Five of the eight Chelsea players at Euro 2008 were in action for their respective countries in the first two days of the tournament, and all got off to a winning start.
Petr Cech was between the sticks for Czech Republic as they limped past joint hosts Switzerland 1-0 in the opening game on Saturday, while Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho and new signing Jose Bosingwa started for Portugal as they defeated Turkey 2-0 in the second Group A match. On Sunday evening Michael Ballack captained Germany to a relatively easy 2-0 victory over Poland in Group B.
Of the teams featuring Chelsea players, Portugal impressed me the most. Ferreira played out of position at left-back, Carvalho in the centre alongside Real Madrid’s Pepe, who scored a wonderful goal, and Bosingwa at right-back. All three put in solid performances. Bosingwa, signed from Porto for £16.2m in May, is an agile, pacy right-back who likes to get forward, and at 25 has the best years of his career ahead of him. I’m looking forward to seeing him in a Chelsea shirt.
I was expecting more from Cech’s Czech Republic, but they disappointed against hosts Switzerland who were unfortunate not to get something from the game. Without Pavel Nedved and Karel Poborsky, both of whom have retired from international football since the last World Cup, and Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky, who was missing with a hamstring injury, the Czechs looked limited and could struggle to beat both Turkey and Portugal in their remaining Group A fixtures.
Meanwhile Germany showed why they are tournament favourites with a deserved victory over Poland. Ballack was imperious in central midfield alongside the impressive Torsten Frings, and played a decisive role in both goals which were scored by Polish-born Lukas Podolski.
While the Germans were dominant going forward, defensively they looked a bit fragile. A team with more quality in the final third could find out the central partnership of Christoph Metzelder and Per Mertesacker; and former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann didn’t instil confidence either. Right-back Philip Lahm was the exception and displayed the kind of form that has seen him linked with a move to a number of Europe’s top clubs.
In the other Group B match Croatia failed to live up to their billing as they laboured to a 1-0 win over hosts Austria, a team ranked 92nd in the world. The goal came courtesy of a fourth minute penalty scored by Croatia’s outstanding player and Spurs midfielder Luka Modric. Oh how I wish Chelsea had signed Modric. It hurts to know that he’ll be playing in the lilywhite of Tottenham next season. At just 22, he could prove to be a £16m bargain.
Germany play Croatia on Thursday. The winner of that match is guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals.
The three Chelsea stars yet to play, Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda and Claude Makelele, are likely to start for France against Romania later today. The French are in the so-called “group of death” with Italy and Netherlands, who meet each other in tonight’s second Group C match.
Former Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu, who last week was ordered by a court to pay the club £9.6m in compensation for testing positive for cocaine in 2004, will line up for Romania.