Can Guus help Russia break their duck?
History will look kindly on the group stage of this Euro 2008 competition. Every team, with the exception of those galling Gauls, contributed something to the cause. Even the more quiet flops-- Greece and Poland-- gifted us some highlights for the DVD. Poland got posterized by the Austrians, who notched their only goal of the championship in the clubs' Group B matchup. And it was Greek goaltender Antonis Nikopoidis who let up the howler of the championship-- thus far-- as his side were eliminated by the Russians. I'm not sure the real George Clooney would've looked much worse on that one.
But we turn our attentions now to Innsbruck, and today's group stage finale between Russia and Sweden. Neither side has impressed to this point, but a win here-- as little as a draw in Sweden's case-- should be enough to wipe clear the memory of underwhelming efforts against Spain and Greece.
The quick reset: Russia is through with a win. Sweden need just a point. Both sides will be counting on less-than-fit stars. Ibrahimovic for Sweden has a nicked up knee, while Russian captain Arshevin hasn't played since a June 4th friendly due to suspension.
The lineups (Arshevin as sub or starter? Zlatan in the fold at all?), the action, the liveblog... all after the jump
Russia: Akinfeev, Kolodine, Ignashevitch, Anyukov, Zyryanov, Zhirkov, Semshov, Semak, Bilyaletdinov, Pavluchenko, Arshavin.
Sweden: Isaksson, Stoor, Nilsson, Mellberg, Hansson, Svensson, Ljungberg, Andersson, Larsson, Ibrahimovic, Elmander.
Ref: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium)
-45 min: Both sides' big boys have made it into the Starting XI. How long they can hang in there remains to be seen.
Now if you'd excuse me I'm going to spend the next half-hour studying the Swedish names. Fuck the Russians. That's hopeless. Expect platitudinous nicknames...
-23 min: Just took a peek over at the lineups for that utterly meaningless Spain v. Greece match. Seems Louie Boy is trotting out Cesc as part of his Si Team. Be a shame to see the boy get hurt in such a throwaway of a match. Knock on wood for his health...
-5 min: Those Adidas commercials are less special without the Inter manager.
-4 min: Good to see that Tommy Smyth, along with Howard Webb, have been banished to the "B" game.
-3 min: Swedish national anthem sounds a bit like "My Old Kentucky Home." Anyone else notice this?
1 min: And we are underway! Fast enough Bigus??
1 min: Swedes are yellow with blue shorts. The Russkies in their standard red, going from right to left on your television set.
2 min: Long throw from Sweden's Stoor is poked at by Ibrahimovic-- whose studs nick the Russian defender. Ouch.
3 min: Arshavin spots out Pavs with a long cross field pass. A bit too far, but recovered for an attacking throw.
4 min: a clumsy header from Hansson earns Russia a corner.
6 min: Arshavin, switching to the right, makes some neat moves into the box, but too many russian chefs make a shit-stew of it.
8 min: Jumper's Knee to compete with Excessive Bickering for bizarre, concocted expression of the tournament.
10 min: Ibrahimovic "jumps" high enough to nod down a long free kick. Afinkeev scoops it up before the cavalry arrives.
11 min: Down the other end, a yellow for Sweden GK Isaksson. He booted the ball away from a Russian before a corner... which amounts to nothing.
12 min: Elmander takes a swipe for Sweden, from about 25 years. Into the stratosphere it goes.
14 min: Aniukov sends a cross into the box, which Arshavin glances wide to the keeper's right. Slippery bunch this Russia team.
min: Russia continue to buzz around the box. Nifty wingers, and they know how to through a cross in too.
You watching this Lennon??
17 min: Arshavin finds a spot in the no-man's land between the Swedish backline and midfield, launches an "optimistic" effort that curls well wide.
19 min: Another clever cross from Russia, another corner.
20 min: Just 20 mins in, but Arshavin and co. have spent a great deal of time in the box. That box is getting worked. Pounded even.
21 min: Isaksson does his best Seaman impression-- almost gets caught out. Leads to a corner that Zhirkov volleys juuuust wide. Closer now.
23 min: a lot of luv for the Russkies on the comments section. Can't imagine why. The Swedes play such thrilling football.
24 min: PAVS for RUSSIA 1-0!!!!
Zurianov to Aniukov to Pavluchenko. Absolutely flawless, incisive work.
26 min: And back to the attack. Sweden are on their heels.
but then comes Larsson with clever header that nips the crossbar.
29 min: The Russian goal a real tribute to what they've been doing the whole match. It began on the right wing, then quickly slanted inward-- one touch passes all-- until Pavluchenko stepped into one. Isaksson had no chance.
32 min: Sweden finally earn a throw-in after chasing the ball for a solid two minutes.
34 min: Larsson tries a give and go on the right wing with Zlatan, but pushed his through ball out the back of the goalline.
35 min: Corner to Russia. Their 5th. None so far for Sweden.
36 min: Skips out to the top of the box for another moon kick. Throw to Sweden.
37 min: Russian counterattack and a crossbar for Pavs! Isaksson paddles away the follow up. Pavlushenko inches away from the brace!
37 min: a Red Wave rolling in at Isaksson. Matter of time you'd have to think. Sweden looks old.
39 min: Would it be crazy to say that Russia should have done better this half? With this type of sustained, devious attack they'd love to have two. Remember, one bit of luck for Sweden and they're back in the driver's seat.
40 min: Perhaps now... on their first corner?
keeper punches clear. Sweden are back in but Akinfeev snatches it up again.
