A look at Euro 2008: Day 8

Two rounds of the group stages are complete at Euro 2008, and on Day 8, Spain qualified for the quarterfinal stages while defending champs Greece were dumped out.

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

SPAIN 2, SWEDEN 1: Euro 2008 leading scorer David Villa slotted home in the 92nd minute as Spain netted a dramatic late win and qualified for the next round. Strike partner Fernando Torres opened the scoring for Spain in the 15th minute, but Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic pegged the Spanish back 19 minutes later.

RUSSIA 1, GREECE 0: Sergei Semak crossed the ball deep from the right side after Greece keeper Antonis Nikolidis flapped on the play in the 33rd minute, and Konstantin Zyryanov slotted it home to lift the Russians to a critical win while eliminating the defending champions. Greece, shocking winners four years ago, haven’t scored in Euro 2008 and find themselves already eliminated from the competition.

MY ANALYSIS: Rock-solid defending provided the foundation for Greece’s magical run to the Euro 2004 championship. But four years later? Not so much. Whether it was the backline, the goalkeeper or just team defense, nobody in a Greece uniform defended particularly well at Euro 2008, and the result is elimination.
In my opinion, one of the more enjoyable aspects of the Euro championships is its ruthlessness, and we got a taste of that today ‘ in both games.
Zyryanov provided it to knock out Greece, and in today’s early contest between Spain and Sweden, David Villa gave a taste of it to Sweden. With the game looking to be headed to a 1-1 draw, he latched on to a hopeful long ball, capitalized on poor Swedish defending and smashed the ball home.
Just like that, Spain went from having to worry about its final group game to clinching top spot in Group D.
And on the other hand, Sweden now faces a winner-take-all showdown with Russia for the right to join Spain in the quarterfinals. Sweden has a better goal difference than Russia, so a draw will get them through. And in my opinion, Sweden has clearly shown more than Russia so far. However, it only takes one moment of magic ‘ or madness ‘ to change everything, and the Russians will definitely feel like they have a shot.

TODAY’S STAR MAN: David Villa, Spain. There was definitely a dearth of outstanding individual performances today, so I’ll go for Villa, the current leading scorer of Euro 2008 with four goals in two games. Unlike Spain’s opener against Russia, in which Villa terrorized the opposition from start to finish, the striker didn’t have many opportunities to do anything against Sweden. But presented with a single chance in the dying moments, he produced a fantastic finish to send Spain to the knock-out stages.

TODAY’S TOP GOAL: Fernando Torres vs. Sweden. In describing this goal, Grant Wahl of SI pointed out that while he normally hates short corners, this one worked to perfection. I completely agree on both counts. Early in the first half, David Villa sent a short corner to David Silva, who arrowed the ball toward the path of Torres at the near post. With one adroit touch of the ball, he directed it past the keeper and in.

SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE:
Group A
Czech Republic vs. Turkey, ESPN2, 12:30 p.m.
Portugal vs. Switzerland, ESPN Classic, 12:30 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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