Euro 2012 – The Review
The EUROs now over, id like to publish my write ups for the entire tournament If you missed anything please feel free to read any of the phases and remember the truly great games we witnessed this tournament!
Winners – Spain
Runners Up - Italy
Golden Boot Winner – Fernando Torres (3 goals 1 assist)
Player of the Tournament – Andres Iniesta
Winners – Spain
Runners Up - Italy
Golden Boot Winner – Fernando Torres (3 goals 1 assist)
Player of the Tournament – Andres Iniesta
+ Show Spoiler [The Group Stage] +
Lets review how the last 8 were determined and how the Quarter finals might go.
Group A was a fascinating group in the end. It started off after matchday 1 with Russia looking clear favorites to win there 3 games and qualify top of the group comfertably, but what we forgot to add into this is the fact that football is still so unpredictable!
Russia opened up with a romping 4-1 victory over Czech Republic with a stunning counter attacking performance. The Czech's looked clearly stunned after that 90 minutes and many were begining to ask questions over their defense and even the brilliant Petr Cech!
The other opening game to the tournament, Poland vs Greece had EVERYTHING in it, red cards, penalties, saves, glaring misses and of course amazing atmosphere! It all started with Greece getting a man sent off within the first 30minutes of the game and putting themselves clearly on the back foot. All be it the Greek defender Papastathopoulos getting harshly treated by the referee and double booked for tackles which looked very harsh. But that was not the end of this game, as the Poles would take a 1-0 lead before the red card through their talisman Lewandowski, only for in the second half to see a completley new Greece team turn out. Greece took the initiative away from Poland early on in the second half and were good value for the goal they scored 10 minutes into the second half, and then when Szczesny got his marching orders for taking out the Greek striker, but only for Karagounis to miss the resulting penalty and the game to pitter out into a 1-1 draw. So we had a fantastic matchday 1 in group A what would happen in the other two matches?
Matchday 2 started with Greece vs Czech Republic and boy did this game start well! Czech's clearly up for this game started like a house on fire! Racing to a 2-0 lead within 5minutes and looking like it could be more at any moment looked to have wraped the game up! Only for the Czech's like the Poles to faulter in the second half and gift the Greek's with a goal from an error at the back to make it an edgy last 10 minutes and hold on for a 2-1 win. Czech register their first 3 points of the tournament and Greece struggling with just the 1 point after 2 matches, they look out of it with a game against Russia awaiting them on the last day.
Poland vs Russia would be the final game of matchday 2 and with many fearing for the host nation as Russia looked rampant vs the Czech's no one could of predicted what happend next! Russians started slowly in this match and it would prove costly, they eventually took the lead 10 minutes before half time and continue that lead into the second half. Only for the Polish captain to fire home one of the goals of the tournament from 20 yards and shock Europe by taking another point in the tournament but this time from a well fancied Russian team!
We came into matchday 3 with EVERY TEAM able to go through into the last 8, including Greece who only had 1 point! Both games would kick off at 18:45 GMT (+00:00) and what a shock we where about to whitness! Greece were taking on Russia whilst the Czech's would be taking on the hosts Poland in their backyard with both teams still able to go through if they won.
We'll start with the hosts as they began a tense first half with the Czech's with neither team starting well and both affraid of conceding the first goal. It took until the 74th minute before a goal was scored and what a goal it would turn out to be! With the Poles looking to press home their possesion advantage they began to pour players forward, hoping they could pen the Czech's in and grab a goal to send them through. But it turned out to be their downfall! With the Czech's picking up the ball and turning it into a superb counter attack, they would score with 15 minutes to go through Jiracek and lead 1-0, which is how it would finish after a nervy 15minutes of defending. Poland out and Czech's all but certainly through.
Russia entertained Greece whilst this game was on and it was a typical Greece gladiatorial display. Russia would start with their swift passing style and pacey counter attacks whilst Greece just looked to hang in their from the start. But somehow the Greeks turned back the clock to 2004 and stole the lead 2 minutes into stoppage time of the first half with their captain Karagounis giving them the lead. Russia would come out in the second half better than the first with some great play and some penetrating counter attacks, but as usual the Greeks did everything they could to keep them out. With the news reaching the ground of a goal from the Czech's, Russia knew they were going out unless they failed to score! Throwing strikers on the pitch from the subs bench and countless attacking play from the Russians, the Greeks somehow managed to hold on for their first win of the tournament against the Russians! Russia were out, Greece and Czech Republic went through, unbeleivable!
Group A would start us off with an action packed 6 games and some great results! Greece and Czech Republic go through, lets go on to group B.
Group B, well arguably the group of death these teams would throw out some fascinating games aswell as some irresistable football!
Denmark and Netherlands would kick off group B in a fascinating game of football! Much like a Chelsea team in the Champions league, Denmark took a dogged approach to the game with a solid defense and little possesion, but they made that important stat count of scoring a goal! After an opening 20 minutes of pure Dutch football of passing, moving and some decent shots on goal, Denmark would break with ease and go straight through the Dutch defense and steal a 1 goal lead. That seemed to wake the Dutch up even more as they would start an onslaught of 70 minutes where they would have all the ball, 30+ shots on goal but no GOALS. Denmark would hold on and take the opening game of group b, shock in the first game. The Dutch now needing to get good results vs Portugal and Germany.
Game 2 started with a fiery encounter of Germany vs Portugal! This game started off the way everyone thought it would. Germany with most of the ball, passing it well and getting stuck into a pretty defensively set up Portuguese team. Germany had the best chances in the first half with Portugal looking pretty average due to not playing as attacking as they should have been. The second half started pretty much the same as the first with the Germans pressing home their possesion advantage and Portugal looking to hold on and keep them out with some strong defending. It took until the 72nd minute of the game when a cross came in from the right wing for big Mario Gomez to leap up and head home. 1-0 the Germans would lead, with good value in that too. But as soon as the goal went in Portugal woke up and started to play really good football and for the next 15minutes of the game the Germans would be on the back foot defending their 1-0 advantage. Ronaldo and Co could not break through this rough and doggied German defense so the game between the two nations would end in a 1-0 German victory and they would top the group along with Denmark after matchday 1.
Matchday 2 would start this time with the strudy set up Danes taking on the Portugese in a great match it would turn out to be. It started slowly and the first 10 minutes were pretty average with both teams giving as good as they got, but as soon as Portugal woke up, they began to hammer home their advantage. Pepe would open the scoring from a set peice and then when Postiga scored from close range, Denmark looked out of it. But whenever a team looks out of it in this competition they seem to play as good as they have done. Bendter reduced the defecit 5minutes before half time before equalising 10 minutes from time! Not after a 2-3 great Portugal chances to make it 3-1! And when Ronaldo was through one on one with the Denmark keeper, but for him to send it wide of the post you just thought this was going to end in a 2-2 draw. But thats not how Varela saw it as he would come off the bench to score an 87th minute winner and send Portugal top of the group with 4points.
The second game of the day would be between Germany and Netherlands, and how their is no loved lost between these two teams and with Netherlands desperate avoid a defeat, this proved to be a fascinating game! But with a game building up to be such a close encounter with a surely a better Dutch side turning out to the one that defended so poorly vs the Danes, you would be quite suprised at how the first half would go. The Dutch would arguably have the best chance of the first 15 minutes, with a lofted through ball from VanBommel over the top of the German centre backs putting in VanPersie but for him to mess up his control and fire a weak shot at the keeper. As you know by now the Germans would re gather themselves after that early slip up at the back to take the advantage to the Dutch and to test that very weak defense they had. Gomez would score a fantastic goal on 23 minutes after some good passing between Ozil and Schweinsteiger and when they scored again through Gomez 8 minutes before half time you worried for the Dutch who looked so poor at the back. The second half would start the same as the first but with 2 attacking changes from the Dutch. It would slowly fade this game with it getting more and more dull due to the heat playing a part, until VanPersie finally hammered home a shot 20 minutes before the full time whistle. But it all seemed to be to little to late and the Dutch just fell short with 10 minutes to go and Germany comfertably held on to beat their rivals 2-1.
Germans now top the group with Portugal second and Denmark in third. Netherlands some how have 0 points and look on the brink of elimination.
Matchday 3 would start the same as Group A with both games kicking off at 18:45 GMT (+00:00).
