UEFA 2012 European Championship: Day 16

Saturday 23 June 2012


Germany (1) 4 – 2 (0) Greece

Well it was never in doubt was it. Was it? Germany changed their entire forward line for this game with Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller and Lukas Podolski, replaced with Miroslav Klose, Marco Reus and André Schürrle. It didn’t stop the Germans dominating from the opening whistle, as their pace, power, movement and intricate passing ripped the Greeks apart. As the half went on chance after chance was squandered and you wondered if it was going to be one of those nights. Then on thirty nine minutes, German captain Philipp Lahm fired them ahead with a long range effort. It gave Germany a 1-0 lead, but in truth they should have been three or four to the good. As with their other games in the competition, the Greeks came out much stronger in the second-half, as substitutes Fotakis and Gekas freshened the line-up. On fifty-five minutes the Greeks were back in the game, Salpingidis got down the right and his cross was bundled in by Samaras. You then considered whether the Germans were about to be mugged after so totally dominating the game and not taking their chances. However, it was not to be and a spell of three goals in less that fifteen minutes confirmed their superiority. On sixty one minutes, from a patient build-up, Khedira brilliantly volleyed home. Seven minutes later it was 3-1 as from a corner, Klose headed home with Greek keeper Sifakis at fault. Indeed Sifakis had a mixed night for Greece, with some good saves, but overall very poor handling. Reus then got on the score-sheet on seventy four minutes, with a terrific volley. However, the scoring wasn’t finished and in the last minute Greece got a consolation goal from the penalty spot, converted by Salpingidis. At the whistle Germany had won 4-2 but the margin of victory didn’t reflect just how dominant the Germans were. They look a class above everyone else at this tournament. One irritation from the night was the constant attempts by the commentary team and studio panel team to work in puns about the Greeks economic plight – for goodness sake we just want to concentrate on the action and the football, stop trying to be too clever.

Back on the pitch in the Quarter-Final fixture tonight, current World and European Champions, Spain play France. It will be the fourth meeting at the Finals. At Euro 1984, hosts France defeated the Spanish 2-0 in the Final, with second-half goals from Platini and Bellone. In England at Euro 1996, these two faced each other in a Group B game at Elland Road. Djorkaeff gave the French the lead on forty eight minutes, only for Caminero to level for Spain with just five minutes remaining. Their last meeting was at the Jan Breydel Stadium in Bruges at Euro 2000 in a Quarter-Final tie. Spain went ahead on the half-hour with a penalty from Mendieta, but goals from Zidane and Djorkaeff, gave the French a 2-1 half-time lead. Late in the game Spain were awarded another penalty, however with Mendieta having being substituted, Raul Gonzalez took the kick, but missed. France held on to win 2-1 and went on to win the competition. So Spain have not beaten France at the Finals, but must be considered favourites to come through. However, anyone for 0-0 and France through on penalties?

UEFA 2012 European Championship: Day 15

Friday 22 June 2012


Czech Republic (0) 0 – 1 (0) Portugal

Strange one this, didn’t really get enthused at all during the ninety minutes watching this one. Portugal had more intent about them and went looking for the win. Were the Czech Republic just happy to sit back, defend and hit Portugal on the break or were the Portuguese so dominant that they denied the Czech’s possession? If the Czech Republic had hoped to counter attack then they needed to break quickly and commit numbers when the had the chance, but they never did. Instead I was left with the impression that they were just happy to have made the Quarter-Final and that it was then merely a matter of damage limitation. Ronaldo (loathe him or hate him) had another influential game, and the highlight of the first-half was watching him become increasingly frustrated after having goal attempts saved or hitting the post. Into the second-half Portugal continued to dominate and Ronaldo repeatedly gestured to the heavens as his side failed to make the breakthrough. However, with thoughts turning to the prospect of extra-time and penalties, on seventy nine minutes Ronaldo scored from a Joao Moutinho cross. The goal didn’t bring a response from the Czech Republic and they departed the competition with a whimper rather than a bang. Portugal through and with Ronaldo in good form, are a dangerous opponent at the minute.

