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EM: Germany, Croatia, Poland and Austria
<h>Germany 1 -- Croatia 2</h> Instead of the Germans, it was the Croatians that were extraordinarily well-organized and put together play after play on the net. By the end of the first half, the Germans were showing their frustration after nearly every offsides call and after every defensive error, both of which occurred often. The referee was a bit yellow card-happy against the Croatians, handing out eight of them in the first half---sometimes for tackles that got a lot of ball and almost none of the opposing player. After an initial onslaught by the Germans, the Croatians slowly reasserted themselves and Olic picked up a rebound off of a very lucky shot to go up 2--0. The German frustration grew throughout, with them yelling at each other, the referee and taking it out on the Croatians with some pretty risky tackles. Michael Ballack---sporting, once again, the same awesome jeri-curl he had in the first game---picked up a yellow card for an almost purely relataliatory tackle. Luckily for the Germans, Podolski stayed cool-headed and cranked a full-volley shot almost through the back of the net in the 80th minute. Once again, he refrained from cheering and putting on an ego show after his goal; he just jogged determinedly back to the center. <h>Austria 1 -- Poland 1</h> Austria came out of the gate strong, outclassing the Poles on every level and getting a couple of <i>huge</i> chances in the first 25 minutes. Unfortunately, they also showed how a team at this level (similar to the Swiss) can make a very entertaining game, but have no finishing ability whatsoever. Amazing passing plays and breaking open the defense again and again for huge breakaways does not win games---you. have. to. put. the. ball. in. the. net. Being awesome but not scoring only increases the pain when the other team scores on the only chance they get. Regardless, the Austrians made the Poles look extremely lame for most of the first half. And then, Poland scored. At half-time, the best comment came from the Yogi Berra of Austria: <iq>Wenn wir keine Tore schiessen, dann werden wir auch nicht gewinnen.</iq> ("If we don't score any goals, then we won't win.") In the second half, the air had gone out of Austria and Poland wasn't tremendously interested in getting a second goal, so it settled into a more-or-less boring routine. In the last 10 minutes, Austria started putting together some more offense again, but couldn't even put a shot on the net. Then, unlike Switzerland, they created an opportunity to get a penalty kick three minutes into extra time...and they put it in. With authority.<fn> Congratulations to Austria for prolonging the party for at least one of the hosts; for now, Switzerland is alone in playing host to all the cool kids, while they all play in our pool and eat all our food.<fn> <hr> <ft>It's not the best way to score a goal and it was hard not to sympathize with Poland, who came so close to grabbing three points. It was a legitimate call, though and a totally unnecessary foul by Poland. Maybe the penalty was the only way they could actually redeem the coupon they earned with their wonderful play in the first 30 minutes.</ft> <ft>The reference is to the Simpsons episode where the school nerd, Martin, gets a pool and is all-of-a-sudden popular---but only for his pool. They ruin his house and eat all his food, but only until the next cool thing comes along. Then he's abandoned, standing with his bathing suit pulled down in the middle of a ruined pool. It's hard not to draw comparisons to the way the Dutch have overtaken Bern while Switzerland is already out of the tournament.</ft>