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Friday, June 29, 2012

Super Mario Balotelli Slays Die Mannschaft

Mario shows the muscle
As Mario Balotelli walked off the field in the 69th minute to give way to Antonio Di Natale, the frustration he wore on his face would have deceived you into thinking he had had the worst game of his career. That he had let the team down. That they were trailing and if there was anyone who could take the game by the scruff of its neck and rescue the team, he was the one. But here he was, being substituted. He was being told he’s simply not good enough. He’s not the man.

But that was barely the case. It’s just that he loves to play. But on this night, in front of over 55,000 fans at Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw and millions of others worldwide, he did not only play. He impressed. He mesmerized. He terrorized. He was truly world class. He was super. He was Mario.

The timing of his run, the leap and authority with which he headed the Italians in front after only 20 minutes was just a show of his potential. He celebrated, pulling his shirt in exasperation as if it had become so heavy and he wanted to remove it. But he must have thought and said, “My second goal is coming.”

And come it did.

But this had a BETTER timing. And the control and power with which he struck the second one16 minutes later was a statement. A statement that he’s no longer to be seen just as having potential. He’s ready to dine at the top table. With the best there is. That shirt was now heavier than ever. He could no longer resist the urge, the temptation to pull it out. Didn’t he know that giving in to the urge would earn him a booking? Of course he knew. But who cared at this point?

So he removed his No. 9 shirt, threw it to the ground. With authority. Everything he did on this night was done with authority. And for a while, you would have thought he was starring in a Mr. Muscle advert as he stood akimbo, his muscles flexed and his eyes transfixed on something. Ladies loved that. Didn’t they?

On this night, the 21-year-old was no longer auditioning. It was an initiation. A right of passage.

He had orchestrated the fall of a German team that was boasting of having won all their matches prior to the semi-final clash. They were the team on song. The one that everyone was dreading to face. And that included defending champions, Spain, who had a day earlier beaten Portugal to enter the finals.

Mesut Ozil converted a penalty in the second minute of added time to make it 2-1. But that proved to be just a consolation. No one would deny Italy and Balotelli the chance to advance to the finals. Not when they could have easily beaten Joachim Low’s side with at least 4 goals were it not for some poor finishing from Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Di Natale.

But this was Mario’s night. And even he reckoned so calling it, “the best night of my career.” With three goals, he, like Mario Gomez and Cristiano Ronaldo, has a shout on who will win the golden boot.

On Sunday at 20:45CET at the 65,400 capacity Olimpijsky stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, the Euro 2012 final takes place. Mario will be there. Spain, beware. 

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spain Book Euro 2012 Finals Berth

Cristiano lives to fight for another day
Reigning champions Spain moved to within a win of becoming the first team to defend the European title. La Roja defeated Portugal 4-2 on post-match penalties in their semi-final clash at the Donbass Arena in Donets’k to qualify for their third consecutive major final.

Cesc Fabregas converted the winning penalty which, without a doubt, decided the best match of the Euro 2012 campaign thus far.

Spain found chances hard to come by against Paul Bento’s side. The defending champions were pinned back and didn’t have as much of the ball as they are accustomed to.

But like it has been in this tournament, Vicente Del Bosque’s free passing side sailed into the July 1 finals in a champions-esque style.

This was a night when Cristiano Ronaldo needed to step up, again. Just like he did when his two goals knocked out Holland out of contention in the group stages. Just like he did when his bullet header sent Czech Republic crashing out of the competition.

A win here for Portugal and especially an inspirational performance from CR7 would have reignited the debate on who is the best player in the world. Well, that debate will still continue in spite of the Real Madrid forward failing to steer his team to the finals. But it could have killed one debate; who’s the best player of the 2012 football calendar?

That he ended up not even taking a penalty was as disappointing as the clear chances he missed in the course of the game, the worst, or best for Spain, being in the 90th minute when he blasted over with only Iker Casillas to beat, albeit at a tight angle.

That was the last chance any team had to prevent the match from going into extra time. But he squandered it.

The 35th meeting between the two sides had limited chances and could have been decided by a solitary goal. Alvaro Arbeloa got the first opportunity to do so with nine minutes on the clock but side-footed his effort wide from just outside the area.

Portugal then took the game to their opponents using Ronaldo’s left wing but the captain couldn’t cause his Real Madrid teammate Iker Casillas enough problems in the Spanish goal.

The second half was barely different and the Spaniards only started to control the game after the half hour mark but it all counted for nothing as the game went into extra time.

That the 90 minutes had taken enough from the men on the field was clear to see. But the Portuguese looked the more fatigued. Pepe and Fabio Contreao were having a monster of a game constantly preventing La Roja from advancing either through the center or the right wing. But when they did, Rui Patricio was taking no prisoners between his sticks. Iniesta and Jesus Navas drew stunning saves from the custodian.

And so it was written, so it had to be done. Penalties. Xabi Alonso drew the loudest cheer yet from the partisan crowd when his effort was saved by Patricio. Casillas saved from Moutinho to extend the drama.

Iniesta scored and so did Pepe, Pique, Nani and Ramos, who’s was a brilliant Panenka that Andrea Pirlo must have been proud of. As he celebrated, I wondered whether this was the same player who had a terrible miss against Bayern Munich in the same level of competition in the UEFA Champions league.

Bruno Alves missed the next spot kick to put Spain in the driving seat. At 3-2 in favour of Del Bosque’s side, Cesc Fabregas was presented with the chance to ensure they will be the team traveling to Kiev for Sunday’s final.

The Barcelona playmaker who has mostly been used in the tournament as a ‘false’ striker made no mistake slotting home off the post to put Spain in yet another final.

La Roja are on the brink of becoming the first nation in the world to win three successive major tournaments. But this was more of a professional than deserved win and there was no evidence that they will cruise past either Italy or Germany in the final. The latter are everyone’s favourites to advance to the final which sounds as epic as they come.

For Portugal and Ronaldo, they don’t touch down on Lisbon until they honour their third place playoff match against the losers of the Germany-Italy clash. Ronaldo could still win the golden boot.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mwende Hat-Trick Lifts Embu over Meru

Doreen Mwende (R) in action
A Roy of the Rovers performance from Doreen Mwende steered Embu Select XI to a comfortable 4-1 win over Meru South in the COPA Coca-Cola Lower Eastern inter-sub-branch matches played at Kibugua Stadium, Embu.

The witty striker hit a sublime hat-trick within the opening quarter hour and Caroline Nkirote scored the other as Peninah Gatoto scored the consolation goal for the visitors.

Meru were the quickest off the blocks and could have gone ahead just two minutes after kick off but Peninah blasted high.

The missed chance proved costly as barely two minutes later, Mwende collected a loose ball from just outside the area before unleashing a ferocious drive that went straight into the back of the net to put her team ahead. The lead lasted only two minutes though as Peninah made amends for her earlier miss by tapping in an inviting cross from the left channel to draw the teams level.

But that’s as far as good fortunes went for Meru as their hosts, and especially Mwende, took charge. The hardworking striker pulled her team right back ahead on the 10th minute, letting loose a speculative long range effort that Meru keeper made a meal of.

Backed by a vociferous home support, Embu were looking more like the finished article and they made it 3-1 in the 13th minute. After coming second best in a one-on-one situation with Meru custodian Damaris Murugi, Caroline Nkirote made no mistake a minute later as she opened her account with a tap in from five yards.

But it was the swift and agile Mwende who put the result of the game beyond doubt. The Embu No. 10 completed her deserved hat-trick 8 minutes before the interval rifling in a free-kick from 30 yards that beat everyone including Meru keeper Susan Wanjiru. The half finished 4-1 in favour of Embu.

Meru South coaching bench were clearly not amused by the team’s performance and rung changes at the half time break including hauling off custodian Susan who conceded all but one of all the shots she faced in the first half.

The second half was more balanced with new keeper Damaris Murugi providing a safer hand in goal for the visitors. Harriet Gakii had the best chance to score late into the second half but Murugi ensured she finished the match with a clean sheet, a feat that saw her included among the 16 players selected to advance to the inter-branch levels.

Other players selected from the sub-branch included hat-trick hero Doreen, goal-scorers Gatoto and Nkirote as well as Embu keeper Agnes Karegi and her Meru counterpart Damaris Murugi. Virginia Nduta, Anne Wakio, Rachel Makena, Linet Nyakio, Cecilia Muthoni, Jerusha Gacheri, Charity Muthoni, Christine Nkatha, Franciline Wawera, Janet Mukami and Rosemary Mbathe completed the best 16 from the sub-branch.

In the boys’ encounter, hosts Embu also thrashed Meru 4-1 with goals from Simon Nderitu, Kevin Gitonga, Florent Kitili and Steven Njiru. Hassan Mugambi scored the consolation goal for Meru.

Meanwhile in Central Rift inter-sub-branch games, Baringo were the in-form team as they won 2-0 against Koibatek before sharing a barren draw with Nakuru. Nakuru beat Naivasha 3-1 with the latter hitting Koibatek 3-2 as Baringo and Nakuru drew 0-0 in matches played at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru.

In the girls’ matches, Naivasha thrashed Koibatek 4-0 before drawing 0-0 with Nakuru as Baringo handed Koibatek their second straight loss in a 1-0 victory. Nakuru and Naivasha could not breach each other’s backline when they faced off. Baringo lost 1-0 to Nakuru in the last match.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo One Win Away from 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or Award

Ballon d'Or within Ronnie's grasp
Cristiano Ronaldo powered Portugal to the Euro 2012 semi-finals with a late header that gave the 2004 losing finalists a 1-0 win over Czech Republic in Warsaw.

The Real Madrid forward timed his run to perfection before connecting to a Joao Moutinho cross and powerfully heading the ball which deflected off the ground and past Petr Cech in the Czechs goal.

The match lacked fireworks of a quarter-final match in the first half with both teams reluctant to push forward. The Seleccao were the better team after the interval but found it hard to breach the Czech defence, and when they did, Petr Cech mopped up everything within sight.

The match looked to be heading for extra time before Ronaldo popped up with the bullet header just 11 minutes before English referee Howard Webb blew the final whistle.

Spain or France awaits Paulo Bento’s men in the semis. The Portuguese are no longer also-rans, not with CR7 looking the complete article that he undoubtedly is. The 27-year-old’s third goal in the competition made all the difference against the Central Europeans and he seems to have finally shrugged off the curse that has seen him falter to deceive under the national team colours time and again.

The chants "Messi!, Messi!" in the second match in the group stages against Denmark drew angry reactions from the Madeira-born forward-cum-winger. But it looks like it also put fireworks in his belly if his recent performances are anything to go by.

He, more than anyone else, knows that lifting the Euro 2012 championships will indisputably and deservedly put the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or award on a silver platter for him. If his season with La Liga champions Real Madrid wasn't enough to earn him the world player of the year gong, then a European Championship medal or even a runners-up one certainly will. 

And how he would like to finally get one over football nemesis Lionel Messi after failing to do so in the last three years! He’s only one win away from the finals, two from lifting the cup.

Who says he can’t do it?

Meanwhile Germany take on Greece Friday night in the second quarterfinal. 

The Die Mannschaft are yet to lose or even draw a game in the championships thus far and are the only team to emerge from the group stages with a 100% win record. 

They will be looking to extend that run against the 2004 champions in an encounter that will also have political undertones thanks to the economic crisis facing the Hellenic nation. 

Germany have never lost to Greece. They have also won all their five previous quarter-final matches in the Euro championships and gone on to reach the finals.

My Prediction
Germany 3-0 Greece

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

COPA Coca-Cola Action Gathers Steam, One Fan Stands to Win a Trip to South Africa

The COPA Coca-Cola inter-sub-branch matches continues this weekend with six sub-branches hosting their matches across the country.

Nyanza South sub-branch will host their matches on Saturday with Kisii facing Gucha and Nyamira taking on Rachuonyo at Cardinal Otunga grounds in Kisii County. Girls’ matches will see Rachuonyo squaring off against Gucha as Nyamira tackle Kisii. Winners in their respective matches will face other winners as losers battle for third place.

On Sunday, a total of five sub-branches including Southern Branch, Central Rift, Lower Eastern and North-Western will host their matches.

In North Western, action will be in Bungoma High School, Bungoma town. Mt. Elgon will play Teso as hosts Bungoma tackle Lugari in the boys’ matches. Teso versus Lugari and Bungoma versus Mt. Elgon are the matches on the card for the girls.

In Central Rift, Nakuru will have a duel in their hands against Naivasha as Koibatek tackle county team Baringo for the boys’ title. Naivasha will then take on Koibatek as Baringo face an uphill task against Nakuru for the girls’ honours. The matches will be played at the famous Afraha stadium in Nakuru.

Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos will play host to the Southern branch matches. Home-team Machakos will face a gala match against a tricky Kitui side as Makueni and Mwingi battle in the grass in the other boys’ match. Makueni face Machakos and Kitui clash with Mwingi in another match for the girls.

The weekend matches will be rounded up at Kibugua Stadium in Embu where Lower Eastern teams including Embu/Mbeere and Meru South/Tharaka sub-branch will contest for the honours.

Meanwhile one COPA Coca-Cola fan stands a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to South Africa. Dubbed the COPA Coca-Cola Media Fan, the lucky fan will simply have to take a photo of him/herself with 3 different COPA players and get a short story or profile on each player.

The fan will then be required to post the 3 photos with the players on the COPA Coca-Cola (Kenya) Facebook page which will enter him/her into the competition. More details can be found on COPA Coca-Cola (Kenya) Facebook Group. The competition runs until July 31st, 2012.
And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Euro 2012 Day 12 Round Up – England, France Complete Quarterfinals Line-Up

England and France progressed from Group D and completed the line-up for the quarterfinals of the ongoing 2012 Euro Championships. The Three Lions beat and dumped co-hosts Ukraine out of the tournament thanks to a solitary goal from the returning Wayne Rooney.

France suffered a shocker in Kiev going down 2-0 against Sweden who were playing for nothing but pride. The loss however condemned Les Blues to a tough clash with reigning champions Spain while England finished top of the group booking a date with Italy.

Rooney was the only change in Roy Hodgson’s team that beat Sweden with Andy Caroll relegated to the bench. Ukraine on the other hand were missing star man Andriy Shevchenko who was not passed fit to start.  The two teams huffed and puffed for much of the first half but none delivered the killer punch as the half ended barren.

England scored the only goal in the game just three minutes after the interval. Steven Gerrard whipped one of his many corners which the Ukraine defence timidly cleared into the feet of Glen Johnson. The Liverpool and England right-back returned the ball to his captain who side stepped and turned on his marker leaving him for dead before firing in a low shot which evaded everyone but Rooney at the far post. The Manchester United forward who was making his championships debut after serving a two-game suspension simply nodded in to register his first goal in the competition.

It was Gerrard’s third assist in as many matches and the Liverpool man seems to be growing in influence as the competition progresses.

The raucous home-team support in Donets’k were all up in arms just after the hour mark. Marko Devic, who was a consistent nuisance to the English backline, thought he had grabbed the equalizer before John Terry’s acrobatic clearance. The officials judged that the ball had not crossed the line although replays suggested otherwise. Justice was done however as Devic was in an offside position.

France failed in their pursuit to avoid the team that all are dreading to face, Spain, after going down to a Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal of the tournament-esque strike and another from Sebastian Larsson in added time.

France needed a win to guarantee top spot in Group D but they were expertly beaten in Kiev allowing England to finish top. Laurent Blanc’s men face Spain on Saturday 23rd June at the Donbass Arena in Donets’k before England take on Italy in Kiev a day later.

The first of the quarterfinal matches will be the Czech Republic versus Portugal on Thursday before Germany tackle Greece on Friday.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Euro 2012 Day 11 Round Up - Spain and Italy Advance to Last 8 as Croatia and Ireland Sent Packing

Jesus Navas taps in to win it for Spain
Defending champions Spain qualified for the quarterfinals of the ongoing European championships with a labored 1-0 win over Croatia as Italy also advanced as Group D runners-up with a 2-0 triumph over Ireland.

La Roja found the Balkan defence hard to crack and had to wait until the 88th minute to nick the win. Man-of-the-match, Andres Iniesta, collected an implausible lobbed ball from substitute Cesc Fabregas before selflessly feeding Jesus Navas who had the simple task of tapping in to give Vicente del Bosque’s side a win which was more professional than deserved.

Meanwhile a goal either side of the half from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli gave Italy a comfortable 2-0 win over Ireland at Stadion Miejski in Poznan.

Cassano headed the Azzurri in front in the 35th minute from an Andrea Pirlo cross and Balotelli assured the 1968 winners of the three points and a slot in the last eight with a sublime bicycle kick from inside the area.

Cesare Prandelli’s side will face winners of Group D while Spain will face the runners-up. England and France are expected to advance but Ukraine also have a chance should they beat England or draw and hope that Sweden beat France by more than three goals.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

2012 Ballon d’Or-Seeking Cristiano Ronaldo Silences Critics

Euro 2012 Day 10 Round Up –  Portugal Send the Dutch Flying Back Home as Germany Set Up a Quarterfinal Clash with Greece

The 10th day of the 2012 European championships saw one of the tournament’s top teams Holland suffer an embarrassing exit after failing to record a single point in three games.

The Dutch needed to win their last clash against Portugal and hope that Germany beat Denmark, as they did, to go through. Bert van Marwijk’s charges looked well on course to win the crucial tie with just 11 minutes on the clock when captain Rafael van der Vaart curled in a sublime effort from outside the area past Rui Patricio in the Portuguese goal.

The goal livened up the Seleccao and more so their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo who was at the center of some unrelenting pressure on the Dutch backline. The Real Madrid forward grabbed the equalizer in the 28th minute feeding off a Joao Pereira through ball before sliding it under the feet of Maarten Stekelenburg and into the net.

The clearest of chances of the remaining time fell to the Portuguese but Stekelenburg was equal to the task as the half ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

Portugal were deadly in counter attacks which became the source of their second and winning goal after the interval. With nearly quarter an hour left before the final whistle, Ronaldo, again, was on the receiving end of a through ball this time from Luis Nani. The 27-year-old beat his marker with relative ease before slotting the ball home to fire Portugal into the quarters and round off a luminous individual performance.

The win settled the puzzle on who would advance from Group B, rightly dubbed the “Group of Death”,  as the Portuguese were joined by Germany who ensured they are the only team with a 100% winning record from the group stages thanks a 2-1 win over Denmark. Lukas Podolski and Lars Bender scored either side of Michael Krohn Dehli’s strike for Denmark to give the Bavarians a perfect nine points.

The Dutch never really got going from the off and three loses from three matches marks their worst ever Euro performance since 1984 when they failed to get past the group stages.

The biggest winners of the night though were Portugal, but more so their top dog Cristiano Ronaldo. His world-class performance against the Oranje must have had many of his critics eat their humble pie. It was pure masterclass, full of energy, full of running and dribbling as he arguably played his best match in a Portuguese shirt on his way to becoming the Seleccao's all time leading goalscorer. A club form was produced at the international level against a team ranked No. 2 in the world.

A date with Czech Republic in the quarters awaits and it’s no rocket science that the southwestern Europeans will be favourites to conquer their Central European opponents. A win for Portugal masterminded by the captain will not only put the team to the quarters but will surely put Cristiano Ronaldo in pole to win the 2012 Ballon d’Or.   

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

English Premier League 2012-13 Fixtures

The 2012-13 English Premier League fixtures have been released. The opening day of the season will see champions Manchester City start their title defence against promoted side Southampton at the Etihad stadium on August 18. Last season’s runners-up Manchester United will travel to Merseyside to meet Everton as Arsenal welcome Sunderland at the Emirates.

New Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers will make the trip to the Hawthorns to face Steve Clarke’s West Bromwich Albion. Until Rodgers was appointed manager at the L4 club, Clarke worked under Kenny Dalglish as assistant coach but resigned following Dalglish’s sacking.

The other fixtures on the opening weekend will be Wigan Athletic against champions league winners Chelsea, while it will be fourth against fifth as Newcastle United face Tottenham Hotspur at the St. James’ Park. Fulham welcome Norwich City at Craven Cottage while Aston Villa will travel to London to face Sam Alladyce’s promoted side West Ham.

Swansea will begin their life in the premier league without Brendan Rodgers away to Queens Park Rangers as Stoke City visit Madjeski Stadium to face another promoted side Reading.

The season begins on 18 August 2012 and ends on 19 May 2013.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Euro 2012 Day 8 Round Up - England Break Sweden Voodoo, France Sink Ukraine

England came out tops of a 5-goal thriller to beat and eliminate bogey team Sweden 3-2 in one of the most entertaining matches of the Euro 2012 tournament thus far.

The Three Lions went into the match carrying an unenviable statistic of not having beaten the Scandinavians in their past 7 competitive attempts. Roy Hodgson introduced Liverpool striker Andy Caroll into the starting IX and the big man paid his manager's faith in him handsomely by powerfully heading home the opener in the 23rd minute off a Steven Gerard cross to give England a 1-0 lead heading into the break.

Sweden started the second half brightly launching a wave of attacks and putting the England defence under incessant pressure. They soon grabbed the equalizer, just 4 minutes after the restart. Caroll conceded a free-kick and Zlatan Ibrahimovic stepped forward to take it. The Swedish captain saw his effort come off the wall and he hit the rebound into the path of former Aston Villa center-back Olof Melberg who shot past Joe Hart and Glen Johnson unsuccessfully tried to clear it but conceded the goal instead. 

England were on the back foot and they soon allowed Erik Hamren's side to take the lead. Sebastian Larsson sent a free-kick into the England D finding an unmarked Melberg who headed home to make it 2-1.

Roy Hodgson needed not much more time to show his tactical acumen as he sent on speed star Theo Walcott with James Milner making way. The change soon paid off. Steven Gerrard swung in one of his customary corner kicks but it was headed out. Fortunately for England, Walcott was waiting from just outside the area and the Arsenal winger hit a sumptous volley that deceived everyone including custodian Andreas Isaksson to make it 2-2 and set up a dramatic finish.

Ibrahimovic tested Hart soon after but the England No. 1 was equal to the task parrying the ball to safety. Another magical Walcott moment was on the offing though. The 23-year-old squeezed himself between two Swedish defenders before crossing from the right and Danny Welbeck connected with a mind-boggling back heel to win it for England.

The win eliminated Sweden from the competition and England just need to draw their last match to qualify for the quarters.

Meanwhile, at the Donbass Arena in Donets'k France boosted their chances of qualifying from Group D with a 2-0 win over co-hosts Ukraine. Two second half goals in three minutes from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye gave Les Blues the win in a match that was suspended for nearly an hour due to a heavy downpour. Laurent Blanc's men lead the group and like England, they will also need a draw in their final match against Sweden to qualify for the quarters. England tackle Ukraine.

Day 9 of the championships sees the last round of group A matches taking place Saturday June 16. Co-hosts Poland take on the Czech Republic in a winner takes all match. However, a draw for Czech coupled by a Greece win over Russia will see the Central Europeans qualify. Russia need only a point to advance to the quarters but 2004 Champions Greece will have to win and hope that Poland beat Czech.

My Predictions

Czech 2-0 Poland
Greece 2-2 Russia

You can catch all the scores and updates from Day 9 here. 
And That's thesteifmasterake!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Euro 2012 Day Seven Round Up – Spain in Driver's Seat, Ireland Knocked Out, Croatia and Italy Share Spoils

El Nino justifies his selection
Spain showed just why they are being billed as the No. 1 favourites to lift the European championships with a resounding 4-0 demolition of a hapless Ireland.

Fernando Torres scored either side of David Silva’s goal while substitute Cesc Fabregas completed the rout as La Roja got their campaign on song while the Irish became the first team to be eliminated from the competition.

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque tweaked his line up a bit dropping Fabregas to the bench in favour of Torres who showed glimpses of his ability in the 1-1 draw against Italy in the first match.  

And the former Liverpool man justified his selection with a man-of-the-match performance against the Irish at the PGE Arena in Gdansk. The defending champions dominated the game right from the onset and took the lead with just four minutes on the clock. Some suspect defending from Richard Dunne saw Torres pounce on a loose ball before riffling it into the roof of the net to give Spain the lead.

La Roja’s passing game was simply overwhelming for Giovanni Trapattoni’s side who were making only their second appearance in the competition, and first in 24 years. The gulf in class was all too evident as The Boys in Green were made to chase possession by the team ranked No. 1 in the world who could have put the game beyond reach were it not for some stunning saves from Shay Given in goal. The half ended 1-0 to La Roja.

It took another four minutes into the second half for the world champions to double their lead. Andres Iniesta stung Given’s palms with a drive from just inside the area. The Irish and Newcastle custodian’s punch was weak and fell into the feet of David Silva who showed patience and control tandem to his class before slipping the ball through Dunne’s legs and into the net.

Spain never let their foot off the gas constantly probing and testing Shay Given. They made it 3-0 in the 70th minute. Torres, who scored the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final, doubled his tally after latching onto a David Silva through ball before outpacing the Irish defence and slotting past Given.

The Chelsea forward soon made way for Fabregas who scored his second goal in as many matches with a tight-angled shot from the right side in the 83rd minute to complete a superb evening for Spain.

La Roja are always never too quick to get off the blocks. In the 2010 World Cup, they lost their first match against Switzerland and looked like they were in deep trouble but a run of six consecutive victories saw them win football’s most coveted price. It was barely a case of déjà vu this time round as they secured a point against Italy but they are now firm and in control of Group C.

Meanwhile Mario Mandzukic’s 72nd minute strike earned Croatia a 1-1 draw against Italy in Poznan. Andrea Pirlo curled in a delicious free-kick in the 39th minute to give the Azzuri the lead but it was the Wolfsburg striker who had the last word on the game netting his third goal of the tournament to give the Vatreni a crucial point and leave the Italians in danger of exiting the competition.

The last round of Group C matches will be played Monday the 18th. Spain need only a point to advance to the knockout stages while Italy will hope Spain beat or draw with Croatia but they will have to score more than two goals if the latter happens.

Day 8 of the championships takes place Friday June 15. England know that only a win against Sweden (a team they have failed to beat in 7 competitive attempts dating back to almost 24 years ago), will give them a chance to advance. France tackle co-hosts Ukraine at the Donbass Arena in Dontes’k in the other encounter. A surprise win for Ukraine against the French will see them advance to the quarters.

You can catch all the scores and updates from Day 8 here.

My Predictions

England 2-1 Sweden

France 2-0 Ukraine

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Euro 2012 Day Six Round Up - Varela Rescues Portugal, Holland on the Brink

Manuel Neuer leaves Van Persie flat-footed
One of the bookmakers’ favourites to win the 2012 European Championships, Germany, all but sealed their qualification to the quarter-finals with an emphatic 2-0 win over Holland. 

Mario Gomez’s first half double gave Joachim Low’s side their second straight win in the competition but which put Bert van Marwijk’s men on the brink of elimination.

Robin Van Persie opened his and the Dutch’s account in Euro 2012 with a consolation goal in the 73rd minute but it was too little too late as the Oranje crashed to a 2-1 defeat, their second in as many matches after falling 1-0 to Denmark in the opening match.

Meanwhile, Silvestre Varela spared Portugal the blushes of an early exit from the competition with a late winner against Denmark. With 86 minutes on the clock, the two teams were drawing 2-2 with Pepe and Helder Postiga on target for A Seleccao and Nicklas Bendtner with a double for the Danes.

With time running out, both teams went all out for the winner but it was Varela who nicked it for the Euro 2004 losing finalists. Connecting to Fabio Coentrao’s cross from the left flank, the FC Porto winger, who had come in as a substitute, miscued his first shot with his left foot. The Danes were nowhere near to close him up though and he swiftly hit a stunning half volley, this time with his right foot past Stephan Andersen between the Danish goalposts. 

The win secured Portugal all the three points, but most importantly ensured they still have a say in Group B.

The next round of Group B matches will be played this Sunday the 17th with Holland needing a win against Portugal and hoping that Germany beat Denmark to qualify for the knockout stages. 

Day Seven of the Championships takes place Thursday June 14. Defending champions Spain takes on Ireland in a must-win encounter if they are to put their campaign back on the right track after the 1-1 draw with Italy in the first match. The other Group C encounter will see the Italians clash with group leaders Croatia who will seal their qualification with a win.

You can catch all the scores and updates from Day 7 here. 

My Predictions

Spain 3-1 Ireland

Italy 2-1 Croatia

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kisumu Girls Run Riot in COPA Kisumu Inter-branch Matches

Hosts Kisumu Girls ran rampant last weekend as they outplayed and outscored their opponents in the COPA Coca-Cola Kisumu inter-branch matches played at Kisumu Polytechnic.

The home team taught Bondo a bitter football lesson in the first match with a deserved 13-0 thumping, a scoreline that totally reflected their dominance over their far-travelling opponents. Jacinta Atieno opened the floodgates for Kisumu with just three minutes on the clock and by the quarter hour mark, it was already 5-0 with Rose “Macheda” Atieno hitting a brace and Melvin Awuor and Jacinta adding the other two.

The three kept Bondo Girls’ on the back foot from the onset, terrorizing their defence with Rose making mazy runs down the left channel as Melvin impressed on the opposite flank. Jacinta scored two more to make it a quartet of goals for her and Rose finished her hat-trick with a delicate chip as the first half ended 8-0 in favour of the home team.

A brace each from Lavenda Munari and Anne Dola plus one more from the skillful Rose ended the rout. Kisumu found the going a little tougher in their second match against Nyando but they still ran out 2-0 winners. In other matches, Siaya were also on a scoring mood evidenced by their 5-0 mauling of Bondo but they needed Mercy Atieno’s solitary first half goal to edge out Nyando 1-0 in their second encounter.

In the boys’ matches, Nyando Boys were a class above the rest as they won both their matches with a four-goal margin. Eugene Ogaso scored a hat-trick and Geofrey Alwala added another as they beat Kisumu Day 4-2 in the first match. Idi Ramah scored both goals for Kisumu. In their second matches, Nyando mauled Bondo 4-1 as Kisumu Day bounced back from their defeat with a clinical 2-0 win over Siaya who made the long trip back to the county a disappointed lot after losing the second match 2-1 to Bondo.

In Migori inter-branch matches, local boys Migori finished top of the table after winning their first match 2-1 against Kuria boys before they were held 1-1 by Homa Bay Boys. The latter finished runners-up with another 1-1 stalemate against Kuria.

Kuria Girls surprised everyone but themselves as they hit both Migori and Homa Bay Girls with an identical 2-0 win.

Migori Girls outshone Homa Bay 2-0 to clinch the second position.

With the inter-sub-branch matches complete in most sub-branches across the country, the 16 players selected each sub-branch by COPA scouts are now bracing themselves for the inter-branch finals that will begin in earnest.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!