In the second Quarter-Final tonight, Germany and Greece meet in Gdansk.  West Germany did take on Greece at Euro 1980 in Turin, when the game ended 0-0. A unified Germany has never played Greece. Germany are the favourites for many people to take the title this year, so logic says Greece won’t pose any threat to the Germans progression to the Final? Euro 2004…no way history can repeat itself? Surely not?

UEFA 2012 European Championship: Day 14

Thursday 21 June 2012

The knock-out phase begins later tonight with the next four nights seeing the staging of the Quarter-Finals, which are as follows:

 21 June 2012: Czech Republic v Portugal (National Stadium, Warsaw)

22 June 2012: Germany v Greece (PGE Arena, Gdansk)

23 June 2012: Spain v France (Donbass Arena, Donetsk)

24 June 2012: England v Italy (Olympic Stadium, Kiev)

When I look at the games there is a real ‘head’ and ‘heart’ situation going on in terms of who will get through. The ‘head’ goes for a Semi-Final line-up of: Portugal v Germany and Spain v Italy, but how much more interesting is the ‘heart’ scenario of: Czech Republic v France and Greece v England? As yet there has not been a game that has finished 0-0 and now that we are into the knock-out phase, we know that means if required, extra-time and of course our old friend penalties. Whatever the outcome, lets hope that the overall standard of the competition continues to remain as high as the Group games. Good luck to all the remaining teams.

UEFA 2012 European Championship: Day 13

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Group D

Ukraine (0) 0 – 1 (0) England

France (0) 0 – 2 (0) Sweden

Just one point…just one point…that’s all England needed to make it through to the Quarter-Finals. Wayne Rooney back after suspension – what could possibly go wrong? Well as it turns out…nothing. For once the football gods smiled sweetly on England. In the first-half roared on by the home crowd in Donetsk, the Ukrainians’ dominated the possession, but England held firm. In fact the best chance of the game fell to England, when an unmarked Wayne Rooney was unable to direct his header goal-ward and so the first forty five minutes ended 0-0. Over in Kiev, France and Sweden were also unable to break the deadlock and they too went in 0-0 at half-time. England came out more positively in the second half and their first piece of fortune came on forty eight minutes. Gerrard twisted and turned out wide and sent in a driven cross, the ball took deflections off two Ukrainian players and the goalkeeper before bouncing nicely for Rooney to have the easiest of tap-in headers. The Three Lions second piece of fortune came on sixty two minutes. Marko Devic had a shot partly save by Joe Hart, but the ball continued towards goal, John Terry raced back and hooked the ball out. Replays showed the ball had crossed the line and a goal should have been awarded. Again the issue of goal-line technology will be talked about and also the role of the assistants stationed on the goal-line. Surely the official was ideally place to make a decision?  Clearly not. England then had a third piece of fortune when on fifty four minutes over in Kiev, Sweden went ahead against France with a stunning volley from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This left England clear at the top and facing a Quarter-Final with Italy rather than Spain. Croatia continued to press and with twenty minutes to go brought on Shevchenko. However, England contained the Ukrainian threat and were unlucky not to have increased their lead when Ashley Cole had a late effort saved. England also should have had a penalty when substitute Carroll was blatantly bundled over on the box. As the game wound down to ninety minutes Larsson added a second goal for Sweden over France and England knew they were through and would play Italy on Sunday. Will I still feel as calm come Sunday evening?

Looking ahead to the first of the Quarter-Final games tomorrow, the Czech Republic take on Portugal in Warsaw. These teams have previously met on two occasions in the European Championship Finals. The first time was at Euro 1996 in England at the Quarter-Final stage. The game played at Villa Park saw the Czech Republic beat Portugal 1-0 with a second-half goal from Karel Poborsky on fifty three minutes. At Euro 2008 in a Group game in Geneva,  Portugal got their revenge with a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic. The Portuguese went ahead with a goal on eight minutes from Deco, but Sionko levelled for the Czech Republic on seventeen minutes. However, two second-half goals from Ronaldo and Quaresma saw the host nation through. From these previous encounters, the winner of the game has gone onto reach the Final, but then lose. Is history telling us that the winner of this game will be the Euro 2012 runner-up? Portugal got better as the Group games went on and expect them to go through against the Czech Republic.

