Rongen's Euro Notebook: Total Football, life in Italy and more
After the first round of games, there are four teams that have clearly set themselves apart as favorites: Portugal, Germany, Holland and Spain. And the best thing about that is that all four play a degree of Total Football, the offensive-minded tactical strategy popularized by my fellow Dutchman, the late, great
Essentially, Total Football means that any player on the field can contribute to the attack. In this case, all four Euro favorites have been rewarded for their attacking football. That's a nice change from 2004, where Greece shocked everyone by winning with defense.
Portugal and Germany have shown they can put together a comprehensive performance.
Holland and Spain probably displayed the best football by perfectly utilizing the transition game -- the counterattack wins games in the modern era of soccer. And the key to the counterattack is the involvement of a third player. Take, for example, Holland's second goal against Italy:
Similarly, Spain's first goal came from an unsuccessful Russia corner kick, after which
The first goal Holland scored on the World Cup champs was a tough one.
But I was impressed by what the Italian players said in the press after the game -- they took responsibility. Italy always plays better when things don't go well. Look at the '06 World Cup, when the entire country was involved in a match-fixing scandal. The players get stronger as a group during adversity, and I think this loss will bring them together. They've got such an unbelievable tournament mentality -- they notoriously start slow and pick it up as they go.
Croatia didn't show a lot even though it won its opener against Austria. I'm not sure they're for real. Sweden won in a dull match against Greece, where the difference was a moment of brilliance by
In the Group of Death, only two teams are going to advance, and I feel like France's time may finally be up. Getting
I had my eye on Portugal's 21-year-old
Another player to watch is Czech striker