Despite the sun and fun of the summertime, it is one of the most stressful for Premier league fans. With no games to be played, there is nothing left to focus on but the endless transfer rumors. With the social media revolution, this time of year has become a special kind of hell. Now, instead of a reading a straightforward account of negotiations between a club and a player, the tale takes too many twists and turns to count as onlookers can read tweets and status updates by players, coaches, agents and analysts; each one saying something slightly different, giving each reader a unique perspective on the events. So, with no love for this season, but recognition of the importance it can play, this author will try to answer the question, "What makes a good transfer?"
"They" say that late is better than never; so it's time to examine the final game of the 2012 European Football Championships and the lessons this edition of the tournament has taught us.
A prediction wasn't made for this year's final for the simple reason that the matchup didn't warrant one. Spain was always going to win. The announcers and analysts tried their best to give Italian fans hope by talking up the deep-sitting Andrea Pirlo, but he was never going to have the impact he had against England or Germany. Spain is a team that can press. They can press because they press intelligently, with purpose and calm instead of the blind energy-sapping vigor of a bulldog (a favorite of Fabio Capello's England side).
After the drawn out process of the group stage, this first round of knockout games has flown by. It has also produced some of the best performances of the tournament. With just three games left before a champion is crowned, let's see what the past round has revealed about the remaining teams.
They certainly looked impressive in their quarterfinal against the Czech Republic. They had the lion's share of the possession and dictated the pace of play through effective use of the wings. The individual performances of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani were especially noteworthy. Ronaldo often started the counter moving forward with intelligent distribution and was a constant threat in and around the Czech penalty area, while Nani ran the defense ragged on the right wing and provided some great services.
In case the end of the English Premier League season didn't make it clear enough, the Euro 2012 group stages have reaffirmed that anything can happen over the course of 3 games. And in doing so, has served this writer a large slice of humble pie. So, let's look at the results and the upcoming fixtures to see what the remaining teams did right, and what they have to change if they want to end up top of the heap.
Group A - 1st Czech Republic, 2nd Greece
What on earth happened to this group? Poland, as the co-host nation, should have been able to ride a tidal wave of support to the quarterfinals. Instead, they let the gravity of the moment get to them. A disappointing opening match draw against Greece was followed up by an encouraging result against then firing Russia. But in the must win situation against the Czechs, they could not find form. Robert Lewandowski did not provide the strikes they so desperately needed, leaving the country to look hopefully toward 2014 when, with any luck, he has matured a bit and can live up to his massive potential.
The launch of Euro 2012 means that the two-year wait for quality international soccer has ended. Euro 2012 has finally kicked off in Poland and Ukraine to a dramatic start with a loss by the Dutch and a tie salvaged by Greece. But will the drama continue, or will the underdogs of the tournament be forced to accept their fate?
Group A: Czech Republic, Greece, Poland and Russia
This is easily the weakest bracket in the tournament, and therefore the most likely to finish according to their respective FIFA rankings. Russia is the obvious frontrunner, as it has had a good run up to the tournament. Their defensive form has been exceptional, but will have to continue and accompany a clinical striking performance if they plan on advancing past the quarterfinals.
The onus of that offensive surge will fall to captain Andrei Arshavin. He cannot afford to go missing at any point during the match. He will be his teammates' first option when they look to play the ball, if he shirks his playmaker responsibilities, Russia will stall.