UEFA 2012 European Championship : Day 12

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Group C

Italy (1) 2 – 0 (0) Republic of Ireland

Spain (0) 1 – 0 (0) Croatia

Going into the games last night, Spain and Croatia sat in the qualifying places with four points each, with Italy in third spot with two points. Therefore it was going to be another nervous ninety minutes for fans of those nations, with each goal having them reaching for the calculators to see how Group positions shifted. Would the Republic of Ireland return to the Emerald Isle without a point? How would Spain and Croatia approach their game against each other? In the end I went for watching the Republic of Ireland against Italy, firstly for sentimental reasons, wanting to see Fulham’s Damien Duff win his 100th cap and secondly for the match commentary of Mick McCarthy. Ireland were playing for pride and started the game in a positive manner which had apparently been lacking from their previous two games. However, the Italians gradually warmed to their task and started to take control of the game. On thirty six minutes Italy went ahead, Shay Given spilled a straightforward effort from Cassano which resulted in a corner. Pirlo took the kick and Cassano flicked it into the net despite the efforts of Damien Duff on the goal-line. Italy had the upper hand and continued to press all the way to half-time. Over in Gdansk, Spain and Croatia was goal-less, so saw all teams with five points and at that stage Croatia exiting the competition. As the teams came out the second-half in Poznan, the Irish fans once more tried to rouse their side for the final forty five minutes. However, Italy continued to push Ireland back and at times overwhelmed them and another heavy defeat looked on the cards. However, credit to the Irish they stuck in there and had the occasional foray on the Italian goal. As both games came into the final minutes, Spain took the lead against Croatia through Jesus Navas on eighty eight minutes. Back in Poznan, Balotelli scored acrobatically from a corner in the last minute to put Italy 2-0 up. However, there were a nervous few minutes, as a Croatia equaliser would have sent the Italians out. It wasn’t to be though and Spain and Italy celebrated progress to the last eight. For Ireland it had been a painful campaign, outplayed in all three games and leaves for some of their more senior players, decisions about their international future to make. Mick McCarthy didn’t let me down though – through the ninety minutes he had headed and kicked every last ball with the Ireland team in his most endearing style; partisan and yet blunt Barnsley.

England tonight – yup, feeling calm again…

UEFA 2012 European Championship : Day 11

Monday 18 June 2012

Group B

Portugal (1) 2 – 1 (1) Netherlands

Germany (1) 2 – 1 (1) Denmark

Last night opted for the Portugal v Netherlands game on the basis that it would provide the most drama. Humble pie is never a great dish to have to consume, but after the first two Portugal games and my slighting Ronaldo, the ‘boy done good’ against the Dutch and have to admit he looked class as did the Portugal team. The Netherlands were always going to struggle to qualify for the Quarter-Finals as they needed to win by two clear goals and hope that Germany overcame Denmark. The Dutch started brightly and on eleven minutes Van der Vaart put them ahead with a brilliant curling effort. However, that was about as good as it got for the Dutch as Portugal dominated the game after the opening fifteen minutes. Portugal looked more of a unit and with Ronaldo providing pace, power and probing, it was no surprise when the Portuguese drew level on twenty eight minutes. Joao Pereira’s brilliantly weighted pass found Ronaldo timing his run to perfection, before the Portugal skipper slotted home. Portugal continued to dominate but the teams went in at half-time level at 1-1. Meanwhile in Lviv, Germany and Denmark also ended the first forty five all square. Podolski had put the Germans ahead on nineteen minutes, only for Krohn-Dehli to level for the Danes just five minutes later. In the second-half Portugal took the initiative once more and as the Dutch looked like a group of individuals unable to bond, Portugal continued to look like a strong unit. On seventy four minutes the killer blow was applied, Nani provided the pass and Ronaldo was clinical – it was deserved. Ronaldo could have had a hat-trick,  but an effort late on hit the woodwork. With Portugal leading, there was a brief time when that if Denmark had scored, the Germans would have been heading out. However, with ten minutes remaining Lars Bender put Germany 2-1 up and Group B was settled. At the whistle, Germany topped the Group with Portugal in second place. Quite unbelievably, the 2010 World Cup runners-up were out, bottom of their group with no points. The futures bright, but it ain’t orange…

