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.
To set the scene: Ukraine’s in its first ever European championship, and the team’s only there because they’re one of the host countries. They’re playing their first match at home. The crowd’s massive. Their major star, Andriy Shevchenko, is 35 years old, clearly at the end of his career. The commentators—and presumably the Ukrainian fans as well—were surprised to see Shevchenko in the starting lineup. Ukraine’s manager would use him sparingly, they thought. Early in the second half, Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores the first goal of the match. The commentators began to speculate about when a substitute would come on for Shevchenko. And then, in the 55th minute, this happened.