A look at Euro 2008: Day 5

Portugal clinches a place in the quarterfinal round of Euro 2008, while host Switzerland, after some late, late drama, has been eliminated.

In case you missed it, here are brief recaps of today’s contests:

PORTUGAL 3, CZECH REPUBLIC 1: Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo scored once and set up another goal to break a 1-1 deadlock in the second half as Portugal became the first team to clinch a spot in next week’s quarterfinal round. Deco’s deflected shot put Portugal ahead 1-0 early on, but Libor Sionko equalized in the 17th minute.

TURKEY 2, SWITZERLAND 1: Turkish wiz kid Arda Turan scored an invaluable goal deep in stoppage time to keep Turkey’s Euro 2008 hopes alive while eliminating Switzerland. Turan’s deep run along the left side ended with his deflected shot beating Swiss ‘keeper Diego Benaglio. Amidst torrential rain that made conditions nearly unplayable in the first half, Hakin Yakin put Switzerland up 1-0 midway through the first half. The rain let up after halftime, however, and Semith Senturk equalized via a cross from the left in the 57th minute.

MY ANALYSIS: Cristiano Ronaldo, largely regarded by many ‘ including me ‘ as the best player in the world, came up with the goods in the second half to help Portugal, the runner-up at Euro 2004, into the next round. Going forward, this contest illustrated Portugal’s two biggest problems, which may or may not evidence themselves later on.
First, goalkeeper Ricardo just isn’t all that solid. As I’ve watched him over the years, there are times where I think he’s very good and times where I think he’s very ordinary. Today he was ordinary, and a single slip-up by him later on could ruin Portugal’s hopes and dreams. Secondly, as brilliant Sky Sports analyst Andy Gray, who has been loaned to ESPN throughout the tournament because Sky of the UK doesn’t hold rights to the tournament, pointed out, Portugal doesn’t have a Claude Makelele-type in midfield. Portugal’s midfielders are brilliant when going forward, but none of them provide true protection in front of the backline. That also could be a problem against stronger opposition later in the tournament.
As far as today’s other contest goes, holy cow, talk about late drama. On the balance of how it’s played over 180 minutes, host Switzerland probably doesn’t deserve to be eliminated from the Euros with zero points, but such is the nature of the game sometimes.
Turan’s late strike sets up a mouth-watering section finale between Turkey and Czech Republic on June 15, with the winner joining Portugal in the quarterfinals.
Based on how they fought today, I’d tip the Turks to edge Czech Republic, but it could easily go either way.

TODAY’S STAR MAN: Arda Turan, Turkey. Deco or Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal were in consideration, but I’m going for the 21-year-old budding Turkish superstar here. Over 90 minutes, this left winger, who recently helped Galatasaray to the Turkish league championship, showed what he’s all about. There was a buzz whenever the ball was at his feet, especially when conditions improved in the second half, and he capped his performance with a special run and a priceless goal, though it admittedly came from via a huge deflection.

TODAY’S TOP GOAL: Hakin Yakin’s goal vs. Turkey. OK, there were two or three other goals today that were technically superior to this one (Ronaldo’s goal was my personal favorite) but I’m putting Yakin’s bizarre strike here because of how memorable it was. If you’ve seen it already, you know what I’m talking about. Torrential rain puddled up on the pitch at Basle, causing all sorts of problems, none more so than for Tukey in the 32nd minute. With the Turkish keeper stranded off his line, Swiss forward Eren Derdiyok squares his cross from the right side toward the far post. The ball has a lot of pace on it, but a huge puddle in front of the goalmouth perfectly slows it down, and Yakin can’t believe his fortune as he simply taps it in from two yards. Unbelievable.

THURSDAY’S SCHEDULE:
Group B
Croatia vs. Germany, ESPN2, 10 a.m.
Austria vs. Poland, ESPN2, 12:45 p.m.

For those of you who caught today’s action, what did you think of the proceedings? Any disagreements with my choice for player of the day or goal of the day?

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