XIV EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP (POLAND & UKRAINE 2012)

FINAL STAGE — GAME DETAILS

(From 8-06-2012 to 1-07-2012)

 

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)

DATE: 8-06-2012 (18:00 h)

ATTENDANCE: 56.826

REFEREE: Carlos Velasco Carballo (SPA)

GOALS: 1-0 (Lewandowski 17’); 1-1 (Salpingidis 51’)

BOOKED: Szczęsny (RC 69’) / Papastathopoulos (35’), Papastathopoulos (44’ > RC), Cholebas (45+’), Karagounis (54’)

[Incidents: Papastathopoulos (min. 44) and Szczęsny (min. 69) were both sent off. Karagounis missed a penalty shot (min. 71), saved by Tytoń. After the game, Greece central defender Avraam Papadopoulos, who had been substituted by his namesake Kyriakos in the first half due to injury, was taken to hospital, where scans showed that he had damaged the ligaments in his left knee. For this reason, he will return to Greece for treatment and will therefore miss the rest of the tournament.]

POL

Polska

Poland - Greece

Ελλάδα

GRE

1-1 (1-0)

POLAND

Szczęsny

Piszczek, Wasilewski, Perquis, Boenisch

Błaszczykowski (c), Polanski, Obraniak, Murawski, Rybus (Tytoń 70’)

Lewandowski

COACH: Franciszek Smuda

GREECE

Chalkias

Torosidis, Papastathopoulos, A. Papado. (K. Papado. 37’), Cholebas

Maniatis, Katsouranis, Karagounis (c)

Ninis (Salpingidis 46), Gekas (Fortounis 68), Samaras

COACH: Fernando Santos

GAME SUMMARY

In the opening match of Euro 2012, co-host Poland and Greece fought out a 1-1 draw. In-form Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski scored the first goal of the tournament midway the first half, when he met a swinging cross from Łukasz Piszczek with a downward header. The Poles should have added to their lead, especially after Sokratis Papastathopoulos was harshly sent of by the Spanish referee Velasco Carballo near halftime. However, Poland couldn’t capitalize on their man advantage in the second half and were soon surprised by substitute Dimitris Salpingidis, who equalized after finding himself in front of a loose ball. The home team almost paid dearly for their profligacy when Salpingidis again was brought down by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny in his area and the referee pointed at the penalty spot, but substitute guardian Przemysław Tytoń saved Karagounis’ shot.

 

Poland dominated the first half with a vertical play against a very imprecise and cautious Greek team. Right-back Piszczek was a constant threat with his runs upward. In one of them, in minute 14, his near-post cross was narrowly missed by Lewandowski. Three minutes later, however, the Poles would materialize their dangerous movements when Piszczek again found space in the right wing to send a far-post cross to an unmarked Lewandowski, who planted a firm downward header and beat Chalkias as the Greek goalkeeper was standing in no-one’s land. In the 35th minute, Papastathopoulos was given a very harsh booking for a stray arm as he challenged Lewandowski for a ball in the air. Two minutes later, Poland wasted a glorious chance to make it 2-0 when a loose ball from a free kick fell to Damien Perquis and the central defender fired wide from close range. Just before halftime, Papastathopoulos was shown another harsh yellow card for an alleged block on Rafał Murawski, who was falling down anyway.

 

Greece made a substitution at halftime that would prove crucial for the outcome of the game: Salpingidis replaced Ninis. Within six minutes of the restart, the veteran Greek attacker made his mark in the game when he scored the equalizer by netting a loose ball left by Szczęsny after a Torosidis cross. With Poland failing to make his man advantage count, Samaras almost made it 1-2 in minute 63, but he sliced the ball wide of the left post from close range. Six minutes later, Salpingidis broke the offside trap to find himself in front of Szczęsny, who clipped his heels as the Greek attacker tried to dribble past him. The Polish goalkeeper was shown a straight red card and Greece was awarded a penalty kick, but substitute guardian Przemysław Tytoń saved Karagounis’ kick. Three minutes later, the ubiquitous Salpingidis thought he had scored the winning goal for Greece, but his effort was ruled offside. With both teams running out of energy, the last minutes had little mouth-watering action as both teams looked content with a point apiece after a roller-coaster game.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion Miejski (Wrocław)

DATE: 8-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 37.348

REFEREE: Howard Webb (ENG)

GOALS: 1-0 (Dzagoev 15’); 2-0 (Shirokov 24’); 2-1 (Pilař 52’); 3-1 (Dzagoev 79’); 4-1 (Pavljuchenko 82’)

BOOKED: -

RUS

Россия

Russia - Czech Republic

Česká Republika

CZR

4-1 (2-0)

RUSSIA

Malafeev

Anjukov, Berezutskij, Ignashevich, Zhirkov

Shirokov, Denisov, Zyrjanov

Dzagoev (Kokorin 84’), Kerzhakov (Pavljuchenko 73’), Arshavin (c)

COACH: Dick Advocaat

CZECH REPUBLIC

Čech

Gebre Selassie, Hubník, Sivok, Kadlec

Rezek (Hübschman 46’), Plašil, Rosický(c), Jiráček (Petržela 76’), Pilař

Baroš (Lafata 85’)

COACH: Michal Bílek

GAME SUMMARY

Euro 2008 semifinalists Russia crushed the Czech Republic 4-1 in their opening game of the tournament. Dominating the match with superb speed and accurate passes, Dick Advocaat’s team opened the scoring in the 15th minute when Aleksandr Kerzhakov headed against the far post a Konstantin Zyrjanov’s cross and Alan Dzagoev netted the rebound with an emphatic finish. Nine minutes later, Andrej Arshavin’s pass eluded Kerzhakov but fell to Roman Shirokov at the far post for a delicate chip over onrushing keeper Petr Čech. The Czechs pulled one back early into the second half when Václav Pilař coolly rounded Vjacheslav Malafeev to slid home, but the Russians kept on piling the pressure, and near the end Dzagoev and Pavljuchenko secured victory with two powerful shots.

 

Despite Russia being clear favourites to top group A, it was the Czech Republic who had a brighter opening to the game. It took Advocaat’s team almost a quarter of an hour to muster a meaningful attack, and when they did it came close to taking the lead. The lively Arshavin brilliantly played in Zhirkov near the left-hand byline with a backheel, but Kerzhakov spurned his cross with a wide shot. Within one minute, however, Russia scored the opener when Zyrjanov’s cross from the right was headed against the far post by Kerzhakov, but Dzagoev followed up to drive home the loose ball. The CSKA Moscow midfielder should have doubled the Russian lead four minutes later after another incisive breakout, but he flashed wastefully wide of Čech’s goal. Rezek saw a glancing header saved by Malafeev at the other end, but almost immediately Russia made it 2-0 following an error by Jaroslav Plašil. The Czech midfielder gave away possession and Arshavin sent a pass which was meant for Kerzhakov, but the striker failed to control it and the ball finally reached Shirokov, who chipped it over the advancing Čech. With Russia toying with the Czech defense, Kerzhakov should have made it 3-0 in minute 33, but he blazed over the bar after a Zyrjanov’s pull-back.

 

After the restart, Russia continued their domination and Kerzhakov came again close to scoring. In minute 52, however, the Russian momentum was suddenly halted when Plašil produced a superb defense-splitting pass which found Pilař, and the small Czech winger rounded Malafeev to score from a tight angle. Buoyed by this goal much against the run of play, Michal Bílek’s side suddenly looked like the dominant team in the opening minutes of the match, and the game became increasingly open. Arshavin’s talent was a constant threat for the Czech defense, and once again Kerzhakov failed to hit the target after a lovely through ball from the Russian captain. The Zenit striker’s nightmare evening soon got worse as he shot hopelessly wide after cutting inside Michal Kadlec, prompting Advocaat to put him out of his misery and replace him by Pavljuchenko. Theodor Gebre Selassie almost produced a stunning goal as his first-time volley from a Tomáš Rosický cross flashed narrowly wide of the goal corner, then the Arsenal midfielder himself tested Malafeev with an angled shot that the Russian goalkeeper gathered on second attempt. In minute 79, however, Dzagoev effectively killed the game off when he was assisted by Pavljuchenko in front of the area and lashed a firm shot beyond Čech. Pavljuchenko then put a gloss on the Russian win as he tricked his way into the box before firing into the roof of the net.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion OSK Metallist (Kharkïv)

DATE: 9-06-2012 (19:00 h)

ATTENDANCE: 34.973

REFEREE: Damir Skomina (SVN)

GOALS: 0-1 (Krohn-Dehli 24’)

BOOKED: Van Bommel (67’) / S. Poulsen (78’), Kvist (81’)

[Incidents: The Dutch left-back Jetro Willems, 18 years and 71 days old, became the youngest player to participate in the Eurocup finals.]

NED

Nederland

Netherlands - Denmark

Danmark

DEN

0-1 (0-1)

NETHERLANDS

Stekelenburg

Van der Wiel (Kuijt 85’), Heitinga, Vlaar, Willems

V. Bommel(c), Sneijder, N. de Jong (V. Vaart 71’), Afellay (Hunte. 71’)

Robben, Van Persie

COACH: Bert van Marwijk

DENMARK

Andersen

Jacobsen, Kjær, Agger (c), S. Poulsen

Kvist, Eriksen (Schöne 74’), Zimling, Krohn-Dehli

Rommedahl (Mikkelsen 84’), Bendtner

COACH: Morten Olsen

GAME SUMMARY

Tournament favorites Holland suffered a shocking 1-0 defeat against Denmark in their group opener in Kharkïv. Although the Dutch created a host of chances during the game and had two penalty appeals turned down, they paid dearly for their profligacy and their defensive disadjustments. Midway the first half, Brøndby winger Michael Krohn-Dehli took advantage of a loose ball in front of the area to round a defender and lash a fierce angled drive through Stekelenburg’s legs to score the game winner. The defeat leaves the Oranje in a very difficult position within the so-called “death group”, as now they will have to beat Germany and Portugal to secure qualification.

 

Holland and Denmark started the game with a similar 4-2-3-1 line-up, with wingers Robben and Rommedahl in a deep attacking position. The Dutch signalled their attacking intentions early on, and only three minutes into the game left-back Jetro Willems—who became the youngest player to appear in the Eurocup finals—blasted a long-range drive over the bar. Holland took possession of the ball with midfield interpassing, while Denmark tried to defend orderly. In minute 7, an Arjen Robben cross was deflected into the path of Robin van Persie, but the Arsenal striker (who had been preferred by Van Marwijk as starting forward ahead of top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar) sidefooted the ball wide. Three minutes later, Barcelona midfielder Ibrahim Afellay sneaked down the left side of the area and lashed an angled shot over the bar. At the quarter hour mark, Robben was next to try his luck in an increasingly dominating Dutch team: the Bayern winger darted infield from the right and hit a fizzing low effort, but Stephan Andersen got down well to save it. In minute 24, however, just when the Dutch looked totally in control of the game, they were stunned by a Danish goal much against the run of play. Simon Poulsen burst down the left and his instant cross ricocheted off Gregory van der Wiel’s leg straight to Krohn-Dehli, who dribbled past Heitinga and fired an angled left-footed drive through Stekelenburg’s legs. Holland looked rattled after the Danish goal, but settled down soon and continued pushing forward for the equalizer. A very active Robben had the best chance of Holland in minute 36, when he latched onto a poor defensive pass by Andersen, advanced to the edge of the area and sent a left-footed shot against the post. As halftime approached, though, Denmark’s confidence grew and a well-worked move three minutes before the break almost put them 2-0, Stekelenburg diving to his left to save Krohn-Dehli’s low effort. Back at the other end, Van Persie should have levelled before the interval from Wesley Sneijder’s pass, but a poor first touch took him wide and allowed Andersen to narrow the angle and make the save.

