Euro 2012 has kicked off with 16 teams battling to be European champions. The four week tournament with 31 soccer games produces only one winner but within each match there are many sub-plots and Soccer 365 looks at some of these moments in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
This is the first tournament to be hosted in eastern Europe and co-hosts Poland and Ukraine are hopeful to put on a good show for the home fans and ride the support to the elimination round.
Let the games begin…
Ireland v Croatia
Stadium Miejski, Wroclaw, Poland
June 10, 2012
An early goal is usually the best thing for an open game and Croatia came through with a goal in the 3rd minute. The goal forced Ireland to come out and search for the equalizer and to their credit they accomplished that in the 19th minute. The chips did not fall their way for the remainder of the match, however, on their way to a first ever loss in the opening match at a major tournament.
A team never wants to concede a goal and certainly not 3 but Ireland not only allowed goals they came at the most inopportune moments the 3rd, 43rd and 48th minutes. So much for focusing on not giving up goals in the first or last 5 minutes of a half.
The Bad Pt 2
After posting a 14 match unbeaten streak which included 11 cleansheets, Ireland’s defense looked horrible and really cost them any chance of taking points from the match. The first goal from Croatia was hard to figure out. Ireland was unable to clear the ball after a corner kick allowing Croatia to keep the pressure on. They eventually served a cross but Mario Mandzukic slipped on his approach only to get up and put his header on goal. Shay Given appeared surprised and could only get a hand on the ball but could not keep it out of the net.
The second goal was possible worse. Croatia took a shot from distance only for it to be stopped by the wall of Irish defenders. Stephen Ward then shanked his attempted clearance only for it to go to Nikica Jelavic who easily finished from 6-yards out.
The final goal was just ugly. Mandzukic did well to win a cross only for his header to knock off the post. Unfortunately for Ireland and a diving Given the ball then hit off his head and back into the goal. 3-1.
Spain v Italy
PGE Arena, Danzig, Poland
June 10, 2012
The goals for Italy and Spain were both first class. The Azzurri opened the scoring when Andrea Pirlo played Antonio Di Natale in behind the defense. The second half substitute made no mistake with Iker Casillas coming off his line to pop the ball over the sliding keeper and just inside the right post.
The Spanish goal was classic Spain! Andres Iniesta started the play on the left flank with a short pass to David Silva at the top of the 18 yard box. Silva turned to goal and was moving to his right before he played a clever ball with the outside of his left boot back to his left to Cesc Fabregas making his diagonal run into the box. The Barcelona player used one touch to blast into the net and equalize.
The match featured the winners of the last two World Cups and unfortunately it did not provide a winner despite some good chances. The draw was in large thanks to some wonderful play by Casillas and Buffon.
Italy and Spain both had a 1 v 1 with the goalkeeper and neither team scored or even got a shot off leaving fans asking what the players were thinking. The first came to Mario Balotelli. The Manchester City player did well to dispossess Sergio Ramos 30 yards from goal on the sideline but his stroll into the box waiting to take his chance was lost when the Real Madrid defender tracked him down to make the tackle from behind.
Fernando Torres had the chance for Spain. The Chelsea forward beat the offside trap but a poor first touch allowed Gianluigi Buffon, who wisely did not go to ground, to step in front and win the ball with his feet.
Germany v Portugal
Arena Lviv, Lviv, Ukraine
June 9, 2012
In fine German style, Die Mannschaft just found a way to get a result even when they did not play their best match. With it looking more and more likely to end 0-0, Sami Khedira got a little luck when his cross took a slight deflection and Mario Gomez rose to head home the service in the 72nd minute.
The German defense came up big when it needed to on several occasions as well. Jerome Boateng made a last ditch slide to block a Cristiano Ronaldo shot after the Real Madrid player got in on goal, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer got down low to deny Silvestre Varela at the corner of the 6-yard box and Holger Badstuber blocked a goal bound shot from Nani in injury time.
The game was only 3 minutes old when Portugal got a corner kick only for fans to throw items toward the corner spot where Miguel Veloso and then Nani were preparing to take the re-start. Fortunately it was the only incident during the match of objects being thrown on the pitch and hopefully it will be the only incident during the tournament as well.
Germany somehow is also involved when the calls for goal line technology come up and it reared its head again in today’s match. Fortunately the team of referees got the call correct. Portugal’s Pepe gathered a loose ball off a corner kick and curled his ball to the far corner only for it to hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce down. The ball clearly bounced on the line and the correct no goal was given but the first thought across most minds was ‘not again.’
