Euro 2008 among best ever

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

VIENNA -- There is something appropriate about holding the final of the 2008 Euro tournament in Vienna, a city of remarkable beauty and talent.

It's the home of opera and music performed at dozens of music halls. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wasn't born in Vienna. He was born in Salzburg, but he died in Vienna. His spirit is everywhere in this city.

So it is indeed appropriate that a tournament that has done its utmost to bury ugly soccer by playing the beautiful game the way it was meant to be played would do so in this city, where there the sounds of beauty are everywhere.

As this tournament winds down with only the semifinals and final left, there is ongoing debate as to whether it is the best soccer tournament ever held.

There is danger in absolute statements. What provides great value to one observer leaves another with no feeling. A nation that did not qualify for this tournament might find the soccer entertaining, but the passion lacking.

There have been arguments made that the two World Cups in Mexico -- 1970 and 1986 -- were just as good as this Euro.

But it would be hard to make an argument that any tournament was better.

In an event that will by the end have seen 31 games played, it is remarkable to be able to count the number of bad games on one hand and still have fingers left.

Thank the soccer gods that there are still three games left, three games that hopefully will make the Italy-Spain quarter-final but a disturbing memory.

It would have been beyond unfair if that was a tournament finale.

Not even the nerve-snapping, emotion-sapping way the game ended on kicks from the penalty spot could save it from being ranked among the two worst of this tournament.

Only France's 0-0 draw with Romania ranks in the same category. That game didn't have the advantage of kicks at the end of it to lift the tedium.

Normally games of that ilk are forgotten because there are often others just as bad. Not here.

It's why Italy has been pilloried in the press -- including its own -- after the game against Spain.

The lack of commitment to anything positive on the field was stunning. When one team refuses to play, it's difficult for the other to carry the load on its own.

What the game needed desperately was for Spain to score. It never happened and the game died.

That is what will eventually cost Roberto Donadoni his job. In his stewardship, this team has regressed. He has held on to older players too long. His love of players such as Simone Perotta and Mauro Camoranesi is stupefying.

Too often Italy returns to the old style that is acceptable to its fans in victory, but doesn't advance the game.

This tournament is also about preparation. It isn't long after this tournament ends that World Cup qualifying begins. This would have been an opportunity for Italy to use some of its younger players, especially midfielders and strikers.

This Euro has been good for the game of soccer. It has proved that a team can play attacking, entertaining soccer and win.

Three games remain. Say a prayer to those soccer gods. Pray that Turkey-Germany, Spain-Russia and whoever makes the final will play not only to win, but also with the intention of providing the tournament with the only finish that would be appropriate . . . a high-calibre, high-paced, inventive brand of soccer.

It would be a symphony worthy of this tournament.


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