Half of the eight Chelsea players representing their countries at Euro 2008 didn’t make it past the group stages.
Three of those were members of the French squad which failed to record a win and only managed to score one goal in three matches in Group C, the so-called “group of death”. Holland topped the group with three wins out of three while Italy’s 2-0 victory over France and Romania’s failure to beat the Dutch in the final round of games ensured the Italians also progressed to the quarter-finals.
Claude Makelele, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda were disappointing in all three group matches, to say the least. An embarrassing 0-0 against the Romanians was followed by a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Holland. Tuesday’s deserved defeat to Italy rounded off a miserable tournament for the French. It is the end of an era for the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winners. Makelele and Lilian Thuram announced their international retirement after the game.
In Group D Petr Cech’s Czech Republic also failed to progress after they blew a 2-0 lead over Turkey. Another howler from Chelsea’s number one allowed the Turks to level the score at 2-2 with three minutes of normal time remaining, only for Nihat Kahveci to score a wonderful third goal, his second, just two minutes later. Cech rightly took the blame for his side’s capitulation.
New Chelsea manager Phil Scolari made eight changes to the Portugal side which lost their final Group A game 2-0 to co-hosts Switzerland. Paulo Ferreira retained his place in the starting eleven but was hauled off before half time after picking up a yellow card for a lunge on Valon Behrami. Portugal had already won the group.
Michael Ballack captained Germany to the win they needed against Austria to ensure they finished second in Group B. Ballack’s superb free kick was all that separated the two sides. The Germans, who have been disappointing since their 2-0 win over Poland, play Portugal in the first of the quarter-finals later this evening. Scolari’s side must be favourites to progress but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Germans found a way to beat them – most likely on penalties. Germany manager Joachim Low is banned from the touchline after being sent to the stands during the win over Austria.
The remaining quarter-finals – Croatia versus Turkey, Holland versus Russia, and Italy versus Spain – will be played over the next three days.
These are the teams I think will make it through to the semi-finals: Portugal, Croatia, Holland, and Italy. How about you?