With one swing of the boot it all changed. Greece advancing? Who would have thought. Poland and Russia ebbed like the tide that brought them in during the second half of their matches and the work that had brought the sides to this point was nullified by two moments of brilliance on the counter attack. I was genuinely shocked, more shocked than I was when I found out that Spurs fired Redknapp. My eyes gradually looked more and more like Özil’s as the matches progressed and it slowly became apparent that the two worst teams on the group (entering the final day) were going to be progressing. This made me feel uncomfortable.
Some of the other emotions I encountered throughout the day:
- Annoyance with Russia ; Wonderment at the wastefulness of Kerzhakov
- Appreciation of Tyton’s performances. Quality.
- Fatalistic determinism for Poland after they spurned their chances early
- Joy for Karagounis, what a legend.
- Questioning the Universe
Bewilderment is the best honestly, all clairvoyance aside I could have never foretold THIS result. Russia wasn’t going to lose, they would at least get a draw. Poland could triumph over the Czech’s minus their talisman couldn’t they? These teams had too much quality and were easily the best in the group, right? I was strangely and tolerably proven wrong. The team that worked harder and was more disciplined won both of these matches. This is becoming a trend. We have this basic assumption that individual and collective quality will prevail in every match, but it is a fallacy. It is much harder to unlock a disciplined defense than it is to beat a few isolated opponents on the counter. Chelsea’s opponents fell pray to this trap in the Champions League and Russia (who had been one of the better teams in the tournament) have just been victimized by the same ploy.
These results portend to the rest of Round 3 being equally provocative, will Germany and Spain even go through? Can the English “work ethic” that we have seen in the first two matches continue to get results? Will either Croatia or Italy advance?
All of these questions will be answered in the coming days and it promises to be some of the best football we will see all year. I can’t say that I predicted (or wanted) the results today, but it restored some of my faith in footballing parity and I look forward to more possible upsets rolling in like fog on the horizon.