The first former Soviet-bloc nations to host the quadrennial tournament have spent almost $39 billion getting ready, including $25 billion in Poland and $14 billion in Ukraine. Besides accommodating an expected 1 million soccer fans, the two countries are betting that new stadiums, roads, and other infrastructure will help give a nice boost to their economies and local companies.
So far, it hasn’t worked out that way. Three of Poland’s biggest construction companies have declared bankruptcy in recent weeks after running up hundreds of millions in losses on Euro 2012 projects.
Ukraine, meanwhile, is saddled with $6 billion to $8 billion in debt from the championships—more than the $4 billion Greece lost on its financially ruinous 2004 Olympics, says Anatolii Baronin, an analyst at Kiev-based research group Da Vinci.
notes on yesterday’s matches
France v. Ukraine, 2-0
Sadly for Shevchenko, Ukraine couldn’t replicate Monday’s heroic efforts. This match was most notable for the weather. Did I miss something or do soccer matches routinely continue during thunder and lightning? I was surprised that the match started at all, given that the anthems were upstaged by loud claps of thunder. Then when the umpire stopped the match a few minutes in, the impression I got from the commentators was that his decision was based not on the lightning but on the standing water. Yet, as former goalkeeper/now commentator Kasey Keller mentioned, it’s all well and good for the players who are running around on the open pitch, but the goalkeepers spend the entire time standing near large metal posts, which can’t possibly be safe. So I’m confused. I get the standing water/ball handling issues, but surely players aren’t supposed to play under threat of lightning, right?
England v. Sweden, 3-2
The Three Lions had one mission: remain in contention after the first two matches so that Wayne Rooney’s return on Tuesday means something. DONE. Let’s be under no illusions: England hasn’t miraculously become one of the top teams in this tournament. But the three England goals today were fantastic: the Andy Carroll header of beauty, the Theo Walcott goal out of nowhere, and the sensational Danny Welbeck backheel flick. Defending was decent, although to be honest, I was more impressed by the blocks made by Germany’s Boateng and Ireland’s (yes, Ireland’s) Dunne. Hart remains impressive in goal: while there were a few dicey moments, his save of a powerful Ibrahimovic strike with just his fingers tells the tale.
Thoughts about the final round of the group stage
- There are only two teams that are definitively out: Ireland and Sweden.
- The Netherlands might as well be out, but there is a series of events that could happen that would qualify them. (What those combinations are, I’ll leave to somebody else to explain.)
- I would love for Ukraine to get through, but to do so, they’d have to beat England, so unfortunately, my support must go elsewhere.
- Tomorrow: I’d really like Poland to get through. Błaszczykowski’s goal on Tuesday was so sensational that it alone means that Poland deserves to go through. Not to mention the really sensational work of reserve keeper Przemysław Tytoń, who not only saved a penalty kick the moment he replaced Wojciech Szczęsny but then did stellar work during the second game which Szczęsny had to sit out. (And there needs to be at least one host country in the knockout stage.)
- I understand the purpose of the simultaneous scheduling, but still: I’d rather watch both matches back to back than either toggle back and forth or make a choice.
Sensational goal from Polish captain Jakub “Kuba” Błaszczykowski!!
notes from yesterday’s matches
Czech Republic v. Greece, 2-1
We’re now in the second round of the group stage, and teams are starting to separate themselves. Of the two matches, this was the less interesting. That said, Theodor Gebre Selassie of the Czech Republic continues to distinguish himself, notching an assist on the team’s second gold.
Poland v. Russia, 1-1
The match of the day with the goal of the day. Monday, it was Andriy Shevchenko saving the day for a host nation. Yesterday, Poland’s Kuba Błaszczykowski nailed a gorgeous equalizer early in the second half. Even better, the goal came out of nowhere, less than 20 seconds after a blocked offensive attempt from Russia.
- Since Russia didn’t win and the Czech Republic didn’t lose, every team in Group A is still in contention to move to the knockout rounds. Saturday should be interesting.
- ESPN must have a music contract with Coldplay. Every single end-of-day montage is to their music.
notes from yesterday’s matches
Poland v. Greece, 1-1
What a game. Dubious red card (from two dubious yellows) against Greece in the first half. Greece upped its game significantly in the second half, scoring a quick goal. Then the drama really began. Poland’s goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny was sent off in the middle of the second half for tripping a Greek player charging towards the goal. Szczęsny—who is Arsenal’s goalkeeper, so he’s pretty essential—won’t play Poland’s next game. On came the replacement keeper, who promptly managed to save a penalty kick. High drama.
Russia v. Czech Republic, 4-1
Not a ton to report. The Czech Republic’s defense was a disaster. Someone I paid a lot of attention to was defender Theodor Gebre Selassie, the first black player for the Czech Republic. Gebre Selassie seemed fast and was involved in a lot of offensive drives. But his constant offensive presence was a symptom of the Czech problem: an ineffective offense required backup, which constantly drew defenders like Gebre Selassie away from their half, opening up holes that Russia constantly exploited on fast breaks.
- ESPN coverage briefly mentioned John Terry during their review of England’s chances, but there was no mention of his impending trial or of the latest kerfuffle over Rio Ferdinand. Will we see a more thorough examination of this on Monday when England plays?
- ESPN coverage repeatedly mentioned the racist taunting issue at the Dutch practice yesterday. They don’t seem to have any new reporting on the issue, so we’re stuck with captain Mark von Bommel’s word. (He’s white.) His father-in-law, the coach, says he didn’t hear anything, but von Bommel moved the team to the other side of the stadium.
- Alan Dzagoev, this year’s Wayne Rooney? Two goals yesterday in his first major international outing.
- Commentator Derek Rae used the phrase “full of eastern promise” to refer to the match between Russia and the Czech Republic. There’s no need to indulge in this kind of clichéd stereotype.
- Roger Bennett’s ESPN rundown of yesterday’s play
- ESPN’s Ravi Ubha on the Russia/Czech Republic match
Bright spot for the Czechs: Theodor Gebre Selassie, the first black player to represent the Czechs, was caught at the back in the early going. That was the bad. But the good from Selassie was that, unlike most of his teammates, he wasn’t lacking in energy and made several fine runs. When he’s upfield, he has to get better support behind him.
- Infighting in the Dutch camp over what exactly happened at that practice?
- UEFA’s finally accepted that monkey chants happened at the practice, and now England manager Roy Hodgson is worried.
The slow reaction of the governing body caused alarm throughout football with various prominent figures questioning why an investigation had not been immediately launched into the incident.
The Football Association is also concerned that England might be subjected to similar abuse when their Euro 2012 campaign kicks off on Monday amid fears that the problem is even more widespread in Ukraine.
Rio Ferdinand, who was controversially omitted from Roy Hodgson’s squad, said via Twitter: “Tell me I didn’t see this … the Dutch team getting abuse already? Hope this isn’t a sign of things to come”.