The last time I wrote something for the site was in September 2010 (props to the 22 people who still like my Facebook page!!!). I’m sure plenty (like four, maybe) of my readers missed me so. I’ve been busy doing this, which meant writing 2,500 word soccer columns no longer became a priority.
But it’s Euro 2012! Spain and Italy are playing! If this wasn’t a good time to come out of retirement, them I never would. I’m rusty, but hopefully I find my rhythm. Let’s go!
National Anthem — Nobody winked at the camera. Thomas Muller did yesterday, which automatically makes Muller an asshole. What was most notable about the anthem was I didn’t see a forward stoically standing for the Spanish. I think Michael Cox is the most excited person on Earth right now.
5th minute — OK, maybe this wasn’t the best game for me to comeback and wear the 4-5. There feels like there’s 27 midfield players clogging things up. The problem with what Spain is doing is Fabergas is playing a role that he doesn’t play often (ever?). It will work if Fabergas turns into Messi, or even Wayne Rooney, over the next 90 minutes, but I’m not holding my breath.
15th minute — Mario Balotelli just had a long shot deflected for a corner. I’ve been trying to think of what’s Ballotelli’s American sports equivalent. Dennis Rodman is the easy one that sticks out, but it doesn’t seem fair to compare anyone to the craziness of Rodman. That said, Ballotelli is only 21…he’s got a lot craziness left. As I type, Spain had a counter attack that Silva missed and Pirlo had a decent 25-yard free kick that Casillas’ pushed away.
18th minute — It’s hard to score against Italy when you DO have a striker! Like doesn’t an assistant coach say that or something? Does Fernando Torres really suck that bad? Oh yeah, he does. Anyway, right now I’m watching two counter attacking teams play each other. Fun.
22nd minute — Antonio Cassano is just wide on a shot across the face of goal. Italy is clearly better right now. Pirlo might be 52, but he still has game. David Silva or Fabergas might score a ridiculous 25-yard goal or the Spanish might team up for a 37-pass brilliant goal, but it doesn’t seem terribly likely right now. (Yes, I just garunteed Spain will score six goals with that last paragraph.)
30th minute — Iniesta is doing his best to carry the team and he’s good enough. Italy is defending well though. Especially when the referee doesn’t call fouls.
33rd minute — Balotelli just punched the grass about three times after committing a foul. There’s 19 percent chance he completely blows up in this game. You know I’m rooting for it.
37th minute — And Balotelli just got a yellow! Make that 54 percent.
43rd minute — I’m not a tactical expert, but watching a team play without a striker or any wingers is just weird. Spain is dominating possession and it’s kind of cool watching all these little people pass the ball with each other on the television. But they get into the final 25 yards and they’re trying to cross the ball to 5-foot-6 players with all these tall Italians standing around. It doesn’t work.
45th minute — Xavi hooked Iniesta up with a ridiculously good pass, which set Iniesta open 18 yards from goal but his shot flew over. On the other end, Thiago Motta had a free header eight yards out and Casillas got a hand on it. It was the best chance of the match. And we’re tied 0-0 at halftime.
Halftime — Giuseppe Rossi is in studio! Not sure why I got excited about that. Anyway, Alexi Lalas had I think his best commentary line ever (which isn’t saying a whole lot), “It looks like my six year old’s daughter game out there,” when talking about Spain’s midfield. I think ESPN hired Michael Ballack just to make Lalas look good. When you hire someone to be a commentator, isn’t it a good idea to make sure their English vocabulary has more than 75 words? Just a thought.
46th minute — No changes. Let the all midfield experiment continue!
49th minute — Fernando Torres (or some forward) needs to come in for Alonso.
51st minute — Fabergas, Xavi and Iniesta all had decent chances on goal in the last two minutes. Maybe this will work. Yes, I just did a 180 in less than five minutes. What are you going to do about it?
54th minute — Balotelli was free on goal and waited, waited, waited, waited and lost the ball. 72 percent chance!
57th minute — Di Natale is coming in for Balotelli. I guess Prandelli sensed an explosion coming too.
60th minute — Almost as interesting as Spain’s 4-6-0 formation is Italy having De Rossi play center back. He’s been good there too.
61st minute — GOAL! Pirlo dribbled about 30 yards without anyone getting close to him and then sent a perfectly weighted ball to Di Natale who flipped it by Casillas. The Spanish midfield experiment is officially a failure. Italy 1, Spain 0.
64th minute — GOAL! OK, maybe not a complete failure. A terrible giveaway by Italy in there own end leads to a 1-2-3 with Silva, Iniesta, Fabergas that ends in the back of net. A fantastic goal. Italy 1, Spain 1.
68th minute — It’s worth noting Spain only scored after a fantastic passing combination. If it could happen twice for a team, it would be this one. But having a striker would still help.
74th minute — Here comes Torres for Fabergas. He hasn’t been good in three years, but a goal here would help his confidence immensely. Spain needs to find a forward for this tournament.
75th minute — Torres was through on goal and a bad touch allows Buffon to knock it away. Just a reminder to everyone this isn’t the Torres of 2008.
77th minute — Di Natalie with another great chance, but his sliding volley goes wide. I think Ballotelli has lost his officially starting place.
79th minute — I thought Spain was the second best team in this tournament (Germany No. 1) and they still might be, but if they’re better than Holland, Italy and France (yes, I said France) it’s not by much. Heck, Russia is sneaky good too.
83rd minute — Torres on the break again and a terrible pass gives the ball away. He’s just not good anymore.
85th minute — Torres free on a goal, AGAIN. This time his shot sails over the bar. He also got yellow card for a reckless elbow. It’s literally hard to watch him play.
89th minute — Spain has been superior since the Italian goal. Once Italy got tired more space has open up and the passing game started working. Still, Spain hasn’t created a ton of chances.
92nd minute – Alonso drives one from 25 yards out and it goes wide of the post . Probably the last chance of the match.
Full Time — Something I didn’t talk about is the Ramos-Pique tandem in the center of Spain’s defense. They didn’t look great and if they don’t get better it could cost them the championship. But, overall, Spain is still Spain (though not as quiet as good as the 2008 or 2010 versions) and Italy, a team that usually starts slow at tournaments, looked strong and confident against what has been the best national team of a generation.