Netherlands v Denmark
Metalist Stadium, Kharkov, Ukraine
June 9, 2012
Despite being on the back foot for most of the opening 20 minutes, Denmark came up big and change the outlook of the game when they stole the opening goal. The Danes used a bit of luck – the initial play from wide deflected off a Dutch defender – and then some skill – Michael Khron-Dehli claimed the ball and dribbled past into scoring position – to score the lone goal of the match in the 24th minute. The goal gave Denmark some confidence but did not change their overall plan of defending well and picking their moments to look for opportunities.
The Netherlands had the better possession, ideas, and chances but their finishing was off the mark. After scoring 37 goals in Euro 2012 qualifying, the most of any team, the result was a surprise. They did not have much luck on their side, it can be noted. Arjen Robben had one shot hit off the base of the goalpost, Robin van Persie was in on goal preparing to shoot only to slip, and referee Damir Skomina, who overall had a good game, missed a potential penalty off a hand ball.
It was painful watching the first 70 minutes with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on the bench although the depth of the Holland team is impressive. The Schalke forward led the Oranje with 12 goals during qualifying and was the most dangerous player on the field after coming on in the 71st minute. He was in on goal from a great pass from Wesley Sneijder only to see his attempted chip over a sliding Denmark goalkeeper Stephan Andersen smothered. Huntelaar then was left begging for a call from Skomina after he did well to chest trap a ball in the box and attempt to pop it back past a defender when the ball definitely was stopped from going through be the defenders hand.
Russia vs Czech Republic
Stadion Miejski – Wroclaw
June 8, 2012
The Russian counter attack set the tone for the match as Dick Advocaat’s side went on to a 4-1 win. The Czech Republic looked to be the better team early in the match with more possession and better looks at goal. But just as fast as the Czech Republic started, Russia found a way to score.
Alan Dzagoev scored the first of his 2 in the 15th minute when he pounced on a loose ball that had knocked off the post. When the Russian side won the ball in midfield they quickly sliced through the defense to get a cross which was headed back across goal only to hit off the post to sit and wait for Dzagoev. Roman Shirokov doubled the lead in the 24th minute after Russia again sliced through the Czech Republic defense to set the midfielder free on the right side and he was able to pop the ball over Petr Cech.
The Czech defending was horrible leaving Cech with little he could do to stop the Russian attack. When the Czech Rep midfield and frontline kept possession all was fine but once Russia was on the attack it was anyone’s guess if the scoreline would get worse.
And when the defense, especially the central defenders, were not being sliced open they were beaten down. Roman Pavlyuchenko ended matters holding off two defenders and dribbling into the center of box before placing a great shot that Cech did well to get a hand to but that was not going to be stopped. The only players that could have stopped the goal were the defenders who needed to be pushing Pavlyuchenko wide from the get go.
The only good point of the Czech defending was the poor finishing from Russia, especially from Aleksandr Kerzhakov. The Zenit St. Petersburg striker had numerous opportunities that all went begging and some were not even close.
Poland vs Greece
National Stadium – Warsaw
June 8, 2012
The first touches by second half substitutes was key in what ended as a fair 1-1 result between Poland and Greece in the Euro 2012 opener. After the co-hosts dominated the first half and held a 1-0 advantage against a 10-man Greece, Dimitris Salpingidis came on at halftime and leveled matters with his 51st minute finish. The PAOL FC striker won the race to a loose ball at the top of the 6-yard box and made no mistake with his first touch to level matters.
Polish goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton had even less time to make his impact felt. The second string goalkeeper was called on after the Number 1 Wojciech Szczesny was red carded for bringing down Salpingidis in the box. Tyton stepped up and saved the penalty to keep the game at 1-1.
Carlos Velasco Carballo wasted no time in keeping up his impressive red card pace. The Spanish referee showed 16 red cards in 19 La Liga matches last season and he was not slowing down in Europe. Sokratis Papastathopoulos picked up two yellow cards (both suspect) and was in the showers before the conclusion of the first half.
Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny left Carballo with little choice. The Arsenal goalkeeper took down Salpingidis to see red and set up a potential game winning penalty.
With our sponsor World Soccer Shop in mind and for a loud and overt shout out to the WSS (the World Soccer Shop has the best selection of officially licensed Euro 2012 soccer gear), Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent to the showers early but looking for the player by his jersey is a tough task unless you know what to look for. The Werder Bremen defender’s name is so long it will NOT fit on the back of his jersey so he plays with his Christian name ‘Sokratis’ on the jersey. (The World Soccer Shop offers official customization on most jerseys. Visit the WSS to check out what you can get.)
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