An absolutely huge deal came about today, as Brazilian midfielder Ronaldinho will apparently be off to AC Milan from F.C Barcelona. The deal is said to be worth $33,000,000 for 3 years. The report from Reuters says:

“AC Milan and Barcelona have reached an agreement in principle over the transfer of Ronaldinho,” Milan said in a statement on their website (www.acmilan.com) on Tuesday.

So my April Fools Joke a while back ended up being not too far off. Not surprised Ronaldinho was moved, but goodness AC Milan how many Brazilians do you need?

Manchester City must feel devastated, but as a United supporter, I feel more confident that City won’t be winning at Old Trafford for a while. 🙂

Curse You Mother Nature!

Posted: June 25, 2008 in Euro 2008, Soccer

Turkey are done. They finally were killed off in a classic game against Germany 3-2 in Basel today.

Germany are the first team in the final, and with the halftime score at 1-1 (Turkey scored first on a Urga Boral goal and then Bastian Schweinsteiger equalized 4 minutes later) and Turkey outplaying the Germans (and shorthanded mind you as far as healthy players), it looked like Turkey could pull this off. But Miroslav Klose’s header gave Germany the lead 2-1. Semih Senturk tied it at 2-2 with just 4 minutes to go, Turkey did it again, came back from the dead to force extra tim……Phillipp Lahm sends Germany through on a brilliant strike in the 90th minute.

Why is this piece nondescript? Because the TV feed was knocked out on several occasions (2 goals were missed as a result) in the 2nd half due to massive storms and lightning strikes.

More on this later, congratulations to Turkey on a great run, horrible way to go out, but congratulations to Germany for pulling through, and they are off to Vienna for the final.

Well, I went 1 of 4 in my picks last time around, so I’m going to be really careful with this one.

Germany vs. Turkey

Basel awaits the favorite team

The other is living out a stunning dream

One side is limping and losing players left and right

The other side is trying to avoid another disappointing night

I think the goals will come few and far between

The favorite side wins 2-0, Lehmann will see a sheet that is clean.

Russia vs. Spain

Have we not seen this before?

Spain dominated the first match and boy did they score

David Villa had a hat trick, scored one goal since

Russia will be better, those are words I will not mince

They are fast, they are strong, they can blast it from long range

Goals will be aplenty, but the Russians win 3-2 (AET) for a change

The Nine Lives of Turkey

Posted: June 25, 2008 in Euro 2008

Turkey are definitely the “Cinderellas” of Euro 2008. Guess how many minutes they’ve lead in this tournament? A total of 4 minutes in 4 games, one of them they lost 2-0. Yet, they are in the semi-finals of the European Championships for the first time ever.

They needed to beat the co-hosts Switzerland to stay alive in the group stage, and after falling 1-0 at the half, they got an equalizer in the 57th minute on a header by Semih Senturk. Just when they were destined for a draw, Arda Turan’s deflected shot hit the back of the net, and in stoppage time, Switzerland were out, and Turkey’s final match against the Czech Republic would still have meaning.

Their 2nd comeback was considered one of the greatest in Euro history. The winner of Czech Republic/Turkey would advance to the quarterfinals, and a draw in the match would’ve meant penalties because all of the tiebreakers had run out. Jan Koller headed the ball home in what would be his final goal in international competition, and Jaroslav Plasil made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute. Looks like it’s game over right? Arda Turan scores in the 75th minute and it looks like Turkey have a chance at penalties. They were pressuring and pressuring and Petr Cech, considered the best goalkeeper in the world, in the rain, made the fatal mistake of failing to catch a simple cross, and Nihat took advantage of an empty net, 2-2 in the 87th minute.

Penalties seemed to be the destiny for these two sides, which was a shame, because it was a classic match. Nihat though was onside in the 89th minute, a wonderful pass found his feet, and he lofted it past Cech for the winner, 3-2, and Turkey pull off a miracle. However, Turkish goalkeeper Volkan Demirel was sent off for stupidly shoving Koller in the back near the end of the game. He will not play again until the final should they advance.

Next came Croatia, the team that won all of their group games, including a stunning upset of Germany. The game had to go to extra time after a stale 90 minutes, and with 3 minutes to go, there was no sign that there would be a goal in this game. In the 119th minute, the Turkish goalkeeper, Rustu, made a poor decision by following the ball near the touchline (his near post), he could not get to it, and the 2nd cross found Ivan Klasnic for the winner….so they thought.

Just 1 minute (minimum) of stoppage time, Rustu needed to kick the ball as far as possible and hope for a miracle from his teammates. It would be the last kick of the game, and another Turkish miracle.

Read the rest of this entry »

Well, the two teams I thought would finish last in their groups (Russia, Turkey), ended up winning their last 2 games and are in the quarterfinals, while France……finished dead last when I had them in the semi-finals.

Today begins the knockout rounds of Euro 2008! And of course my predictions:

Portugal vs. Germany

Yikes, this almost seems like a mismatch. The Germans have a good defense, but they really have not had much of an offense. Lukas Podolski has scored all the goals in the run of play, while Michael Ballack had the other goal via the free kick against Austria. Oh yeah, German manager Joachim Low will be watching from the stands after bickering with the Austrian manager, so the assistant better be just as effective on the touchline.

