Chelsea players at Euro 2008 experienced mixed fortunes in the opening week of the tournament.
The Blues’ French contingent – Claude Makelele, Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka – embarrassed themselves against Romania in their opening Group C fixture on Monday, strolling to a 0-0 draw. It got a lot worse for them yesterday when France were thrashed 4-1 by a rampant Dutch side, who put three past Italy earlier in the week. Holland have scored seven against the 2006 World Cup winners and runners-up in the space of four days. Group of death indeed.
Former Chelsea star Arjen Robben returned from injury to make a substitute appearance for Holland against France and was in sparkling form, setting up Arsenal’s Robin van Persie with a magnificent cross before scoring one of his own from an acute angle. Current Chelsea employee Khalid Boulahrouz, who spent last season on-loan at Sevilla, started both games at right-back and didn’t disgrace himself. If the Dutch do have a weakness it’s their defence, although they have conceded just the one goal so far.
France must beat Italy and hope Romania lose to Holland in the final round of group games if they are to qualify for the quarter-finals. The Dutch are already through so Marco van Basten could put out a weakened team. Romania’s fate is in their own hands; beat Holland and both France and Italy go home.
In Group A Petr Cech conceded three goals as his Czech Republic side succumbed to new Chelsea manager Phil Scolari’s Portugal. Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho and Jose Bosingwa started their second successive match. The Czechs improved on their performance against co-hosts Switzerland in the tournament’s opening game, but they couldn’t contain Portugal’s flair players and eventually lost 3-1. With two wins from two Scolari’s team is through to the knock-out stages, while Czech Republic can ensure qualification if they beat Turkey in their final group game.
Incidently, the BBC is reporting that Portugal midfielder Deco will become Scolari’s first signing as Chelsea manager.
Pre-tournament favourites Germany, captained by Michael Ballack, went down 2-1 to Croatia in Group B. Slaven Bilic’s side put their disappointing display against Austria behind them as they qualified for the quarter-finals in impressive fashion, making the most of some poor German defending. Tottenham’s Luka Modric was Croatia’s stand out player again.
Joachim Low’s side – who face Austria in their final group match – are still fancied to qualify for the knock-out stages as group runners-up. Portugal await them in the last eight.
The final round of group games gets under way on Sunday. Portugal, Croatia and Holland have already qualified which means we’ll be seeing more of at least three current Chelsea players. How many others will make it through to the quarter-finals?