Thoughts on the First Round

Switzerland straight up outplayed the Czechs and were unlucky not to get a point or more.  But that?s football.

Croatia desperately miss Eduardo.  They completely run out of ideas in the attacking third, and Modric spent way too much of their match against Austria holding back way too deep when he is the creative spark that absolutely must get forward.  That being said, despite the 1-0 loss that was better performance by the Austrians than I ever expected. 

Jens Lehmann continues to be the biggest punchline in professional soccer.  I can?t decide on which stage he is more the buffoon, the pitch or the pressroom. 

France coach Domenech must be fired regardless of the outcome of this tournament.  If they go anywhere it will surely be in spite of him, not because of him.  He is employing the same worthless empty bucket midfield that he had success with at the world cup, with two defensive midfielders set behind the two wide players employed more forward and centrally.  But there is one huge and telling difference between these teams, and that?s the gaping absence of the brilliance of Zinedine Zidane.  The empty bucket is just that, empty, without someone that stands in class above his peers filling that bucket as an attacking midfielder.  In the world cup it was the empty bucket, overflowing with Zidane, but in this present formation there is nothing but empty space there.  Without Viera at least coming forward there was never in that Romania match a bit of danger in the middle of the pitch.  All the French attack had to come from the wings because that?s the only place any players were employed.  Romania is getting all the credit for a stingy defense but when all you have to do is defend crosses (and they still let up two golden chances there) even an average side can look strong.  Makalele and Toulalan, while both excellent players in their own right, have no place on the pitch at the same time, unless you are desperately defending a 1-0 lead in the final minutes.  You?re never going to get a goal out of those two though.  And then there is the matter of the insipid and gutless substitution decisions.  60 minutes turned to 70 in a game with no creativity and still there was no movement on the bench.  When new blood was finally injected into the game it was basically just fresh legs on with no challenge at actually taking the game.  Domenech seemed very comfortable with settling for the 0-0 draw against a team that showed nothing in attack all day and in the easiest of their three Group of Death matches.  One point that could easily haunt them on the last day if Italy and the Netherlands both take 3 from the same opponent.   

The Netherlands looked good but considering one of their goals was perhaps the most controversial decision I?ve ever seen and the other two began from being cleared off the line that game could easily have been 2-0 in favor of the Italians if the refs see the first goal a different way and the two cleared balls were directed only a few inches differently.  But what this game does is boost and shatter confidence.  The Dutch will be riding high but I still see them crumbling at the first sign of adversity.  The Romanians also will be riding high and thinking they have a real chance in the next round.  But the Italians look like a shell of a team.  Now is when they need that captain?s armband around Cannavaro most. 
As for that goal, the offsides one.  Impartially, I think the call on the field to let it stand was the correct one outright; but personally I think the Italians got exactly what they deserved.  I am sick and tired of the Italians and all their play acting and fake injuries and here is the perfect example.  If the player gets back up and rushes back on the field then either he puts Van Nistlerooy offsides or else his defensive partners recognize his presence and drop back the yard to deny the pass in any case.  So no goal, but instead he milks the collision pretending to be injured and lays off the pitch and paid the price.  Justice is served. 

Spain ran through Russia, sure, but Russia never had the defense to hold off Spain?s fury up front anyway and they are two men down in their starting lineup.  I am not jumping on the Spanish bandwagon until they prove their mettle by breaking down a Geek defense for multiple goals or show the same stuff against Sweden. 

So those are my thoughts on round one.  Oh, and the refs suck, but what else is new?