We will start with the Portugese vs Netherlands in a game where the Dutch somehow could still manage the greatest of all escapes and with a 2-0 win somehow have a chance of getting into the last 8. But the Portuguese would have other ideas for this game, and with a rejuvenated Ronaldo with something to prove, the Dutch had a big game on their hands. It started with an attacking team from the Dutch, with very big names on the field. One of those new starters in VanDerVaart hammering home a fierce 25 yard shot into the top corner on the 11th minute after some great football from the Dutch. 1-0 up and seeminly in charge of the game, many people started to beleive that maybe the Dutch could somehow manage the great escape. But Ronaldo had other ideas, with him finally scoring in this years competition 15 minute before the break. And with Portugal continue to press home the advantage they have in attacking thread on the counter vs the weak Dutch defense, it only got worst for the Netherlands. Portugal and Ronaldo would score again 15 minutes before the end of the game with Dutch now out of the competition in last place. Biggest shock of the tournament so far, with one of the favorites going home.
Denmark vs Germany would compelte matchday 3 in group b. With Denmark needing to win or avoid defeat to stand a chance of qualifying, and the Germans needing a minimun of a draw you would of expected a more defensive game between the two sides. What we got was a game with both teams going for it, with the Germans using their attacking flair to start well all for Muller to miss a sitter from 7 yards. But that would not prove to be too costly as on the 19th minute Podolski marked his 100th apperance for Germany with a well poached goal to make the score 1-0. But somehow, suprisingly the Danes struck back within 5 minutes and Krohn-Dehli headed home an equaliser! The second half would begin and the teams would be pretty locked in an intense match, but for news to break of Ronaldo's goal on the 70th minute, suprisingly it would be the Germans who at that stage where in danger of going OUT and Portugal and Denmark would be going through if Denmark could find a winner! Would the impossible actually become possible? Would Germany and Netherlands go out in the group phase of a tournament? No, it would be short lived as the Germans popped up with a goal as they always do and win the game 2-1.
Germany go through as winners and Portugal finish second. Denmark make a respectable 3rd place finish and the Dutch go home with the tails between their legs without a single point.
Group C was a talented group as well. With the minnows of the competition Ireland ready to fight off the footballing riches of Italy and Spain, as well as take on the doggied and determined Croatians. The group would start off with a bang as well.
Italy would take on Spain in game one with a tense affair between the two giant football nations. Italy though would be clear underdogs in this game after there poor form going into the comeptition, after a recent 3-0 drubbing from Russia, no one expect the Italians to fair up to well vs the Spanish prowess. But as usual, football kicks up another suprise and the Italians opting for a new system of 3-5-2 gave Spain a defensive masterclass performance and maybe a blueprint to how to beat Spain. It would start with Spain (who were playing the Barcelona 4-6-0 formation with no strikers on the pitch!) bossin' possesion but without working Buffon to hard. The first half would be over in a flash and the score standing at 0-0 between the sides. With maybe Italy having the best chance of the match too, with Motta testing Casillas from close range with a header just before the break. The second half begun the same as the first with Spain taking charge of the football and Italy closing down and making them hurry. And then when the ball broke to the sub Di Natale who go in one on one with Casillas and bent a superb shot into the bottom corner, the Italians started to beleive that just maybe this was the great performance they were capable of giving. But no sooner as they scored Spain hit straight back, with Cesc scoring a fantastic footballing goal with inch perfect passing from the magician in Iniesta, 1-1. The Italians didn't know what had hit them! Then with the introduction of Torres to the game and finally a striker on the pitch, the Spanish took charge of the last 20minutes with some great chances against the hgh line from the Italians. Torres had 4 great chances in the last 20 minutes and converted none of them. Game finished and it was 1-1, good result all round you think?
The final match of matchday 1 saw the minnows of Ireland take on Croatia in a must win game for each side you would think, as they both need to play the giants of Italy and Spain. Ireland got into this comeptition with there doggied defending and great set up under the Italian coach Trapattoni, but how the game started you would not of known that. Within 3 minutes the Croatians were ahead through their star striker Mandzukic and that seemed to really shock Ireland who were getting pushed deeper and deeper by the Croat's. Ireland though, being as determined as ever managed to fight back and earn themself a well crafted goal from a set peice. 20 minutes had been played and it had felt like 45! 1-1 the score was and the game was as opener as nothing you have seen before in the competition! With Croatia looking to get forward at every opportunitity and the Irish defending deeper and deeper, there was another goal in it before half time. Croatia would grab a goal on the stroke of half time through Jelavic to make the score 2-1 Croatia, Ireland looked heart broken! The second half began much the same as the first within the first 4 minutes Croatia had made it 3-1 thanks to Mandzukic again. Croatia showing the better footballing skills and being able to keep the ball alot better than the Irish it would pan out into a comfertable second half and victory for the Croat's. Matchday 1 finished Croatia top and Italy, Spain sharing 2nd with Ireland bottom.
Matchday 2 came round fast for the Irish who would now be taking on Spain in a much needed win for Ireland vs the reigning World and European champiosn Spain. Could the impossible become possible? Well, no, it could not. The Irish started off even worst than they did vs Croatia. Spain not opting for their 4-6-0 started Torres in a 4-3-3 formation and well it paid off within the first 4 minutes with Torres smashing home from close range. 1-0 and the mountain of all mountains for Ireland to climb. Even though the Spanish would dominate the half they would fail to find a second goal, and Ireland if they could pass the ball with a bit more quality might of found themselves with a few more chances vs the Spanish. But that was not to be as 4 minutes (again 4 minutes, Irelands favorite number!) into the second half David Silva popped up and killed the game, 2-0 the Spanish led and the Irish looked down and out. With another goal for Torres and an 80th minute goal for Cesc, the game finished 4-0 Spain and Ireland were all but eliminated from the competition, and Spain almost through.
The other match of the day was Italy vs Croatia, which would be a big game for whoever could win, it Croatia won it they were all but through into the last 8 unless some harsh results on the final matchday. And with the Italians looking to secure a win an attacking game looked to be on the cards. The Italians have a poor record vs the Croat's as of late (as many Croat's will let you know!) and they looked very good as the game started. Again playing 2 strikers in an attacking looking line up from Croatia, they took the game as much as they could to the Italians. But being Italian, it means you can defend, and they defended well when needed too. We had to wait until the 39th minute of the game before the Italians unlocked the Croatians with a stunning freekick from the Italian Prince, Andrea Pirlo. Thats how it would stay until the second half. The second half started with Croatia pushing further forward using their strikers well, but the Italians defending as well as they have through out the years and it looked like it was going to be an Italians win. That was before Mandzukic headed home an equalizer on the 70th minute. Italians where then pushing for a winner in the last 20 minutes but for no luck as Croatia would hold on for a well earnt point and Italians would draw their second game of the tournament.
With matchday 3 here and the Irish out, it was out of 3 teams for qualification, Spain, Croatia and Italy. With Spain facing Croatia and Italy vs minnows Ireland it was down to whoever would win their games to go through.
We will start with the Italian game vs the minnows Ireland. It started comfertably for Italy with them keeping possesion and Ireland not possing much of a thread going forward, however they did look alot stronger at the back. It took until a set peice in the 36th minute and a Cassano header before they took the lead. Thats how the game would stay until the 90th minute when Balotelli made certain of the win with a well hit shot from inside the box. Italians comfertably victorious and awaited the result of the Spanish game to see who would go through. Ireland went home, without a point and only a goal to their name.
Spain and Croatia would kick off a very tense affair. Spanish would as usual dominate the possesion but without making any clear cut opportunities. The best chance of the first half in fact would go to Croatia who had a great headed opportunity missed at the back post, which you could argue was a fantastic save by Casillas. Spain continue to push and poke the Croatian defense with their passing style but Croatia would cause Spain problems with their swift counter attacks as well. The first half would come to an end 0-0. With news coming through that Italy were leading vs Ireland, Croatia had no choice but to continue to push for a goal to get them through, but it is very hard to do that with limited touches of the football. Spain dominating possesion, and Croatia trying to get the ball to give themself a chance of scoring. The second half would be drawing to a close the way it started with a tense atmosphere and the Spanish with all the ball. But with a 0-0 scoreline not the way it goes in this years European Championships Jesus Navas popped up on the 87th minute to break all the Croatian hearts and with it send Spain through top of the group. Heart break for Croatia but ectasy for the football giants Spain and Italy.
