Russia are the team I have picked as my favourite under dogs for the tournament and in spite of their thrashing at the hands of Spain and a defence that could have conceded a dozen, I’m still not changing my vote. Without star strikers, with a brittle defence and with the prospect of facing one major nation after another even if they do qualify, it looks unlikely, but with Guus around, you never know.
Greece for me, have had their moment of glory, maybe more than what they had deserved and I was not going to be disappointed if they got knocked out in round 1.
The TV broadcast was really poor so could just about follow the game but for what they are worth, here are my thoughts.
From five at the back to three up front, Otto’s gamble seemed to be another from the school of ‘Am desperate and I don’t really know what to do’. Can’t blame managers if they do that with all the pressure around. It’s not as if there is too much time to recover, and sticking with plan A after the first defeat would invite murder if the second attempt also fails.
The game seemed competitive and pacy with Russia creating more chances. The one performance that needs to be mentioned is Pavlyuchenko. Got into great positions, linked up brilliantly with the rest of the attack but missed some great chances. He is definitely one to watch out for, and if the goals do start going in, he could have a major influence on the tournament.
The goal that Zyryanov scored was coming even though the incident itself was a major blunder by the Clooney look alike Nicopolodis. He went chasing Semak leaving his goal open for the Russian skipper’s speculative bicycle ball to be tapped in by Zyryanov.
The Greeks never looked dangerous inspite of their 4-3-3 until Karagounis came on as a sub and tested the Russians with some fine long range efforts. The Greeks did score a perfectly legitimate goal almost as they were running out of time, but it was not allowed and it was a little disappointing to see that a refereeing decision was what eventually sealed the Greek’s fate.
I thought that the Russian’s did deserve their victory and could have won by a handful, but they did not take their chances, so the Greeks will have every right to feel unlucky. But the truth remains that this team has had all its blessings exhausted 4 years ago and it will need another generation of players some time in the future for the Greek fable to be written again.