Betting On Euro 2008 Qtr. Finals BodogLife.com June 21st, 2008
By: Mike Halford – Bodog Nation
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Euro 2008 Gambling: Quarterfinals Part 2
As the quarterfinals get underway, only three undefeated teams – Spain, Holland and Croatia (Now Out) remain
Yesterday, we took a look at the first two 2008 European Championship quarterfinals. Today, we break down the second pair:
Through three games, the Dutch have proved the class of the tournament. The Oranje have outscored the opposition 9-1 while recording a number of highlight-reel goals (including this Wesley Sneijder wonder strike).
You’d be hard pressed to pick a single catalyst for the white-hot start. Liverpool workhorse Dirk Kuyt has been robust in the midfield. Robin van Persie has played sparingly yet is tied with Sneijder for the team lead in goals (2). Giovanni van Bronckhorst has emerged as one of the finest attacking outside defenders in the world and Edwin van der Sar remains one of the top five netminders in the game.
So yes, no real weaknesses in the Dutch squad.
This is not to say, however, that it’ll be an orange crush for Russia in the quarters. Despite a sloppy start to the tourney with a 4-1 loss to Spain, coach Guus Hiddink’s men have been in fine form since. The defense has tightened, not allowing a goal over the last 180 minutes. And on offense, 26-year-old Roman Pavlyuchenko is emerging as a bona fide star.
The Spartak Moscow frontrunner has been everything for the Russians: He’s taken the second-most shots in the tournament (18) and leads the team in tallies with two. His inspired play has already started a bidding war throughout Europe, as Scottish giants Celtic F.C. have been informed by Spartak that it’ll cost “at least” 6 million pounds in transfer fees.
Pavlyuchenko might not be the only one fleeing Moscow. 22-year-old netminder Igor Akinfeev – who plays his club football with CSKA – has burst onto the scene and is now the hottest young goalkeeper in Europe. After letting in four goals in the opening match, Akinfeev regrouped the Russian defense and held strong with consecutive shutouts of Greece and Sweden. A teenager when he helped CSKA win the UEFA Cup, he has been the national team No. 1 ever since – the game against Holland will be his 24th cap.
Hiddink stressed that his young stars needed to mature quickly if Russia had any chance at Euro glory. It appears as though they got the message. A dramatic turnaround in the group pushed them into the quarters ahead of favored Sweden. Now, the Russians are a stereotypical side playing with nothing to lose.
Will it be enough to upset the Dutch? Probably not. The orange-clad set have added inspiration now through Khalid Boulahrouz, who just days ago lost his prematurely born daughter. He’s vowed to return to the team, and the team has vowed to win the title.
Spain loves to get forward and move the ball with style and finesse.
Italy loves to defend and keep the ball from going anywhere.
This clash of styles should be just one of the numerous subplots emerging from a potentially cracking quarterfinal. Two of the powerhouses on the European stage, Spain versus Italy is a salivating matchup featuring some of the finest footballers on the planet. But which ones to feature?
If there is one tet-a-tet worth monitoring, it could be the classic striker vs. netminder battle. Spain’s David Villa – the leading scorer with four goals in three games – is the best striker in the tournament. That’s impressive stuff considering how well the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Lukas Podolski have played thus far. Considering that Villa wasn’t even tabbed as the best striker on his team heading into the tourney (that honor was bestowed on Liverpool frontman Fernando Torres), his ascension at Euro 2008 has been remarkable.
Villa will have to continue his solid play in order to beat Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon on Sunday, however. Widely considered to be the finest goalkeeper in the world, Buffon has been the catalyst for Italy’s advancement to the quarterfinals. It was his dazzling penalty save on Romania’s Adrian Mutu that kept Italy from crashing out early. Buffon followed up that performance with a clean sheet against France in a must-win – heady stuff from the first-time Azzuri captain.
The game will ultimately be more than Villa vs. Buffon, though. The vast difference in experience between the sides could come shining through. Italy have returned a good chunk of the team that captured World Cup honors in 2006; Spain have a relatively young squad that hasn’t advanced past the quarters of a major competition.
The experience is a paradox to the team’s successes thus far. Inexperienced Spain have aruguably been the class of the tourney, running a perfect 3-0 record while bagging eight goals in the process. Experienced Italy, meanwhile, have been consistently inconsistent and only have one win – a bland 2-0 decision over France – to their credit.
Still, it’s hard not to like the Italians, based solely on the fact they’ve proven they can win when it matters. Spain have a history steeped in failure and simply can’t be trusted against a cagey, veteran squad like the Azzuri. Bettors should jump at the chance of getting Italy at +180 – ride them all the way into the semifinals if you can.
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