All 16 teams have now played one match in Euro 2008, which will determine the soccer champion of Europe. Four teams stood out, one in each group. They are Portugal (2-0 victors over Turkey), Germany (2-0 victors over Poland), Holland (the most impressive of the lot, having defeated Italy 3-0) and Spain (4-1 victors over Russia).
First round results can be misleading. At the 2006 World Cup, the Czechs arguably were the most impressive team in the initial round, but went on to lose their next two matches and failed to advance. However, Portugal, Germany, Holland, and Spain were among the six most highly rated teams going in (least by me and most others, I suspect), and appear to be for real. If a few more teams can kick it into gear, it will make for an intriguing tournament.
The quality of the first eight matches was mediocre overall, but in addition to the form of the four above-mentioned teams there were at least three other pieces of good news. First, we were treated to only one 0-0 draw (France-Romania). Second, as I anticipated, Everton wash-out and Zidane-provoker Marco Materazzi proved woefully inadequate leading the Italian backline. He had to be replaced during Holland’s rout of Italy.
Finally, the Greeks, who won Euro 2004 when the competition proved unable to break through their defensive shell, leaked two goals to Sweden in the opener — a timely blow against dour football.
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