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The best and worst of Euro '08
by Paul Kennedy, June 11th, 2008 6:30AM

TAGS:  european championship


With the end of Matchday 1, we take a look at the best and worst of Euro '08, on the field and off. The best and worst games, teams, players, newcomers and TV moments.

BEST GAME. Played in the pouring rain in Innsbruck, Tuesday's Spain-Russia game was the most wide-open match of the tournament. Russia had its share of chances, and the game could have been closer but for what Coach Guus Hiddink called "stupid errors."

WORST GAME. France-Romania was a stinker: no goals and one shot on goal. The Romanians sat back and defended. But the Bleus were sorely lacking in ideas and initiative. For the third straight major championship, France failed to score in its opener.

BEST TEAM. The Netherlands brought back memories of the great Dutch teams of the past with its 3-0 win over 2006 World Cup champion Italy on Monday. Coach Marco Van Basten called it a historical result. "We have never beaten Italy by three goals," he said. The win catapulted the Dutch to the top of the list of tournament favorites, along with Germany, Portugal and Spain.

WORST TEAM. By lining up with five in the back, Greece showed the conservative approach that won it the Euro '04 championship. Only this time Otto Rehhagel's tactics didn't work. Greece fell to Sweden, 2-0, in Salzburg.

BEST PLAYER. Spain's David Villa put on a show against Russia, scoring three goals and setting up the fourth goal late in the game. He became the first player to score a hat trick at the European Championship in eight years.

WORST PLAYER. Marco Materazzi -- best known for his insult that provoked France's Zinedine Zidane to head-butt him in the chest at the 2006 World Cup final -- looked horrendous in Italy's loss the Netherlands. The Matrix could be headed to the bench for Italy's must win game against Romania.

BEST NEWCOMER. The towering Orlando Engelaar -- tipped by Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit before the tournament as a player to watch -- was outstanding in the Netherlands' win over Italy. The 6-foot-6 Engelaar and Nigel de Jong controlled the midfield, allowing their Dutch partners in attack to take the game to the shattered Italian backline.

WORST NEWCOMER. Billed as the new star in the French attack, Karim Benzema looked lost against Romania. The 20-year-old striker wasn't helped by Coach Raymond Domenech's decision to start him out in a deep-lying position in midfield.

BEST TV MOMENT. ESPN shone the first four days with its coverage of Euro '08 on ESPN2 -- tremendous in HD -- and ESPN Classic. A lot of graphic touches are gimmicks, but the ESPN axis time and again broke down key moments in meaningful ways, whether it was a birds-eye view of the referee on the deciding penalty in the Austria-Croatia game or the positioning of the Russian defenders on the pass from Xavi that led to Spain's first goal.

WORST TV MOMENT. Scotsman Andy Gray, a celebrity soccer pundit for his work on Sky Sports, was added to to ESPN's all-British broadcast team for Euro '08 and brought with him one horrible habit: his inability to remember names. The first time it happened, you could forgive him, but after that, his forgetfulness took away from his otherwise entertaining work.



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