 

After the interval, the Dutch continued enjoying the lion’s share of possession and chances, but Denmark remained secure in defense and dangerous on the break. Robben, Van Persie, Van Bommel, Afellay and Heitinga all had chances to equalize within the first ten minutes of the second half, but it was Denmark who almost made it 2-0 in a double occasion: first in minute 54, when Simon Poulsen’s trickery down the left side of the box ended with a dangerous cross with no teammate on hand to push the ball into the net, then in minute 70, with Krohn-Dehli cutting in from the left to shoot a right-footer which Stekelenburg did well to save. As the Dutch team was becoming increasingly frustrated, Van Marwijk made a double substitution in minute 71, introducing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart, and these changes almost had an instant reward. Only three minutes on the field, Schalke striker Huntelaar latched onto a terrific outside-of-the-boot pass from Wesley Sneijder only to be denied by Andersen, with Van Persie fouling the Danish goalkeeper while attempting to pounce on the follow-up. The Dutch frustration was compounded in minute 89, after the ball struck Lars Jacobsen’s hand in the Danish area and the Slovenian referee Damir Skomina waved play on. Two minutes into stoppage time, Van Persie flicked a header over the bar from Sneijder’s cross, but it was not to be for Holland as Denmark held on for a famous win.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion u L’vovi (L’vïv)

DATE: 9-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 33.951

REFEREE: Stéphane Lannoy (FRA)

GOALS: 1-0 (Gómez 72’)

BOOKED: Badstuber (43’), Boateng (69’) / Hélder Postiga (13’), Fábio Coentrão (60’)

GER

Deutschland

Germany - Portugal

Portugal

POR

1-0 (0-0)

GERMANY

Neuer

Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm (c)

Müller (Bender 90+’), Khedira, Özil (Kroos 87’), Schwein., Podolski

Gómez (Klose 80’)

COACH: Joachim Löw

PORTUGAL

Rui Patrício

João Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fábio Coentrão

Raul Meireles (Varela 80’), Miguel Veloso, João Moutinho

Nani, Hélder Postiga (Nélson Oliveira 70’), Cristiano Ronaldo (c)

COACH: Paulo Bento

GAME SUMMARY

Mario Gómez's header midway the second half propelled Germany to victory in their opening game against Portugal, in the third consecutive victory of Joachim Löw’s team over the Portuguese in a major tournament (after World Cup 2006 and Eurocup 2008). With eighteen minutes for the final whistle, just as the Bayern Munich center-forward was about to be replaced by the veteran Miroslav Klose, Gómez made a cool finish to beat Pepe in the aerial battle and head a Sami Khedira's cross into the far post. Portugal, who defended orderly for most of the game and even enjoyed the best chances to score, missed the influential play of captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who once again failed to live up to expectations when playing with his national team (even more frustrating for Portugal on this occasion, after his brilliant season with Real Madrid).

 

The seven Bayern Munich players in the starting line-up of Germany almost surely recalled their bad memories of the Champions League final (when an ultra-defensive Chelsea beat them with a backs-to-the-wall style), as Portugal set themselves up to nullify their rivals and play for a 0-0 draw. Gómez had the first effort on goal in minute 2, but his floating header from the edge of the area towards the far post was saved by Rui Patrício. Mesut Özil became Germany’s main attacking threat during the early stages of the match, while Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo was a mere spectator for most of the first half. With Joachim Löw’s team gaining offensive momentum, Podolski had the second German chance in minute 9, but his low first-time shot with the outside of his right foot was saved by the Portuguese goalkeeper. On the half hour mark came the best German opportunity to score, when Özil pulled the ball back from the left to Podolski and his first-time effort from the edge of the area flew over the bar. However, for all the German dominance, Portugal almost took a surprising lead one minute from the break, when central defender Pepe curled a delightful shot onto the underside of the bar, the ball then bouncing on the goal line and out.

 

Encouraged by their last-gasp chance, Portugal offered more in attack in the second half, and the game became an increasingly open affair. In minute 64, João Moutinho set Cristiano Ronaldo clear on the left side of the box with a brilliant reverse ball, but when the Portuguese captain was about to pull the trigger he was denied by Boateng’s perfectly-timed block. In minute 72, with Germany unable to break the deadlock and Löw just about to substitute Gómez for Klose, the Bayern Munich striker scored the winning goal with a classic German central-attacker header: Khedira sent a cross from the right and Gómez rose above Pepe to direct a downward header inside the far post. Four minutes later, the German forward almost made it 2-0, but the narrowly missed Thomas Müller’s cross into the area. Suddenly faced with chasing the game instead of settling for a draw, Portugal urged their aces Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani to get into the game and laid siege on the German goal in the final ten minutes. The Real Madrid attacker had an effort saved by Neuer, then Nani’s cross landed on top of the crossbar. Portugal nearly levelled the score with two minutes to go, when substitute Silvestre Varela latched onto a Nélson Oliveira low cross to the back post, but Neuer denied him with a desperate save. In injury time, Cristiano Ronaldo pulled the ball back to Nani, whose shot beat Neuer but was deflected by Holger Badstuber on its way to the top corner.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: PGE Arena Gdańsk (Gdańsk)

DATE: 10-06-2012 (18:00 h)

ATTENDANCE: 43.615

REFEREE: Viktor Kassai (HUN)

GOALS: 0-1 (Di Natale 61’); 1-1 (Fàbregas 64’)

BOOKED: Jordi Alba (66’), Arbeloa (84’), Torres (84’) / Balotelli (37’), Bonucci (66’), Chiellini (79’), Maggio (89’)

SPA

España

Spain - Italy

Italia

ITA

1-1 (0-0)

SPAIN

Casillas (c)

Arbeloa, Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba

Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso

Silva (Jesús Navas 64’), Fàbregas (Torres 74’), Iniesta

COACH: Vicente del Bosque

ITALY

Buffon (c)

Maggio, Bonucci, Chiellini, Giaccherini

Marchisio, De Rossi, Pirlo, Motta (Nocerino 90’)

Balotelli (Di Natale 56’), Cassano (Giovinco 65’)

COACH: Cesare Prandelli

GAME SUMMARY

Defending champion Spain was held to a 1-1 draw by Italy in their Euro 2012 opener. Antonio di Natale, who had just substituted an erratic Mario Balotelli, was played by Andrea Pirlo through the Spanish defense to give Italy the lead midway the second half, but midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (who played in an unusual position as forward in this game) equalized within three minutes after collecting a pass from David Silva and slamming the ball past Gianluigi Buffon.

 

Vicente del Bosque surprised everyone in this game by using a “false number 9” formation, without a recognized striker in the Spanish line-up and three offensive midfielders up front: Silva, Fàbregas and Iniesta. Although La Roja offered some promising moments, a focal number 9 attacker was missed in the Spanish team to materialize the opportunities. When Fernando Torres was finally brought into action in minute 74, he fluffed two excellent chances to give the European and World champion a winning start in the tournament.

 

Contrary to expectations, Italy started the game enjoying a greater ball possession than Spain. However, the first chances fell on the Spanish side. In minute 11, a swift break conducted by Fàbregas and Iniesta was finished by Silva with a soft shot that Buffon saved easily. Italy’s impressive couple of central defenders—Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini—managed to snuff out the rest of Spain’s forays forward in a cagey opening period. At the other end, Italy, inspired by in-form Antonio Cassano, offered a genuine goal threat. Andrea Pirlo saw a free kick saved by Iker Casillas in minute 12. The Italian midfield pressed the Spanish defense up front, obstructing the creative attacks of Del Bosque’s men. As the Azzurri domination continued for most of the first half, Cassano fired an angled shot that went just wide off the far post, then Claudio Marchisio’s blistering volley was saved by Casillas. Near halftime, both sides created their best chances of the period. First, a typically incisive through-ball from Xavi presented a wonderful opportunity for Iniesta, but his first touch was uncharacteristically poor, meaning his second only resulted in a tame volleyed lob over the bar. Then, Cassano escaped down the right and whipped in a wonderful cross for Thiago Motta, whose header was superbly palmed to safety by Casillas.

 

Spain came out with greater verve after the break and Buffon twice had to make smart saves, the first from Fàbregas and the second from Iniesta. However, Italy was still causing headaches to the Spanish defense. In minute 54, Balotelli stole the ball from Sergio Ramos in the right byline and ran clear on goal, but the Manchester City attacker delayed excessively his final shot and allowed Ramos to get back and smuggle the ball behind for a corner. It proved Balotelli’s final act as he was immediately substituted by Di Natale. The veteran Udinese striker had an instant impact in the game as he opened the scoring within five minutes, latching onto Pirlo’s accurate pass before coolly slotting the ball past the onrushing Casillas. However, Spain provided a quick response when a beautiful flicked pass with the outside of his left boot from Silva picked out Fàbregas, who made no mistake with a crisp finish under Buffon. After the Spanish equalizer, Del Bosque introduced Sevilla’s winger Jesús Navas, who stretched the Italian defense with his speed. In minute 73, Navas sent a lobbed pass from the right to the far post, but Jordi Alba fired his instant volley just wide. When Chelsea striker Fernando Torres was finally brought into action, he had an immediate run on goal, but when he tried to round Buffon the Juventus goalkeeper made a clean tackle to deny him. In minute 77, Sebastian Giovinco picked out Di Natale in the Spanish area, but his acrobatic volley at full stretch flew narrowly wide of the left upright. In minute 85, a clever one-two with Xavi saw Torres again burst through, but his attempted chip drifted narrowly over. After an entertaining match, Spain an Italy had to settle for a tie that leaves both team unharmed and with full possibilities to advance to the next round.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion Miejski (Poznań)

DATE: 10-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 39.550

REFEREE: Björn Kuipers (NED)

GOALS: 0-1 (Mandžukić 3’); 1-1 (St. Ledger 19’); 1-2 (Jelavić 43’); 1-3 (Mandžukić 49’)

BOOKED: Andrews (45+’) / Modrić (53’), Kranjčar (84’)

IRL

éire

Ireland - Croatia

Hrvatska

CRO

1-3 (1-2)

IRELAND

Given

O’Shea, Dunne, St. Ledger, Ward

Duff, Whelan, Andrews, McGeady (Cox 54’)

Doyle (Walters 53’), Keane (c) (Long 75’)

COACH: Giovanni Trapattoni

CROATIA

Pletikosa

Srna (c), Ćorluka, Schildenfeld, Strinić

Rakitić (Dujmović 90+’), Vukojević, Modrić, Perišić (Eduardo 89’)

Mandžukić, Jelavić (Kranjčar 72’)

COACH: Slaven Bilić

GAME SUMMARY

A brace by Mario Mandžukić helped Croatia to start their participation in Euro 2012 with a clear victory and ended Ireland’s 14-game unbeaten run. The Wolfsburg striker opened the scoring with a third-minute header and extended the Croatian lead early in the second half after his effort on goal ricocheted off a post and the head of an unfortunate Shay Given. In between, Sean St. Ledger had equalized for Ireland with a header and Nikica Jelavić had scored the second Croatian goal near halftime from a seemingly offside position. Although the Irish team pressed hard during the game, Croatia simply had too much quality in their boots and earned a deserved victory that leaves them on top of Group C, following the 1-1 draw between Spain and Italy earlier in the day.

