Day two of the European Championships and I'm already regretting the Panini sticker series and the idea of posting day to day on the tournament as it goes along, but I guess i just have to suck it up. What else am I going to blog about in this stifling New York heat?
First up in Group B were co-hosts Austria playing against England's conquerors, Croatia. A game so boring that i actually fell asleep before it started. When did Austria get so bad? I think I missed the post-mortem. It's never a good sign when the first thing journalists can think of to describe you is 'plucky'. It conjures up images of the second round of the FA Cup and pub teams from the Paintball Division Two (South) going down kicking and screaming to Notts County.
What can be said about Croatia? Most Spurs fans got their first sight of Luka Modric, I once again get to be incredibly irritated by Portsmouth's Niko Kranjcar (he makes Ronaldo look like an unselfish player in front of goal) and it looks like the BBC Sports website should update its page on Croatia more often. I had got momentarily dizzy at the supposed news that Strachan was looking to sign a player under the age of 25, only to discover that Croatia's defensive midfielder, Ognjen Vukojevic, signed a five year deal with Dynamo Kiev last month.
Fast forward to the second fixture in Group B with Germany playing Poland in Klagenfurt (Football tournaments were my geography lessons growing up). For reasons I don't properly understand, Germany are a lot of pundits favourites for the Championship. I'm not sure if it's because of their strong showing at the 2008 World Cup, the esteem in which Joachim Löw is held as a coach or just because they happen to be in the same group as Austria. Poland, on the other hand, have in recent years taken on the role that Greece once held when it came to International footballing tournaments: flattering to deceive in the qualifying rounds for major tournaments, only for them to perform piss-poorly at the tournament itself. However, what with Poland getting spanked 3-0 by the USA in a home friendly just prior to the start of the tournament, maybe they've cottoned onto the idea that the best way to shake off such a hoodoo is to do the imploding bit before a competitive ball is kicked.
With regards to the game itself, the Germans deserved their one goal lead at half time, but Poland performed much more brightly in the second half when Guerreiro replaced an injured Magic Żurawski. What sort of Polish name is Guerreiro? It's not; it's Brazilian. By sheer chance, Roger Guerreiro discovered that Poland has passport officials who have been trained by Daily Mail journalists circa 1984. I can't say much for their taste in British journalism but they know a good footballer when they see one. Fourth game into the tournament and Guerreiro has been my favourite player so far. Expect a bogus transfer rumour circulating around Celtic park in due course.
Anyway, I can't be too cynical about the Poles motives. The two German goals were scored by Lukas Podolski, who happens to be Polish born. And Podolski only scored because the other Polish born forward in the German team, Miroslav Klose, decided not to wear his scoring boots that day.
What does the opening matches in Group B possibly tell us? Germany will qualify as winners of the group. In an echo of the 2006 World Cup, they have a momentum in place that won't be truly challenged until they face the likes of a France, Italy or Spain. With regards to Croatia, I think they may flatter to deceive. They had their time in the sun turning over England (twice) in qualifying but they wont even get to be knocked out by Portugal in the quarter final. Poland will take the runner-up spot behind Germany in Group B. I know by making such a bold statement, I'm open to be bitten on the arse. So be it. Poland played some tidy football, and in Guerreiro and Smolarek, they have potential match winners.
And little 'plucky' Austria? Persons of a certain vintage will be doing google searches for the great Hans Krankl, and will find this YouTube clip of his two brilliant goals against West Germany at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Whatever did happen to that West German defender by the name of Vogts?