THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Monday 9 June ~

So far the results at Euro 2008 have gone as predicted, even if certain team performances have been surprising. Yesterday Croatia beat Austria courtesy of a single penalty but the co-hosts could consider themselves unlucky. That the team who qualified ahead of England were unconvincing in their first game was seized on by an English media who still show no sign of getting over the national team's absence. The Sun employed highly selective memory in asking “How did we lose to this lot?”. Of course, Austria deserve more credit than that in establishing the pattern of the tournament so far – the less vaunted teams have played well but failed to score and lost. So the more fancied teams have mostly fallen short of expectations, but all still won.

Last night Germany were better than Poland, or at least they had the better strikers. Like Austria before them Poland were unable to take their chances. Germany, however, had Lukas Podolski who took his opportunities well. Having been born in Poland but raised in Germany his genuine muted reaction to scoring the goals was to his credit and in contrast to much of the pre-match build-up: “I didn't celebrate very much because I was born in Poland, I have a big family there, and you have to have some respect for the land.” The second round of matches in this group are on Thursday. By then we should have had some unexpected results too. 

Adrian Mutu, “ubiquitously Beckhamesque” in his home country, leads the line (and earnings table) for Romania against France this evening and will be hoping for such a shock. Yet on Friday a FIFA tribunal ordered the striker to pay his old club Chelsea around £8 million in compensation following his sacking after testing positive for cocaine in 2004. Mutu is going to appeal against this ruling in civil court and with justification. This figure is calculated on Mutu's suggested transfer value at the time of his sacking. This is surely an amount of money to which Chelsea forfeited the rights when they summarily, and speedily, sacked the Romanian with no attempt at rehabilitation.

The later game in Group C is the Netherlands against Italy and the Dutch have already started quarrelling. Though not yet on the scale of Ruud Gullit walking out on Dick Advocaat in 1994 or Edgar Davids accusing Guus Hiddink of favouritism at Euro 1996, a story about a bad tackle by Robin van Persie putting Wesley Sneijder in hospital was leaked to the Dutch papers on Friday. Marco van Basten immediately denied the story and, according to some, demanded to know where the story had come from. Unfortunately for the coach the Real Madrid midfielder had already mentioned it on his personal website. The body language tonight will be interesting.

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