 

In their first appearance in the Eurocup finals for 24 years, Ireland was greeted by a sea of green in the stands of Municipal Stadium in Poznań. However, the Irish expectations in this game soon suffered a blow when they found themselves behind in the score as soon as the third minute. Croatian captain Darijo Srna’s right-wing cross was deflected by full-back Stephen Ward into the path of Mandžukić, who headed towards the bottom corner and beat a wrong-footed Shay Given (who should have done better anyway). Croatia, after this perfect start, threatened to run riot, with Mandžukić and strike-partner Jelavić repeatedly stretching the Irish defense. For all their effort, Ireland lacked the inspiration to create clear chances, but nevertheless found an equalizer from a set piece: in minute 19, Aiden McGeady sent a free kick to the far post, where St. Ledger rose over Vedran Ćorluka to head the Republic level from close range. Three minutes later, Given redeemed himself with a fine save from Ivan Perišić’s firm shot. A technically gifted Croatia now took control of the game, but they lacked the edge to create clear chances, besides a couple of shots by Modrić and Perišić or a header by Jelavić. Two minutes before halftime, however, disaster struck for Ireland when the increasingly influential Modrić cut inside the covering Robbie Keane to fire in a long-range shot which was blocked by Ward, but in his haste to clear the Irish full-back could only slice the loose ball into the path of Jelavić, who easily beat Given from close range to restore Croatia’s advantage.

 

If Shay Given was caught wrong-footed in the first Croatian goal, his luck deserted him totally within three minutes of the restart, when Mandžukić powered a header towards goal from a Perišić cross and saw the ball come back off the post, hit the Irish keeper on the face and fly into the unguarded net. Almost immediately, Rakitić and Srna both came close to extend the Croatian lead, and this prompted Giovanni Trapattoni to make a double substitution just eight minutes into the second half, introducing attackers Jon Walters and Simon Cox. However, Croatia was by now firmly in the driving seat and Ireland struggled to create clear chances during the second half. In minute 63, Trapattoni’s men had reasons to complain when the Dutch referee Björn Kuipers didn’t point at the penalty spot after Gordon Schildenfeld’s crude challenge from behind on Robbie Keane in the Croatian area. Although Dunne headed a 68th-minute Duff free kick straight at Pletikosa, Croatia were cruising towards victory without having to expend unnecessary energy. Midfielder Ivan Rakitić curled a 77th-minute shot just wide and Keith Andrews powered a header agonizingly past the post in injury-time. In the end, a deserved victory of a talented Croatia over a limited Irish team.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Donbass Arena (Donets'k)

DATE: 11-06-2012 (19:00 h)

ATTENDANCE: 42.000

REFEREE: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)

GOALS: 0-1 (Lescott 30’); 1-1 (Nasri 39’)

BOOKED: Oxlade-Chamberlain (34’), Young (71’)

FRA

France

France - England

England

ENG

1-1 (1-1)

FRANCE

Lloris (c)

Debuchy, Rami, Mexès, Evra

Cabaye (Ben Arfa 85’), Diarra, Malouda (Martin 85’)

Nasri, Benzema, Ribéry

COACH: Laurent Blanc

ENGLAND

Hart

Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole

Milner,Gerrard(c),Young,Parker(Henderson 78’),Oxlade-C.(Defoe 77’)

Welbeck (Walcott 90’)

COACH: Roy Hodgson

GAME SUMMARY

A defensive Rooney-less England battled their way to a 1-1 draw with France in their Euro 2012 opener. Central defender Joleon Lescott scored a header off a free kick from Steven Gerrard in the 30th minute to move England 1-0 ahead, but nine minutes later Lescott’s Manchester City teammate Samir Nasri equalized for France with a curled kick from outside the area. Both teams failed to add any goal to the scoresheet in the second half of a rather tedious match.

 

In humid conditions, the match started off at a relatively slow pace, with both teams sizing up their opponents rather than really going openly on the attack. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a surprise inclusion in the starting eleven, gave England some threat on the wings, while Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema probed a solid-looking English backline. In minute 15, James Milner wasted the best chance of the opening period, latching onto Ashley Young’s weighted through-ball and rounding the French goalkeeper, only to slice wide with the goal gaping. France were dominating possession, patiently stalking around the English penalty area, but were unable to create clear opportunities. The main French threat was coming from right-back Mathieu Debuchy, who got forward from his own half to trouble the English defense. At the half hour mark, England took the lead against the run of play when Patrice Evra gave away a needless free kick wide on England’s right, and Steven Gerrard’s pinpoint cross was headed into the net by the onrushing Lescott. Five minutes later, a nervy-looking Joe Hart produced a fine save to deny Diarra, who climbed highest to reach a Nasri free kick. Ribéry cut the rebound back into the danger area, but Diarra again headed off target from close range. France wouldn’t be denied on their next attack though, when Ribéry fed Nasri on the edge of the box and the Manchester City midfielder gave himself space with the first touch and beat Hart with his second with a shot at the near post.

 

The second half was even more defensive and dull than the first one, with pace slowed down and England defending in numbers. Benzema came the closest to putting France back ahead in minute 65, chasing down a pass from Nasri before firing a ferocious long-range shot which was well saved by Hart. In minute 80, the outstanding Yohan Cabaye came also agonizingly close with another well-struck shot that flicked narrowly wide off Danny Welbeck. There were little further opportunities as both France and England settled for starting the campaign with a single point.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: NSK Olympyjskyj (Kyïv)

DATE: 11-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 64.290

REFEREE: Cüneyt Çakır (TUR)

GOALS: 0-1 (Ibrahimović 52’); 1-1 (Shevchenko 55’); 2-1 (Shevchenko 62’)

BOOKED: Källström (11’), Elm (83’)

UKR

Україна

Ukraine - Sweden

Sverige

SWE

2-1 (0-0)

UKRAINE

P’jatov

Gusev, Mykhalyk, Khacheridi, Selin

Tymoshchuk,Voronin (Rotan’ 85’),Nazarenko,Konopljanka (Dević 90+’)

Yarmolenko, Shevchenko (c) (Milevs’kyj 81’)

COACH: Oleg Blokhin

SWEDEN

Isaksson

Lustig, Mellberg, Granqvist, M. Olsson

Larsson (Wilhelmsson 68’), Elm, Källström, Toivonen (Svensson 62’)

Ibrahimović (c), Rosenberg (Elmander 71’)

COACH: Erik Hamrén

GAME SUMMARY

Andrij Shevchenko was the hero for co-hosts Ukraine as he scored a brace that gave Oleg Blokhin’s team a triumphant start in their debut at the Eurocup finals. The Ukrainian football legend rolled back the years to score two second-half headers and cancel out Zlatan Ibrahimović’s opener from close range. The Swedish captain was at the heart of the move which led to the Scandinavian opener, retreating deep to link up play before eventually profiting from Kim Källström’s cutback to sidefoot the ball home from close range. Almost immediately, Shevchenko reacted quickest to steer in Andrij Yarmolenko’s cross from the right at the near post for the equalizer, then repeated the trick on the opposite side when the same player delivered a corner seven minutes later. Sweden almost had a late equalizer after a perfectly placed flick from Ibrahimović was blazed over from close range by substitute Johan Elmander.

 

Ukraine started the game pegging Sweden back with a constant pressure, but it was Erik Hamrén’s men who created the first moment of real danger in minute 17, when Ibrahimović floated in a superb cross that prompted the swift intervention of keeper Andrij P’jatov. In the 23rd minute it was Sweden’s turn to panic when Yarmolenko sent Shevchenko racing in on goal, and Ukraine’s all-time top scorer shot wide from a tight angle. The co-hosts continued pressing, and Andrij Voronin almost made contact with a long ball from Sergij Nazarenko into the box. Past the half hour mark, Markus Rosenberg turned and shot to force a save from P’jatov, but it was mostly Ukrainian attacks in this period. Andreas Isaksson kept out Yarmolenko in minute 38, but almost immediately Sweden should have taken the lead when Sebastian Larsson teed up Ibrahimović with a wonderful cross but the unmarked AC Milan striker headed a glorious opportunity against the right post.

 

“Ibracadabra” would not be denied in the 52nd minute, however, when Kim Källström nudged another fine cross from Larsson into the path of Ibrahimović and the towering marksman made no mistake with a simple tap-in. But three minutes later Ukraine were level, when Yarmolenko curled a ball in from the right and Shevchenko leaped ahead of Olof Mellberg to score with a fine diving header. The Dynamo Kiev attacker was on target once more in minute 62, when Gusev whipped in a corner to the near post that was headed home by the veteran Ukrainian striker. Erik Hamrén introduced three substitutions in succession, but Sweden offered no meaningful reaction. In minute 76, Ibrahimović volleyed a long ball from the edge of the Ukrainian area, but P’jatov kept out his shot and then his follow-up header. Substitute Johan Elmander should have rescued a late point for Sweden, but he blazed a one-on-one with the keeper over the crossbar and moments later defender Olof Mellberg, thrown forward in desperation, also fired over.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion Miejski (Wrocław)

DATE: 12-06-2012 (18:00 h)

ATTENDANCE: 35.213

REFEREE: Stéphane Lannoy (FRA)

GOALS: 0-1 (Jiráček 3’); 0-2 (Pilař 6’); 1-2 (Gekas 53’)

BOOKED: Torosidis (34’), K. Papadopoulos (56’), Salpingidis (57’) / Rosický (27’), Jiráček (36’), Kolář (65’)

GRE

Ελλάδα

Greece - Czech Republic

Česká Republika

CZR

1-2 (0-2)

GREECE

Chalkias (Sifakis 23’)

Torosidis, Katsouranis, K. Papadopoulos, Cholebas

Fotakis (Gekas 46’), Maniatis, Karagounis (c)

Salpingidis, Samaras, Fortounis (Mitroglou 71’)

COACH: Fernando Santos

CZECH REPUBLIC

Čech

Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limberský

Jiráček, Hübschman, Rosický (c) (Kolář 46’ (Rajtoral 90’)), Plašil, Pilař

Baroš (Pekhart 64’)

COACH: Michal Bílek

GAME SUMMARY

Two early goals gave the Czech Republic their first victory in the tournament, although a gaffe by Petr Čech made for a nervy second half. In a whirlwind opening, Tomáš Hübschman threaded the ball through to Petr Jiráček and the Wolfsburg midfielder coolly slotted the ball into the net to put the Czechs in front after only three minutes. Almost immediately, with the Greek defense in disarray, Michal Bílek’s men doubled their lead when full-back Theodor Gebre Selassie cut the ball back from the byline, Kostas Chalkias failed to clear the cross and Václav Pilař bundled the ball home between two defenders. Greece endured further woe in the 23rd minute, when they were forced to make a change of goalkeepers. Although they worked hard to get back into the match, the Greeks were unable to create clear chances, but eight minutes into the second half they were gifted a foothold in the game by Petr Čech, who badly fumbled a ball into the path of Fanis Gekas for the Greek attacker to prod it into a empty net. However, Fernando Santos’ men lacked the guile to carve out an equalizer. The defeat leaves the Greeks needing to beat Russia in their last group game to have a hope of progressing, while the Czech Republic now depends on themselves to advance.