42 min: Larsson slides one in toward goal, just needed a toe on it for a redirection. But alas, Russia are back attacking. Not much stodgy midfield play here.
44 min: Zlatan drops one off to Larsson, whose shot is saved from 15 yards. Sweden back on their toes.
45 min: Russia works the ball between the defenders and Semak (the holding midfielder)... they just need to get out of the half. No bugaboo goals.
and just as fast, Sweden are back in for a corner.
Mellberg just gets his head on the ball, but it dribbles off wide.
45+2 min: Halftime
Julie and co. coming up. Me = heading out.
Half wrap: All Russia for the first 25 minutes. After the goal though they seemed to wane a bit. Still managed better than good possession numbers(61%) for the half. Sweden look tired and old and tentative, but tricky too-- wouldn't put it past them to sneak one in eventually. The Russian defense is certainly suspect. I'd say-- like for Croatia last week-- they need another to feel comfortable.
Foudy now openly pining for Greece's Niko. Ugh. Note: not watching this on HD, thank Jesus. Reece continues his "I don't know shit about this sport, it's below me to get stuck in this studio for all of June, but it's not entirely boring either" routine.
Second half en route.
But first, let's review. The Q-finals so far: Germany v. Portugal(mmmm), Spain v Italy (no luck for the Spanish man... shit), Croatia v. Turkey (who'd be surprised if this were the best game?), and Holland v. (maybe, we hope) Russia... I dig 'em all.
I am Jose Mourinho. I am football coach. But where people need me I will go.
46 min: and we're off! Again!
46 min: Can the Swedes pick up where they left off?
47 min: Lovely bit of header tennis around the middle of the park. Russian into possession.
48 min: Mellberg chucks one backward with an awful header. Corner to the Russians.
49 min: For a team financed by Chelsea money, why are Russia pussy-footing around the box like Arsenal. Cleared. Sweden come back down and are called offside. Elmander plants it in the net anyway, and for his trouble, sees yellow.
50 min: ARSHAVIN GOAL! 2-0 RUSSKIES
Like the first, the build-up was spectacular. Five straigh passes, beginning in their own side, before Arshavin rips one home from near the penalty spot... shot trailing away from Isaksson.
54 min: Considering only Turkey has come back to win in this tournament, from down two in that epic Czech match, I'd say things are looking pretty unlikely for the Swedes. They lack Turkey's pluck. (ho ho!)
55 min: Kallstrom on for Andersson, for (you guess who.)
56 min: Half of the Swedish team has played defense for the (New York hockey) Rangers, I swear.
57 min: Semak receives a yellow card for jumping on Larsson's back.
59 min: Sweden midfield is a gaping hole. Another pass goes astray for a Russia throw.
60 min: Credit now to the Russian defenders. Some probing crosses thrown in by the Swedes, but they're all booted clear without incident.
61 min: Elmander with a little run down the right. Kicked out from him for a Sweden corner.
beautiful corner in, meets with Mellberg's head, then with a fan in Row ZZ. Missed opportunity.
64 min: Russia losing some of its shape, focus. Sweden looks bereft of ideas though.
66 min: Arshavin booked for a lazy, knee-to-knee "tackle." Saenko on for Bilyaletdinov, for (guess who?)
67 min: Long ball for Arshavin, poked out behind the Swedish goal by Storr. Might have gotten a piece of the keeper too. The corner though is a laser out of play. Goal kick.
69 min: Nice run from recent entry Saenko. Una otra corner for Russia.
70 min: a trip from Swedish defender Svensson gives a free kick to Russia on edge of the box...
and it just curls over the cross-bar.
72 min: Afinkeev bravely punches clear as Larsson's dome comes torpedoing in.
73 min: Larsson spots out Zlatan for a header inside the box (no defenders to be found) but again, Afinkeev is stood up right in place.
75 min: Last gasp for Sweden. Need one now. Ljungberg earns a 25 yd free kick for his side. Someone want to step up?
76 min: Zlatan launches a satellite. More likely to trouble Sputnik than Afinkeev.
79 min: Allback on for Nilsson for Sweden. Allback? Did he score against England in Germany '06?? Know he was shite for Villa.
80 min: Zurianov with a zig-zagging run in that takes a deflection before smashing the post. Finally headed out of danger.
82 min: Pavs stands up in the box and nods a header into Isaksson.
cleared, but the Russians are back in. Another cross, on the ground, for Pavluchenko, but he's a bit behind it. Goal kick.
84 min: Who's playing more Total Football than Russia right now. Only Holland, if that. Should be a cracker on Sunday.
and yes, I've literally written off Sweden. Or liveblogged them off. On a scale of 1 to Done, Sweden are a 9.7.
89 min: Trading long balls at this point. Both sides have clearly moved on to thoughts of the incredibly beautiful women with whom they will be wrestling this evening.
Rumors of Ibrahimovic's presence on the pitch has been greatly exaggerated.
90 min: Flashes of brilliance from the midfield, but Russia has got to be encouraged by their backline. They've routinely beaten the bigger, taller Swedes to headers in the area.
and a Swedish man in horrendous drag invades our screen. Prompt refocusing by ESPN.
90 + 3 min: Nice to Roman has finally gotten his money's worth. An exciting and ballsy team he's funded (the Russians.) Mirror image to that club from London. You know, the one that finished second in all the competitions in which they did not get knocked out of by Barnsley.
90 + 4 min: Full Time. Russia 2-0 is our final. Russia through to the Q-final
Not much more to say then. Couldn't have a better final eight teams. Should be dramatic stuff. Until then... Thanks.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Posted by The Likely Lad at 2:15 PM