For the third day in a row, a group runner-up has beaten as a group winner as the Russians upset heavily-favored Netherlands to advance to the semifinals of Euro 2008.
In case you missed it, here is a brief recap of today’s quarterfinal contest:
RUSSIA 3, NETHERLANDS 1 2OT: Substitute Dmitri Torbinski and star Andrei Arshavin scored goals in the second period of extra to propel the Russians to a massive upset win over Netherlands, which was favored by many to win Euro 2008 but now finds itself eliminated. Following a scoreless first half in which Russia and Netherlands both had some bright moments, Roman Pavlyuchenko put the Russians ahead in the 56th minute before Ruud van Nistelrooy equalized with just four minutes remaining.
MY ANALYSIS: Inasmuch as Germany beating Portugal and Turkey beating Croatia were considered ‘upsets’, they weren’t stunners.
This one is.
OK, many said they thought Russia could give Netherlands a run for its money when the two nations met in the quarterfinals, but very few people actually thought the Russians would prevail.
However, Russia showed up for what proved to be 120 minutes, Netherlands didn’t and the end product was a huge, huge win for the Russians.
You can’t really say that Russia doesn’t deserve to move on. From start to finish, the Russians more than matched their heavily-favored opponents going both ways.
With the brilliant Andrei Arshavin pulling the strings in midfield, Russia exposed the Dutch backline on several occasions, and I thought perhaps more importantly, the Russians played extremely well defensively.
Aside from a small lapse for about 10 minutes late in the second half, during which Netherlands equalized, Russia played brilliantly defensively and frustrated the life out of the Dutch. Netherlands star Wesley Sneijder and his attacking cohorts were absent for large segments of this quarterfinal contest, and I give credit to the Russians for preventing them from getting into dangerous positions.
TODAY’S STAR MAN: Andrei Arshavin, Russia. This attacking forward played extremely well after returning from suspension against Sweden on the final day of group play, and he turned in a sensational display against Netherlands to propel Russia into the semifinals. Over 120 minutes, he orchestrated Russia’s attack, and his deflected late goal clinched Russia’s triumph.
TODAY’S TOP GOAL: Roman Pavlyuchenko’s goal vs. Russia. None of today’s four goals were really superb, but I’ll go for this one, which resulted from crisp movement by the Russians. In the 54th minute, they play the ball around well, and it’s eventually crossed from the left side toward the center, where Pavlyuchenko sweeps it home.
Spain vs. Italy, ESPN, 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?