 

The Czechs could hardly have wished for a better opening as, only three minutes into the game, Jiráček latched onto a Hübschman’s defense-splitting pass to fire across Chalkias and make it 1-0 for his team. Only three minutes later, Michal Bílek’s team doubled their advantage when the Greek goalkeeper failed to clear Gebre Selassie’s cut back with his dive, allowing Pilař to tap the ball in between to defenders. With the Greek defense in disarray, the lively Pilař came close to adding a third goal in minute 19, as he played a neat one-two with Jaroslav Plašil on the edge of the area before firing just wide of the left-hand post. Georgios Samaras had Greece's first sight of goal, but the Celtic striker made a mess of meeting Vasilis Torosidis’ cross. Troubles continued for Greece in minute 23, when goalkeeper Chalkias suffered a muscle strain in his leg after playing a pass out to his defenders and had to be substituted by Michalis Sifakis. The Czechs’ dominance continued as Sifakis was forced into his first save to deny a low drive by Tomáš Rosický. Greece thought they had pulled a goal back five minutes before the break as Georgios Fotakis headed in a Torosidis cross, but he was ruled marginally offside and the goal was disallowed.

 

The Czechs continued offering more in attack after the restart, but it was the Greeks who found the net next thanks to a calamitous mistake from Čech. The Chelsea goalkeeper came racing out for an aimless long ball but, distracted by Tomáš Sivok, he fumbled it and substitute Gekas had the simple task of directing the loose ball into an empty net. Buoyed by this goal, scored much against the run of play, Greece finally began to exert some control on the game with Karagounis and Samaras becoming increasingly prominent. However, they struggled to create clear-cut chances besides some wild shooting and hopeful crosses into the area, and the Czechs comfortably saw out the closing stages for a vital win.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)

DATE: 12-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 53.617

REFEREE: Wolfgang Stark (GER)

GOALS: 0-1 (Dzagoev 37’); 1-1 (Błaszczykowski 57’)

BOOKED: Lewandowski (60’), Polanski (79’) / Denisov (60’), Dzagoev (75’)

POL

Polska

Poland - Russia

Россия

RUS

1-1 (0-1)

POLAND

Tytoń

Piszczek, Wasilewski, Perquis, Boenisch

Błaszczykowski(c),Polanski (Matus. 85’),Murawski,Dudka (Mierze. 73’)

Lewandowski, Obraniak (Brożek 90+’)

COACH: Franciszek Smuda

RUSSIA

Malafeev

Anjukov, Berezutskij, Ignashevich, Zhirkov

Shirokov, Denisov, Zyrjanov

Dzagoev (Izmajlov 79’), Kerzhakov (Pavljuchenko 70’), Arshavin (c)

COACH: Dick Advocaat

GAME SUMMARY

Poland and Russia played out a 1-1 draw in a fully packed National Stadium in Warsaw to keep their chances of progressing to the knock-out stages. The co-hosts had to fight back from being a goal down to secure their second successive draw, with captain Jakub Błaszczykowski cancelling out Alan Dzagoev’s first half goal.

 

Russia went on the attack from the outset, but Poland proved a danger with swift counterattacks in what was an open game from kick-off. Franciszek Smuda’s side almost grabbed a seventh-minute lead when a glancing header from Sebastian Boenisch was superbly saved by Russian keeper Vjacheslav Malafeev, who was kept busy throughout the night. With the Russians struggling to make any kind of impact in the game, Poland continued to press and Robert Lewandowski almost conjured an opener out of nothing when he hooked a volley just over the bar in the 11th minute. The Poles did have the ball in the net in the 18th minute though, but a very tight offside call ruled out a goal from Eugen Polanski after some intricate passing had put the midfielder clear. Playing an exciting interpassing football, the Poles were dominant and Russian defender Sergej Ignashevich had to be swift on the cut to deny Lewandowski a one-on-one with Malafeev. With the game approaching the half-hour mark, Russia finally started to get to grips with it, with the lively Arshavin creating openings for Kerzhakov and Dzagoev. Russia’s best spell of the match resulted in the opening goal in the 37th minute, when Arshavin delivered a superb free kick from the left flank and topscorer Dzagoev flicked a header past a helpless Przemysław Tytoń. Poland almost responded immediately with a powerful drive by Błaszczykowski that was palmed away by Malafeev, but the Russians were beginning to play with the same kind of confident swagger as in their opening group win, with Dzagoev and Zhirkov both having close-range chances.

 

Poland pressed hard at the beginning of the second half and came close within two minutes of the restart, when Polanski’s brilliant through-ball found Lewandowski but he was pushed wide and out of play by the advancing Malafeev. Ludovic Obraniak and Damien Perquis both came close before the Russians threatened with a swift counterattack in minute 50, Kerzhakov’s dangerous run eventually intercepted by Dariusz Dudka. With both teams openly on the attack, Poland hit back after 57 minutes, when Błaszczykowski got on the end of a breakaway down the right and cut inside to hit a ferocious shot from the edge of the area into the corner of the net. The goal gave Poland a visible boost and they began to look likely winners in what was an end-to-end second half. In minute 68, Dzagoev scuffed a shot straight at Tytoń after being flicked through by Kerzhakov, and almost immediately at the other end Polanski worked his way into the area only to see his angled shot saved by Malafeev. Poland ended the game stronger, and in a frantic final period substitute Adrian Mierzejewski shot wide, Lewandowski and Boenisch both had chances, but finally Poland and Russia had to settle for a point apiece and left everything to decide in their last group game.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion u L’vovi (L’vïv)

DATE: 13-06-2012 (19:00 h)

ATTENDANCE: 34.915

REFEREE: Craig Thomson (SCO)

GOALS: 0-1 (Pepe 24’); 0-2 (Hélder Postiga 36’); 1-2 (Bendtner 41’); 2-2 (Bendtner 80’); 2-3 (Varela 87’)

BOOKED: J. Poulsen (56’), Jacobsen (81’) / Raul Meireles (29’), Cristiano Ronaldo (90+’)

DEN

Danmark

Denmark - Portugal

Portugal

POR

2-3 (1-2)

DENMARK

Andersen

Jacobsen, Kjær, Agger (c), S. Poulsen

Kvist, Eriksen, Zimling (J. Poulsen 16’), Krohn-Dehli (Schöne 90+’)

Rommedahl (Mikkelsen 60’), Bendtner

COACH: Morten Olsen

PORTUGAL

Rui Patrício

João Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fábio Coentrão

Raul Meireles (Varela 84’), Miguel Veloso, João Moutinho

Nani (Rolando 89’), H. Postiga (Nélson Oliveira 64’), C. Ronaldo (c)

COACH: Paulo Bento

GAME SUMMARY

A late goal from substitute Silvestre Varela earned Portugal a crucial 3-2 victory over Denmark at the end of a thrilling game, and ensured that the Iberian team remain in contention to progress to the next stage. The FC Porto attacker smashed home the winner having come on just three minutes earlier, and spared the blushes of Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who earlier had missed three clear chances to secure victory for his team. Goals from Pepe and Hélder Postiga had Paulo Bento’s side coasting in the first half, but Nicklas Bendtner scored a brace and seemed to have secured a point for Denmark in the last stages of the game, until Varela converted a dramatic winner three minutes from the end.

 

Portugal started well, with Fábio Coentrão going forward with intent from his left-back spot and central defenders Pepe and Bruno Alves dealing comfortably with Denmark’s long balls. Having wrestled the early initiative from Denmark—who lost Niki Zimling to a calf injury in minute 16—, Portugal created their earlier danger from set pieces. In minute 24, Miguel Veloso’s long-range free kick saw Hélder Postiga’s shot deflected wide, but from the resulting corner Portugal took the lead: Nani’s inswinging cross picked out the run of the unmarked Pepe, whose glancing header beat Andersen at the near post. Boosted by the goal, Portugal continued to press forward and doubled their advantage twelve minutes later, when a fine pass by Nani into Hélder Postiga’s path set him up for an emphatic finish into the roof of the Danish net. Despite the 2-0 lead, it wasn’t all easy going for Portugal though, as their captain Cristiano Ronaldo was becoming increasingly frustrated with an uncharacteristic poor finishing. First Simon Kjær was on hand to prevent him from having a simple tap-in, then Hélder Postiga’s neat dummy released the Real Madrid striker down the left wing, but he shot wide. Christian Eriksen registered Denmark’s first shot on target in minute 38, but Rui Patrício saved it. However, the Portuguese goalkeeper was helpless three minutes later to prevent the Danes from pulling one back, when Jakob Poulsen’s hanging cross to the far post picked out Michael Krohn-Dehli, who headed back across goal for Bendtner to nod home.

 

Portugal should have extended their lead five minutes into the second half after Kjær’s misjudgment of Nani’s crossfield pass sent Cristiano Ronaldo racing clear, but the Portuguese captain shot straight at Andersen. Another Danish defensive mistake, this time by Eriksen, gave the ball to Hélder Postiga, and only a perfectly-timed tackle from Daniel Agger prevented the striker from breaking into the penalty area. Denmark started to push harder for the equalizer, with substitute Tobias Mikkelsen (on after Dennis Rommedahl’s hamstring injury) very active on the right wing. In minute 62, William Kvist drilled a long-range shot narrowly wide, and ten minutes later Bendtner stepped inside his marker on the edge of the box but scuffed his shot off target. Cristiano Ronaldo’s miserable night continued in minute 78, when he was put clean through by Nani but inexplicably shot wide with only Andersen to beat. Almost immediately, Portugal was punished for his captain’s mistake when Lars Jacobsen sent a deep cross to the far post, where Bendtner rose to power a header beyond the despairing dive of Rui Patrício. However, in a final twist of the game—and after yet another scoring chance missed by Cristiano Ronaldo—, substitute Varela miskicked his first effort at a volley from Fábio Coentrão’s left-wing cross, but then spun and hit the bouncing ball into the bottom right corner.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion OSK Metallist (Kharkïv)

DATE: 13-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 38.633

REFEREE: Jonas Eriksson (SWE)

GOALS: 0-1 (Gómez 24’); 0-2 (Gómez 38’); 1-2 (Van Persie 73’)

BOOKED: N. de Jong (80’), Willems (90’) / Boateng (87’)

NED

Nederland

Netherlands - Germany

Deutschland

GER

1-2 (0-2)

NETHERLANDS

Stekelenburg

Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Willems

V. Bommel(c) (V. Vaart 46’), Sneijder, N. de Jong, Afellay (Hunte. 46’)

Robben (Kuijt 83’), Van Persie

COACH: Bert van Marwijk

GERMANY

Neuer

Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm (c)

Müller (Bender 90+’), Khedira, Özil (Kroos 81’), Schwein., Podolski

Gómez (Klose 72’)

COACH: Joachim Löw

GAME SUMMARY

A first half double from Mario Gómez earned Germany qualification for the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 and left Holland in a difficult situation, needing to beat Portugal by two goals in their last group game while hoping for a defeat of Denmark. Gómez, who had scored the winner in Germany’s victory over Portugal, opened the scoring in the 24th minute and added his second in the 38th before Robin van Persie reduced the deficit seventeen minutes from time.

