated. These were the all actors your friendly bookie expected to see, yet the slight spacial distancing on the top axis remained somewhat surprising. Breaking apart the license to level caused the Spaniards to fall back into the old familiar song and dance of endless angular passing without creating too much going forward.
I'd say they still looked a significantly better team then the Swiss throughout the first half. Koke and Azpilicueta engineered some chances and most of the diagonals into the box were fairly good ideas. Petkovic's men were still able to sense that the three attackers were withdrawn somewhat, ultimately precluding the Spaniards from scoring a goal of their own.
There shall and should be some criticism of inserting Pau Torres back into the center halve partnership. Bookie noted that he wouldn't be surprised to see Luis Enrique pick Torres over Eric Garcia, even if the latter was my choice in the projection. In this case the Spanish trainer was really playing the percentages by using a pair of left-footers against Embolo and Seferovic.
Okay. Nothing wrong with that I suppose. The pair really messed up on Shaqiri's equalizer, though. They were all out of sorts Candidly, it's a bit late in the tournament to be tinkering with the center back partnership. That's a crucial pairing that any team hoping to make a deep run needs to keep together to the full extent possible as the competition wears on.
Your CBs absolutely must improve and inure themselves to one another. Other than that, bookie doesn't really have anything seriously critical to add. Enrique's crew failed to put it away after Remo Freuler's red card gave them the man advantage. So what? They had their chances. Sommer was on the level several times to deny them. Not the cleanest win. Still a good one.
What a day for this Real Sociedad kid! He gets to be the "walk-off" scorer for the second match in a row. Let's see here. Mikel Oyarzabal. Bookie must learn how to pronounce this. Oyarzabal. Fuck. This sounds Basque. Could never get the hang of that northern dialect.
I think the "y" is silent if memory serves correctly....but maybe not. OAR-ize-Zabal? O-Yar-Zabal? OH-Year-zib-EL? Ah, hell with it. Good player. Never heard of him.
Felicidades jugadoras! More Spanish caravans all across Europe tonight!
Seriously, why are all the teams in the boring white kits winning in this tournament? This is wrong. We want a colorful European football festival. If you flick back through these posts, you'll have difficulty distinguishing one jubilant country from another.
S.S.S. Salute to Fallen Comrades
Belgium—"De Rote Duivels"
-5 games played
-9 goals scored
Previous Belgium Tactical Coverage:
Chronicling the Red Devils, Rote Duivels, Roten Teufel, les Diables Rouges--whatever vernacular you'd care to use--over the course of this tournament has proven an exercise in what might have been. "If only, if only." We're simply never going to know.
It just won't go in. It simply won't happen for them. A slew of devastating injuries hit them hard prior to the tournament. The wave of misfortunate wouldn't relent as we progressed. Put Divock Origi in this side and you most certainly get a different outcome. A fully fit Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard shifts the dynamic massively.
Of course, the big worry entering this tournament remained how little depth Roberto Martinez had at the back. When sitting down to write the most recent Lines section, your friendly bookie had to tip Italy as he just couldn't make it work.
Lineup—Belgium—Match Five (3-4-3) (7/2/2021)
Damn. I knew Martinez would invert the pivot...but damn. Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen operated extremely wide and much farther afield from their anchoring center back than could be even remotely considered safe.
With Witsel/Tielemans (against the bookie's advice) stuck in an axial pairing just above the halfway line and Hazard/Meunier committed to the attack, this had the feel of something far too dangerous from the start.
The decision to give 19-year-old Jeremey Doku the nod proved an inspired move. Watching De Bruyne move, however, one had the sense that he would have worked better coming off the bench. When Martinez did try to shake things up with a pair of subs in the 69th.
Well, shit. What can one do? The idea was to build a trident with Dries Mertens, Doku, and Lukaku. De Bruyne would slide in underneath at ten. Even if Nacer Chadli was meant to simply be a straight swap for Meunier, his three-touch, four minute deployment threw everyone off.
Perhaps, as a Bundesliga man, I haven't been keeping up with the Premiership as much as in the past. I still make no apologies for not knowing who the hell Dennis Praet is. He seemed to have no idea who he was either. He couldn't accomplish much thrown onto the right wing.
Sorry, gentlemen, but you'll still have to hear about the Belgian "Golden Generation" one more time. They'll all be back in 18 months time, with Vermaelen the only likely one to retire. Martinez is likely finished though. At least there will be a new system to talk about.
-5 games played
-8 goals scored
Previous Switzerland Tactical Coverage:
And that does it for the "Germano-philes". We haven't a dog left in this fight. No more German-speaking countries left in the tournament....though we still have our northern neighbors the Danes left to cheer for tomorrow.
Some picture. Looks like were in for Friday prayers. Alas, no prayers offered up in the shrine of tax-dodging account #8276 were answered today. Without Granit Xhaka, everything went wrong.
