The Final Countdown

29 06 2008

Tonight sees the culmination of Euro 2008. Despite the odd dull match, the tournament has been remarkably entertaining as a whole, and hopefully the final follows suit and delivers another classic match. A preview of this momentous occasion is in order, but since this is a preview of just one match, and with it being the end of the tournament, Mr President thought a player-by-player preview might be a good idea.

Iker Casillas vs Jens Lehmann.

The Spanish captain is finally delivering on the potential that had him earmarked as one of Europe’s best young goalkeeping talents years ago. Still only 27, his best years are ahead of him, yet the same cannot be said for the soon-to-be ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Lehmann, who was arguably the best goalkeeper in Europe in 2005/2006 but has since lost his Arsenal place to Manuel Almunia. His performances during Euro 2008 have seen him at his erratic worst, vindicating Wenger’s decision to let the player go.

Sergio Ramos vs Arne Friedrich

Ramos has not only been the best right back at the tournament but arguably been the best defender full stop. Although he’s a more than capable central defender, when playing in his best position on the right he’s able to raid forward to great effect without neglecting his defensive duties. Friedrich has been Germany’s best defender but that’s not saying much as they’ve been uncharacteristically poor in that department. Yet with Germany lacking width they need Friedrich to get forward more than he has so far.

Carles Puyol vs Cristoph Metzelder

Leaving aside the fact that his facial hair has Mr President wondering if a razor blade killed his father or something, Metzelder has underperformed during the tournament, hardly surprising given he made only nine appearances in an injury-hit first season at the Bernabau. He doesn’t look the same player he did two years ago. Barcelona captain Carles Puyol has never been a great defender but his sheer hunger brings something to any side, and he’s one of the few Barcelona players to perform well for his country.

Carlos Marchena vs Per Mertesacker

Mertesacker is blessed with height but offers little else. Not only does he lack pace but he’s poor in possession and until he learns to read the game better he’ll continue to be the weak link in the German defence. Meanwhile Marchena’s positional sense helps compensate for Puyol’s lack thereof and although the Spanish have only kept one clean sheet that’s had more to do with the Spanish attacking mentality than their defence.

Joan Capdevila vs Philipp Lahm

What Lahm lacks in defensive capability he more than makes up for with his driving runs down the left and his head-to-head battle with Sergio Ramos could prove to be one of the most thrilling aspects of the final. Both like to get forward, and with Podolski down Germany’s left and Iniesta down Spain’s right, both of whom like to come inside, the fullbacks are going to be crucial to their side’s attacking width. Capdevila is solid but uninspiring, more defensively sound than Lahm but rarely ventures out of his half.

Marcos Senna vs Torsten Frings

For all the creative talents that the Spanish possess, it’s arguably been the defensive midfielder who’s made the biggest impact. Brazilian born Marcos Senna has easily been the best holding midfielder at Euro 2008, and perhaps the most striking difference between this side and traditional Spanish sides has been having someone to do the dirty work while the rest pass the opposition to death. The Germans have really missed Frings at times during the tournament and will be glad to finally have him back.

Andres Iniesta vs Bastian Schweinsteiger

Last season was a difficult one at the Nou Camp and yet Iniesta shone when many of his teammates flattered to deceive. Unfortunately for the national side he’s yet to deliver the same sort of performances for his country, although he showed signs of his quality against Russia. Schweinsteiger was a star for the Germans at the last World Cup and has been a major factor in Germany’s much improved form since the group stages.

Xavi vs Thomas Hitzlsperger

If Xavi played for any club other than Barcelona he wouldn’t even get into the Spanish side, lacking either Xabi Alonso’s passing range or Fabregas’ ability to take a game by the scruff of the neck. Although he scored against the Russians this owed a lot to Fabregas’ introduction which freed him to get forward. Hitzlsperger is solid defensively and possesses a hammer of a left foot, but lacks any sort of subtlety in his play.

Cesc Fabregas vs Michael Ballack

The German captain struggled to settle in at Stamford Bridge but found his form mid-season and remains the hub of his national side. Still yet to find the form he demonstrated at the last World Cup, he remains a potent threat. If Fabregas is not named Player of The Tournament, it will be a travesty. A goal and an assist in the first game were not enough to get him into the starting eleven, yet he’s consistently performed brilliantly from the bench. He is the heartbeat of the Spanish side.

David Silva vs Lucas Podolski

Although he prefers to play up front, Polish-born striker Podolski has looked equally good on the left wing and will be likely to start tonight’s final there once more. The best left winger at the tournament, however, has been David Silva, and he can expect to receive offers from Europe’s major clubs once the tournament is over. Both players have great left feet and both provide their sides with good pace in wide areas.

Miroslav Klose v Fernando Torres

Fernando Torres has been a revelation at Anfield, which comes as no surprise to Mr President, who tipped him for great things years ago. Although he’s not been quite as prolific during this tournament as his strike partner, the formation the Spanish will play in the final should suit him as it mirrors one he plays at Liverpool. Klose has looked a shadow of his usual self at this tournament, scoring just twice, but the Germans will be hope he grabs a goal in the final. They’ve never lost a game in which he’s scored.


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