Portugal attack at will, they slotted home 3 past Petr Cech (then it was Turkey’s turn) with relative ease. Nuno Gomes and Deco and of course Ronaldo have been the key for Portugal in the group stage, and I think they win this one 3-0.

EDIT: Crap, my team is out because they can’t handle set pieces, 3-2 Germany on to the semis.

Turkey vs. Croatia

It’s a Turkish delight! They’ve come from 1 goal down and 2 goals down to advance to the quarterfinals, but they will now face their toughest test, against the Croats, who have yet to lose and have conceded just one goal. Nihat and Kazim Kazim are definitely the key for the Turks, and falling behind is apparently a good thing.

The backline breaks up plays very well for Croatia, and they really won me over with their dominating display against Germany. I think the defense will be just enough to pull out a cagey 2-0 win.

Netherlands vs. Russia

Guus Hiddink does it again! Every national team he has managed advances to the knockout stage of a major tournament. Russia seemed to totally befuddle the Swedes with their attacking play, and they are one of the youngest sides in the tournament. I think they have the offense to keep up with the Dutch, but attacking too much could lead to counter-attacks for the Netherlands.

What can I say, the Dutch have been the most exciting team to watch in the tournament. They have put up 9 goals and have allowed just 1 goal. Many pundits were doubting the Dutch because of their defending, but they have silenced them now.

Wesley Sneijder and Gio Van Bronckhorst are playing very well, and I think they will both get goals and a 2-1 win over Russia.

Italy vs. Spain

I’m still not convinced with this Italian side. They will be without the services of Andrea Pirlo after receiving his second yellow card in group stage, and while their performance against France was good, a team like Spain plays very much like the Netherlands with good attacking play and a passable midfield and backline.

David Villa is on his way to getting a golden boot with 4 goals already, the best has yet to come from Fernando Torres, I will stick with the side I believe will make it to the finals, with a 2-0 win.

Just shocking news that came at around 1:08 PM PST, Portugal manager Big Phil Scolari has accepted the position of Chelsea manager, effective after Euro 2008 ends. Scolari planned to leave the national side even before the Chelsea job was even in question, but this announcement comes just hours after Portugal beat the Czech Republic 3-1, effectively sealing a quarterfinals position.

This is quite an interesting announcement considering the time of it, but there should be a press release an hour later, ESPN commentator Adrian Healey just announced it. There will be more to come, so Phil Scolari replaces Avram Grant as Chelsea manager.

Group A

1. Portugal – I think there is too much talent for them not to win this group. Cristiano Ronaldo is at the top of his game (isn’t that right Real Madrid?), Deco heads a strong midfield, and they should have this one locked up.

2. Switzerland – They’re the co-hosts, I think they’ll do anything to please their fans, and with the forward play of Frei and Streller, I think they will pull off a surprise.

3. Czech Republic – This is the type of team that will underachieve when expected to win, as evidenced in the 2006 World Cup. Another repeat here, and yes, it’s their inconsistent offense that will kill them.

4. Turkey – If they make it I’ll eat my hat.

Group B

1. Germany – I need an explanation?

2. Croatia – The race for 2nd will be very close, and I think Croatia’s backline will make the difference. They weren’t even supposed to be here, but England’s incompetence ensured they would advance. Niko Kranjcar is a very under-appreciated midfielder, and he is one of my key players for this side.

3. Poland – I don’t know why, maybe it’s the first appearance in the European championships, maybe it’s the fact that they’re playing in a very tough group that I think they’ll probably fall short of 2nd.

4. Austria – Are they even ranked? I think they’ll put up a very good effort like Switzerland, but they do not have the talent just yet to get the breakthrough.

Group C

1. France – Henry, Malouda, Thuram, this is a very dangerous French side that’s in the Group of Death, and with their solid attacking play, I believe that even if they lose to Italy, they’ll still beat Romania and the Netherlands and win the group.

2. Netherlands – Robin Van Persie and Dirk Kuyt are world class strikers, Edwin Van Der Sar at the age of 38 is still a solid goalkeeper, I see them nudging out Italy for the 2nd spot.

3. Italy – Losing Fabio Cannavaro really hurt them. The defense is just not the same without them, and this is after all, a very unpredictable tournament, out goes Italy.

4. Romania – The weakest of the strong teams, but I don’t expect them to be humiliated.

Group D

1. Spain – If you have Fernando Torres, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, and David Villa and not win, you have problem. This could be the side that scores the most goals in the tournament.

2. Greece – Why not? They are the defending champions, they want to prove it was not a fluke. I believe them and they will be in the quarterfinals.

3. Sweden – Unfortunately, in a tournament full of young stars like Ronaldo and Torres, the Swedes are old and cannot keep up with the likes of Spain or Greece.

4. Russia – Lucky if they win one game.

Quarterfinals

Portugal 2 Croatia 0

Germany 3 Switzerland 1

France 1 Greece 0

Spain 1 Netherlands 1 (Spain win 5-3 on penalties)

Semifinals

Portugal 2 Germany 1 (AET)

Spain 1 France 0

Final

Portugal 2 (Ronaldo 34, 65)  Spain 1 (Villa 57)

Golden Boot: Cristiano Ronaldo (5 goals)

Have a great time everyone and enjoy the tournament.