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Well Spain did what every other group stage winner at Euro 2008 couldn’t do; get into the semifinals.

If anything Euro 2008 has taught us that group play means nothing. Croatia, Portugal and the Netherlands were the toast of the tournament after breezing through their groups in convincing fashion, but when the knockout round began that same form eluded them all, except Spain.

Spain was a deserving winner of Italy, which looked from the outset like it only wanted to play for penalties. The Italians continually crowded as many men behind the ball as they could, albeit quite effectively, to snuff out Spain’s intricate passing attack. The problem with this is that it created a dull game at times. Would it have killed the Italians to try and put more than just Luca Toni in the box at times?

Overall, Spain got a big win (first win over Italy in a major tournament since 1920) and proved doubters wrong in a big game.

Now the real pressure comes into play when Spain faces Russia in a semifinal rematch. Spain won the first match 4-1 in group play, but Russia was missing its one man tour-de-force, Andrei Arshavin who missed the first two games of the tournament because of suspension. Arshavin’s return to the Russian side has been immense as he has scored two goals and assisted on the game winner against the Netherlands in Russia’s 3-1 quarterfinal win. Russia is better than most people give them credit for (see: me) and in Arshavin have a leader they can rally around. Also, never count out a team with Guus Hiddink leading it.

Spain will have to fight over-confidence and not let out too big of a sigh of relief. After all, the real work has just begun for them if they want to shed that underachiever label. Winning Euro 2008 might be the only way to do that. I wish Spain versus Russia could be the tournament’s final, but alas UEFA doesn’t set the brackets up using common sense. My heart says Russia, my head says Spain (as long as Luis Aragones does not sub Fernando Torres off for Dani Guiza again!) and even after going 1-3 in my semifinal picks I’m going with Spain to win 2-1 and break the plucky Russians’ hearts in the process.

Meanwhile on the other side of the bracket I cannot see how Germany does not get past Turkey to the final. As it is with all of the suspensions and injuries Turkey has in its squad, it’s going to have a hard time finding 11 warm bodies to put on the pitch! If Germany loses it will be a major upset and it might prove fate is on Turkey’s side after the slew of comebacks and nail-biting wins it has escaped with so far in the tournament. I just see Turkey’s remarkable run coming to an end with Germany prevailing 2-0.


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  1. You are right using the “for once” headline – but I told you before Euro started – this Spain team is loaded and if the coach would stop taking Torres off the frickin field every game – they will be the champs going away!!!