Tag Archives: Euro 2012

Euro 2012: Spain Champions Again

Spain made history today with their 4-0 victory over Italy in the Euro 2012 final, becoming the first team to ever win three major championships in a row. Spain also became the first team to win two Euros in a row, and these two victories, along with their 2010 World Cup championship, make them the best side ever. They have had an incredible half-decade.

I have criticized Spain throughout the tournament for playing uninspired soccer, but today they pulled out all of the stops, scoring with ease against an Italian side that were playing quite well. Spain only allowed one goal the entire tournament (in their opening match against Italy), which is another record. They played like a true team in that their offensive players scored enough to get results and the defense was airtight, not assuming that they could be lazy because they could just run up the score on the other end. It gets boring when the same team wins all of the time, but one must give full credit to Spain—their results speak for themselves.

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Euro 2012 Final: Middling Spain vs. Surprising Italy

Italy convincingly beat Germany 2-1 today to set up a match against Spain in the Euro 2012 final. Italy played their best match of the tournament despite a shaky game from goalkeeper Gigi Buffon, with Mario Balotelli scoring two fantastic goals in the first half. The Italians have played inconsistently in the tournament (their only previous win was against underwhelming Ireland), but seem to be peaking at the right time.

Spain, on the other hand, got outplayed by Portugal during regulation of their semifinal, then played somewhat better during extra time, and won on penalties. The Spanish continue to not play impressively, but to their credit they are getting the job done, and the bottom line is results. They look more beatable than they have in quite a while. If Italy plays on Sunday like they did today, they will win the tournament. They were impressive in the first round draw between the two sides. It is difficult to bet against Spain, though.

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Euro 2012: England Lose on Penalties Again

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.

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Euro 2012 Quarterfinals Preview

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.

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Euro 2012: The Somewhat Surprising “Group of Death”

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.

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Euro 2012: Group A Craziness

Euro 2012’s Group A ended today in surprising, fairly exciting fashion. The Czech Republic beat Poland 1-0 and Greece did the same to Russia, so the Czechs won the group with six points and Greece finished second with four points because their victory today gave them the tiebreaker over Russia, who also ended with four points. Co-hosts Poland finished last with two points.

Russia had looked like the strongest of the four teams in the previous two matches, and Greece the weakest, so the result of their match was especially surprising, but the Greeks’ desperate defending was too difficult for the Russians. The Russians would have advanced with a draw or a draw between the Czechs and Poles, but even though Poland, who needed to win, controlled the first half of their match they couldn’t score, and once the Czechs went ahead midway through the second half the only question was whether the Poles could spite them by scratching out a draw. They had a fantastic chance in the final minute of stoppage time, but the Czechs cleared the ball off the line. Thus the Russians’ streak of failures at major tournaments since the breakup of the Soviet Union continues, and Poland join Switzerland and Austria from Euro 2008 and South Africa from the 2012 World Cup as a host country that has failed to advance out of the group stage.

The Czechs will play the second-place team from Group B in the quarterfinals and the Greeks will play the first-place team. No matter who their opponents are, I expect the Group B (a.k.a. the “Group of Death”) teams to advance, though the Czechs might be finding their form at the perfect time. Their first-place finish looked nearly impossible after they lost their first match to Russia 4-1, but give them credit for taking care of business against the Greeks and Poles with two solid one-goal victories.

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Euro 2012: The Situation After The Penultimate Group Matches

With only one set of first-round matches left, Euro 2012 is shaping up as a very exciting tournament. Only two teams, Ireland (who I picked to get to the second round, oops!) and Sweden, have been eliminated, and no team has guaranteed a berth in the quarterfinals, which means that all eight final group games are significant. Since the final two matches in each group are played simultaneously to help avoid result-fixing, it means that there will be lots of channel-flipping to keep track of the action. Here’s a group-by-group breakdown of how things look:

Group A

This has been a tight group, with all teams having at least one point. All of them need a result to assure passage to the next round. Russia will probably win the group since they play the last-place Greeks, who looked terrible in their last game against the Czechs, though if Greece wins they will move on. Co-host Poland must beat the Czechs to advance.

Group B

The “Group of Death,” where no one is safe or dead even though Germany have six points and Holland have zero. The Holland-Portugal match is the most intriguing, but if Denmark are able to upset Germany there could be a three-way tie at the top of the group. If Germany and Holland win there will be a three-way tie for second place.

Group C

Spain and Croatia each have four points, and will both go through unless Italy beats Ireland (a likelihood), in which case the Italians and the winner of Spain-Croatia will go through. If there is a draw in that match and the Italians win, there will be a three-way tie for the two qualification spots.

Group D

France currently leads England on goal difference for first place. Either team goes through if they get at least a draw, and both go through if England beats Ukraine no matter what France does. If Ukraine beats England, Ukraine and France go through unless France loses by multiple goals to Sweden.

The final set of group games is always fun because there is the constant updating of the “If Results Hold” table on television, and circumstances can change in an instant. In this case, it will be especially exciting because so many teams are still in contention. Fun times!

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