Group C complete, Italy and Spain marching on with Croatia and the minnows Ireland going home.
Group D was an interesting group! The group which had France, unbeaten in 20 international matches prior to the tournament, England with a new manager barely in the job 3 weeks and only 2 games under his belt, Ukraine the other hosts of the tournament and Sweden, a team always set up to hurt and annoy any team in the big tournaments. It was on paper a fascinating group and it would turn out to be one as well.
Matchday 1 saw the big game of the group, England vs France. The first game of the tournament between a written off England team (from the press) and an unbeaten French team looking good in how they play, it was set up to be a routine victory for the French. But, with the new England manager having other ideas it turned into a game of two styles. England sitting back and abosrbing the pressure and trying to hit on the counter attack, whilst France tried to pass it through England with the majority of the possesion. With Milner missing the best chance of the first half after rounding the French keeper but failing to get his shot on target to the open goal, it looked like it would be 0-0 at half time. However, one set peice is all England seemed to be looking for and on the 30th minute a freekick firercely whipped in by Gerrard and met in the 6yard box by Lescott England took a surpise lead and looked set to be going into the break at 1-0. France had other idea's and with England looking like they wanted to sit back and absorb whatever the French could throw at them until the break it was France who equalised. Nasri would pick up the ball on the edge of the box and hammer in a 25 yard strike to beat the unsited Hart in goal. 1-1 at the break and a close encounter between the two footballing nations. The second half would start much the same as the first with France with all the ball and England dropping deeper and deeper at the back trying to hold out from the French. The games best chances fell to France who couldn't seem to find a way through the English defense, the game would finish 1-1. A point each.
The other game on matchday 1 was between the Swedes and Ukraine, and what a fascinating game this would turn out to be. The first half started and with Ukraine asking questions of the Swede's slow and rugged defense, it looked set to be a thirlling encounter. Sweden gave as good as they got in the first half with Ibrahimovic looking bright and looking the best player on the pitch. Somehow it finished 0-0 in the first half and the second half was where all the action was. With Ibrahimovic looking the best player in the first half, there was no doubt who the first goal scorer was going to be, and shortly after the break he would make it 1-0 to Sweden with a well worked goal. Ukraine not shoke up to much by this goal and with their talisman Shevchenko on the pitch they knew they had a chance and continued supporting their team. Within a few minutes of going behind their talisman rewarded the nation with a fine goal, 1-1, the crowd in ectasy. But no sooner as they finished celebrating they were sent into pandemonium as Shevchenko the countries pride and joy for football gave them the lead! 2-1 they lead, and the stadium was rocking. The game would draw to a close with Ukraine defending their advantage as much as they could and they finished off winning the game 2-1.
After matchday 1 it would be Ukraine who were leading group d and giving the country somethng to beleive in.
Matchday 2 would start with Ukraine taking on France in the earlier kick off, and well no one knew what to expect in this game, especially after the start. With a storm overhead and a massive one at that, the game started under heavy heavy rain and eventually turning into a thunderstorm, the game was suspended until after the storm. Over an hour later, and the storm gone and the pitch slighly drained from the massive soaking the game restarted. It was a very slow game to start with neither team looking like scoring. And with the first half over and at 0-0 with France not looking at all threatening it was surely going to change in the second half. And at that, it did, with France coming out alot stronger in the second half and Ukraine a little weaker it started to become one way traffice. With France finally taking the lead through Menez it looked to finally wake up France, and it did. With Cabaye adding a second a 5 minutes later the game was over and France were topping the group, and the gauntlet was laid down to Sweden and England to see who could stop them from topping the group.
England vs Sweden would be a game not many would forget in a hurry. With England's appaling record vs Sweden and Sweden's great record vs England in international competitions it was set to be a close affair, and that was a right assumption to make. With England making one change from the team that faced France with big Carroll coming in to partner Welbeck upfront, England had a big striker to aim for and to hold up play with. With England slow to start and Sweden looking poor also, the first 20 minutes were not so good. England managed to score from a fantastic cross from Gerrard and a great headed goal from Carroll, England lead 1-0 and Sweden looked disheartend and were giving the ball away very chaepily. But England being England failed to capitalise on any mistakes Sweden were making and the 1st half ended 1-0. With the second half coming up no one could expect to see what would happen next. Sweden would start really well and push England back, England for the first time in this tournament looked really poor defensively and Sweden were making them pay. and 5 minutes into the second half from a corner, Sweden equalised through Mellberg, 1-1 and England looked shaken! Sweden with new life after their goal looked to press home their new advantage, and boy did they do that! With a freekick given away cheapily on the edge of the box, Ibrahimovic would hit that resulting freekick into the wall for it to come kindly bouncing back to him and hitting it through a crowd of players it landed once again at Mellbergs feet who would hit the ball and force a save from Hart. The save was only knocking the ball tamingly over the line but for Johnson to mess up his feet and help it over the line instead of making a goal line clearance, Sweden had made England's sloppy defensive start to the second half pay. Sweden lead 2-1, England looking shaken. With England looking down and out Hodgson made a change and bought on Walcott, who changed the game. England finally begining to fnd their feet they got a corner and from that resulting corner it was knocked out to the edge of the box where walcott would volley home an equaliser, 26 minutes to go for either team to find a winner. And there would be a winner with England getting it through again Walcott's good work in takwing on thew Swedish defenders and crossing a ball for Welbeck to score quite spectacualy with a flick from the back of his foot. 3-2 England lead, and thats the way it would stay. England victorious just and Sweden disheartenly beaten and thus out of the tournament.
Matchday 3 would come around thick and fast, and with 3 teams all fighting for qualification, England vs Ukraine looked likely to be the bigger tie of the night with France taking on an already out Swedish team. However as in football you know not to expect the expected.
We'll start with France vs Sweden, a game in which the majority would back an unbetean in 21 internationals French team to beat an already out Sweden, but again never expect the expected. With a very solid opening from Sweden, and a very blank looking French team, the first half was that of a team who didn't look like they had many ideas on how to break down a well organised Swedish team. A few chances for each taem in the first half with Sweden looking to counter and France tried to unlock the Swedish defense. The first half ended as quick as it started. France would come out in the second half with the same mentality trying to pass there way through a stubborn Swedish side, all the more time giving the Swedes more and more confidence that there could be an upset on the cards here. And with that there was! 10 minutes after the second half started, Zlatan, fired home a spetactular volley and France were behind 1-0, Sweden looking good value for a 1 goal lead! France's 23 unbeaten run looks like it could be in trouble here. And it would be, with France continuely pushing forward trying to grab an equaliser, Sweden just bought their time to hit them on the counter attack and finish the game off in the 91st minute, 2-0. Larsson the scorer and France looking down and out.
The other match would be England vs Ukraine and what an interesting game this would turn out to be as well. With England starting off so poorly and Ukraine starting off with a new looked young team, it was Ukraine with the early chances in the first 20 minutes, bossin' the play and looking a decent side. They would struggle to make decent efforts though as England would force them into long 30-40 yard shots with only one trouble Hart in the England goal. England would finally start to play after the 20th minute with chances created from Young's crossing and set peices, but after Rooney missed a sitter from a header it didn't look like England's day offensively at all. With Ukraine ending the half the strongest and with chances created from the right hand side with the RB bombarding forward like a winger (happens to be a winnger for his domestic side) the Ukrainians looked dangerous. Half time would come not a moment to soon for England and the sides would be level going into the break. England started the second half brightly and were rewarded after some good work from set peices and a fantastic cross from Gerrard which took two deflections before foxing the keeper at the near post who could only touch it into the path of Rooney who would score on his return. 1-0 England, and at that time looking like they were going to win the group thanks to a wonder goal from Ibrahimovic. Ukraine would continue to press forward in need of a goal to stand a chance of going through, looked dangerous. They had a glorious chance from a header about 3 yards out of goal but he would blaze it over the bar, it happend to be offside as well so maybe justice served? However in football there is never a dull moment and with Ukraine pushing more people forward for a goal and England caught on the break, the biggest contreversy of the tournament was about to unfold. Ukraine sliced open England and were one on one with Hart before they knew it, the shot would be saved but not a good enough save to take it away from the goal, and it woud loop up into the air and be gunning down to the goal line. Terry would be running back as fast as he could to try and scoop the ball off the line, but to no luck it would seem, as it looked in live motion that it had maybe just crossed the line. But surely with an official less than 3 yards away from the goal line looking DIRECTLY AT THE GOAL LINE, he would not make a mistake and give the goal. HOWEVER what a wrong assumption that was, as the ball did appear to cross the line and the official failed to give the goal, the Ukraine manager went mad as did the stadium. England let off the hook? Or were they...As it looks in the build up to the goal, again the Ukraine attacker was offside but the linesman failed to flag him before the goal, so maybe again justice served? All be it very cruel justice indeed. That would be the last clear chance for Ukraine as the game would finish 1-0 England.