 

Holland started dominating possession and, as a déjà vu of the 1974 World Cup final, the first two minutes were all Dutch passes with no German player coming in touch with the ball until a long pass by Wesley Sneijder was collected by Manuel Neuer. In minute 7, Van Persie had the first shot on goal after Mark van Bommel sent a perfect ball over the German defense and the Arsenal striker volleyed straight at Neuer from the penalty spot. Mesut Özil responded for Germany with a ninth minute volley which struck the base of Maarten Stekelenburg’s left-hand post before the ball was gathered by the grateful Dutch keeper. A lively Van Persie lacked the final touch again in minute 11, when Arjen Robben played him down the right but his first-time effort went wide of the far post. With action at both ends, Bastian Schweinsteiger sent a defense-splitting through-ball to Gómez, who turned and fired the opener low to Stekelenburg’s right. Holland tried to react to the German goal and Robben slammed a long-range effort straight at Neuer, but Joachim Löw’s team continued to exploit some weaknesses in the Dutch defense, particularly down the right flank. Holger Badstuber should have made it 2-0 in the 37th minute when he headed straight at Stekelenburg from point-blank range. Within one minute, however, Germany did have their second goal from another move originating on the right, Bastian Schweinsteiger playing in Gómez who looked up and slammed an unstoppable shot across the keeper from a tight angle. With Germany threatening to run riot in a frustrated Dutch team, Robben almost made it 3-0 in injury time after accidentally deflecting Schweinsteiger’s free kick into the top corner of his own goal, only for the ball to be brilliantly tipped over by Stekelenburg.

 

Although Van Marwijk introduced Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart at the break, the Mannschaft continued to press, with Hummels denied twice by Stekelenburg in a matter of seconds seven minutes after the restart. The Dutch, forced to attack, also had their chances in the second half. In minute 58, Robben dribbled his way down the left before crossing to Van Persie, whose first-time shot from the edge of the area was well saved by Neuer. Four minutes later, Sneijder shot from outside the area and saw his drive flash narrowly wide of Neuer’s left-hand post. The Dutch pressure finally paid off in minute 73, when Van Persie turned and drifted across from the left flank before drilling a brilliant shot past Neuer from the edge of the box. Holland were suddenly dominant, with Van Persie having a penalty appeal waved away before Robben expressed his frustration at being substituted by exiting the pitch on the far side of the field in front of the Dutch fans. However, it was Germany who came closer to score a third goal in minute 89, when Stekelenburg made a mighty hash of a back-pass and almost presented German substitute Miroslav Klose with the simplest of chances to wrap things up.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion Miejski (Poznań)

DATE: 14-06-2012 (18:00 h)

ATTENDANCE: 37.096

REFEREE: Howard Webb (ENG)

GOALS: 1-0 (Pirlo 39’); 1-1 (Mandžukić 72’)

BOOKED: Motta (56’), Montolivo (80’) / Schildenfeld (86’)

[Incidents: The game had to be interrupted twice in the second half because two flares were thrown onto the pitch and the smoke hindered visibility.]

ITA

Italia

Italy - Croatia

Hrvatska

CRO

1-1 (1-0)

ITALY

Buffon (c)

Chiellini, De Rossi, Bonucci

Giaccherini, Motta (Montolivo 62’), Pirlo, Marchisio, Maggio

Cassano (Giovinco 83’), Balotelli (Di Natale 69’)

COACH: Cesare Prandelli

CROATIA

Pletikosa

Srna (c), Ćorluka, Schildenfeld, Strinić

Rakitić, Vukojević, Modrić, Perišić (Pranjić 68’)

Mandžukić (Kranjčar 90+’), Jelavić (Eduardo 83’)

COACH: Slaven Bilić

GAME SUMMARY

A Mario Mandžukić goal in the second half earned Croatia a 1-1 tie with Italy after a game that Cesare Prandelli’s men dominated clearly during the first half, when Andrea Pirlo’s superb free kick had given them a deserved 1-0 lead. However, the Italian let their rivals off the hook after the restart due to their atavic custom of defending a narrow lead instead of trying to kill the game, and paid dearly for their defensiveness. Croatia will now face a final showdown with Spain, wheras Italy is left with the task of beating Ireland and wait for a score in the other group game other than a tie in order to advance to the knock-out round.

 

Italy had the best of possesion and territory in the first half, with Antonio Cassano a constant thorn in the side of the Croatian defense, while Pirlo was spreading the play and preventing their rivals from getting the ball. The Italians signalled their intent inside three minutes, when Ivan Perišić failed to clear and the ball fell to Mario Balotelli, who took one touch and made a sharp turn before firing a shot narrowly wide. Just eight minutes later, Claudio Marchisio shaved the crossbar with a rasping drive, as the game was becoming a predominantly one-sided affair. A further opportunity for Balotelli, with a snap shot straight at goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, and a Cassano flick inside the area sandwiched Croatia’s most significant chance in minute 20, when captain Darijo Srna played a piercing low ball from the right into the near post and Nikica Jelavić missed the final touch to beat Gianluigi Buffon. This was an isolate episode in an otherwise dominating first half by Italy, who should have taken the lead eight minutes from the break, when Cassano sent a perfect through-ball to Marchisio in the Croatian area and the Juventus midfielder’s left-foot shot was superbly saved by Pletikosa, who then blocked Marchisio’s follow-up at point-blank range. Two minutes later, however, Italy wouldn’t be denied, when Pirlo curled expertly inside the near post a free kick on the left corner of the area. A Cassano header over the bar signalled the end of a first half completely dominated by Italy.

 

Croatia, needing to chase the game, started the second half trying to up the tempo, and within the first four minutes Luka Modrić had two efforts on goal. However, Italy defended orderly and soon the game turned scrappy, dominated by niggly fouls and challenges. Past the hour mark, Balotelli came within centimeters of making it 2-0 for Italy with a fierce drive that went over the bar. The Croatian efforts finally told in the 72nd minute, when Mandžukić skillfully controlled an Ivan Strinić deep ball from the left wing before steering a high strike into the net via the near post. Slaven Bilić’s team, more resilient in this late stage of the game, continued to press in search of the winner that would have sealed their qualification spot, but could not find a second break behind a defense that was well marshalled by Giorgio Chiellini all the time. The 1-1 tie at the end of the game now leaves both sides facing a dramatic final group game.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: PGE Arena Gdańsk (Gdańsk)

DATE: 14-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 36.572

REFEREE: Pedro Proença (POR)

GOALS: 1-0 (Torres 4’); 2-0 (Silva 49’); 3-0 (Torres 70’); 4-0 (Fàbregas 83’)

BOOKED: Xabi Alonso (54’), Javi Martínez (76’) / Keane (36’), Whelan (45+’), St. Ledger (84’)

SPA

España

Spain - Ireland

éire

IRL

4-0 (1-0)

SPAIN

Casillas (c)

Arbeloa, Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba

Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Javi Martínez 65’)

Silva, Torres (Fàbregas 74’), Iniesta (Cazorla 80’)

COACH: Vicente del Bosque

IRELAND

Given

O’Shea, St. Ledger, Dunne, Ward

Duff (McClean 76’), Andrews, Whelan (Green 80’), McGeady

Cox (Walters 46’), Keane (c)

COACH: Giovanni Trapattoni

GAME SUMMARY

Spain finally showed their true colors in Euro 2012 with a clear 4-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland. Vicente del Bosque’s side, who toyed with the men in green all night, raced in to an early lead as Fernando Torres struck in the fourth minute, then a David Silva goal early in the second period gave them breathing space. Torres struck a second time before being replaced by Cesc Fàbregas, who added a fourth goal himself. Spain will head into a final showdown with Croatia with top spot in the group at stake, while Giovanni Trapattoni’s men will have only pride to play for when they face Italy.

 

Under a constant rain, the game started at a lively pace. Ireland had the first effort on goal, with a Simon Cox shot testing Iker Casillas low to his right. Four minutes into the game, Chelsea forward Torres—who returned to the starting line-up after missing the opener against Italy—repaid Vicente del Bosque’s faith with a superb finish after pouncing on a loose ball in the Irish area, eluding Stephen Ward and firing an instant shot into the roof of the net. After the goal, the reigning world and European champions enjoyed the vast majority of possession and laid siege to Shay Given’s goal with their usual tiqui-taca style. The Aston Villa goalkeeper was kept busy during the first half, saving shots from Piqué (min. 17), Iniesta (min. 23), Torres (min. 35), Xavi (min. 42), Arbeloa (min. 44) and again Iniesta (min. 45+). By contrast, Ireland was forced on the back foot and captain Robbie Keane was denied any meaningful possession up front to create danger with his runs into the area.

 

At halftime, Trapattoni introduced the more physical Jon Walters for Cox trying to have a more direct approach in attack, but four minutes after the restart a second Spanish goal left Ireland with a mountain to climb. Iniesta’s shot was deflected by Given to the feet of Silva, who didn’t panic despite the presence of three Irish defenders and slotted the ball calmly into the bottom corner. With Spain threatening to run riot in a helpless Irish team, in minute 55 Given produced a stunning one-handed save to deny Xavi’s half volley from inside the area, and was lucky seven minutes later to see Busquets’ shot go just wide of his left-hand post. At this juncture, it was only a question of time that Spain inflicted more damage to Ireland, and with twenty minutes remaining the match was virtually dead as a contest with a third Spanish goal, as Torres raced onto a Silva through-ball to curl the ball past Given. Fàbregas, who had replaced Torres, completed the thrashing in minute 83 with an emphatic shot at the far post from a tight angle. The Barcelona midfielder, after all the debate about the striker-less Spanish line-up in the first game, celebrated his goal with rage.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Donbass Arena (Donets'k)

DATE: 15-06-2012 (19:00 h)

ATTENDANCE: 51.504

REFEREE: Björn Kuipers (NED)

GOALS: 0-1 (Ménez 53’); 0-2 (Cabaye 56’)

BOOKED: Selin (55’), Tymoshchuk (87’) / Ménez (40’), Debuchy (79’), Mexès (81’)

[Incidents: In minute 5, the referee stopped the game due to torrential rain and lightning. The match was resumed almost one hour later.]

