As we do every four years, Soccer365 will revisit each corresponding set of games from the European Championship with notes, news, numbers and other various nifties, including a star team of the round.
By the time we reach the July 1st final in Kyiv, this space will have dished out a continent's worth of informational tidbits you never, ever wanted to know about Euro 2012 - but still may proudly bust out during pub debates.
What took you so long?
The quarterfinals arrived to give us a laundry list of tournament firsts, many much later than would normally be expected. Let's pick out a few.
Dimitris Salpingidis of Greece bagged the first successful spot kick of Euro 2012 in game 26; by comparison, the 2000 edition had six converted penalties in the group phase alone.
England and Italy gave us the first 0-0 score through 90 minutes, and then eventually our first decisive shootout of the tourney. The last time a European Championship went without a scoreless draw result was in 1988, back when only eight teams were entered. Every tournament between then and now has featured at least two such scorelines.
And since a record-setting is just a new first, let's add that Cristiano Ronaldo's headed winner against the Czech Republic was the 18th such strike of 2012, establishing a new overall tourney standard.
Laugh, And The Euros Laugh With You
British current events humor show Mock The Week took aim at the tourney over the weekend, with its collection of comedians zipping off rapid-fire "Unlikely Things To Hear At Euro 2012" one-liners. Here are a few of the best:
- "This French team has eight strikers. Luckily, the other eight have agreed to play."
- "The Russian and the Polish will settle this with a shootout. No penalties, just a shootout."
- "And the Greeks have reached the quarterfinals. If only they'd had a massive bet on it."
- "So Germany are camped in the Polish half... and not for the first time."
A Semifinal Glance
It would be nearly impossible to wrap up the quarters without looking ahead to the semis. Fans have a pair of tasty final four dishes on the menu this week to drool over.
In semifinal #1, we have the 38th battle of Iberia, which Spain currently leads by 15 wins to Portugal's nine. The defending champs have also lost just once in six competitive matches against their neighbor.
The Furious Red got the best of Portugal in the last meeting that mattered, a 1-0 win at World Cup 2010. However, Spain have not beaten their rivals in two tries at European Championships, with a group stage draw and loss in 1984 and 2004, respectively.
The latter result came thanks to a Nuno Gomes winner, the only goal Portugal has scored in the last four meetings with Spain.
Semifinal #2 features Germany and Italy, teams that have combined to rack up five Euro-crowns and another four runners up finishes. They've met twice in big tourneys, with each game (a Euro 1996 group phase draw and an extra-time World Cup 2006 semifinal win for Italy) still scoreless after 90 minutes.
That World Cup victory gave the Azzurri three in the series, while Germany have never beaten Italy. The last meeting ended in a 1-1 draw when Giuseppe Rossi netted in the 81st minute.
S365 Team of the Quarters
G - Joe Hart (England)
Yes, he needed help from the post and feel prey to Pirlo's "Panenka" in the shoot out, but his eight saves kept England in the game.
RB - Ignazio Abate (Italy)
The youngster ticked all the wingback boxes. Most importantly, he made speedy crossing threat Ashley Young disappear.
CB - Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
Have we found the next great Azzurri center back? The 25-year-old Juventus man shut down most everything before it could even start, then distributed forward elegantly.
CB - Laurent Koscielny (France)
Don't blame him. The Arsenal man did everything he could to defeat Spain except prepare a healthy, energizing team meal... we think.
LB - Jordi Alba (Spain)
Not only did the Valencia hotshot slow down tourney phenom Mathieu Debuchy and frighten France's best attackers out of his corner, the wingback provided the assisting industry on the winning goal.
DM - Xabi Alonso (Spain)
Obviously a player that does not need to score to have great effect on a match, he went ahead and buried a double anyway.
DM - Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
It would be great to be able to speak Italiano to emotionally and poetically describe Pirlo's awesomeness, but I do not have that in my skill set. Let's instead go with: Dude!
AM - Mesut Ozil (Germany)
Okay, the guy could look to finish more. Still, Ozil has been the preeminent ideas man of the tournament so far.
RW - Pedro Rodriguez (Spain)
This was our game-changer of the first knockout round. Though he only played 25 minutes, Pedrito helped stem the rising French tide as pressure valve, and then won the late penalty that put the match away.
LW - Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
At one point of the second half, I remarked to a colleague that I was about to dub him "Woody Woodpecker" because of all the post-knocking and, well... his hair. About 45 seconds later, he nodded home a fully deserved deciding goal.
F - Miroslav Klose (Germany)
The old master spearheaded repeated danger in a Die Mannschaft attack with less big game experience than usual and scored a Klose-ic goal to turn on the rout machine.
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