'Soccer Watch': Lady Longhorns and Euro 2008 Preview

Tough weekend for the Lady Longhorns: First they completely outplayed a good Oklahoma State team, only to lose, 1-0, on the Cowgirls' only shot on goal of the entire game; then they fumbled away a late two-goal lead and settled for a 3-3 draw with the 3-8 OU Sooners.

The OSU game highlighted a persistent problem over the last few seasons: an inability to finish in close games or to turn big advantages in shot count into advantages on the scoreboard. The Horns have outshot every opponent this year except Penn State, often by huge margins. And in their three losses this year, each by a 1-0 count, UT has outshot opponents by a total of 43-14. So what's the solution? Hey, beats me. I don't really understand offenses; I'm more a defense-wins-championships kinda guy.

For more soccer news and Euro 2008 Preview ...

That's why the OU game is more troubling: If the Horns are going anywhere this year, their defense will be taking them. And in this game, at least, the defense looked confused and vulnerable all too often. The Longhorns defense was playing four across the back, but whichever side of the field the ball was on, that wing defender would push forward into the midfield or further, while one of the center defenders rotated into the wingback position in a three-back defense. This provided a lot of overlapping opportunities for the offense – Stephanie Logterman, in particular, created havoc on the left flank for the Sooners' defense – but it was also vulnerable to counterattacks. At least two of the Sooners' goals exploited this scheme: a first-half breakaway caught Karen Haight pushed way forward, and no one covering her back, and a second-half counterattack, on the same side, left a central defender exposed on the wing, without the help defense that would usually come from the middle of a standard four-man back line. (I don't quite remember how the last OU goal developed, but it ended with a communication breakdown that led to a momentary, but costly hesitation by keeper Dianne Pfenninger.)

Needs work.

This week the Horns are on the road at Kansas and Colorado, two of the other one-loss teams in the Big 12.

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Though it's early in a campaign that runs through next November, this is a big week in qualifying for the Euro 2008 championships: 22 games across the continent on Saturday, Oct. 7, and again on Wednesday, Oct. 11. Fox Soccer Channel will show very few of these, but all the prime games are only on pay-per-view. Here in Austin, Fado Irish Pub will show six games each day; let me suggest a few highlights: Saturday: Scotland-France and England-Macedonia, 11am; Italy-Ukraine, 1:50pm.Wednesday: Croatia-England, noon; Ireland-Czechia, 1:30pm.

And here's a look at some key games of the week, across the groups:

Group A: Poland-Portugal, Wednesday. Poles disappointed in the WC, need a win here to stay in the hunt for 2008.

Group B: Italy-Ukraine, Saturday. World champs have a draw and a loss in their first two games in a very tough group; they need a win NOW against a pretty good team.

Group C: Greece-Norway, Saturday. Two WC nonqualifiers

Group D: Ireland-Czech Republic, Wednesday. Irish looking good so far, but probably need a result here to keep their campaign on track.

Group E: Russia-Israel, Saturday; Croatia-England, Wednesday. England a big favorite in this group, but it's a dogfight for second.

Group F: Sweden-Spain, Saturday. These are the two teams that ought to advance out of this group.

Group G: Pass. Holland will win this group, and I don't really care who comes in second. -- Nick Barbaro

EURO 2008 Qualifying Schedule

Saturday, Oct. 7

Kazakhstan v Poland (Group A)

Armenia v Finland (Group A)

Serbia v Belgium (Group A)

Portugal v Azerbaijan (Group A)

Faroe Islands v Lithuania (Group B)

Scotland v France (Group B)

Italy v Ukraine (Group B)

Moldova v Bosnia-Herz. (Group C)

Hungary v Turkey (Group C)

Greece v Norway (Group C)

Wales v Slovakia (Group D)

Czech Republic v San Marino (Group D)

Cyprus v Ireland (Group D)

Russia v Israel (Group E)

England v Macedonia (Group E)

Croatia v Andorra (Group E)

Denmark v Northern Ireland (Group F)

Latvia v Iceland (Group F)

Sweden v Spain (Group F)

Romania v Belarus (Group G)

Bulgaria v Netherlands (Group G)

Slovenia v Luxembourg (Group G)

Wednesday, October 11

Kazakhstan v Finland (Group A)

Belgium v Azerbaijan (Group A)

Serbia v Armenia (Group A)

Poland v Portugal (Group A)

Ukraine v Scotland (Group B)

Georgia v Italy (Group B)

France v Faroe Islands (Group B)

Malta v Hungary (Group C)

Turkey v Moldova (Group C)

Bosnia-Herz. v Greece (Group C)

Ireland v Czech Republic (Group D)

Slovakia v Germany (Group D)

Wales v Cyprus (Group D)

Andorra v Macedonia (Group E)

Russia v Estonia (Group E)

Croatia v England (Group E)

Iceland v Sweden (Group F)

Liechtenstein v Denmark (Group F)

Northern Ireland v Latvia (Group F)

Belarus v Slovenia (Group G)

Luxembourg v Bulgaria (Group G)

Netherlands v Albania (Group G)

And here's the full Fado schedule:

European Qualifiers

Saturday, Oct. 7:

Scotland v France, 11am

England v Macedonia, 11am

Cyprus v Ireland, 11.30am

Italy v Ukraine, 1.50pm

Sweden v Spain, 4pm*

Bulgaria v Holland, 6pm*

Wednesday, Oct. 11:

Croatia v England, Noon

Ireland v Czech Republic, 1.30pm

Poland v Portugal, 2pm

Slovakia v Germany, 3pm*

Turkey v Moldova, 5pm*

Georgia v Italy, 7pm*

* tape delayed

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