Caught glimpses of stuff happening here and there. Some thoughts on what I saw:
France v Serbia: Two splendid goals from Henry and Anelka helped France to a 2-1. However, having seen Henry in recent internationals I still think France will be better served with a newcomer who wants to get involved more and stand by my stance that Henry should retire from internationals and return only if France are in serious trouble. Of course, he is Henry and he can (and hopefully will) prove me wrong. The flip side is that the win gives Raymond Domenech more breathing space. And while I’m all for managers having longevity (and definitely one who has taken the team to the final of the last World Cup), Domenech’s decisions and lack of ideas makes one feel that France would definitely have better alternatives around.
Portugal v Denmark: This match for me summarized Carlos Queiroz’s last spell as manager – of Real Madrid. The Galacticos had an excellent first six months playing some of the most beautiful football I have ever seen, and then suddenly (after the Champions’ League loss to Monaco) collapsed just as the season finished. Portugal were much the same. Dominant and beautiful till they allowed the Danes to equalize. After that they struggled. And while a penalty let them go into the final 5 minutes with a one goal lead, there was a feeling that the game was far from over. When Denmark equalized in injury time, you did think that the night was done, only for a second Danish injury time goal to leave the hosts beaten 2-3. If Queiroz has self-doubts, he didn’t let it show after the game, even affording a smile for the press. But lack of finishing and catastrophic defending against the long ball and crosses (a trait shared by almost all teams on the day) cost them heavily.
Croatia v England: As I struggled to watch an unauthorized internet video stream of the game on a really poor internet connection in my hotel room, Theo Walcott and England had another one of those nights which will give them goose bumps many years hence (like 5 goals against Germany in Munich). And while I’m in no position to put in my two cents on the performance, I do have the pleasure of enjoying the wild swing in reaction from the media and fans alike. Hats off to Fabio Capello though, his genius never in doubt...but this was an occasion to deliver. A defeat would have forever had him compared to Steve Mclaren (an insult given what the man has achieved in life) but victory and the manner of it has suddenly made a nation sceptical after the cagey but ‘job done’ win over Andorra believe in ‘their’ man. Bilic has now faced some music but that again is a testament to the times rather than the man’s abilities and it would be as interesting to observe how the Croats bounce back as it would be to see if England sustain the momentum.