With the Sweden result coming in, England somehow managed to top the group and France would finish second. Amazing end to group stage play in this years Euro with some big teams going home and some suprises going through! Onto the Quarter finals we go...
Quarter Final 1
Quarter final 1 see's the Portuguese take on the Czech's in a fascinating tie. Czech's somehow managed to get out of their group after a shocking defensive performance in the first game again Russia and have set up a quarter final with Portugal. Portugal had an even tougher route to this quarter final managing to get out of the group of death in a respectable second place.
You would have to say that Portugal are the favorites here it would only be fair to the talent they have, but with the Czech's already defying odds by getting out of their group the way they did it, you cannot write them completely off.
Key man for Portugal is none other than, Ronaldo. Arguably the best player in the tournament (if you use FIFA player rankings) he has had alot to live up too. After failing to deliver vs both Denmark and Germany, he put it all right by scoring the only 2 goals in the win over Netherlands and looking as good as ever. He will surely effect the outcome of this match.
Many say he was the best keeper in Europe this season, with his heorics for Chelsea on their champions league cup run, but as yet to make some world class saves for Czech Republic. Will he put it right? Im sure he will, he only gets better and not worst, even with a slightly poor back 4 in front of him, he will like Ronaldo have the last say in this match.
Czech Republic 1-3 Portugal
Quarter Final 2
Quarter final 2 see's the Germans, the new bookmakers favorite for the tournament, take on the galditorial Greeks! This could be a one sided affair i think much like Quarter final 1. The Germans arguably stronger by a long way, but the Greeks on the back of mission impossible in group a. It is sure set up to be a tense affair with the Greeks looking back to 2004 for inspiration to help them scupper the Germans, but the Germans will make that as tough as possible im sure.
Gomez, arguably the most inform striker in this years competition looked really good in the group games, and with his eye for goal, Germany will need him to fire in the quarter final to help them through. With his height and strength his key attributes he has all the makings of a great striker to hurt the Greeks. If he has a good game, normally the Germans win comfertably.
The captain of his Gladiators and a great one at that, always leading by example and giving his all for his country. If he has a good game in the middle of midfield the rest of the Greeks will pick up on it and lifts them all. With the ability to pop up with a goal as well Karagounis is definatly my pake for the key player for Greece. If they were to make the upset of all upsets, Karagounis will score the winner.
Germany 3 - 0 Greece
Quarter Final 3
Arguably the tie of the round as France take on world champions Spain. After France's first loss in 23 international games, they found themselves finishing 2nd in their group setting up a tie vs the defending champions Spain. France like to play football as well with the possesion game, but not any team in the world will be able to do that against Spain the masters of possesion football. It is set up to be an interesting tie due to the lackluster last game performance in front of goal vs Croatia by the Spanish, so France cannot count themselves out just yet.
With Ribery not doing anything as of yet for France in this tournament, the key player for France for me is Nasri. His ability to change a game which he has done already for France will be the key for France doing well. If he can get the ball in and around the box he can hurt any team with his ability. Whether it is to pass a ball inch perfectly to a striker or to shoot a 25 yarder he will always be a game changing player. If he performs well France have a chance.
Arguably the best midfield maestro in the world at the moment, Iniesta has the ability to change any game with a pass or even a goal crafted himself. His ability to pick an inch perfect pass at any moment of the game provides Spain with the biggest luxury of any team in the last 8. If Iniesta dominates a game then normally Spain win comfertably. I see him winning this game on his own.
France 0- 2 Spain
Quarter Final 4
England take on Italy in this fascinating tie. Both teams have been good defensively in the competition with the Italians showing both flair and defensive prowess in their group c games and with England showing they can score 3 goals when they need to they are no easy team to beat. Its set to be a battle of the defenses though as both teams look good at the back, so it might not be a fun game for the neutral as the others might be. 1-0 might be a good score to predict here but to who is anyones guess. With Rooney back England are in a jubliant mood. Italy have old heads to help guide them through this game but they are withouth centre back chellini who has injured his thigh.
The Italian prince, the great centre midfield player has got another tournament in him maybe this is the last time we see Pirlo on an international stage at a major tournament, but we are sure he would want to go out with a bang. His goal vs Croatia and his passing ability in the Spanish games were key to taking the lead. His marshalling off the midfield is key to the Italians formation too and looks like he has another opportunitity to marshal them through a tough fought game with the English. If Pirlo dominates this game, England will be bowing out.
Rooney, England's savior vs Ukraine with his goal to send through group winners, looked a bitch shy of match sharpness in his first 90 minutes but is sure to get better and better. He lit up the tournament in 2004 to only get sent of vs Portugal which cost England a place in the next round. With him maturer and better than he was back then. If he plays as well as he can do, he can take to the game to the Italians on his own with his ability or even play as good as Pirlo can with his passing.
Italy 0- 1 England
+ Show Spoiler [The Quarter Finals] +
Czech Republic 0 vs 1 Portugal
This game didn't go to plan as what many thought it would. As the Czech's decided to play a very solid defensive formation, a 4-5-1 at times with just the one outlet upfront. He was very isolated throughout the 90 minutes of football, not really having a sniff of the football. Portugal however played some great football using their pace out wide to most effect. Ronaldo however was the man of the match, was the Ronaldo you are used to seeing for Real Madrid that turned up for this game, and well you could say at one stage it was Petr Cech vs Ronaldo. The first half alone of this quarterfinal could of seen Ronaldo with a hat trick, he had hit the post, and Cech made two amazing saves from the forward to deny him that feat. However, considering all of Portugal's dominance it was 0-0 at half time, and with everyone being reminded of Greece at every moment of the game, people were questioning if it was going to just be, one of "those" games.
Portugal came out after the break and immediately started from where they left off with more Ronaldo dominances and more chances. Czech's did start to push up and where in on the right hand side one or two times as the second half went on. Nothing would come from these chances though, but Pilar did look impressive taking on Joao Pereira a few times during the second half. However the inevitable happened. From some swift and clinical passing from Nani to Moutinho, he was released down the right hand side to send a perfect cross to the diving Ronadlo's head to see it bounce onto the ground and up into the roof of the net, Cech no chance, Portugal lead 1-0. Ronaldo and co then seemed to gently ease the rest of the 10 minutes as Czech's did try to force a win, but without their playmaker Rosicky they looked a bit clueless with the final ball. They had a set piece in the 90th minute, Petr Cech went up for the corner, but it was to no avail, the corner was poor and if it wasn't for Joao Pereira getting his feet muddled up they might of seen a goal from inside of their half go in. Game finished, 1-0 Portugal, Ronaldo and co go marching into the semi finals. Czech's did well to get out of their group but they were lacklustre without Rosicky and well beaten.
Germany 4 vs 2 Greece
Well, this game was always going to be a goal fest (so we thought) and we were treated to one! But maybe not as how many would of thought? It started off in Poland, with a very wet pitch, and to be honest a very poor one. German's and Greek's struggling to keep their feet at many times during the first half and the goal mouths clearly struggling and the ball sticking and not bouncing properly, making the keepers job even harder. It started off as many expect, Germany with the majority of possession hammering down on the Greek's goal. Silfakis the Greek goalkeeper was having a bit of a nightmare start making a few errors and not dealing with shots properly causing all kind of mayhem in his penalty area. He was getting away with it for most of first half, and you could excuse him for some of the awkward saves he was making due to the goal mouth wreaking havoc with the ball. Greece were looking shaky at the back and the German's somehow weren't scoring, the game the previous night with Czech Republic and Portugal was coming back into everyone's head as it continued to stay 0-0. However, the German's had one thing on their side, their captain Phillip Lahm! And what a time to come up with a captain's goal, he picked up the ball 40 yards out, cut inside and the Greek's let him come to the goal with the ball, and not close him down. With one flash of his right boot, the ball would sail into the bottom corner in a second. 1-0 Germany, and what a goal to give them the lead. That was 5 minutes before half time, so into the second half we went 1-0.