Lineup—Switzerland—Match Five (4-2-3-1) (7/2/2021)
A straightforward 4-2-3-1. Not the 5-2-1-2 your friendly bookie projected. At least I got Denis Zakaria's deployment correct. It would have been nice if Zakaria himself had gotten some things right on this day.
Poor kiddo. One really feels for the Borussia Mönchengladbach profi. That unfortunate own-goal early and the monster missed opportunity late-on. Neither his day or a particularly auspicious one for fohlen teammate Breel Embolo.
We'll honestly never know if Petkovic's 4-2-3-1 would have worked. Embolo's early injury forced Ruben Vargas into the fray and it became more of a 4-1-3-2 that struggled to hold together. Nice fight from my Alpine brethren. They simply couldn't keep calm and organized.
Bookie bids farewell to the pastoral German mountaineers and his tournament sleeper pick in this post.
-4 games played
-5 goals scored
Previous Sweden Tactical Coverage:
Have to catch up here as the last daily was a full Vaterland one. This team's elimination leaves me frustrated. What a wasted opportunity. All Janne Andersson's boys had to do was hold together for another thirty seconds and they could have probably bested the Ukrainians on penalties.
Yeah. That about sums it up, Lindelöf. You guys squandered a glorious chance to make a deep run on the weaker side of the bracket. The wrong set of Blaugults won. Perhaps most disheartening of all, the Swedish trainer was moving precisely the right actors into his 4-4-2.
It was all going so nicely.
Lineup—Sweden—Match Three (4-4-2) (6/23/2021)
We're getting somewhere. Robin Quaison of FSV Mainz 05 moves into the second striker slot. Bundesliga fans rejoiced at both the sight of that at the beginning and Emil Forsberg of RB Leipzig's bang-out break-out performance that led the Swedes to that 3-2 victory over Poland in that cracker of a final group-stage game.
Lineup—Sweden—Match Four (4-4-2) (6/29/2021)
We're getting somewhere even more exciting.....or at least I thought we were. Old man Olof tapped Juventus phenom Dejan Kulsevski to serve up front after a spirited relief performance in the Poland fixture.
So close. We very nearly beheld the Emil Forsberg show 2.0, but the Leipzig man was most unfortunate to hit the post twice. Had the Nordic yellows gone through, bookie would have tapped them to beat the English in a rematch of the 2018 WM quarters.
After that, we could have gotten a Denmark-Sweden semis. How cool would that have been? No dice, Vice. Oh well. Look for some of these promising youngsters to return in 18 months.
“Riffs of the Day”—Day Eighteen
Reader: Flop, flop, flop. Wop, wop, wop.
Vicey: (singing along with 11-M)
Vicey: flop, flop, flop. No more of "this isn't your father's Italy"garbage anymore! Christ, it's embarrassing how they continue to cheat like this; almost as embarrassing as my Italian heritage.
This may not be my "father's Italy", but they fall keep falling down faster than he swoons for the wrong Italian women.
Reader: Spinazzola! No words. Defense always.
Vicey: 16-M and I remain two peas in a pod. The former defenders salute the best that football defenders have to offer!
Er....for the record. If I found myself facing Romelu Lukaku at this range...I'd crap myself. I'd like to say that I'd stand my ground and take a point-blank blast to the face.
Perhaps that's what I'd consciously try to do. Subconsciously, however, muscle memory would make my body lie down into a pathetic shriveling mass.
Reader: Even the Italian team doctor has an Armani blazer.
Vicey: You're still not getting one, 8-M. Give it up. I do nevertheless have some good news. The black blazer they used last Autumn is now probably available on the discount rack.
I think if I act now and buy three, they'll throw in assistant coach Alberico Evani. I'll see if I can't figure out a way to fit him into your schwag pack. Groucho Marx coming your way!
Reader: Thiago consoling Ruben Vargas is quite the sight.
Vicey: Very well spotted, 56-M. One Bundesliga pro provides some comfort and solace to another.
"It's okay, son. Everything's going to be alright"
"You still have Augsburg! Wait...no....I meant....nevermind...forget I said that. Stop crying!"
Reader: Yann Sommer is still a hero no matter what.
Vicey: Wow. It's syndicate member 5-F! We've got ladies in the mailbag today, gentlemen!
Reader: Yann Sommer rocks my socks.
Vicey: Syndicate member 8-F. It's ladies night, and the feeling's right. Oh yes it's ladies night....
Reader: I'll take some sweaty Italian shorts.
Vicey: .......oh what a night......
Always refreshing to hear women talk like this.
It's almost as if they're fallible or something.
Denmark vs. Czech Republic
Bookie doesn't believe that his poor heart (or wallet) can take another Eastern European upending. We'll close the betting.
THE LINE: Denmark +1 Goal (BETTING CLOSED)
England vs. Ukraine
Still action available here. Decide for yourself if your friendly bookie is trying to con you.
THE LINE: England +1 Goal (holding)
GENTLEMEN, ENTER YOUR WAGERS