Wednesday 11 June ~
The teams with the best strikers have been winning Euro 2008 games so far. With David Villa and Fernando Torres forming an impressive partnership in their side's 4-1 win over Russia, Spain reinforced their position as second favourites, after Germany, to win the tournament. But no UK press report of this game was complete without a reference to Roman Abramovich (he arrived in a helicopter, don't you know) seeing his “beloved Russia” beaten by three goals scored by an alleged Chelsea transfer target, David Villa. According to the Sun, Abramovich saw the “Spanish Villa he fancies double in price” while the Daily Mail stated: “No wonder Chelsea are prepared to pay almost anything to secure his services.” Despite English press reaction there is, of course, much more to Euro 2008 than Premier League transfer rumour.
Like Holland when beating Italy earlier in the week, Spain were impressive last night. Russia were well beaten but, as was the case with the Italians, they played relatively well and created a number of chances of their own. In the other game in Group D a spectacular opening goal by Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic broke the deadlock against a lacklustre Greece. A fortuitous second goal gave Sweden a 2-0 victory but, assuming Spain continue as they started, the game on Saturday between Russia and Sweden looks set to decide the second qualifier from the group.
Ahead of tonight's game the media in both Switzerland and Turkey have been revisiting the violence that followed Switzerland's World Cup qualifying play-off victory in Istanbul in November 2005. Players from both sides have, rather unconvincingly, tried to play it down. Philippe Senderos claimed “we will try not to concentrate on that” while team-mate Tranquillo Barnetta was more emotive: “All of us who lived through that night in Istanbul will have the events engraved within our hearts.” Swiss coach Kobi Kuhn was calmer: “This issue is nearly three years old. As in everyday life, football evolves very quickly and these things are over and dealt with.” Views were also sought from a player whose name is always preceded by the phrase “Leytonstone born”. Turkey's Colin Kazim-Richards described events in Istanbul as a “mad night” and in reference to his side's punishment of three games behind closed doors said “we want to get one over on [Switzerland] now for doing that to us”.
The earlier match tonight is Portugal against the Czech Republic. Both teams won their opening games so a top of the group finish looks likely for the winner of this game. Unfortunately, but inevitably, the build-up has been dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo. Worse still, all of Portugal's group games are on ITV so expect to hear a lot more tonight about the “world's greatest player” and whether he is looking unsettled by the speculation on where he will be playing next season.