Euro 2008

After the bitter ending of last World Cup, Euro 2008 made soccer fun again! What a beautiful game! What a great tournament! All the surprises, all the classic matches, above all, the winning of the championship by team Spain! What an magnificent match! Watching a great team in the making is such a treat. They are not yet perfect (what a chance missed by Senna at 81′, it was a perfect setup by Cazorla and Guiza), but they are getting there in style. Watching them play is fun. because you know they are loving it, they play for the love of the game. It is a great team. and so young.

Can’t wait to watch them play Brazil in the next world cup! what a sumptuous eye-candy that would be!

Henry Winter’s report for Telegraph.co.uk is so well written, i have to steal it!
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2008/06/30/sfgger330.xml

Fernando Torres’ strike wins Euro 2008 for Spain to leave Germany empty handed

By Henry Winter in Vienna
Last Updated: 7:23am BST 30/06/2008
Germany (0) 0 Spain (1) 1

Fiesta time. The wonderful festival of football that was Euro 2008 finished in style last night, settled by that stylish finisher named Fernando Torres. In ending 44 years of hurt without a trophy, Spain possessed too much heart, too much invention, and too much Torres for Germany.

The Spanish striker took his first-half goal expertly, racing through and lifting the ball over the otherwise excellent Jens Lehmann, but there was steel to these Spaniards as well as silk. Xavi was again dominant in midfield, making tackles, shaping attacks, driving Spain to their first silverware since the 1964 European Championships.

As the Spanish partied in the Ernst Happel Stadium, Let Me Entertain You pounded from every speaker. Good choice. It was Spain’s mission statement set to music. Entertainment was the name of Spain’s game, flair flowing from the elegant feet of Xavi, Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta and David Silva.

A tournament that celebrated attacking brio, that treated billion-strong global audiences to match after compelling match has showcased what can be achieved through a commitment to thrill.

Torres and company make worthy champions. This was a victory not only for Spain but for all who love open, attacking football. Spain’s football lifts the soul.

Shortly after the final whistle, as the Spanish formed a guard of honour, Joachim Low led his vanquished, shattered players on the most brutal journey in sport, the losers’ climb up the podium. To collect medals that none wanted, the Germans had to walk within inches of the Henri Delaunay trophy. Lehmann touched it longingly. So near and yet so far.

Low’s men had given everything, played exciting football at times during their odyssey through Euro 2008, especially in defeating Portugal in the quarter-finals, but it was not enough. As hard as Michael Ballack worked, Spain were simply superior in all departments.

Germany’s captain, his bloodied face revealing the intensity of the midfield battle, was consoled by Michel Platini, Uefa’s president. As Ballack progressed along the long line of administrators, royals, and Chancellors, the Chelsea midfielder behaved with remarkable dignity, smiling and making small talk, when inside he must have been ripped to pieces, his heart close to breaking.

His second European final defeat of the summer, Ballack’s career has contained too many near-misses. He then stood back and applauded the victors up. Torres, a Spanish flag wrapped around his waist, ran a finger along the base of the trophy.

And then came Iker Casillas, Spain’s captain. Platini knows what it is like to receive the trophy, as France’s inspiration in 1984, and now he handed it across, passing it into the safest of hands, those of Casillas. Spain’s magnificent fans went wild with delight, dancing, waving their flags, banging their drums as Casillas lifted the trophy to the heavens.

Team and support soon embraced, Casillas, Xavi and Torres leading the charge over to their fans, Torres even jumping into the crowd to find friends and relatives. In truth, Torres had not been at his electric best in reaching the final but he had immediately begun reminding everyone of his Liverpool form, perhaps inspired by the pre-match rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Torres swiftly linked with Fabregas, who was playing the Steven Gerrard support role to Torres in Luis Aragones’ 4-1-3-1-1 formation. His goal, when it came, was conceived in Villarreal and Barcelona, in the quick-thinking of Marcos Senna and Xavi, two of the players of a star-studded tournament.

Spain would be hopeless on Mastermind – too many passes – but they took a more direct route for Torres’ stunning 33rd-minute strike. Two fast passes down the middle opened Germany up. Senna found Xavi, who instantly swept the ball down the inside-right channel for Torres to chase. Philipp Lahm and Lehmann still guarded the avenue to goal. Not well enough.