The second half started much as the first half left off, Greek's with their backs up against the wall and the Germans with the ball gunning for goal. But what would happen next would shock probably most of Europe watching. Greece, having not pressed forward much all game and not looked that threatening would produce a piece of magical counter attacking football. Salpingidis and Samaras combining to run the length of the pitch almost together, to score and wonderfully worked equaliser. German's and Europe stunned! Greek's went into pandemonium. How would the German's cope with this? Would they be shaken up and freeze in their moment? No, that was crushed within 5 minutes of the Greek's equalising as it seemed to make the Greek's implode not the Germans. Germany would continue to march forward and they scored, just like that. A ball crossed in from the right knocked on by the Greek defender to fall kindly to an on running Khedira, to volley home from 7 yards, 2-1 Germany, could Greece do it again? No, that was crushed too in another crazy 15 minutes from the goal. From a set piece 5 minutes later Klose would head home his 17th goal in international tournaments a fine achievement for him and Germany's 3rd of the night. 7 minutes later, it would be 4-1 as Reus would score quite arguably a more impressive goal than Lahm's cracker, with a volley inch perfect after a Greek defender blocked a previous German shot. It would fly past the keeper clip the underside of the bar and nestle perfectly into the bottom corner. 4-1, game over....Or was it? Greece continuing to try and please their fans broke again and this time they won a Penalty! From a cross this time it appears to hit Boateng's hand which were in a unnatural position, and up stepped Salpingidis to try and salvage some respect for his nation. He would score it sending Neuer the wrong way, 4-2, 90 minutes came up on the clock. Surely no more goals in this goal fest? And that would be right, the game ended, Germany through, maybe not as convincingly as many thought? But still a thoroughly deserved victory. Greece can hold their heads high though they did hurt the Germans when they eventually countered, but the result was inevitable.
Spain 2 vs 0 France
Arguably the most anticipated semi final, between two great teams. The World and current European champions Spain, taking on a well drilled, good passing and technical French team, a good attacking football match would await surely? How wrong we all were. With the Sweden result causing rifts in the French camp, and interesting team selection was made by Laurent Blanc. Opting for a defensive 5-4-1 set up it seemed on paper, playing two right backs and three defensive minded central midfielders the team looked like any other who turns up to play Spain, DEFENSIVE! And that's what it would turn out to be. Spain however, opted for their no striker 4-6-0 formation (4-3-3 on realistically, but no strikers so people often label it the 4-6-0, due to Barcelona playing like it last season).
First half started with France closing down the Spanish players as much as possible, getting in their faces making them rush and miss place passes as most teams try to do. However after 10 minutes this would be nonexistent and Spain would comfortably have possession for the rest of the half. France looking not like a team at all, and not working very hard for each other were under threat from the Spanish passing game. Within 18 minutes it was 1-0, with the magical ball being played by Iniesta on the left hand side, releasing Jordi Alba, to take on Réveillère the deputising right back to cross a pin point accurately to a on running Alonso, who would powerful head home, 1-0 Spain. France behind, but with no sign of changing their approach, as they were only one goal behind, continued to defend. Spain with all the possession as they are accustomed to just played the ball around for fun and France defended. That would be about it for the first half and a really poor and disheartened France team headed into the break, 1-0 down. Spain, job done as far as they are concerned, bossin' the possession and having a one goal lead.
The second half began, no changes by France surprisingly, nor Spain for that matter. France started much brighter in the second half pressing much like in the first half but more consistently and with more bite about their play. They caused Spain problems, with them having less time on the ball and less potency going forward, France were coming back into the game. Benzema looking good coming deep for the ball, and bringing his midfielders into play, France began to come out of the shackles it seemed. It was from a Benzema pickup of the ball which lead to a great chance for France, their first real chance of the game from open play, cross from the left to Debuchy the right back from the previous games, leaping high above the Spanish defenders to head just over Casilas' goal. France making a chance and growing in confidence it seemed. Spain, however never panic playing football these days, and with a flash of brilliance from Xavi, who would cut out about 4 France players with a pass that sent Fabregas one on one. Lloris was out like a flash, and he was closing in on Fabregas, who would get to the ball quicker than Lloris, but was unable to get his touch of the ball to take it past Lloris, who stayed big and blocked the ball to then have it cleared by his defender. Great ball by Xavi, great save by Lloris, 1-0 still best chance of the second half. France continued to press though, and had the next chance of the half with just under 19minutes to go. Ribery with some fine work down the left hand side of the box managed to hold off 2-3 Spanish defenders to dig out a cross to Benzema, but Casilas read it and claimed the ball off Benzema's feet. Thats how it would stay with France not looking as threatening as they needed to be in the final third. They through on more attacking players, but it was too little too late, Spain just hold on and get the ball at the right times. Then with a flash of brilliance from the substtitute Pedro, who would pick up a lobbed through ball from Jordi Alba (just like the first goal), Pedro would cut into the box and draw a penalty from the right back on his debut. Up steps Alonso, to mark his 100th cap with a brace. 2-0, thats how it finished. Spain 2, France 0.
France tried to deny Spain more than they tried to hurt Spain, which in my opinion in why they lost. In the second half when they tried to play themselves, they looked a threat and if with some more grit and less in houses fighting, they might have pulled off a shock here, but it was not to be and Spain march on, on their quest to make it 3 major championships in a row!
England 0 vs 0 ItalyAET
Italy 4-2 Penalties
Italy 4-2 Penalties
This game on paper was going to be a dull game, due to both England and Italy keen to make themselves hard to beat in their set ups. However it didn’t start that way. Italy would come out of the blocks punching and nearly scored the goal of the tournament through DeRossi, a 35 yard half volley cutting across the ball. It sent Hart diving to the top left corner of his goal, but he was well beaten, however it hit the woodwork and bounced out to safety, let off their less than 10 minutes into the game. England however then picked up the ball and had a very convincing 10 minute spell of football. Keeping the ball well in the Italian half for this period they battled away to try and find an early goal. They nearly did through Johnson, who had a scooped shot from 5 yards saved point blankly by the fantastic Buffon in the Italian goal. That would be the only time England would look really comfortable on the ball however as the next 10 minutes it would be all Italy. Italy would continue their dominance of the football passing and moving their way through the midfield trying to find the final pass to set up their strikers but to little effect it would seem. England defended well denying the Italians any territory near England’s goal and keeping them fair enough back to only have 25 yard + shots to deal with. Italy would be playing all their good stuff through their talisman and by far their best outfield player in Pirlo. He would be the reason for their next chance as he would loft a perfectly waited pass over the back line of England, who were trying to play the offside trap and Balotelli was in. However, Balotelli couldn’t get the ball out of his feet quick enough and Terry would be back at him and blocking his shot before he could quite set himself. There would be one more chance for England before the break with Rooney and Welbeck combining well but for Welbeck not to hit the ball well enough as the ball sailed past both Buffon and the top corner. 0-0 half time. The game even and full of chances, great game for the neutral I would say.
The second half started with the Italians nowhere to be seen. England broke and played down the wings and could not find and end product and wasted more chances. But, that would be the end of the England’s attacking flair it would seem as for the next 40 minutes it would be all Italy. Italy would carve out many chances and failed to take any of them, England would defend for their lives as Italy continually bombarded their goal mouth. Balotelli would have a shot from literally on the goal mouth and DeRossi would have an unbelievable chance from 4 yards out which he would miss hit wide. England hanging on, Italy wondering how they have not scored. The 90 minutes drew closer and closer, with the Italians still pressing England deeper and deeper, who looked tired and had no attacking threat it would seem. Somehow the last chance of the 90 would land to England and Rooney, who tried to bicycle kick home from 7 yards out, but there would be no spectacular winner and the game was entering extra time.