UEFA 2012 European Championship : Day 10

Sunday 17 June 20122

Group A

Poland (0) 0 – 1 (0) Czech Republic

Russia (0) 0 – 1 (1) Greece

Saturday saw the final round of Group games get underway and has the games kicking-off at the same time to try and stop any ‘collusion’ in terms of the results. Going into the last Group A fixtures, Russia and the Czech Republic sat in the qualifying positions. I opted to watch the game between Poland and the Czech Republic in the belief that there was more ‘on the line’ for these two teams. As in their previous fixtures, Poland started well and looked the more positive of the teams, with chances falling to Robert Lewandowski, Ludovic Obraniak and Sebastian Boenisch. The Czech Republic were more cautious taking the tact that a draw in both games on the night would see them through. However, with half-time approaching events in Warsaw shifted the whole Group. From a throw-in, the Greek captain Karagounis found himself through on goal and he finished sweetly to put Greece 1-0 up at half-time. If results stayed that way, it would have seen Russia and Greece through. The Czech Republic and Poland knew that they had to win now to progress. In the second-half in Wroc?aw, the pressure seemed to get to Poland and the Czech Republic now looked stronger. Then on seventy two minutes, Milan Baroš drove into the Polish box where his pass found Petr Jirá?ek, who slipped inside one defender before slotting the ball home. As the scores stood, the Czech Republic would top the group and Greece would edge out Russia on their head-to-head record. Poland had to score two to go through and never really looked capable of doing so as they became increasingly frustrated and gave away a string of niggly fouls. However, they nearly stopped the Czech Republic going through as in the last minute Blaszczykowski had an effort cleared off the line. The Czech Republic held on, as did Greece in Warsaw. Incredibly, Russia who had destroyed the Czech Republic 4-1 in the opening game were out and Greece as in 2004 had sprung a surprise.

So one of the co-hosts in the shape of Poland had gone and also the first managerial departure as Polish coach Franciszek Smuda said po?egnanie. They say ‘what goes around, comes around’ – have the actions of the Russian fans in this tournament caught up with their national team?

UEFA 2012 European Championship : Day 9

Saturday 16 June 2012

Last night the second round of Group games were completed with two fixtures involving the Ukraine, France, Sweden and England. Ukraine would qualify if they beat France, and defeat for Sweden would mean they were out of the tournament.

Group D

Ukraine (0) 0 – 2 (0) France

Well this game is more likely to be remembered for events off the pitch then on it. After four minutes the game was stopped because of torrential rain and lightning over the stadium in Donetsk. Fork-lighting provided a spectacular and dramatic skyline as the pitch became waterlogged. Thanks to the ground staff the match did get underway again fifty five minutes later. France had the better of the first half and Ukraine keeper Pyatov had to save well from Mexes and Menez. Indeed Menez started the second-half brightly and after having an early chance saved, put France ahead on fifty three minutes. He received the ball just inside the right hand side of the penalty box, where he cut inside to drive a left foot shot into the corner. The Ukrainian fans were silenced even further just three minutes later, when Benzema threaded a ball through for Cabaye who finished well to put the French 2-0 up. He nearly got another when a lovely move by France entered with a thunderous shot which struck the post. By the end Ukraine looked dispirited, but despite this defeat can still qualify. England beware.