UKR

Україна

Ukraine - France

France

FRA

0-2 (0-0)

UKRAINE

P’jatov

Gusev, Mykhalyk, Khacheridi, Selin

Yarmolenko(Aliev 68’),Tymoshchuk,Nazarenko(Milev. 60’),Konopljanka

Voronin (Dević 46’), Shevchenko (c)

COACH: Oleg Blokhin

FRANCE

Lloris (c)

Debuchy, Rami, Mexès, Clichy

Ménez (Martin 73’), Diarra, Nasri, Cabaye (M’Vila 68’), Ribéry

Benzema (Giroud 76’)

COACH: Laurent Blanc

GAME SUMMARY

France confirmed their candidacy to win Euro 2012 with a convincing victory over Ukraine. In a match that was interrupted only five minutes after kick-off due to a heavy thunderstorm and resumed 55 minutes later, Laurent Blanc’s side took the lead early in the second half when Jérémy Ménez, who had been presented with several chances during the game, slipped the ball past Andrij P’jatov. Yohan Cabaye doubled France’s lead three minutes later, latching onto a Karim Benzema pass before firing a low shot into the corner of the net.

 

Before the game had to be interrupted due to a torrential downpour in Donetsk, an awkward back pass from Philippe Mexès put goalkeeper Hugo Lloris under pressure from Shevchenko. The thunderstorm that started falling before the game increased its intensity and the Dutch referee Björn Kuipers decided to interrupt the game to avoid any risk, as frightful lightning was flashing over the stadium. When the storm stopped and the excess water was removed from the pitch, the game was resumed 55 minutes later, with a first chance for Benzema, whose distant shot was saved by P’jatov. In minute 16, Ménez had the ball in the Ukrainian net, but he had strayed offside to receive Franck Ribéry’s pass from the left flank. Ukraine had their first effort on goal in minute 25, when Sergij Nazarenko picked out Andrij Yarmolenko on the edge of the area, and his low effort went just wide of the right post. Almost immediately, Ribéry robbed Nazarenko close to the byline and crossed the ball to Ménez, but the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder fired over. Three minutes later, Ménez missed another glorious chance when he was assisted again by the lively Ribéry and shot straight at P’jatov. In minute 34, the Ukrainian hero in the opening match, Andrij Shevchenko, got behind centre-back Adil Rami to lash a half-volley into the near post, where Lloris blocked. With action at both ends, Mexès’ powerful header from Samir Nasri’s free kick was turned behind by the impressive P’jatov. Although the French had co-hosts Ukraine on the back foot during the first half, they failed to capitalized on their ball possession, and Oleg Blokhin’s team had also threatened a couple of times on the counterattack.

 

Ménez’s frustrating evening continued after the break when he couldn’t beat P’jatov from an increasingly narrowing angle after a clever diagonal run. Shevchenko almost made France pay for their profligacy with a long-range shot that curled just past the right-hand angle of Lloris’ goal. The persevering Ménez finally found a reward to his efforts in minute 53, when he was sent clear by Benzema, took one touch to beat Evgen Selin and squeezed a left-footed shot inside the right post. Within three minutes, France made it 2-0 when another Benzema’s through-ball picked out Cabaye and the Newcastle midfielder shot low past the keeper into the bottom-right corner. In minute 65, with the Ukrainian defense in disarray, a prolonged passing move of France on the edge of the area finished at the foot of Cabaye again, whose shot was denied by a post. After a promising first half, the Ukrainian team was now clearly on the way down, and France had no problems to control the last minutes of the game and secure a vital win in order to advance to the knock-out round.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: NSK Olympyjskyj (Kyïv)

DATE: 15-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 64.640

REFEREE: Damir Skomina (SVN)

GOALS: 0-1 (Carroll 23’); 1-1 (Johnson [o.g.] 49’); 2-1 (Mellberg 59’); 2-2 (Walcott 64’); 2-3 (Welbeck 78’)

BOOKED: Mellberg (63’), J. Olsson (72’), Svensson (90+’) / Milner (58’)

[Incidents: The game was delayed fifteen minutes over official kick-off time (the actual starting time was 22:00 h) to avoid coincidence with the last minutes of the previous group match Ukraine-France, which was delayed one hour due to heavy rain.]

SWE

Sverige

Sweden - England

England

ENG

2-3 (0-1)

SWEDEN

Isaksson

Granqvist (Lustig 66’), Mellberg, J. Olsson, M. Olsson

Larsson, Svensson, Källström, Elm (Wilhelmsson 81’)

Ibrahimović (c), Elmander (Rosenberg 79’)

COACH: Erik Hamrén

ENGLAND

Hart

Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole

Milner (Walcott 61’), Gerrard (c), Parker, Young

Welbeck (Oxlade-Chamberlain 90’), Carroll

COACH: Roy Hodgson

GAME SUMMARY

England boosted their hopes of reaching the Euro 2012 quarterfinals with a hard-fought win against Sweden in Kiev. Andy Carroll gave the Three Lions the lead with a thunderous header from a Steven Gerrard cross in the 23rd minute. Roy Hodgson’s side remained in command for the rest of the first half, but couldn’t add to their solitary goal and paid the price early in the second half, when a defensive mix-up allowed Olof Mellberg space in the box after a free kick and the Olympiakós defender shot on goal from close range (although the ball was ultimately deflected by Glen Johnson). Ten minutes later, Mellberg scored again with a downward header to give Sweden the lead. However, substitute Theo Walcott levelled for England only three minutes after coming in with a shot from outside the area, and Danny Welbeck scored a dramatic winner with twelve minutes to go with a clever backheel finish to divert the ball past Andreas Isaksson. England now only need a tie in their last group game with Ukraine to secure a place in the quarterfinals, whereas for Sweden it’s the end of the road after two successive defeats.

 

In an open first half, Scott Parker brought a decent save out of Isaksson in minute 7, after Welbeck had rolled an inviting lay-off into his path. Four minutes later, Sebastian Larsson also put Joe Hart to the test with a drive from just outside the area. The English goalkeeper was also in the right place to deny another shot by Zlatan Ibrahimović. Midway the first half, England took the lead after Gerrard sent a trademark cross to the far post and Carroll got between defenders Mellberg and Granqvist to power an unstoppable header into the bottom corner. In minute 36, Ashley Cole threaded an excellent ball through Sweden’s defense for Ashley Young to run on to, but a poor first touch cost the Manchester United winger valuable momentum and he ended up snatching a weak shot wide of the near post.

 

Four minutes after the restart, Sweden equalized when Ibrahimović took a free kick in front of the area and his shot was blocked, but the AC Milan striker fired the rebound back into the area with a karate kick and the ball fell to Mellberg, whose shot was palmed away by Hart only for the ball to bounce against Johnson and into the net. The Swedes, after struggling during the first half, were suddenly on the rise, and took the lead within ten minutes when a Larsson free kick from the right was met by Mellberg with a header from point-blank range. Roy Hodgson took immediate action, replacing Milner with Walcott, and this substitution was instantly rewarded when, three minutes after entering the pitch, the Arsenal winger collected a loose ball from a Sweden clearance of a Gerrard corner kick and fired through a wall of defenders past an unsighted Isaksson. With both teams refusing to settle for a tie, in minute 70 Carroll curled a shot just over the top corner, then Sweden had a double chance in the boots of Källström (a hight side-footed shot) and Ibrahimović (a swerving effort from outside the area saved by Hart). But the best was yet to come, and this was England’s winning goal in minute 78: Walcott drove towards the byline and cut the ball back to the near post, where Welbeck showed superb technique to backheel the pass into the net. Although Sweden tried to react, they failed to threat the English goal, and in fact it was Hodgson’s side who should have made it 4-2 in injury time, when the lively Walcott burst free on the right and chipped the ball to captain Gerrard in the center of the area, but his point-blank volley was instinctively saved by Isaksson.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)

DATE: 16-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 58.145

REFEREE: Jonas Eriksson (SWE)

GOALS: 1-0 (Karagounis 45+’)

BOOKED: Karagounis (61’), Cholebas (90+’) / Anjukov (61’), Zhirkov (69’), Dzagoev (70’), Pogrebnjak (90+’)

[Incidents: The Greek captain Georgios Karagounis equalled Thodoris Zagorakis’ record by earning his 120th international cap.]

GRE

Ελλάδα

Greece - Russia

Россия

RUS

1-0 (1-0)

GREECE

Sifakis

Torosidis, K. Papadopoulos, Papastathopoulos, Tzavellas

Salpingidis (Ninis 83’),Katsouranis,Karagounis(c) (Makos 67’),Maniatis

Gekas (Cholebas 64’), Samaras

COACH: Fernando Santos

RUSSIA

Malafeev

Anjukov (Izmajlov 81’), Berezutskij, Ignashevich, Zhirkov

Shirokov, Denisov, Glushakov (Pogrebnjak 72’)

Dzagoev, Kerzhakov (Pavljuchenko 46’), Arshavin (c)

COACH: Dick Advocaat

GAME SUMMARY

Greece qualified for the knock-out stage with a dramatic win over Russia after a game in which the stakes were high, as a victory for either team would see them through. Against all odds, the Spartan Greeks rekindled the spirit of 2004 and clinched a spot in the last-eight round, whereas the fancied Russians, who had caught the eye of many fans with a 4-1 victory against the Czech Republic in their opening game, said goodbye to the competition. Although Dick Advocaat’s team dominated the majority of the first half, a defiant Greek backline snuffed out their attacks and landed a sucker punch in injury time, when captain Georgios Karagounis latched onto a loose ball and rifled a finish beyond Vjacheslav Malafeev. That was enough for Greece, who defended their lead stubbornly in the second half against a Russian team who ran out of ideas and saw qualification slip out of their hands due to the win of the Czech Republic in the other group game. Happiness was not complete for Greece though, as captain Karagounis picked up a booking that will rule him out of the quarterfinal match.

 

Russia went into the game in the dangerous position of knowing that they needed only a draw to reach the quarterfinals, with even a defeat not necessarily fatal. For Greece, on the other hand, it was win or bust, as only a victory would serve them. At this juncture, Fernando Santos’ side got off to a fast start and won a succession of early corners. In minute 6, Malafeev made an acrobatic save from one of them when Kostas Katsouranis flicked Karagounis’ delivery. Vasilis Torosidis also had a shot blocked from another corner kick before Russia’s technical superiority began to show, Andrej Arshavin poking Alan Dzagoev’s cross straight at Sifakis and then Aleksandr Kerzhakov shooting agonizingly wide of the far post with a superb half-volley. As Russia started to dominate the game and create openings, Yurij Zhirkov spoilt a thrilling break with a wayward cutback and Kerzhakov should have done better seven minutes from halftime when he produced an embarrassing air shot from Dzagoev’s knockdown. Zhirkov also sent a stunning long-ranger centimeters over the top as the half looked to end goalless. In injury time, however, and much against the run of play, Greece took an unexpected lead when the opportunistic Karagounis pounced on a loose header from Zhirkov after a throw-in, ran through on goal and drilled the ball under Malafeev.