1st half of extra time would see the same as the rest of the second half. Italy have the ball and gunning down the England goal. England trying to defend for their lives with players who were clearly exhausted looked to be all out of ideas. Italy tried to find some new ways of breaking through England but it wasn’t to be with no goals in the 15 minute spell either.
2nd half of extra time began the way the rest of the hour went before it, all Italy. This time however they managed to get the ball in the back of the net! However it was given offside which would be the correct decision, and England would breathe again as they looked to stay in the game. They managed to hold on and it would go to dreaded penalties.
Penalties would begin with the Italy going first. Up stepped Mario Balotelli and Joe Hart would be meeting him outside the box staring him down. The both are club mates so this would be a good sporting moment, with Hart trying his best to get an eye to eye with Balotelli to try and put him off. It was not to be as Balotelli would coolly step up and despatch his penalty past the diving Hart into the bottom corner. Gerrard the England captain would be first for England, who would calmly step up and despatch his penalty the same corner as Balotelli’s beating the diving Buffon. 1-1 after the first.
The second penalty take for Italy would be Montolivo who would step up and fire his penalty a good yard wide, Italy miss first, England with the chance to take the lead. England would send forward Rooney, the main penalty taker for Man Utd, he would step up and fire his penalty top left corner sending Buffon the wrong way! England fans believing now after so many penalty failures in the past (4/5 lost to be precise) 2-1 England after 2 penalties each.
The third penalties is where the game was won in my opinion, with Mr cool Pirlo stepping up for Italy. The best player on the pitch by a million miles would calmly, and delicately chip the ball past the diving Hart who had long dived by the ball reached the back of the net. The coolest penalty you might ever see in an international tournament, put Italy back in it with England’s Ashley Young to take the next. Young would walk up and take the ball, a good pacey run up would follow, as he blasted the ball down the middle of the goal, however he hit it to hard and it cannoned back off the bar, England’s lead now lost and back on level terms. 2-2 after 3 penalties each.
The fourth penalty take for Italy would be Nocerino. He would calmly step up and stutter step his penalty into the left hand corner sending Hart the wrong way, England in trouble now as we all know they don’t do penalties. Ashley Cole’s turn now, and after the last few penalty shoot outs for club and country he has despatched his penalty cool and calmly no trouble. However this is England and this is a major tournament. Cole steps up, seemed to second guess himself when he tried a stutter step to send Buffon the wrong way. It failed miserably and Buffon would make a comfortable save diving to his right. Just like that, England have lost the lead and now are behind and on the brink of elimination. 3-2 after 4 penalties.
The fifth penalties now. And up steps Diamanti the “west ham reject” as quoted by the English commentator, how that would come to kick us the nuts! He would step up and coolly send Hart the wrong way. 4-2 Italy and ectasy for the Italians, who came into the tournament on the back of more corruption in their domestic game but a unity as always between themselves which proves enough, Italy deservedly winners and head on to the Semi Finals vs Germany. England, go home after penalties, same old same old.
Semi Finals Preview
Portugal vs Spain
Portugal vs Spain
Well, what a game we have here (we hope)! With no love lost between these countries it is sure to be a feisty, fiery game of flair in Donnesk. With Spain looking ever so comfortable on the ball and with a fantastic defensive record in the tournament, it will be a tough ask for Ronadlo and co to spoil the Spanish party, but if anyone can, it is Ronaldo's Portugal. Going back to after the world cup, it would be Portugal who would beat the world champions first with a 4-0 drubbing in a friendly, so they should know how to beat Spain. It will all come down to how much pressing and denying of the ball Portugal can do against Spain, and some swift counter attacks from Ronaldo and Nani. Spain however will just need to turn up and play football like they always do, most likely another 4-6-0 line up, they will try and boss the play and squeeze out the passion from Portugal.
He has finally turned up in the last two games, vs Netherlands and vs Czech Republic, and we all know how much a confident Ronaldo can do. He can simply win games on his own and change games within an instance, this must be the threat Spain try to neutralize. What Ronaldo will want to do is pick the ball up in space and run at defenders, like he has been doing. Winning freekicks could be key for him scoring them or for the crosses to cause Spain aerial problems.
Quite simply, the best passing footballer on the planet bar none. He can change a game with a turn of pace, a brilliant pass or by simply taking on 3 players at once. He is the best player Spain have and will be looking to help them reach their 3rd consecutive final of an international tournament. If he has the time and gets on the ball enough, Portugal will be in a lot of trouble and be on the back foot in which they don't want to be. His pace alone will trouble the slow defence of Portugal so to keep him quiet is quite simply a must.
Prediction 1-1 (1-2 AET)
Spain to win after extra time. Just have a feeling Portugal will score and Spain will only muster one in the regular 90 mnutes.
Germany vs Italy
Spain to win after extra time. Just have a feeling Portugal will score and Spain will only muster one in the regular 90 mnutes.
Germany vs Italy
Germany vs Italy a nice rich footballing affair here is set up. Germany has always struggle vs the Italians in the past. This should be a feisty affair between the two nations and will be a good battle to watch. The Italians great at keeping the ball and defending well vs the flair and strength the Germans possess. The last time these two teams met in an international tournament was in Germany in the 2006 world cup. Well, to say the Germans will be out for revenge is an understatement, the Italians would win in the German backyard 2-0 after extra time and send them through and Germans out. Germans will be looking to Ozil for inspiration in this semi final as well as Italians looking to Pirlo, it is all set up to be a fascinating tie, with the Italians who many wrote off before the tournament due to their poor form going into it (not winning in 3 games and losing without scoring to USA/Uruguay/Russia)
By far the best player in the Quarterfinal, Pirlo is a magical magician with his passing. Sitting in front of the back four and everything Italy make going through him, he is the key to them playing well. His array of passing stretches from simple passes along the floor or huge sweeps of his foot to send a ball out 40 yards in the air to feet. His ability to handle the pressure of players around him and still get his passing spot on and accurate is the sign of a classy player. Italy will need Pirlo to be as good as he was vs England to stand chance vs the Germans.
He took a while to get into the game vs Greece, but when he did he was at the heart of most of the German attacks. His change of pace is exceptional and is the reason he is able to swing games in his teams favour. He will need to be on top form if Germany are to continue their quest to de throne the Spanish. His passing will be quick and sharp as they have been, but he will need to add just a bit more to his shooting, as that has let him down this tournament. If he finds that, he could win the game on his own and put Germany into the final.
Prediction 1-1 (2-1) Germany after extra time.
Can see Germany getting their payback JUST here, as I think they will be a bit stronger physically than the Italians just. Hard one to call now though.
Can see Germany getting their payback JUST here, as I think they will be a bit stronger physically than the Italians just. Hard one to call now though.
+ Show Spoiler [The Semi Finals] +
Semi Final Round Up & Final Preview
Spain vs Portugal
We had a mix of emotions in this game! It started with another unusual selection by Mr DelBosque, who had again for the 5th time out of 6, gone with a 4-6-0 formation and no recognised striker on the pitch. But not only did DelBosque do the 4-6-0 formation again, he decided to hand a tournament debut to Negredo. A few eye brows being raised, but none the less a good game to follow...right?
1st half began, under some new UEFA speech system, which had both Ronaldo and Casillas giving a speech about fair play and what football meant to them, both of these were done in their respective languages.
After all this the game would start, and what a start it would be, Portugal right from the off would get into the faces of the Spanish, make them rush and hurry and Spain were rattled! Within the first 10 minutes of the game Portugal had already had 3 corners, but could not make any of these count. The half would continue this pattern however, with Spain struggling to keep possession the way they would normally do, the Portuguese in their faces throughout the half. The only thing lacking from Portugal was a proper real chance to score. Ronaldo would be having much joy vs his club mate in Arbeloa.
Arbeloa would foul the Real Madrid time many a time during the first half and the entire game to follow. Ronaldo had a freekick chance in the first half but it was not a good effort. The half would come to an end with Spain looking poor compared to their such high standards, and Paulo Bento's Portugal looking like world beaters with such drilled performances in the first half. Spain rattled, and looking tired, as if the tough domestic season was taking its toll on the players.
The second half would begin, with no changes, surprisingly to the pundits and many a fan of both Spain and Portugal. The half started much the same as the first half did, with Portugal getting into the faces of the Spanish and drawing out a half chance with Ronaldo and Coentrao linking up. There would not be much to shout about in this half with a good 10 minutes of passing from Spain and some counter attacks from Portugal which did not get anywhere. DelBosque thought the time was right for his first chance of the evening now and brought on Cesc Fabregas for Negredo who we would later find out only have 15 touches of the football all game long. A sign of the Portuguese dominance or a sign of a bad player? This would be a slow starter and the game would not change much, 5 minutes later Del Bosque bought Jesus Navas on for David Silva who again had little to offer in the first half and the opening 10 of the second. Finally the second half would produce a half chance, with a Ronaldo freekick. His second of the game and from about 30 yards out you thought he might test the keeper this time. He would not. Spain trying to pass the ball through the Portuguese as the half went on, with DelBosque making his final change of the game by bringing on Pedro for a ball starved Xavi. With the 90 minutes drawing to a close, Spain had won a freekick about 30 yards out, this was a great chance for Spain, with Sergio Ramos stepping over the ball. He hit a fierce freekick hit hard and with curl, he curled it over the wall and it looked destined for the net, but it would just skim the bar and go out for a goal kick, a good chance, gone. One more chance left of the second half would fall to a counter for Ronaldo. A great play started by Moutinho who threaded a ball to Raul Meireles who would run about 30 yards from inside his half to 10 yards from the Spanish box, who then slide the ball to Ronaldo who was in 1 on 1 with Casillas! However it was not the ending you might of thought, Ronaldo would hit it with his left foot and catch it all wrong and it would sail high over the bar. Chance gone, and with that, normal time had come to an end.
Extra time started now. The Portuguese looking tired, very tired indeed. The Spanish however did not, they came out into this 30 minutes of extra looking like champions of the World and Europe. They started off typically Spanish by passing the ball around for 5 minutes, but this time with a bit more pace and urgency. It wouldn't be long until the first chance for Spain, Iniesta would pick up a ball back from Jesus Navas and he was in about 7 yards out from goal, he hit the ball, trademark Iniesta everyone thought. No, what a fantastic save by Rui Patricio, Portugal hanging on already in extra time it seemed. Spain would continue the pressure and be pinning Portugal back, Portugal now not even passing the ball well between each other. The first half of extra time ended, 15 minutes to go, can there be a goal or will it be dreaded penalties?
Second half began, Spain still on top dominating the possession like we all know they can but had not shown throughout the 90 minutes. The game was getting scrappy though as Portugal started to lose their legs and thus fouling the Spanish a lot, there whole back four now on yellow cards. Spain couldn't really get any more clear cut chances and that was it, there had been no goals in the full 120 minutes of play.
Spain would go first, and up steps the cool and calm Xabi Alonso, who hits a fierce and accurate penalty. SAVED!!! Rui Patricio pulls of another masterclass in goal keeping, a fine save to his right from a drilled penalty from Alonso. Advantage Portugal.
Portugal would send up Joao Moutinho, who has had a fantastic tournament and a good game as well. He didn't have the best of run ups and this would be proven correct, SAVE!! Casillas saves low to his right, was not in the corner and wasn't as hard as Alonso's but a good save none the less 0-0 after 1
Iniesta steps up now for Spain, Mr Reliable. GOAL! Sends the keeper to the left and slots the ball in the right hand side, 1-0 Spain
Pepe steps up? Centre back is taking a penalty as no 2, i know he is gifted footballer but surely there is a better penalty taker? GOAL!! Shuts me up. Into the side netting it goes under Casillas who looked like he dived over it, a bit lucky 1-1.
Pique's turn now! A defender early on for Spain too! Unusual shoot out this, none the less he is gifted too. GOAL!! Yep another fantastic penalty taking centre back. He puts the keeper the wrong way and it slides home, 2-1 Spain
Nani's turn, finally an attacking penalty player to take one! GOAL!! Oh my word, what a penalty! THUMPS it into the top corner, pressure? What pressure he says, fantastic. 2-2
Ramos! Spain continue working the penalties across the back just like there passing! GOAL!! Oh you cheeky man! Much like Pirlo (not as good as we would debate on TL for a while!) he chips it down the centre cool as you like whilst the keeper is catching air on the floor. 3-2 Spain
Bruno Alves this time! Back into the defensive line for a penalty taker the Portuguese go! MISSED!! Oh you have to feel for him, Alves has smashes his penalty against the bar! He had beaten the keeper but couldn't keep it under the bar, 3-2 Spain still lead.
Chance to win it here, Fabregas steps up! Pressure is on now. GOAL!! Oh my word, only just, Fabregas strikes it to the right of the keeper, it hits the post, just right of square onto the post though, and it flies back across goal into the side netting, 4-2 Spain. SPAIN WIN!!!
Harsh way to go out, but Portuguesa can feel no shame in pushing the Spanish as far as they did. A great 1st half performance was a beautifully tactical master class, which seemed to come to an end the longer the game went on. Spain worthy winners you would say after their dominance in extra time, making a lot more attacks count. Spain march onto the finals!
Germany vs Italy
Into Poland we go for the second semi final! Italians take on the Germans after knocking England out on penalties in the previous round. Germany have never beaten the Italians in a knock out competition in 7 previous attempts? A nice omen or a superstitious stat?
Joachim Low tried something knew by bringing in Toni Kroos in the lineup, which was one of the things that completely backfired on him. Instead of adding another player that can take care of the ball and help Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil, he exposed the flank with a player who knows nothing about being a winger, losing a chance to try and attack Italy from the wings. Starting with Reus or Muller would have been a better idea.
The 1st half would begin! The Germans started brightly looking to set the pace for the game. But after withstanding the early German pressure, including one save by Buffon and an awkward one from Khederia, Italy took over. The pressure on Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil left Podolski and Mario Gomez useless and helpless. Within 20 minutes of the game the impossible was made possible. Many thought of this game as a warm up for Germany, a way to go into the final to claim a rematch with the Spanish from Euro 2008 and a chance to retake their crown they so desperatly wanted. However, try explaining that to one man, Mario Balotelli, Super Mario Batelotelli perhaps? Pirlo picking up the ball just inside his own half as usual, pinged out a great ball to the CB playing as LB for this game Chiellini who would play in Cassano who looked in trouble but wiggled his way through Hummels and delightfully cross to Mario Balotelli. He would out jump a weak Badstubber with ease and headed home, 1-0 Italy. Germany stunned, and silenced, this is not what they planned! The problem all comes from the same way England had problems. PIRLO! If you don't close him down he will find that pass that will hurt you, and he did through his fabulous 40 yard pass to Chiellini on the left wing. Germany would be trying to push their way back into the game and continued to flow forward with some nice football, also wary of the fact Italy can hurt them. The 36th minute came along quickly as the entertaining game made the game speed up it seemed. Germany had a corner and looking to bring a set peice goal from the big German hit man Mario Gomez. Cross game in and it was punched half clear by the strong Buffon. Ball would bounce to DeRossi who would fire the ball into Cassano's feet who would give it back to Montilivo who would play a fantastic through ball to Balotelli who was one on one with Neuer! Which Balotelli are we going to see here? The misses, the casual slow walk and get tackled? NO we saw the Balotelli who fired the ball past Neuer in the German goal and into the top corner, 2-0 ITALY! Germans are left stunned, shocked and disoriented! That's how it would stay for the first half, and what a first half it would be, 2-0 Italy who would of thought, can the Germans mount a comeback?
The second half started and if there’s one team you don’t want to go chasing, it’s Italy. Still, the Italian saw what they were dealing with – Not a team, but a group of talented individuals who got picked apart by a more intelligent and committed team. The German spirit was gone, and despite all the praises this ‘new’ Germany gets all the time – for their style, their goals and what not, it seems they lack something on the biggest of stages, time and time again. Loew made two changes at half time taking of Gomez and Podolski who had nothing to work on and looked poor, he bought on Klose and Reus for some attacking outlets. Germany would start strong and produce the first real effort on goal, with Lahm linking up well with Reus on the edge of the area, and he was in about 16 yards from goal, but he failed to hit the target with his shot! Chance gone. Italy were much closer to make it 3 and 4-0, with Claudio Marchisio, Antonio Di Natale and Alessandro Diamanti missing comfortable chances. Germany completely no existent in their defending. Germany continuing to throw more and more players forwards whilst the Italians were just looking comfortable handling the pressure and shutting up shop like they have done so well through the years. However in the 90th minute, a cross came in and a goal mouth scramble would occur which resulted in the ball striking the arm of Balzaretti and a penalty was given. The correct decision from my point of view, a bit harsh in others. Up steps Ozil. Can he score and give us a grandstand finish for the remaining 3 minutes of added time or will he bring yet more disappointment to a poor German performance. GOAL! Great penalty, hit hard and with decent height into the side netting, 2-1. 3 minutes to find an equaliser? Surely not. And yes surely not was the right assumption. Game would finish from a quite unusual spot, a German freekick just 5 yards into the Italian half, but Schweinsteiger, instead of launching the ball into the box decided to play it along the floor and out wide to Khederia to whip it in instead of himself, strange decision and the referee blew his whilst after the pass.
2-1 it finished. Another masterpiece from Andrea Pirlo while Mario Balotelli showed levels of clinical finishing no one knew he had. Germany completely fell apart, throwing away one streak out the window while continuing their lack of success against Italy on the biggest stages. Italy vs Spain await in the final this year, who would of thought it?
Two wonderful sides, Spain a lacklustre campaign so far considering their high class standards but I'm sure DelBosque would agree they have not been at their magical best, for one reason or another. Italy, coming into this tournament on the back of another betting scandal which has smeared another domestic season, have again flourished under crazy circumstances at a major tournament. Two teams with two great magicians in Iniesta and Pirlo will go head to head on Sunday evening in Kiev and only one man will be able to be victorious! Spain and Italy went head to head in the knockout stages of EURO 2006 in the previous meeting between these two sides at a major tournament. With Spain coming out on top 4-2 in a penalty shoot out! However, on the opening day of Group C these two giants also clashed with the Italians asking many a question of the Spanish that day and taking a deserved lead, only for Cesc to cancel it out a minute later. Torres missing a few good chances as the half went on, but no one could argue that a draw was a fair result, considering all the circumstances. It was a 3-5-2 that faced Spain that day and not the 4-1-3-2 that they have played since so who knows what Cesare Prandelli will spring tactically this time round. DelBosque on the other hand has only a few simpler choices to make, shall he play a striker, or continue with a 4-6-0 and try and pass his way to the European cup for the second time in two attempts, who knows? What we do know however is, that both Pirlo and Iniesta will start, considering both players don't get injured, and they will be at the heart of each team's chances on Sunday evening we can be pretty sure of that.
Player to watch for Spain is Iniesta, none other really. He finally turned on his game in the 30 minutes of extra time for Spain vs Portugal in the semi final, and could of won it for them then if it wasn't for a fine save. He will be needed to play as well as that for the regular 90 minutes if Spain want to get their hands on 3 championships back to back.
Well, Mr Pirlo, what can we say about him, from destroying England, to now breaking the hearts of the Germans, this man is beginning to make the owner of AC Milan look quite foolish in letting him go as a free agent to the Italian Lady (Juventus). He will be at the heart again of everything good Italy produce and it will be down to Spain to keep the ball away from him and pressure him as quick as they can to stop this. We all know Spain won't put a player tight on him for the whole game but will press him as much as they can with their defensive attributes.
Extra time 2-1 Spain.
Extra time 2-1 Spain.
+ Show Spoiler [The Final Review] +
What a final we experienced yesterday evening in Kiev, we truly witnessed history last night as we all got mesmerised by the football on show. The teams were handed into UEFA and the usual frown was lifted at DelBosque’s selection with his 4-6-0 formation. Italy was a standard 4-1-3-2 which has seen them beat England and Germany, and looking to cap it off with a victory against Spain.
The first half would start, and a very energetic first 10 minutes it would be from both sides. Italy would be pressing up the pitch, closing down Spain at all opportunities they were given, but it would be to no avail. Spain would start off really well this game, getting into their passing stride very quickly and dominantly. They would carve out the first real sign of danger for the Italians with 8 minutes on the clock, with Xavi linking up superbly with Fabregas to unleash a rocket half volley which dipped just a ball’s width over the crossbar, Buffon left stranded and blowing a sigh of relief. It spiralled out of control from there for Italy though as Spain continued passing it around the pitch for fun and the Italians chasing it around and around, forever it would seem. On 13 minutes Spain made their dominance count, with a fabulous worked goal. Iniesta would play an inch perfect pass to Fabregas who cut out 2 defenders with just his run alone took it past the last defender, drew Buffon off his line and squared the ball to the on running David Silva to head home a deserved lead. 1-0 Spain led, and what a fine footballing goal we had witnessed. Italy tried to get back into the game from here, pushing up their defensive line even higher to deny the Spanish players time on the ball, this seemed to work for a 10 minute spell the Italians had where they tried to get back into the game, but could not work Casilas as much as they wanted too. It would then turn into a nightmare scenario for the Azzurri as it would become 2-0 just before half time. It would be Iniesta and Jordi Alba’s turn this time to dazzle us with brilliance. Iniesta would pick the ball up from Casilas’ clearance and would watch as Jordi Alba sprinted from inside his half towards the goal. Iniesta would spot this run and play an inch perfect pass into his feet, to put him one on one with Buffon, and being an ex-left winger, Alba stroked the ball home, 40 minutes played, 2-0 Spain lead, Italians, left distraught. The would be it for the first half and well many were thinking that was it for the game, and Spain had won, but there was 45 more minutes to play…
The second half started with an immediate change from the Italian manager Cesare Prandelli who would take off the hardworking Cassano and put on the poacher that is Di Natale. This would help the Italians in the second half as they started off quite brightly making a few chances from set pieces and working Casilas, but it was not enough. As the Spanish defended as they have throughout the tournament by passing their way from the back to the front with crisp precise passes and the attacks the Azzurri had would soon turn into counter attacks the Spanish now have. Spain would continue to dominant the ball by passing it around and around, even when they got the Italian goal mouth they would still be passing it and trying almost to walk the ball into the net. Some desperate defending from the Italians would be the only reason the game was not looking at an even bigger score line as more and more attacks came there way. The Italians now using their third substitute in Motta would prove to be a costly one, as no sooner as he came on the midfielder had to be stretchered off with a torn hamstring, Italy 2-0, out of ideas and now down to 10 men vs a Spanish side who were dominating the ball. Spain decided that now in the 75th minute it would be a good time to throw on a striker and Fernando Torres came on for the last 15 minutes, just what the Italians wanted! This would prove to be an excellent change, as within 8 minutes of coming on Torres notched up his 3rd goal of the tournament and now he was in within a chance of becoming the top scorer! Who would of believed that? Juan Mata would now come on 85 minutes into the game for his first minutes on the pitch of this year’s Euro 2012. Just another insult to every other European team, a player who was voted the player of the year for Chelsea, had the most assists for Chelsea and in the whole Premier League was making his debut in the tournament for the last 7 minutes of the match in the final, being 3-0 up and cruising, take that Europe! This would be another great substitution as Mata would combine well with his Chelsea team mate Torres to tap in a 4th for the Spanish, thus also giving Torres the one assist needed to be given the Golden Boot! The BBC television commentator Mark Lawerson would be all smiles as it turned out he had Torres to be the top goal scorer of EURO 2012 with odds of 16-1!
The records tumbled down for Spain as the final whistle blew. They were now the Champions of Europe for the second time in a row, the first time this as ever happened, and due to winning 4-0 were the first team ever to win a major tournament final with a margin of 4 goals. This was truly a magnificent side we had witnessed play football today and were all the greater footballing fan for watching it. The presentation from Platini looked extra sweet for the Spanish players as Casilas hoisting the trophy above his head as the celebrations began, Spain worthy winners, Del Bosque a master tactician and truly great manager.
This had truly been a wonderful tournament from seeing Spain win the whole thing for a record second successive time, to seeing a revitalised Italy knock out Germany in the semi final with a solid display. To seeing France collapse after a good start to the tournament to lose twice in a row to bow out with not much of a fight. Greece equalising vs Germany in the Quarter finals and Portugal taking the Spanish to Penalties in an excellent tactical display. A great tournament, a nice spectacle to start this summer of events off. Lets look forward to the Olympics!
Cuation: The whole write ups in total are about 20,000 words + so it is not easy reading!