And so far indeed it has been! I am still yet to watch the full 90 minutes of any of the games. The most would probably be Holland vs Romania which I watched for about 60 minutes. Working during the days and my travel by bus to and from work really drains the energy out of me to an extent that I usually am a sleep by 11.
But that doesn't prevent me from writing my share does it? Here goes.
Holland is no doubt the biggest surprise package. Few predicted the team to be able to emerge from the 'Group of Death', let alone predict them to do so which such style. They outplayed the old tiring legs of Italy in their opening match 3-0, then demolished the uninspiring France 4-1. Their reserves beat Romania 2-0. Not only their attack was proven to be superb, their back line is as water tight as ever after just conceding once.
If Holland was a surprise for being superb, France was surprising for performing way below par. Their so called reliable defense was torn into shreds as they were bombarded with four goals against Holland. Then they conceded another two against Italy. On the other side, France only managed to score once, even with the likes of Thierry Henry, Frank Ribery and new comer, Karim Benzema all playing. This was such a disappointing campaign for them, one very similar to the 2002 World Cup in Japan/Korea where they too where eliminated at group stage. Another similarity between these two campaigns is the fact that they played without their talismanic play maker, the legendary Zinadane Zidane. In 2002, he was injured and played minimum parts of the campaign. The player hung his boots after the 2006 World Cup loss.
The old rags of Italy proved once and again, that they might not have that blistering speed in their ranks, but surely the experience. And their experience prevailed. After a humbling in the hands of the Dutch, they picked themselves up by un-lucking-ly drew with Romania with a Luca Toni goal incorrectly ruled out for offside. And then, they went on to beat France in the winner's-take-all game. Surely Italy's squad has the highest average player age, but with the experience they have, no one can be too certain where they'll end up this time around.
Beaten Euro 2004 finalist, Portugal also emerged as favorites for the championship. And they showed us why by convincingly winning their group (although losing to the Swiss in the final game). They have since bowed out to the likes of Germany in the quarter finals. There's still a long way to go for Portugal's young promising squad consisting of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho and Ricardo Quaresma. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will be plying his trade at Stamford Bridge after it was reviled that he was the new Chelsea coach, where as Ronaldo's continuous transfer speculation would be finalized in the next few days, according to the player.
Germany has failed to make it from the group stages of Euro since 1996. However, being Germans, they were still tipped as favorites for this edition. They barely made it out of the group stages this time, after losing to Croatia and an unconvincing 1-0 victory over the lowly Austrians. But they have since upped a notch by deposing Portugal 3-2 in the quarters even without their suspended coach Joachim Low.
Another Euro powerhouse would be Spain. The 4-1 win over the Russians raised eyebrows and on lookers doubted their ability to maintain that form. They proved their doubters wrong by winning 2-1 against Sweden before completing their route with a 2-0 win over Greece. With in form strike pair of Fernando Torres and David Villa, they would surely stand a chance to end their trophy less hoodoo stretching back since 1964 by winning this championship. David Villa, with four goals to his name so far, is in contention to become the leading scorer.
Giant killers, Croatia are seeking to be the major cause of upsets. They've already knocked out England in qualifying, then later, in the group stages, won 2-1 against the Germans. They regard themselves as having an outside chance to win this competition. The Turks, on the other hand staged the biggest comeback of the tournament so far by coming from 2 goals down to score 3 goals in the dying 15 minutes of the game against Czech Republic. Croatia and Turkey would play each other in the quarter finals.
Euro 2008 co-host, Switzerland and Austria both bowed out from the competition in the group stages. While Austria only managed to gain a point, the Swiss managed a win against Portugal in an otherwise meaningless game. Reigning kings of Europe, Greece, didn't manage to equal the rearguard form of Euro 2004 and went crashing down in the group stages after failing to win a single game. A fall from grace for the Greeks surely.
Czech Republic also bowed all to soon after winning only once (against the Swiss) and losing twice. Russia, coached by the 'impossible is nothing' Guss Hiddink, went second in group D and are in the quarter finals for the first time in a major tournament since the break up of the Soviet Union. Guss Hiddink has previously defied the odds by bringing South Korea to the semi finals of the 2002 World Cup, and later brought Australia to the last 16 at Germany. He is now to face his native Holland in the QF. Sweden too, were disappointing after losing the winners take all match with Russia. Their fans labeled them as shameful and a big disgrace.
Romania, widely regarded as the no chances of the killer group, proved everyone right by failing to qualify from the group stages. An up that they can consider is that they finished above France in the group. And the fact that they also managed to top their group and win against Holland in the qualification rounds proves that on another day, it could be Romania. Finally, Poland were also unable to emerge from their group after a woeful and disastrous campaign.
So that wraps up the group stages of Euro 2008 so far. To read more, go to ESPNsoccernet.com for all your soccer news. Owh, and one thing I noticed, it's become a trend nowadays, for espn, soccer broadcasters, and newspapers, to show only the hot and beautiful babes as the supporters. Here's an example: