image courtesy ESPNSoccernet/AP
Villarreal has represented itself well on the international stage over the last two days. I will get to the Spanish match shortly, but first, Nihat! Nihat was virtually invisible the entire match. Although he showed leadership on the pitch, it was not through his play for the first 45 minutes, and although he improved slightly along with the rest of the Turks in the second half, he still failed to get involved through most of the match. Finally, after the Turkish squad truly turned the momentum in the 75th minute, Nihat came alive. In the 87th, after a soaking cross from Altintop slipped through the fingers of the generally excellent Cech, it fell to Nihat's feet and he showed the deftness of touch to slide it into the back of the net. Only two minutes later, when penalties seemed unavoidable, Nihat was fed clear at the top of the box, and after pulling Cech out, he nails it in off the underside of the crossbar in classic Nihat fashion. It resembled a dozen of the goals he scored for Villarreal this past year. I was going nuts, but not half as much as the Turkish fellows I had the luck to watch the game alongside at the pub. Truly an unbelievable match.
Hats off to the Czechs for a well-played match, but it was the Turks who wanted it more in the end. My rating of Nihat: 7.5. Could have been much higher if he had been involved in the match, and if he had not scored those two goals it would have been a 3.5, since he did very little throughout otherwise.
I am ashamed to have missed the Spanish match yesterday. Family was in town, and I could not break away. I really do not know much about how the team played, outside of the late winner. But I do know it was Capdevila who put Villa through for the last-ditch goal to win the match and see Spain through to the Quarters. Otherwise, what I have read has been on the positive side:
Capdevila 7: A delightful ball in for the winning goal, meaning that his input overall was invaluable. However, he might have kept a tighter leash on Elmander.
Marcos Senna 7: Had little to do defensively but got forward to decent effect. Generally in the right place at the right time.
Cazorla 6: Saw little of the ball and didn't get forward as much as he might have hoped.
On a non-Euro2008 note, Uruguay displayed its Villarreal talent in the form of Godin on Saturday against Venezuela. The match ended 1-1.