For these are the openings Torres craves, a defender reacting too slowly and then a keeper diving at his feet. Having outpaced Lahm with almost embarrassing ease, Torres glided into the area. As Lehmann threw himself forward, Torres lifted the ball over the prostrate German.

It was a glittering goal that echoed another final gem by a Liverpool striker, Kenny Dalglish’s elegant chip over the Bruges keeper, Birger Jensen, to win the 1978 European Cup at Wembley

Yet Spain had been forced to survive a testing start. They knew Germany represented tough opposition. They knew Low would have done his homework, looking to exploit any weaknesses.

Instructed by their coach, Germany targeted the space behind Ramos, aware that Spain’s right-back loved to push upfield. Ramos briefly suffered a torrid time. Miroslav Klose, Ballack and Thomas Hitzlsperger almost profited from Ramos’ shaky start.

For all Germany’s initial swagger, for all Lukas Podolski’s pace briefly worrying Ramos, Spain gradually imposed themselves. When Christoph Metzelder deflected Iniesta’s cross goalwards only Lehmann’s sharp reflexes rescued his team.

Germany sensed the rising tide of Spanish ambition, saw that Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas, the Three Amigos, were beginning to cause havoc. Ballack sought to break the baton of Spain’s conductor, Xavi, stamping on the Barcelona midfielder’s ankle.

Spain would not be cowed and began building to their first-half goal. Fabregas sent Ramos rampaging down the right, the full-back lifting over a steepling cross that Torres, timing his climb superbly to elude Per Mertesacker, headed against the post. Closer and closer.

Torres’ next visit to Germany’s box decided the final, only his second goal of the tournament sending a surge of joy flooding through his team’s passionate supporters.

To each Spanish fan here in Ultravox’s fabled Vienna, thinking “this means one-nothing to me”, the first half continued to go their way. Senna accidentally headed Ballack, slicing open the skin around the German’s right eye. Stitched up, mopped down, Ballack stormed back into the fray, seemingly intent on picking fights.

Stirred by their captain, Germany were more menacing after the break, Ballack himself volleying just wide. Spain risked losing their cool.

Silva pushed his forehead into Podolski’s face and was lucky to escape expulsion. Displaying their classier side, Spain hit back. Ramos, Iniesta and Senna all went close. As the clock counted down, the Oles began. Fiesta time.

Play by Play commentary (live blog):
http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/football/euro-2008/2008/germany-spain-134454.html

Belle de Jour on ShowTime

New Yorker: WORKING GIRL, A British take on the world’s oldest profession., by Nancy Franklin.

“Secret Diary of a Call Girl,” an eight-episode blast of summer heat from Showtime that started last week, … It was based on a book called “The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl,” which was written by a high-end prostitute and was itself an outgrowth of a blog, called “Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl,” whose success then engendered a newspaper series in the Telegraph, called “Belle de Jour’s Naughty Notebook,” and led to another book, called “The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl.” The TV series is now shooting its second season over in England, and has already been renewed for a third. All this enterprise, which is almost Disneyesque in terms of the length of its chain of monetization—the only thing missing is a theme park with kinky rides that cost five hundred dollars an hour—is the product of someone whose identity is open to question. There’s been speculation in the British press that Belle, who has never revealed her real name and is now retired, is an impostor—that is, that she was never a prostitute, and may even be a he.

The Runaway Teacher

The hottest debated topic in Mainland China nowadays: The Runaway Teacher. It is refreshing to hear such an individualistic and rational voice. The fact he admitted that he is a coward made him human, which has not been what Chinese are taught to strive for.

Teacher Fan graduated from Peking University, had the option to enter graduate school and to become a scholar (something many consider to be an incredible opportunity). Instead, he chose to return to the province to teach middleschool, which had bad pay and low social status. The reason? He wanted to save students from the rigid education system that he himself had to suffer. he wanted to teach young people to be independent thinkers and to learn not for exam but for pure enjoyment of knowledge, for the love of Chinese literature/history/culture.

Sounded like he had archived his goal, to stir up a storm, to trigger debate, and to challenge people to think for themselves instead of blindly agreeing with what is expected of them by the norm.