Aaaaaaand We’re Back! Sorry for the delayed start to our EURO 2012 football round ups! Wont even bother with team lowdown’s right now, will catch you guys up with the tournament so far.
Alright, so the groups for the 2012 UEFA EURO are:
GROUP A - POLAND, GREECE, RUSSIA & CZECH REPUBLIC
GROUP B - NETHERLANDS, DENMARK, GERMANY & PORTUGAL
GROUP C - SPAIN, ITALY, IRELAND & CROATIA
GROUP D - UKRAINE, SWEDEN, FRANCE & ENGLAND
The opening match was between host nation Poland against 2004 EURO winners Greece. I assumed this would be a super easy win for Poland, (mainly because of Greece’s poor performance in the years following their EURO win in ’04). I was wrong. After a goal in the 17th minute, Poland lifted the stadium’s spirits and cruised through the first half at 1-0, while Greece had a man sent off and struggled to find the back of the net. The second half saw the exact opposite, with a red card for Polish Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and a goal by Dimitris Salpingidis in the 52st minute. The match ended in a one all draw, although Greece did have a goal disallowed. Overall, not a bad start to the tournament. Also on June 8th was the pulverizing 4-1 win by Russia over the Czech Republic. Dzagoev scored two goals for Russia, earning him the Carlsberg Man of the Match title, and that is perhaps the only thing worth reporting about this game. Vaclav Pilar scored in the 52nd minute, providing momentary relief from the ongoing Russian assault. Not a single card was presented throughout the whole game, and Russia won the game without breaking a sweat.
The second day of the tournament produced some surprising results, (by surprising I mean they sucked). Firstly, the more disappointing of the two matches, World Cup runners up Netherlands versus Denmark,..aka…WTF!!! The Oranje’s performance’s was not impressive, as they passed up several chances to score and a single goal from Michael Krohn-Dehli sank the Dutchman in their tournament debut. The next match was Germany versus Portugal, which I found almost as disappointing, mainly because I expected more goals from both sides. The Germans are out for blood this year, after almost getting their hands on the trophy in 2008. The Portuguese tried to keep the pressure up, but a deflected cross turned into a header by Mario Gomez, sending the Germans into the lead as the match ended.
First match of the day was Euro and World Cup champs Spain against former World Cup winners Italy. The first half was rather uneventful, with a yellow card for Italy’s resident bad boy (super)Mario Balotelli. The second half was a lot more colourful, with yellow cards galore for both sides. Antonio Di Natale put the Italians ahead in the 61st minute, but the glory was short-lived as Cesc Fabregas put the ball passed Buffon, ending the game in a 1-1 tie. Ireland versus Croatia was played almost entirely in the rain, but this definitely did not dampen the spirits of the fans or the players. Ireland has not played in the UEFA European Championships in 24 years, which is why their fans were amped up and ready for victory. Croatia had other plans, with an almost instant goal by Mario Mandzukic. Ireland quickly came back with the equalizer, courtesy of Sean St. Ledger. After half time, Croatia moved in for the kill with Nikica Jelavic and Mandukic both scoring and leaving Ireland in the dust.
Co-hosts Ukraine did not disappoint as they faced Sweden in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Local superstar Andriy Shevchenko lit up the stadium, to the delight of his teammates and fans, with goals in the 55th and 62nd minutes. The first half was a tight struggle between the two teams, with Ukraine barely getting the better of the first 45 minutes. The second half started off with Zlatan Ibrahimovic sending the Swedes ahead in the 52nd minute, thankfully Shevchenko put an end to Sweden’s lead and the match ended with the co-hosts winning 2-1. Old rivals France and England took to the pitch, delivering an exciting first half, with Joleon Nescott finding the back of the net 30 minutes in, soon overshadowed by Samir Nasri’s lightning strike. The second half was less exciting with only cards and substitutions and ending in both teams gaining a point each.
Back to GROUP A with Poland and Russia meeting in the national stadium in Warsaw. Dzagoev found the net in the latter part of the first half, but Russia failed to capitalize on their lead and Polish team captain Jakub Blaszczykowski (yeah, that’s his real name) scored the equalizer in the 57th minute. The match ended 1-1. Greece faced off against the Czech Republic, who were still reeling from their 4-1 trouncing by Russia. It seems they had learned their lesson, because in less than six minutes, the Czechs were up by 2, and Greece was unable to produce any goals in the first half. Thankfully, Gekas was able to score in the 53rd minute, however the Greeks were not able to equalize, giving the Czech Republic the 3 points they desperately needed to keep their qualifying hopes alive.
Germany dealt another blow to the Dutch, during their match at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv. The Netherlands gave another disappointing performance, while the Germans scored 2 goals (courtesy of Mario Gomez) in the first half. Van Persie was able to score in the 73rd minute, but the Oranje couldn’t equalize and ultimately the whistle blew signaling their second defeat of the tournament. Fresh of their win against the Netherlands, the Danes were confident going up against Portugal, who had lost to Germany. The Portuguese were really after those 3 points, as they scored twice in the first 45 minutes (Pepe and Helder Postiga). Bendtner scored for the Danes just as the first half ended and again towards the end of the second half, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Portuguese, who scored a third goal in the 87th minute earning them the match and the 3 points.
Italy met Croatia, resulting in yet another tie for the azzuri. Croatia had defeated Ireland just three days prior, and with 3 points already in their corner they sought to further their lead in the group. The azzuri were in the lead until the latter part of the second half thanks to Pirlo scoring in the 39th minute. However, Croatia denied Italy a win with Mandzukic’s goal in the 72nd minute, leaving each squad with one point a piece. I am currently in the middle of the Spain versus Ireland game, and I think I can make a safe prediction as to who will win this game. Spain is basically having a training session, and using the Irish for target practice. Irish Goalkeeper Shay Given is doing his best to prevent the ball from ripping up his net but he just cant save them all. Torres just scored his second goal of the game, bringing the score to 3-0 (David Silva also scored in the second half). This game is borderline cruelty… I don’t think I can watch anymore….. aaaaand Spain just scored again, (4-0).
Check back tomorrow for the lowdown on the matches between Sweden and England & Ukraine and France.