Sunday, June 8, 2008

Game 3: Deja Vu

Day 2 got off to a frantic and controversial start when Croatia was awarded a PK in the 4th minute of the opening Group B match against Austria. The co-hosts were everything but a roll over against the highly favored Croatian side that took 3 points but failed to impress in a lackluster performance. Tommy Smyth along with some other so-called "experts" continue to harp on the fact that Croatia stole 10 yards by advancing a throw-in in the Austrian defensive third, which ultimately led to a clumsy challenge by Rene Aufhauser who fouled Ivica Olic in the penalty area and led to a converted PK goal by Luka Modric. This turned out to be the only goal of the match, though both sides missed their fair share of opportunities. In many ways this mirrored yesterday's opening match, a heavily favored Eastern European team underperformed against a host nation that kept the match closer than it should have been for the full 90 minutes. Austria failed to convert some dangerous chances that could have seen them draw or even win the match, but converting opportunities is all that matters, the bottom line is that though Croatia played poorly, they were able to convert one time, and they were able to keep a clean sheet. While no one player stood out for either side for me on either side, it was painfully obvious that Eduardo was not on the pitch, and I believe his absence takes away the creativity and potent finishing that Croatia needs to advance past the quarterfinals. Croatia will finish second in their group, but the need to step up their game to take care of Poland next Monday; because they will overpowered by a German side that is simply in a different league in game 2 on Thursday. My heart goes out to Austria, who deserved better and played above their ability for much of the match, there is a good chance the co-hosts can knick at least a point or possibly even a victory from Poland on Thursday.

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