 

Dick Advocaat took immediate action and introduced Roman Pavljuchenko for Kerzhakov at halftime. Russia stretched the game in the second half looking for the equalizer—although at that stage they were still qualified thanks to the goalless draw in the other group game—, with both Roman Shirokov and Igor’ Denisov having long-range efforts on goal. Greece sat on their lead and tried to hit on the break, with a tireless Georgios Samaras troubling Russia with his runs. The Greek team grew in confidence as Russia ran out of ideas to break their defense, and in minute 59 they would have doubled their lead had Aleksandr Anjukov not succeeded with a desperate clearance to prevent Fanis Gekas from turning in Torosidis’ cross. Two minutes later, Karagounis should have been awarded a penalty kick when he was tripped and felled by Sergej Ignashevich in the Russian area, but Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson produced instead a yellow card for simulation that will make the Panathinaikos midfielder miss the quarterfinals. In minute 70, Greece was again close to make it 2-0 when Georgios Tzavellas curled a beautiful free kick against the angle of post and crossbar. As news filtered through that the Czechs had taken the lead in their game against Poland, Advocaat threw on more heavy artillery with Pavel Pogrebnjak. Denisov drilled a fine first-time strike too close to Sifakis before Russia’s last throw of the dice saw Marat Izmajlov replace Anjukov. It was all Russian attacks in the dying seconds of the match, but all they could muster was wayward efforts from substitutes Pavljuchenko and Pogrebnjak and a Dzagoev’s glancing header just wide of the far post. With the final whistle came joy for a battling Greek team and disappointment for the Russians.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion Miejski (Wrocław)

DATE: 16-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 44.416

REFEREE: Craig Thomson (SCO)

GOALS: 1-0 (Jiráček 72’)

BOOKED: Limberský (12’), Plašil (87’), Pekhart (90+’) / Murawski (22’), Polanski (48’), Wasilewski (61’), Błaszczykowski (87’), Perquis (90’)

CZR

Česká Republika

Czech Republic - Poland

Polska

POL

1-0 (0-0)

CZECH REPUBLIC

Čech (c)

Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limberský

Jiráček (Rajtoral 84’), Hübschman, Kolář, Plašil, Pilař (Rezek 88’)

Baroš (Pekhart 90+’)

COACH: Michal Bílek

POLAND

Tytoń

Piszczek, Wasilewski, Perquis, Boenisch, Polanski (Grosicki 56’)

Murawski(Mierze. 73’),Dudka,Błaszczykowski(c),Obraniak(Brożek 73’)

Lewandowski

COACH: Franciszek Smuda

GAME SUMMARY

Co-hosts Poland crashed out at the group stage after losing 1-0 to a clinical Czech Republic and continued their negative record of never recording a victory in the European Championship finals. For the unfancied Czechs, the win meant qualification for the knock-out stages after a clear 4-1 defeat against Russia in their opening game. Outplayed for the majority of the first half, the Czechs seemed encouraged by Greece’s lead against Russia at halftime, which left them needing all three points to reach the last eight, and after taking control of the game in the second half, Petr Jiráček’s goal was enough to ensure top position in the group.

 

Poland could only hope for a win to see them reach the knock-out stages, and similarly to their previous two games they had an impressive start. Within two minutes, the Poles nearly gave their boisterous supporters something to shout about when Dariusz Dudka’s overhead kick from close range hit the side netting. Yet they could have been behind soon after should Václav Pilař not have fluffed his shot after Theodor Gebre Selassie sent a low cross from the right. The frantic start continued, and Ludovic Obraniak hit the side netting once more with a free kick from a narrow angle, while Robert Lewandowski should have done better than slicing the ball horribly wide of the left post after being played into the area by Obraniak. Under constant pressure by the Poles, it seemed only a matter of time that the Czech defense would be breached, and goalkeeper Petr Čech had to be at his best to push away Sebastian Boenisch’s dipping long-range effort in minute 22. With the rain teeming down in Wrocław, the action slowed down and the Czechs tried to battle their way into the match, with full-back Gebre Selassie a constant thorn in his opponents’ side. In minute 37, Milan Baroš, after beating the offside trap, failed to control David Limberský’s chip over the defense, then Jaroslav Plašil’s powerful strike from the edge of the area took an awkward deflection off Damien Perquis, but keeper Przemysław Tytoń reacted well to hold the ball. A combination of strong defending and poor finishing was keeping the Czechs and Poles level near the interval, a situation that suited the former just fine, but the shocking lead taken by Greece against Russia on the stroke of halftime meant that both the Czech Republic and Poland needed to win their game in order to qualify for the next round, which ensured a thrilling second half.

 

Spurred into action by the Greek goal, the Czechs responded positively and dominated possession in the early stages of the second period, with their midfield trio Jiráček-Kolář-Pilař pulling the strings, but failed to create any clear-cut chances. However, Poland were conceding needless free kicks on the edge of their area and were nearly made to pay for their reckless defending in minute 65, when Plašil’s excellent delivery to the far post found Tomáš Sivok, whose point-blank header was blocked and then instantly punched away by Tytoń. In minute 72, the Czechs were rewarded for their persistence when Baroš ran through on goal before sliding the ball to Jiráček, who cut past Boenisch and coolly slotted the ball past Tytoń. Almost immediately, Poland head coach Franciszek Smuda brought on Paweł Brożek and Adrian Mierzejewski trying to have a more direct approach to goal, but the aimless Polish pressure failed to test goalkeeper Petr Čech. Although an equalizer was still not enough for Poland, in injury time Czech defender Michal Kadlec kept his side in the tournament after spectacularly heading off the line a Jakub Błaszczykowski’s shot.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion OSK Metallist (Kharkïv)

DATE: 17-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 38.633

REFEREE: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)

GOALS: 0-1 (Van der Vaart 11’); 1-1 (Cristiano Ronaldo 28’); 2-1 (Cristiano Ronaldo 74’)

BOOKED: João Pereira (90+’) / Willems (51’), Van Persie (69’)

POR

Portugal

Portugal - Netherlands

Nederland

NED

2-1 (1-1)

PORTUGAL

Rui Patrício

João Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fábio Coentrão

Raul Meireles (Custódio 72’), Miguel Veloso, João Moutinho

Nani (Rolando 87’), Hélder Postiga (N. Oliveira 64’), C. Ronaldo (c)

COACH: Paulo Bento

NETHERLANDS

Stekelenburg

Van der Wiel, Vlaar, Mathijsen, Willems (Afellay 67’)

Robben, N. de Jong, Van Persie, Van der Vaart (c), Sneijder

Huntelaar

COACH: Bert van Marwijk

GAME SUMMARY

A world class performance by Cristiano Ronaldo sent Portugal into the Euro 2012 quarterfinals after a 2-1 win over Holland. The Portuguese captain finally lived up to expectations in an important match and produced a superb display of runs, passes and shooting on goal. Although the Dutch took an early lead thanks to a stunning left foot strike from Rafael van der Vaart, Portugal reacted strongly and took control of the game, with an ubiquitous Cristiano Ronaldo delivering just when his country needed him most. His two goals cancelled out the Dutch opener, and he could have added to his tally had the woodwork not denied him twice. For the Dutch team, on the contrary, the defeat meant the end of the road and an inglorious return home without so much as a point, although they were considered among the pre-tournament favourites.

 

The Netherlands, who needed a two goal victory combined with a defeat of Denmark in the other group match, started strongly, with 18-year-old Jetro Willems pushing forward from left back. Only eleven minutes into the game, Bert van Marwijk’s side had the breakthrough they were looking for when Arjen Robben played Van der Vaart in the edge of the area and the Dutch stand-by captain beat Rui Patrício with a curling shot into the bottom corner. The goal seemed to spur Portugal into action, and five minutes later Cristiano Ronaldo almost equalized when he cut in from the left and shot against the base of the near post. Almost immediately, Hélder Postiga missed an even better chance when he was sent clean through and shot wide with only Maarten Stekelenburg to beat. The Dutch goalkeeper then kept out a well-struck header by CR7 in minute 23, but the Portuguese captain wouldn’t be denied five minutes later, when João Pereira threaded a defense-splitting pass into his path and Cristiano Ronaldo finished low past Stekelenburg. The Netherlands were stung by the goal and allowed Portugal to take control of the game, with their captain as the prominent figure on the pitch. The Real Madrid attacker twice went close to seizing the lead for his team, first with a distant shot punched away by Stekelenburg, then with a powerful header that went just wide of the near post.

 

The Portuguese domination continued in the second half, but it was Holland who almost scored an equalizer against the run of play in minute 53, when Wesley Sneijder crossed from the left to the unmarked Ron Vlaar, whose close-range header drifted off-target. Hélder Postiga thought he had grabbed the second goal for Portugal on the hour mark when he deflected a Cristiano Ronaldo shot into the net, but he was flagged offside. In minute 66, Fábio Coentrão was denied by a sharp reaction from Stekelenburg, who then frustrated Nani from point-blank range after a marauding run by CR7. In minute 74, the Dutch defense finally cracked under constant pressure when a swift Portuguese counterattack ended with Nani feeding a long pass to Cristiano Ronaldo, who dummied his shot, took the ball into space and prodded home. Holland tried to react and Van der Vaart curled an effort onto the right post, but Paulo Bento’s team created more dange on the break, and CR7 had another long-range shot denied by the woodwork in the last minute.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion u L’vovi (L’vïv)

DATE: 17-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 32.990

REFEREE: Carlos Velasco Carballo (SPA)

GOALS: 0-1 (Podolski 19’); 1-1 (Krohn-Dehli 24’); 1-2 (Bender 80’)

BOOKED: -

DEN

Danmark

Denmark - Germany

Deutschland

GER

1-2 (1-1)

DENMARK

Andersen

Jacobsen, Kjær, Agger (c), S. Poulsen

Eriksen,J.Poulsen(Mikkelsen 82’),Kvist,Zimling(C.Poulsen 78’),Krohn-D.

Bendtner

COACH: Morten Olsen

GERMANY

Neuer

Bender, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm (c)

Müller (Kroos 84’), Khedira, Özil, Schwein., Podolski (Schürrle 64’)

Gómez (Klose 74’)

COACH: Joachim Löw

GAME SUMMARY

Germany secured a clean sheet of victories in Euro 2012 with a 2-1 win over an organized and efficient Denmark team. The Germans, only remotely facing elimination, didn’t want to leave anything to chance and attacked from the beginning. Lukas Podolski, in his 100th cap, broke the deadlock on 19 minutes when he swept a low cross into the net, but the German lead was held for just five minutes, as Michael Krohn-Dehli equalized for Denmark with a header. Germany were content to hold on to the ball in the second half and probed for space while Denmark intended to catch their rivals on the break. With ten minutes to go, as the Danes were pushing for a goal which would have taken them through to the last eight at Germany’s expense (given the victory of Portugal over Holland in the other group game), good work by substitute Miroslav Klose set up right-back Lars Bender, who finished low and hard past Stephan Andersen to spare Joachim Löw’s side a tense final.

