Phew. What an incredible couple days of quarterfinal action. There were two overtime games, both of which had two goals scored during the extra time and one game went to a shootout. Let’s begin at the first quarterfinal match of the week, Portugal vs Germany, where Germany survived a furious final 10 minutes from the Portugese to win 3-2. The Germans were lead by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who scored a beautiful first goal and assisted on the next two. Schweinsteiger scored at the 22nd minute and Miroslav Klose scored just 4 minutes later to give the Germans a quick 2-0 advantage. Portugal rebounded right before the end of the first half, at the 41st minute, as captain Nuno Gomes fired a bouncing ball into the back of the net to get Portugal back into the game at halftime. However, Germany took a huge 3-1 advantage in the 62nd minute when star Michael Ballack headed one in. As Portugal’s Euro 2008 time ticked away, desperation set in and the Portugese were able to get one goal back off of a free kick with Helder Postiga heading a ball past German keeper Jens Lehmann to make the score 3-2, but it was not enough. Christiano Ronaldo and Portugal could not find that third goal in the final couple minutes of the game and Germany advanced on to the semifinals. Stats wise, Portugal outplayed Germany as they had twice as many shots on goal as the Germans (10-5) and collected nearly three times as many corner kicks (8-3), but Lehmann held strong andGermany made good on their opportunities. An extremely entertaining game, the quarterfinals began with a bang, but the best was yet to come.
Up next was Turkey vs Croatia, which had the wildest, most dramatic final minutes I have ever seen in a soccer match. Tied 0-0 after the end of regulation, the game went into extra time and the score stayed that way until the 119th minute when Croatian striker Ivan Klasnic headed in a cross from Luka Modrich. The Croatian celebration lasted into the 120th minute as everyone in the arena, watching on tv, and even the announcers had concluded that the game was over. However, Turkish player Semith Senturk had different ideas when he fired a drive into the top left corner of the net in the 122nd minute and just like that, the game was tied again. Croatian fans were stunned and Croatian manager Slaven Bilic fought furiously with referee Roberto Rosetti, saying that time had expired andthe game should have been done. Right or wrong, the game was tied and heading into penalty kicks. The drama of the final couple minutes did not quite continue into penalty kicks however. Modrich missed the first penalty kick and Arda Turdan of Turkey put his shot into the back of the net. Croatia and Turkey each made their next shot, but Croatia ensued to miss their third penalty kick. When Turkish player Hamit Altintop planted his shot into the back of the net and Croatian Mladen Petric missed his kick, the game was over and Turkey escaped with a 3-1 win in shootouts. Croatia and Turkey had a big challenge in followingup the Germany vs Portugal game, but they did it easily.
Finally today’s game featured favorite Netherlands versus underdog Russia. A back and forth game stayed scoreless up until the 56nd minute when Roman Pavluchenko placed a shot into the net to give Russia a 1-0 lead. It looked like the game was coming to an end when Ruud van Nistelrooy scored in the 86th minute to tie the game and send it into extra time. For the second consecutive day, a quarterfinal was going into overtime. The first 20 minutes of extra time were rather uneventful, but in the 112th minute Russian substitute Dmitri Torbinsky took a cross from midfielder Andrei Arhsavin and touched it into the back of the net to put Russia up 2-1. Arshavin wasn’t done however as 4 minutes later he placed a shot between Netherlands keeper Edwin Van der Sar legs to put Russia up 3-1 and send them into the semifinals. Arshavin had a phenomenal match. After being suspended for the first two matches of Euro 2008, Arshavin has had back to back excellent matches and has made Russia look like a serious title contender.
Well that is the recap from the first three quarterfinals from Euro 2008. Tomorrow’s match is Spain vs Italy in a match up of two power teams. The semifinals start next Wednesday with Germany vs Turkey. The one theme that I have noticed in the first three quarterfinals is that all three group winners so far have lost. If Italy wins tomorrow, then all the group runner ups will have advanced to the semifinals, but I have my money on Spain so I won’t jump to conclusions quite yet. Enjoy the soccer!