Sweden (0) 2 – 3 (1) England

As with the game against the French, I had the same feeling of serenity and that it will all work out. That feeling though was thoroughly tested in a see-saw second-half. England had been fairly comfortable in the opening forty five minutes and lead with a belter of a header from Andy Carroll. However, a ten minute horror period had the Swedes leading 2-1. First on forty nine minutes a free-kick wasn’t cleared by England which left Mellberg with a clear shot on goal. Joe Hart got a hand to it, but it only deflected into Johnson and into the net. Worse followed on fifty nine minutes, when England again failed to cope at a set-piece, leaving Mellberg to put Sweden ahead. Walcott came on in place of Milner on the hour and effectively turned the game. On sixty four minutes the Arsenal player lashed in a swerving shot and then on seventy eight minutes got amongst the Swedish defence to cross for Danny Welbeck who magnificently slotted home to put England ahead 3-2. It was good to see the decisions made by Roy Hodgson work out for him. Carroll was brought in, scored and lead the line in the tradition of an old-style centre forward. At 2-1 down, Hodgson brought on Walcott and changed the game. Also refreshing to see was the realism expressed by the BBC pundits at the end of the game. When Gary Lineker asked if England could win it, there was none of the bravado of the past and instead an honest answer that England are some distance from the best sides in the tournament. Let’s just enjoy the ride…

As a result of these two games, Sweden became the second team to exit the competition, so we say adjö to the Blågult. For England, France and the Ukraine it all comes down to the last games. The permutations are as follows:


  • England will be through with a draw. If they lose, they have to hope France lose by enough so that England at least end level with Les Bleus on goal difference and goals scored (as England have a superior coefficient).


  • Ukraine will be through with a win and out with any other result.


  • France will be through with a draw. If they lose, they would only be out if England lose but at the same time move level with them on either goal difference or goals scored.


Tonight the departure lounges of Poland and Ukraine will start to become busier as the final round of Group games begins.

UEFA 2012 European Championship: Day 8

Friday 15 June 2012

Well Group C is becoming actually ‘not see’, as circumstances dictate that I don’t get a chance to watch either of these games, so have watched nothing of Spain, Italy, the Republic of Ireland and Croatia. Therefore it’s the internet for me this morning and a quick gander at the BBC highlights. 

Group C

Italy (1) 1 – 1 (0) Croatia

Croatia went into the game knowing that a win would take them through to the Quarter-Finals. However, Italy dominated the first-half with a number of attempts on goal from Balotelli and made the breakthrough on thirty nine minutes with a superb free-kick from Pirlo. Croatia came out positively in the second-half with Modric having a couple of efforts at goal. Italy were unable to shut out the game and on seventy two minutes Strinic crossed for Mandzukic to fire home the equaliser.

Spain (1) 4 – 0 (0) Republic of Ireland

As against Croatia, Ireland conceded a goal very early on in this game. A through-ball looked like it had by dealt with by the Irish defence, but as they hesitated, in stepped Torres who with skill and pace took the ball before slamming home to put Spain 1-0 up. The World and European Champions continued to dominate and Given in goal for the Republic had to be alert in dealing with strikes from Iniesta. The Irish started the second-half badly and conceded another early goal. From an Iniesta strike, Given could only push the ball out to the penalty spot where David Silva collected, jinked one way then the other before slotting home to give Spain a 2-0 lead. The Spaniards continued to dominate and it was no surprise when they went further ahead after Torres latched onto a through ball and placed past Given on seventy minutes. The rout was completed on eighty three minutes when Fabregas on as a substitute, lashed in a fourth goal from a tight angle, with Ireland looking out on their feet.

The Republic of Ireland become the first time to exit the tournament in 2012, but for the remaining three teams the permutations are as follows:


Spain will win the Group if;

  • they defeat Croatia or
  • they draw with Croatia scoring at least two goals or
  • they draw with Croatia with 1-1 and Italy don’t do better than 4-0 with Republic of Ireland or
  • they draw with Croatia with 0-0 and Italy don’t defeat Republic of Ireland


Spain will advance to the Quarter-Finals in second place if:

  • they draw with Croatia with 1-1 and Italy do better than 4-0 with Republic of Ireland or
  • they draw with Croatia with 0-0 and Italy defeat Republic of Ireland or
  • they lose to Croatia and Italy don’t defeat Republic of Ireland


Croatia will win the group if;

  • they defeat Spain


Croatia will advance to the Quarter-Finals in second place if;

  • they draw with Spain scoring at least two goals or
  • they draw with Spain with 1–1 and Italy don’t do better than 2-0 with Republic of Ireland or
  • they draw with Spain with 0-0 and Italy don’t defeat Republic of Ireland or
  • they lose to Spain and Italy don’t defeat Republic of Ireland


Italy will win the Group if;

  • they defeat Republic of Ireland and Spain-Croatia end 0-0 or
  • they defeat Republic of Ireland better than 4-0 and Spain v Croatia ends 1-1


Italy will advance to the Quarter-Finals in second place if;

  • they defeat Republic of Ireland and Spain and Croatia don’t draw or
  • they defeat Republic of Ireland better than 2-0 but worse than 5-1 and the Spain v Croatia game ends 1-1, if they win 3-1 they edge out Croatia on UEFA national team coefficient ranking.


England kicked-off the working week with their game against France and end the working week with their game against Sweden. As with Monday, I don’t have that feeling of dread in the stomach that usually is a feature of watching the national team. Three points tonight would be most welcome chaps…C’mon England!

UEFA 2012 European Championship: Day 7

Thursday 14 June 2012

‘Squeaky bum’ time in Group B for Portugal and Netherlands last night, as they knew that if they BOTH lost their second round games, they would be heading for the door marked ‘exit’ and that would send Denmark and Germany through to the Quarter-Finals.

Group B

Denmark (1) 2 – 3 (2) Portugal

Perhaps I’ve hit a bit of a saturation point with the tournament or maybe I was watching a completely different game. After the win for Portugal in the Lviv Arena, the pundits were describing it as the game of the competition. Really? Just as every 0-0 match isn’t boring, so not every 3-2 game is a classic. For me, it wasn’t a technically good game or indeed a thrilling end-to-end encounter – all that could be said is that from 2-0 down Denmark fought back and Portugal snatched it at the end. My highlights were the two second-half misses by the 2004 ‘winker’ Ronaldo, who yet again seemed to pose and posture his way through another game, and was lucky that substitute Silvestre Varela’s late strike saved his blushes.

Netherlands (0) 1 – 2 (2) Germany

The overhead shot of the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv reminded me of the ‘old’ Wembley in terms of its shape (minus the Twin Towers of course). It’s funny, but I miss the original stadium. Anyway, enough nostalgia. The trouble with watching Germany is that after a while it becomes a bit difficult to describe their performances as you end up invariably going on about how efficient they are, how they have a great crop of youngsters coming through and how they rise to the occasion in tournaments. Yes it’s all true and after a good win over the Netherlands, they look favourites to win the competition. It was an interesting point made before the game about the respective developments of the teams in recent years, with Germany moving more towards Dutch flair in their play, while the Netherlands had shifted towards a more physical style. Perhaps too simplistic a notion, but you can see the general point. In the first-half two excellent goals from Mario Gomez put the Germans comfortably ahead, whilst Robin van Persie scored a brilliant goal with seventeen minutes remaining. The Netherlands huffed and puffed, but the Germans were always in control and Die Mannschaft rolls on in impressive fashion.

So as with Group A, all four sides can qualify. The permutations are as follows:

  • Germany will advance to the quarter-finals if;
    • they do not lose to Denmark by 0–1 or 1–2 or by 2 goals or more
    • or Portugal do not beat the Netherlands.
  • Portugal will go through to the knock-out stages if;
    • they beat the Netherlands and Denmark overcome Germany by 1–0 or 2–1 or at least 2 goals or
    • they do not lose to the Netherlands and Germany do not lose to Denmark or
    • they lose to the Netherlands by 1 goal and Germany beat Denmark.
  • Denmark will advance to the quarter-finals if;
    • they defeat Germany or
    • they draw with Germany and the Netherlands beat Portugal.
  • The Netherlands will advance to the quarter-finals if they defeat Portugal by at least 2 goals and Germany defeat Denmark.