 

Germany started the game with their usual line-up, except for the replacement of suspended right-back Jerome Boateng with Lars Bender. The European runners-up began with authority, and the diligent Thomas Müller went close twice within the first six minutes, first with a shot from an acute angle, then with a close-range effort saved by Andersen. Germany continued playing patiently until they found their reward in minute 19, when a Müller low cross from the right evaded Mario Gómez but not Podolski, who scored with an emphatic finish from close range. However, only five minutes later Denmark levelled the score when Krohn-Dehli diverted home Nicklas Bendtner’s header from a corner kick at the far post. Towards the end of the first half, Germany forced the Danes to defend again. Gómez volleyed into the ground and straight at the goalkeeper in minute 32, then Sami Khedira prodded a shot wide from close range. At halftime, with Portugal level 1-1 in the other group game, both the Portuguese and Germany were qualified for the next stage, but Denmark only needed to score one goal to turn the tables around.

 

Six minutes after the restart, Jakob Poulsen went within centimeters of putting Denmark in front when his shot grazed the outside of the left-hand post with Manuel Neuer beaten. With Mesut Özil missing the action in the second half, Germany lost passing speed and seemed content with a draw that gave them temporary qualification, although another Danish goal could be fatal for them. Joachim Löw sent André Schürrle on for Podolski, and the first touch of the Bayer Leverkusen attacker brought an excellent one-handed save out of Andersen in minute 67. A long-range effort by Niki Zimling and an attempt to lift the ball over Neuer by Bendtner showed that Denmark was still in the game. As news filtered that Portugal was now winning 2-1, one goal for Denmark was still required to send them through, but now it would also mean elimination for Germany. However, just as Joachim Löw’s side were showing the first signs of tension, they regained the lead in minute 80 when Özil’s through-ball, intended for Klose, fell invitingly to Bender, who scored his first international goal with a cool touch to the far post.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: PGE Arena Gdańsk (Gdańsk)

DATE: 18-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 38.371

REFEREE: Wolfgang Stark (GER)

GOALS: 0-1 (Jesús Navas 88’)

BOOKED: Ćorluka (27’), Srna (44’), Strinić (53’), Mandžukić (90’), Jelavić (90+’), Rakitić (90+’)

CRO

Hrvatska

Croatia - Spain

España

SPA

0-1 (0-0)

CROATIA

Pletikosa

Vida (Jelavić 66’), Ćorluka, Schildenfeld, Strinić

Srna (c), Vukojević (Eduardo 81’), Modrić, Rakitić, Pranjić (Perišić 66’)

Mandžukić

COACH: Slaven Bilić

SPAIN

Casillas (c)

Arbeloa, Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba

Xavi (Negredo 89’), Busquets, Xabi Alonso

Silva (Fàbregas 73’), Torres (Jesús Navas 61’), Iniesta

COACH: Vicente del Bosque

GAME SUMMARY

Spain qualified for the quarterfinals as group winners after an edgy encounter which was settled by a late goal from Jesús Navas. Although much was spoken during the previous days about a possible pact between Spain and Croatia to play for a 2-2 draw that would see both teams advance at the expense of Italy, Spaniards and Croatians played a tense game, with neither team opening up, and didn’t show the friendly attitude that the Italians were fearing (recalling what happened to them in Euro 2004 when, in a similar situation, the so-called “Scandinavian Pact” between Sweden and Denmark eliminated them). Resolute in defense and surging down the flanks on the counterattack, Slaven Bilić’s team kept the Spaniards at bay for long periods, makind their ball possession fruitless, and even had an excellent opportunity (plus two penalty appeals turned down) to score a goal that would have seen them through. With time running out, however, the Croatians were hit with a sucker punch when a delightful Cesc Fàbregas chip set Andrés Iniesta through to square for Jesús Navas, who had the easiest of tap-ins in front of an empty goal. Croatia continued pushing deep into injury time as they sought the equalizer that could still have sent them through, but they couldn’t get pass the Spanish defensive line.

 

In a poor first period, Fernando Torres came closest to breaking the deadlock in minute 23 when, after working his way down the right byline, shot from a tight angle and brought a good save out of Stipe Pletikosa. Although Spain dominated most of the early possession in their usual style, they failed to create clear-cut chances against a well-organized Croatian team. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué had two efforts on goal, but Croatia replied with a Danijel Pranjić shot low at Iker Casillas, then Mario Mandžukić blazed over the bar from just inside the box. The Croats had a fair penalty appeal turned down in the 26th minute when Mandžukić’s charge down the right flank was brought to an end by a crashing challenge from Sergio Ramos on the edge of the box, but referee Wolfgang Stark waved away the Croatian protests.

 

With Italy winning in the other group game, Slaven Bilić’s side were in need of a goal to qualify and became more adventurous in the second half, attacking Spain down the flanks. Although the ball possession was still Spanish, their attacking moves were too predictable and the Croatian defense had no problems thwarting them. The team in red-and-white chequered shirts created more danger on the counterattack, with Mandžukić stretching the Spanish defense with his speed. Croatia came agonizingly close to taking the lead in the 59th minute when Luka Modrić beat Sergio Ramos on the right and crossed into the box, where Ivan Rakitić’s point-blank header was brilliantly saved by Casillas. Probably shaken by this scare, Vicente del Bosque responded by replacing the ineffective Torres with winger Jesús Navas in an attempt to regain control of the game. In an increasingly open game, Croatia came close again in the 69th minute when Ivan Perišić found space on the left to loft a cross which narrowly evaded Nikica Jelavić in front of goal. Spanish substitute Fàbregas failed to get his shot off in a crowded box in the 78th minute, then Casillas was called into action again to save a shot from Perišić. Sergio Busquets missed a glorious chance with ten minutes to go when, after a speedy Spanish break, he hesitated in the box and was dispossessed by Croatia captain Darijo Srna. After two more chances by Iniesta and Navas and another Croatian penalty appeal when Vedran Ćorluka was hauled down by Busquets in a corner kick, the game was definitely settled in minute 88 when Iniesta was sent clear with a Fàbregas lob over the Croatian defenders, and he squared for Jesús Navas to tap home in front of an empty goal. The Croats didn’t give up though, as they could still qualify ahead of Italy with a late tie, and they pressed hard during the dying minutes, even with goalkeeper Pletikosa coming up in a corner in injury time, but their fate was already sealed.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Stadion Miejski (Poznań)

DATE: 18-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 44.416

REFEREE: Cüneyt Çakır (TUR)

GOALS: 1-0 (Cassano 35’); 2-0 (Balotelli 90’)

BOOKED: Balzaretti (28’), De Rossi (71’), Buffon (73’) / Andrews (37’), O’Shea (39’), St. Ledger (84’), Andrews (89’ > RC)

[Incidents: Damien Duff was given the captain’s armband in this game (Robbie Keane being the usual Irish captain) to mark his 100th cap. The Irish players wore black armbands to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the Loughinisland massacre (Northern Ireland), as the victims were watching the Republic of Ireland play Italy at the 1994 World Cup. Andrews was sent off (min. 89).]

ITA

Italia

Italy - Ireland

éire

IRL

2-0 (1-0)

ITALY

Buffon (c)

Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini (Bonucci 57’), Balzaretti

Marchisio, Pirlo, Motta, De Rossi

Cassano (Diamanti 63’), Di Natale (Balotelli 74’)

COACH: Cesare Prandelli

IRELAND

Given

O’Shea, Dunne, St. Ledger, Ward

Duff (c), Whelan, Andrews, McGeady (Long 65’)

Doyle (Walters 76’), Keane (Cox 86’)

COACH: Giovanni Trapattoni

GAME SUMMARY

Italy secured a quarterfinal spot with a hard-fought victory over a spirited Irish team, although Cesare Prandelli’s men also depended on a positive outcome in the other group game, as a 2-2 tie between Spain and Croatia would have been fatal for the Azzurri. Although Italy dominated for long periods, they were unable to find a way past the Irish defense until Antonio Cassano headed home an Andrea Pirlo’s corner to take the lead before halftime. Giovanni Trapattoni’s side, with nothing to play for in this game except pride, staged a late blitz on the Italian goal which came up only just short. In the last minutes of the game, as Italy realized that the feared “biscotto” of a 2-2 draw between Spain and Croatia was very improbable, substitute Mario Balotelli killed off Ireland’s brave resistance with a second goal after a clever volley from a corner kick.

 

Having learned the lesson of their two previous games, in which they allowed goals within the first five minutes, Ireland safely negotiated the opening stages of the match and kept the Italian attackers in check. The men in green might even have taken the lead straight from the kick-off when Kevin Doyle ran onto Andrea Pirlo’s careless pass, but defender Giorgio Chiellini dispossessed him before he could shoot. However, as the Italian playmaker Pirlo started to pull the strings, Trapattoni’s men found themselves on the back foot. Both sides traded blows for the first half hour in their own particular way, the Italians with stylish and patient ball moves, the Irish with a more direct approach, but neither goalkeeper was bothered at all. The Azzurri attacks were more incisive though, and Richard Dunne and Sean St. Ledger both had to get in good blocks to prevent Antonio di Natale from troubling Shay Given. In minute 34, the veteran Italian attacker rounded the Irish keeper on the right side of the area and shot from a tight angle, but St. Ledger made a vital clearance on the goal line. Almost immediately, Italy had the breakthrough they were looking for when Pirlo’s corner at the near post was met by Cassano with a glancing header that went in, in spite of Damien Duff’s attempted clearance behind the goal line.

 

Two minutes after the restart, St. Ledger again denied Di Natale with a vital block, and Given had to get down well to keep out Cassano’s side-footed effort seconds later with Italy looking to kill the game off. Daniele de Rossi curled a 51st-minute shot over the angle of bar and post, but then Dunne headed wide a Duff corner to show that Ireland was still in the game. Given had to repel another Di Natale effort at his near post with 54 minutes gone, but Andrews tested Gianluigi Buffon from distance for the first time on the hour mark. Sensing that their time had come, the Republic launched a sustained assault on the Italian goal for the final half hour and kept Cesare Prandelli’s team pegged back. With Ireland throwing everything they had at Italy, Buffon had to be at his best to keep out Andrews’ drilled 79th-minute shot from Duff's backheeled free kick. In minute 89, however, the West Bromwich Albion midfielder received a second yellow card for dissent and was sent off, and seconds later Balotelli put the game beyond Ireland’s reach when he hooked home a Diamanti corner with a skillful overhead kick from close range, despite intense pressure from John O’Shea. The wayward Manchester City attacker not only refused to celebrate the goal with his teammates, but was about to shout out his feelings before Leonardo Bonucci came to cover his mouth.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: Donbass Arena (Donets'k)

DATE: 19-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 51.504

REFEREE: Viktor Kassai (HUN)

GOALS: 1-0 (Rooney 48’)

BOOKED: Gerrard (73’), Cole (78’) / Tymoshchuk (63’), Rakyts’kyj (74’), Shevchenko (86’)

[Incidents: In minute 62, a shot by Dević was cleared by Terry behind the goal line, but the referee waved play on.]

ENG

England

England - Ukraine

Україна

UKR

1-0 (0-0)

ENGLAND

Hart

Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole

Milner (Walcott 70’), Gerrard (c), Parker, Young

Welbeck (Carroll 82’), Rooney (Oxlade-Chamberlain 87’)

COACH: Roy Hodgson

UKRAINE

P’jatov

Gusev, Khacheridi, Rakyts’kyj, Selin

Yarmolenko, