Euro 2012 – The Story So Far

And so, fresh from the final whistles in the final group stage matches, here is my summary of what I’ve seen in the tournament so far. One thing I will point out that this has been a very attacking tournament so far, with the statistic of there being no goalless draws in the group stages for the first time since 1988, and the first (and last) in the 16 team format – we’re up to 24 teams for the 2016 edition.

Group A
When Poland scored the first goal of the tournament, it looked like a fairy tale was under way. Only for those pesky Greeks to spoil the fun with an equaliser to deny Poland a first ever Euro finals victory. Then of course, there was the incredibly harsh Greek sending off, and the entirely deserved Polish keeper red card that almost cost the game completely. Then, later on, the Russians tore the Czechs apart in a surprisingly one-sided match.

Second time around, the Czech Republic looked on course to give the Greeks a battering with two goals in the opening 6 minutes, only for Petr Cech to gift a goal to Greece and make it interesting. Elsewhere, after the Polish fans attacked their Russian counterparts on the streets, the football team gave a brave, almost heroic display to take a point of their highly fancied Russian opponents.
To the final round of games, then. To increase the anxiety and spectacle of the event, both games were played simultaneously as is the norm these days. The Czechs had to overcome the co-hosts to secure a quarter-final place, Russia just had to avoid defeat, Poland had to win, and even the Greeks could sneak through with a win and other results going their way! Cue a workman-like win for the Czech Republic and a total shock result that saw Greece beat Russia.
So, Czech Republic and unfancied Greece through at the expense of the plucky co-hosts Poland and much fancied Russia!

Group B
Ah, yes. The Group of Death. Three previous champions and Portugal. The Danes were perceived as the weaker of the four, but all did not go according to plan. Another shock was the Denmark win over the World Cup finalists, Holland. Germany meanwhile, well they won a scrappy affair to beat the disappointingly tame Portuguese.
To follow that, Portugal took on Denmark knowing a defeat would actually knock them out. When a comfortable two goal lead was wiped out by Nicklas Bendtner and his sponsored undies, they looked ropey, but a last gasp winner spared their blushes. Germany then proceeded to beat the once-more-disappointing Dutch to all but secure a quarter-final spot.
In the final games, the Germans produced a steady performance to end Danish qualification hopes, meanwhile Cristiano Ronaldo finally turned up to the party with two goals to send the Dutch home without a point to their name.
Quarter-final places for Germany and Portugal, but Denmark and Holland succumb to the Group of Death.

Group C
Another tough group saw the Spanish footballing dynasty matched with perennial Jekyll & Hyders Italy, and the more-than-capable Croatia. And The Republic of Ireland. Unfortunately for the Irish, they appeared not to wake up until five minutes into each half. By which time they’d conceded goals, and ultimately lost out to Croatia 3-1. Spain then took on Italy without a recognised striker. That game ended in a 1-1 draw, and Torres came on to squander some good chances.

The Italians then contrived to lose a goal lead to draw with Croatia. The Irish once again forgot to turn up for the first five minutes allowing Torres to score a goal. There was no way back as they were chasing shadows for ninety minutes in a 4-0 hammering.
Excitement and permutations abound in the final round of games. Italy had to win. Spain needed to at least draw. A 2-2 draw between Spain and Croatia would render any Italy result irrelevant. As it turned out, Italy huffed and puffed past a more spirited Ireland, and a late late goal helped a below-par Spain knock out Croatia.
Spain through as group winners, Italy joining them. The unfortunate Croatia and pluck Irish on the plane home.

Group D
Yes. Our beloved England. Expectations were low. Then they took the lead against France. A nation celebrated. For ten minutes. Pegged back by the French, England ended up with a useful point. The other co-hosts, Ukraine came back to beat Sweden thanks to two goals from the Ukrainian National Hero, Andriy Shevchenko. Expect a statue of the man to turn up in Kiev before too long!

In Donetsk, the weather threatened to give the organisers an unexpected headache by holding up play between Ukraine and France for almost an hour due to a quite spectacular lightning storm. France coped better and came away with a 2-0 win. England then took on Sweden, delayed by fifteen minutes to ensure no overlap with the earlier game. An Andy Carroll header gave England the lead they desperately needed. Then typical England gifted the Swedes two goals from set pieces, giving all fans the obligatory heart-attack. Thankfully, Walcott and Welbeck spared our blushes to hand England a nerve-shredding 3-2 win.
Which brings us to tonights shenanigans. Co-hosts Ukraine had to win to go through, England needed only a draw. France had to hope England didn’t lose. Sweden were already out.
The returning Rooney headed in from 2 millimetres to ultimately win the game, and the Ukrainians had their own goal-line technology moment as John Terry cleared the ball away from behind the line (although repeated replays showed there to be a Ukraine player offside at the beginning of the incident. The French then lost rather surprisingly to Sweden in the other game.
England through as group winners. A nation now reaches fever pitch (especially having avoided a quarter-final with Spain). France through as runners-up. Sweden and Ukraine eliminated.

There it is. Now a day off before the Quarter Finals get under way. What the hell are we going to do with ourselves??!

But we have these games to look forward to:

Czech Republic vs Portugal
Germany vs Greece
Spain vs France
England vs Italy.


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