The Euro 2012 quarterfinals concluded today with England and Italy drawing 0-0 after extra time and the Italians progressing to the semifinals 4-2 on penalties. It was the first 0-0 match of the tournament even though both sides had some very good scoring chances in the first half and the game was an exciting one until the extra time sessions. It was yet another failure for the English on penalties; this time they were ahead 2-1 when Ashley Young hit the crossbar with his kick and then Ashley Cole had his kick saved. It means that Italy will play Germany in the second semifinal on Thursday, and Portugal and Spain meet in an Iberian derby on Wednesday. Germany have played better than Italy throughout the tournament and will have two days extra rest, so expect them to advance. The Portugal-Spain match will be a close one. Spain have been steady but not great, and Portugal have been riding Cristiano Ronaldo’s coattails. If Ronaldo is able to keep up his torrid play, the Portuguese will pull off the upset.
Tag Archives: Cristiano Ronaldo
The first round of Euro 2012 ended today with England beating Ukraine 1-0 and France losing to Sweden 2-0. England thus advance to the quarterfinals as the winners of Group D with France in second. The English victory was a stereotypically English display–defend, defend, defend, and score on a set piece. Wayne Rooney had a good game in his first match of the tournament after a two-match ban for a red card received during qualifying, and scored the only goal on a header in the aftermath of a corner kick. Soon afterwards, Ukraine looked to have equalized as a shot went over the line momentarily before being cleared by John Terry. But despite the fact that the extra goal-line official was standing right there, no goal was given and the English held their lead. However, earlier in the play Ukraine clearly had a player offside, so it wasn’t terribly unjust that the goal was ignored.
Steve McManaman, the color commentator for ESPN, said the incident was reminiscent of the 2010 World Cup match between England and Germany when Frank Lampard clearly scored, but the referee didn’t see the ball go over the line. However, McManaman called that play “Frank Lampard against West Germany,” and his partner Ian Darke didn’t correct him! This verbal slip both shows which era they grew up in and is an example of an odd trend in soccer commentary to assume that the current German team are only the successors of the West Germans, not the East Germans. Whenever anyone speaks about Germany’s previous successes, they always say that “Germany has won three World Cups” (or, more negatively if you are talking to an Englishman, “Germany lost the 1966 World Cup final to England”) but that’s not true–West Germany won three World Cups. There is a difference. If you are going to give the Germans all of West Germany’s successes, you have to give them all of East Germany’s (relative) failures, too.
Anyway, Ukraine needed to win in order to advance, and their failure to do so makes this tournament the second successive European Championship where both co-hosts have failed to advance (Switzerland and Austria were eliminated in the group stage in 2008). It is always sad when the hosts are eliminated immediately, but there are some exciting quarterfinal matchups to look forward to nonetheless. Here are comments on each match in the order they will be played:
Czech Republic vs. Portugal–Both teams are somewhat shaky on defense, and both rebounded with two wins after losing their first match. Portugal looked especially dangerous in their final match against Holland due to the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo from his mini-slump, and I think this momentum will carry Portugal through to the semifinals.
Germany vs. Greece–The Germans were the only team to win all of their three first round matches, and looked fairly at ease doing so even though they only won each match by one goal. Greece is a tough team to beat because they are strong defenders and they take their few chances well, and Germany is not a flashy offensive team, so Greece might give them some trouble. But the Germans have too much quality, and will go through.
Spain vs. France–The juiciest of the four matchups. France looked like the second-best team of the tournament behind Germany until their uninspiring loss to Sweden. Conversely, Spain won their group in rather pedestrian fashion. Spain should win this match, but it really depends on which versions of the two sides show up. If France play the way they did against England and Spain play like they did against Croatia, I like the French. But those are two huge ifs. If each team plays to the average of their performances thus far in the tournament, Spain will win, because France must play their absolute best to have a chance.
England vs. Italy–Both teams have had middling performances that were enough to get them through to the quarterfinals, with England looking slightly more impressive. This match will come down to which teams’ stars have the best game. I really liked the way Wayne Rooney played today despite being rusty, so I’m picking England to move on.
Euro 2012’s Group B, the “Group of Death,” concluded today with Portugal and Germany notching 2-1 victories against Holland and Denmark, respectively. Germany very impressively took the full nine points to win the group and Portugal finished second with six, with their only loss 1-0 to the Germans. Portugal have looked better every match they have played, and today their superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, finally got on the scoresheet with both goals and at least three other near-misses. He is coming into form at the best possible time for the Portuguese, who will be the favorites in their quarterfinal against the Czech Republic. Portugal’s other superstar, Nani, also had a very strong match, setting up the second goal minutes after he had squandered a beautiful scoring chance himself. Portugal look very dangerous at the moment, and should be able to take advantage of the Czechs’ spotty defending. Likewise, Germany should have no problem beating Greece, though the Greece are, of course, experts at squeaking out shocking victories in matches like this.
It is not surprising that the Germans and Portuguese went through, though I predicted that Portugal would not. What is surprising is that the 2012 World Cup finalists Holland would fail to advance, and that they would do so with three losses and only two goals scored! It is their worst showing ever at a major tournament, and they were clearly the worst team in the group. They looked tired throughout the tournament as well as uninspired, as though they assumed that they could be on cruise-control until the knockout stages. Kudos to the other three teams in the group for taking advantage of this lethargy.