Pay attention to what Germany accomplished in Thursday's shocking 3-2 quarterfinal win over Portugal, because it's a harbinger of what's to come in the knockout rounds. The lesson is this: What you've accomplished in the group stage doesn't necessarily translate into one-off situations. Big-game experience becomes huge, and the key to winning is your mentality. You must be able to manage games over the entire 90 minutes. Germany is a great example, and Italy is another team that falls in line -- you can't count an experienced team out just because it did poorly in the group stage.
In Germany's case, its coach made the necessary adjustments --
Now that Portugal is out, the biggest star at the Euros -- Ronaldo -- is done for the tournament. So who do we hang our hat on now? The rules change completely. Individual talent and flashy offensive skills mean very little in the knockout stages. Now, the savvy players who can affect games the most will emerge as the stars.
At this point, you've got to pay attention to Germany's
Some other players to watch at this stage are Italy's
The big story here is Russian manager
The quality is there tactically and technically, but it's hard to go further down the depth chart of guys who can make a difference outside of
Then again, Hiddink is the biggest wild card there is. He may well be the best coach in the world. Every team he has ever managed in big competitions -- in World Cups or European Championships -- has always made it to the second round, regardless of the talent on paper. That includes teams like South Korea and Australia.
This is a great matchup because of how different these teams are. It's flash vs. consistency. Spain (mostly) plays a traditional 4-4-2, with perhaps the best strike tandem in the Euros with
Italy, on the other hand, hasn't played well. But here's where the experience plays big. They're without captain Cannavaro and defender