Congratulations Cesc Fabregas

Well it’s over.

Spain have deservedly won Euro 2008 by playing some fantastic football and although the score was only 1-0 in the final against Germany in truth they cruised through the game once Fernando Torres scored that decisive goal.

But credit to Germany, even though they have an average side to get to another major final is quite an accomplishment. Hope for England in the future if anything else.

As the final whistle went and the cameras panned out to players like Jens Lehmann and Michael Ballack, you wondered about the fortunes of different players. Michael Ballack marginally missed out on this years Champions League, Premier League and now European Championships. He also missed out on the World Cup Final in 2002 after single-handedly getting them there. He might be German and he might play for Chelsea but there’s no doubt that Ballack is a fantastic player. Could Lampard do what he’s done? Exactly.

And how about Jens. He’s now moved on to Stuttgart but he has been an excellent servant for the club, and after also losing the Champions League Final a few years ago he’s also just missed out on another major European trophy.

But tonight was a great night for Cesc Fabregas, and you can’t help but be pleased for him.

He’s only just turned 21 but he has been such a massive part of Arsenal and been through the highs and lows of recent times. He won the FA Cup in his first full season at the club but since then has lost a Champions League Final and been through a rollercoaster season this year.

So it’s great that he started tonight’s final and managed to come out a European Champion.

He is such an example to everyone and his conduct since being at Arsenal has been truly exemplary. You see players like Adebayor and Hleb touting themselves out and quite frankly behaving disrespectfully towards the club and manager but Cesc is just fantastic.

That’s why we love him.

Well done Cesc and we’ll see you leading out Arsenal once again next season.


Andrei Arsharvin? I’d Rather Have Cesc Fabregas!

All the build up to the Spain v Russia game was about Andrei Arshavin but it was our very own Cesc Fabregas who lit up the semi-final with a sensational display, alongside an in form Spanish side.

Barcelona target Arshavin was the man people looked to before the match started to make something happen but it would be fair to say he was completely anonymous tonight. He’s also been linked to Arsenal and Chelsea in the Premier League but to be honest if he was any good Arsene would have snapped him up years ago. He does seem to have a temperament problem too, and was sent off in the qualifying campaign against Andorra which was the reason why he was suspended for the first two games of this summers championships.

Two good games? Barcelona can have him. Along with Hleb.

Fabregas was only introduced tonight as a substitute, after David Villa had to come off with an injury on 34 minutes. Since he came on though he changed the game and put in a real Man of the Match performance.

After coolly sending home the World Champions in the last round with a pressure penalty Fabregas was instrumental in sending Spain into the final to face the Germans. To be fair Spain were excellent all over the pitch and Cesc was a star amongst stars. But playing almost as a second striker he adapted well and linked up play sensationally. You couldn’t have asked any more of the kid.

Spain looked so confident tonight and will give the Germans a run for their money on Sunday evening, which is all you can ask for in a major final. The Spaniards opened the scoring on 50 minutes and were in cruise control from then on. A shot from Iniesta from the left side came into the path of Xavi, who slotted in from 5 yards. As Russia opened up Spain just passed circles around them and Fabregas was literally running the show. His sumptuous pass for Daniel Guiza made it 2-0 and he also rounded off a fantastic display with the assist for David Silva’s goal and Spain’s third with only 7 minutes remaining.

So the big question is will Cesc start the final?

Well in every game so far Spain have started with Torres and Villa up front, with a midfield of Silva, Senna and the Barcelona boys Xavi and Iniesta in the centre. Will Aragones break up the Barca link?

The problem is it seems that although Fabregas played alongside Xavi and Iniesta tonight, it was at the expense of David Villa. We don’t know how serious his injury is but if he’s fit for the final or Aragones wants to play with two strikers then there’s only room for two from Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas. Senna is the holding midfielder and David Silva is the playmaker so they are certain to start.

Even when Fabregas has been introduced into the action throughout this tournament (except for tonight) it has been at the expense of Xavi and Iniesta. Cesc has usually come on with another midfielder (Xabi Alonso or Santi Cazorla for instance) replacing both Xavi and Iniesta.

Clearly Aragones doesn’t think Fabregas can play alongside Xavi or Iniesta, or just doesn’t want to seperate the Barcelona midfielders.

Luckily though tonight Spain showed that all three are more than capable of playing well with each other in an effective midfield.

I personally don’t think Cesc will start the final even though he probably derserves to. Politics and player power is more and more influential these days and with 10 of tonight’s starting 11 playing their football in Spain (Torres being the exception) I just can’t see Fabregas cracking into that alliance. Can you imagine what the Spanish press would say if Iniesta or Xavi didn’t start despite starting all of the games so far?

I can’t see it happening.

Cesc will have to make do with being on the bench for the final but will more likely than not be the first substitute Spain will use. I would be shocked if he didn’t make some kind of appearance in the game.

P.S. I’ve just realised I spelt ‘Arshavin’ wrong in the title of this piece, but it can’t be changed now for the anally retentive among us.


How The Hell Did Germany Beat The Turks?!

What an amazing game.

How on earth did the Germans reach the final? I am completely flabbergasted. Only one team was playing good football and Turkey deserved much more from the game tonight.

In the first half, it was all Turkey’s and they hit the bar twice and scored the opening goal which was thoroughly deserved. The only problem was for all their attacking play they didn’t capitalise on it and find the crucial second goal which could have really killed the game.

Did Germany have 3 shots all evening?

Before the game I was reading various preview write ups and some people were talking about a massive German-bias, with a Franco-German UEFA with its Franco-German Axis apparently like the EU. Some points were made about how Turkey’s suspended goalkeeper Volkan received a two-match ban and Schweinsteiger only got a one-game ban for a very similar offense.

Although I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the said offenses happening in the Group Stages and Knockout Rounds and therefore hold different punishments?

Then people pointed out that in Euro 96′ Germany were granted special dispensation after having a similar injury crisis to Turkey in this years Championships. I personally can’t remember any of that, although the only real thing I remember was Gareth Southgate f*cking up that penalty. And that Pizza Hut advert.

I’m sure all conspiracy theories, but interesting going into the game.

Because I saw some dodgy refereeing tonight. How some of the Germans didn’t get yellow cards was pretty shocking, and when Senturk made a forwards tackle he got a booking when Germany had committed far worse fouls throughout the match!

And no, I didn’t forget the tackle on Lahm – and replays showed that initial contact was outside the penalty area anyway.

Yet again in this competition Turkey were excellent and deserved much better fortunes tonight. Even at 2-1 down you know they might do something and on 87 minutes Senturk scored a well-earned equaliser which looked to take the game into extra time.

But then the Germans nicked it. Literally.

On the luck-o-meter this result was one the luckiest I have ever seen. They played so badly and only fashioned 3 real chances and scored them all. What a shame that Rustu is such a sh*te goalkeeper, because the mistake for the Klose goal was shocking.

Think I’ll be cheering on Spain or Russia on Sunday night.


Turkey’s Magic Nihat Stuns Czech’s Petr!

Okay, I tried a pun on ‘Arsene’s Magic Hat’ and failed miserably. What was I thinking? So moving swiftly on…What a stunning game.

Even before the game kicked off there was hype already as it could have gone down in history as the first group game in a major international tournament to go to penalties after 90 minutes. Both sides had won one game, lost one and had a goal difference of minus 1 (with both scoring 2 and conceding 3) and therefore had exactly the same record. So a draw would result in a penalty shootout at the final whistle with no extra time.

And the game kicked off 5 minutes later than scheduled as a Turkish player apparently didn’t have the right boots or something (I missed the first few minutes so didn’t see what actually happened).

The first half was cagey and Turkey didn’t really offer any kind of goal threat despite playing with two strikers. The Czech’s on the other hand had started with Jan Koller up top and looked the more inventive side.

The Czech Republic deservedly took the lead on 34 minutes, from a fine Koller header into the top corner.

But it was the second half where all the action took place.

Turkey came out of the blocks the far better side with neat passing and excellent movement but didn’t really put Petr Cech under any real pressure – it was reminiscent of Arsenal sides of old, which would play pretty football but couldn’t offer any real killer instinct.

And against the run of play, the Czech’s scored what looked like the killer second goal.

A quick freekick and break from the Czech Republic saw Sionko released on the right hand side and his cross was brilliantly converted on the volley from the other winger Plasil. There was a bit of controversy surrounding the goal as Turkish defender Gungor was taken off by a stretcher and the Turks couldn’t get the replacement centre back on the pitch. To be fair though, there didn’t seem to be any real breaks in play for the substitution to be made.

After conceding the second goal Turkey looked all over the place, seemingly dejected from Plasil’s goal. And with this the Czech Republic were unlucky not to score a third, when Jan Polak hit the post with a right-footed effort and almost connected with the rebound before being kicked in the head.

But to their credit after that Turkey got their act together and didn’t cave in. They didn’t panic and continued their passing game and tried to break down the Czechs.

And with 15 minutes left they got a lifeline.

Hamit Altintop (who looked really impressive all game) sent in a wicked cross which missed everyone in the middle and landed to the last man Turan, who sent a shot into the near corner passed Petr Cech. It looked like the Chelsea keeper really should have done better but the bottom line was Turkey had some hope.

Turkey were urgent in their play and sent in cross after cross after cross and piled the pressure on the Czechs but couldn’t create any clear cut chances to score that valuable equaliser.

And then with 2 minutes left it happened.

Altintop sent in a fantastic cross with pace and bend but Cech looked favourite to make a comfortable catch. But as time stood still the overrated* Petr Cech fumbled the ball and it landed to the feet of Nihat Kahveci who didn’t need a second invitation to slot into an empty net.

Turkey had equalised, and penalties where coming!

The watching world (well, Europeans anyway) were preparing for a historic penalty shootout to decide who would join Portugal in the second round but before anyone could take in the equaliser Nihat was played in and sent a stunning strike passed Cech and right into the top corner off the bar.

What a turnaround!

Unbelievable. Turkey had come from 2 goals down and stolen qualification at the death! What a fantastic end to possibly one of the best second halves of football in a major international tournament.

I haven’t seen anything like it.

Is anyone else starting to love the European Championships?

* Look at William Gallas’ goal against Chelsea at the Emirates last season. That’s right, I went there.