Austrian-Dutch madness a taste of things to come?
If Wednesday’s friendlies involving the 16 Euro 2008 finalists are anything to go by, the June event should be a real treat for the fans, with plenty of goals, near-misses and desperate defending, and the chance of a few shocks too.
Written off by most pundits as little more than a punching bag, the Austrians showed in the first 30 minutes of their astonishing 4-3 defeat to the Netherlands that they might be a tough nut to crack playing at home after all.
A fierce Austrian onslaught coupled with a comedy of errors at the back by the Dutch, never really known for their defensive strength, gave the co-hosts a 3-0 lead before the “Oranje” turned the match on its head.
Poland’s Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker tipped his team to be the Euro 2008 surprise package after their impressive qualifying campaign but the 3-0 defeat by the United States suggests they might end up as mere also-rans.
Poor defending from set-pieces did not cost the Poles on the road to Euro 2008 as they were able to outscore their opponents most of the time but it could undo them at the next level.
Germany made it clear they are rightly one of the tournament favourites with a 4-0 drubbing of Switzerland, the other co-hosts, with Miroslav Klose taking his international tally to 38 goals in 73 matches.
Anyone prepared to write off defending champions Greece may want to reconsider after their 2-1 victory over Portugal in a repeat of the Euro 2004 final. It was Greece’s third consecutive win over a team widely regarded as one of the world’s most talented outfits.
Romania’s 3-0 rout of eastern European rivals Russia and their effervescent performance suggests they have a fighting chance of surviving the “Group of Death.”
Croatia’s famous 3-2 win over England fuelled high hopes of glory among the country’s fans and media but Eduardo’s horrible injury and last month’s 3-0 defeat to the Dutch instilled more modest expectations of reaching the last eight.
England’s conquerors were not impressive in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Scotland at Hampden Park and their current form suggests they will do well to progress to the quarter-finals.
As ever, there are at least half a dozen heavyweights and it seems inevitable that one of them will be crowned European champions on June 29… unless someone can do a Greece. Give us your thoughts on that in the comments.
PHOTO: Klaas Jan Huntelaar (L) scores for the Dutch against Austria in Vienna, March 26, 2008. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger