Sachin will be here shortly. In the meantime, here's a report from last night's semi-final:
A penalty shootout began Spain's era and a penalty shootout could have ended it. Instead, the dream of a unique treble is still alive. A 0-0 draw and penalties with Italy in the quarter-final of this competition four years ago was the turning point, a game that changed Spain's history and changed their future. The man who scored the decisive penalty that night: Cesc Fábregas. On Wednesday night he again stood over the spot after 120 minutes had failed to yield a goal.
Fábregas had been down to take the second penalty but he had talked Vicente del Bosque into letting him take the fifth, admitting that he had a feeling hours before the game that this moment would come. "He told me that he wanted to take the fifth because he was going to give us the victory," the Spain coach said. Now the midfielder talked himself through the moment, convincing himself that he could do it again. And then he ran up and scored, the ball flying into the net off the right-hand post to send Spain into a third successive final.
"Being in another final is a miracle, it's very emotional," Fábregas said of the meeting on Sunday with Germany or Italy, who play on Thursday night. "I had a funny feeling about the penalties and I was thinking about them this afternoon. That life has given me another chance like this is really incredible. When I stepped up to take the penalty I said to the ball that we had to make history and it shouldn't let me down. They told me initially to take the second one but I said no, give me the fifth as I had this premonition."
So then pop-pickers, tell me: which one of you would have stepped-up to take a penalty had the destiny of your country depended on it? I'm no braveheart but I reckon I may have, certainly so if I was my team's captain and standout player (a highly unlikely scenario as anyone who has ever shared a five-a-side pitch with me would testify to). Not so Cristiano Ronaldo, though. No, CR7, he of the strut 'n' pout, decided instead to lurk in his shadows after Portugal had taken Spain to a penalty shootout in yesterday's semi-final in Donetsk. He was down to strike the fifth kick apparently, but Paulo Bento's men only got to No4 following misses from João Moutinho and Bruno Alves. Proper men, them. Good on 'em.
So, anyway, Spain are through to Sunday's final and are only one win away from becoming the first nation to win three consecutive international tournaments. They will face the winner of tonight's other semi-final between Germany and Italy in Warsaw. Should be some game.
To start your day we have, as ever, some tip-top Euro 2012 content for you to get through, so why not check out:
Mandzukic scored 20 goals in 56 appearances for Wolfsburg last season and three for Croatia in Poland and Ukraine. He is also, apparently, a little bit bonkers.
Back to Ronaldo and Saurav Samaddar has this query/observation:
Do you think that Ronaldo would have felt worse than he does if Portugal had won the shootout on the fourth penalty and, thus, didn't need him to step up? Also, this must be the first time all four centre-backs have participated in the first five of the shootout while no strikers did
Dipping under the line I see TheManFromNantucket has made this point:
What if he [Ronaldo] was told to take the last penalty? He's missed high profile spot kicks before. He's not the manager and the order of the takers is the manager's call. If he'd demanded to take the third penalty and had missed what then?
Fair points and my response would be to say that Ronaldo being Ronaldo, he could have chosen to take whichever penalty he wanted; if he wanted to go up first Paulo Bento would have allowed him to go up first. And if he missed, he missed; at least he would have showed the balls to take one. But to wait to take the fifth one, which was always unlikely to come about given who Portugal were facing, was, in my view, an act of unreal selfishness. People claim that is the 'pressure-penalty,' I would suggest the 3rd or 4th ones are the real pressure ones and that Ronaldo knew that. A top player but not a team player in my eyes.
More interesting Euro 2012-transfer news, this time on Twitter. @GuillemBalague:
My colleague @AlbertLlimos announces the agreement between Valencia and FCB for Jordi Alba a matter of hours. He's been excellent in Euros
legaff is getting personal, and me not like that. In response to your critique of Liverpool's 2005 Champions League win I would point out that the four players who took penalties for the men in red in Istanbul were all very capable at that particular skill: Didi Hamann, Djibril Cisse, John Arne Riise and Vladimir Smicer. So Gerrard being down to take the fifth one was not such a major shock - remember he didn't even take Liverpool's pen in normal time; that instead fell to Xabi Alonso.
And are you telling me Bruno Alves is a more reliable penalty taker than Ronaldo? I would say no, no, no. Ron should have stepped up and taken one, simples.
Anyway, on to tonight's semi-final and this from Pankaj:
I have this weird feeling that if Germany progress they will be defeated by Spain and if Italy progresses they will beat Spain. But if you ask me to pick strongest of three teams I will pick Germany. Maybe i am too used to see Germany failing in later stages.
Right, this Ronaldo-pen debate is raging like a fire in an oil factory (don't think there is such a thing as an oil factory, but you get my drift) and, quite frankly, I'm getting a tad bored of it. We're all entitled to our views, personally I feel Ron should have made sure he took an earlier one, while others think that criticism is overly harsh. That's fair enough, football, as the cliche goes, is a game of opinions. I will give the final word to Prasad Chaporkar, who disagrees with me but does so with a cracking final line:
If people say that Ronaldo taking the 5th penalty was an error in judgement, then they might have a point. Even though, when should your best penalty takers take the penalty is a subjective matter. On the other hand, if anybody says he chose the 5th one because he is not a team player or that he does not have balls is, politely saying, talking out of turn in my opinion. He has taken high profile penalties before - he took the 3rd penalty in United's win over Chelsea in a UCL final, if I remember correctly he took the first penalty in this year's UCL semi final. In the past, in knock out phases, he has taken 5th, 2nd and 3rd penalties. Apparently the manager decides when he should take the penalty. So, saying Ronaldo lacks the balls to take a decisive penalty is bollocks.
legaff; i'm kidding, couldn't care less who know which team I support. For the record, I also like the music of Kings of Leon, beans on toast and afternoon naps.
A more fun debate developing on here seems to be the relative weaknesses and strengths of BBC and ITV's respective Euro 2012 punditry/commentary teams. Personally I think both have been rather poor, or truly dire in the case of Mark Lawrenson. Anyway, for what it's worth, here is my dream team, made up of those who have covered the tournament for the two channels.
Main presenter: Adrian Chiles
Studio pundits: Roy Keane, Gareth Southgate, Lee Dixon
Main commentator: Steve Wilson
Co-commentator: Jim Beglin
Main interviewer: Gabriel Clarke
And the real duds: Hansen, Lawrenson, Bright, Logan, Drury, Lawrenson, Lawrenson and Lawrenson.
And your picks are?
Dominic Fifield will be carrying out a webchat from Warsaw at 1pm this afternoon. He will be discussing all matters Euro, primarily this evening's clash between Germany and Italy in the Polish capital. But feel free to also discuss last night's game with him, as well as the fallout from England's exit from the competition.Exciting news has just come my way; the ever-excellent
Praise for Stan Collymore developing here. Have to be honest, I've not listened to any radio commentary on the Euros, although I've been informed that Sam Matterface, who commentates alongside Collymore on Talksport, is rather good.
Matterface is married to Sky Sports News presenter Natalie Sawyer and apparently they named their first child Sawyer Matterface. Quite something, that.
Well done to Jake Smith for coming up with his own BBC/ITV dream team. It's a belter, as is his explanation for finding a place for Lawrenson:
The 2nd commentator rarely really contributes much of value. As such, while I think Keown does a very good job, in actual fact you might as well have Mark Lawrenson. His ability to never think before he speaks results in farcical comedy gold, such as his comment about having to be sad to Tweet, but he is also responsible for the greatest line in modern commentary history: mere days (or even hours?) after Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea, Cole miscontrolled on one of his first touches in an England match. "Ashley Cole hasn't been the same since he signed for Chelsea," chortled Lawro...
Main presenter: Gary Lineker (not because he's much cop, but because unlike Chiles he doesn't actively ruin everything even vaguely football-related. Mr Potato Head would do a better job!)
Studio pundits: Jürgen Klinsmann, Clarence Seedorf, Lee Dixon
Main commentator: Steve Wilson
Co-commentator: Martin Keown
Main interviewer: Gabriel Clarke
Main man on the field: Jake Humphreys - whatever he was doing to give Shearer that slightly psychotic grin during the England match was well worth it!
The Only Genuine Dud: Adrian Chiles.
This potentially controversial remark from Saurav Samaddar:
If Germany win tonight, can we safely Christen Spain-Germany as the new Old Firm/El Clasico rivalry, each can only be stopped by the other, or an economic collapse?
A touch of class from Ruprict:
Matterface is married to Sky Sports News presenter Natalie Sawyer and apparently they named their first child Sawyer Matterface
I Sawyer Matterface,
Now I'm a believer....♪♪
Not exactly Euro-related but it is being reported that David Beckham has been left out of Team GB's Olympic football squad. More to follow shortly...
Seán Froudist Walsh has also come up with his own punditry/commentary team, but being a man of international taste and class, he has picked people outside of the BBC/ITV bubble:
Commentators: Those latin lunatics from Fox Sports (Spanish Language), who have nicknames for all the players: "El Maestro (Giggs) gives it to The Bulldog (Rooney) and GOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!"
Main presenter and studio pundits: RTE (Irish tv) classics Bill O'Herlihy with Johnny Giles, Eamonn Dunphy and Liam Brady (Dunphy on Cristiano Ronaldo: "What they saw tonight was an impersonator, a clown,a self-indulgent idiot really, doing crazy things. He's a petulant brat Bill, poncing around all night.")
Interviewer: Iker Casillas's bird, cos you never know when she's going to throw the lips on the player she's interviewing.
On the topic of good/bad TV pundits/commentators, this interesting point from cycokan:
Don't be too harsh with your football commentators. While surely they are not ever the best analysers, for my German ears, they most of the time find the right tone. You cannot imagine, how boring most German commentators are. We had and have great radio reporters, but in the sixties the chief moderators of public TV came to the opinion that a TV comment has to be different, as the people can see the game for themselves. Of course, this is a point to make, but they overdid it. Almost no emotion, long stretches of saying nothing, always politically correct. Always with journalistic distance, which means saying nothing if the game is good, but endless nagging if the game is bad. No double moderations since a try in the early nineties with Rummenigge and Rehagel was not to successful.
Expect it would've been a tad more dull had England got through instead.
Right people, I'm going to step away from the blog for a short while (stop cheering at the back). Anything major happens, my colleagues here at Guardian towers will let you know as quickly as possible.
I'm back and bring you this from Marty from München
Surely no world-class commentary team would be complete without the awesome talents of metaphor wizard Ray Hudson. Amongst his finest contributions were describing playing against Xavi as like "playing poker with a witch" and declaring that Iniesta has such an eye for a pass that "he would make the cyclops jealous." Well worth a google!
Dominic Fifield's webchat from Warsaw is now up and running. Get talking to the great man.For those who are interested (and you all should be),
Definatelynotashark: the BOA has not named the squad yet as it has still to receive formal notification of the players Stuart Pearce intends to put forward. But it is expected that the three overage players will now be Micah Richards, Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy.
Jordi Alba is joining Barcelona. Blimey, how many superb players do they want?!So it's true then;
Well done LV09, you're a better man than I. A Blue Peter badge is in the post.
This interesting tweet from @SBienkowski:
Jordi Alba's transfer to Barcelona now bumps the current ratio of Madrid/Barca players in Spanish first XI up to 90.9%. Two team league?
Ok folks, I'm off home via the local swimming pool. Paul Doyle will be here shortly to keep the live blog going. Enjoy his contributions and enjoy the match tonight, should be a cracker hopefully.
3.20pm: Afternoon all. Doyle here. Have I missed anything? It's just that nothing much seems to have happened since the Euro 2012 group stages. Everyone was having so much fun and then someone pulled the plug. So it's down to crouch down like Princess Leia and send a message via a chirpy bin-shaped android: Help us, Germany and Italy, you are our only hope.
Martin Skrtel has taken to his personal website to reassure Liverpool supporters that, contrary to reports, he will not be leaving Anfield this summer. Here's what he wrote:
I am very excited about new season. I hope we will be ready and this time it will be much better than in the last one.
There is also speculation about my exit from Liverpool but I can say that there was no offer on the table yet and we didn't hold talks with any club.
Hold on, he doesn't actually saying that he won't be leaving Anfield, does he? In fact, some could even construe the above as a good ol' come-and-get-me plea. So really, there appears to reason for any Liverpool supporter opposed to a Skrtel departure to feel reassured and, come to that, no good reason for publishing those quotes. Sorry.
is on hand to tell you about the teams alongside the dextrous Iberian bureaucrats.Spain have entered the pantheon of greats, reckons Jonathan Wilson, who
Coaches Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan have left Tottenham following Harry Redknapp's departure as manager, Spurs have confirmed.
Here is a question for you. A premature question, of course, given that the tournament is not yet over. But who has been the striker of Euro 2012 so far? Obviously Klose, Gomez or Balotelli could consolidate their claims for that accolade over the two games ahead but I would say that that has been the most disappointing position of the tournament so far. Benzema, Van Persie, Kerzakhov and Rooney all failed to live up to their reputations (OK, Kerzakhov may not belong in such company but he was my tip for the golden boot so it's faiar to say that he failed to live up to the reputation that I, at least, assigned to him. The swine), Llorente has been criminally ignored and Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Czech Republic barely had strikers. So the two best strikers so far - pending decisive late contributions from the three aforementioned forwards - have been Mandzukic and Ibrahimovich.
the one from Journal of Sports Sciences 2006. The studies show very clearly that there are two key positions - first and fourth. Most football teams put the best taker first to get a good start and 86.6% of first pens are successful. The fourth kick only returns 72.5%. this is the key one. As it was last night. The pressure is greatest. the 5th penalty is often never taken by one side so having your best player take it is a stupid gamble. So:
1st Kick 86.6%
2nd Kick 81.7%
3rd Kick 79.3%
4th Kick 72.5%
5th Kick 80%
Sudden Death Kicks - 64.3%
In conclusion, Ronaldo should have been 1st or 4th."
Laurent Blanc and the head of the French Football Federation held talks today about whether or not Blanc will stay on as France manager and they decided .... to chat about it again some time soon.
All good things must come to an end. And so must this. Till tomorrow, then. Bye!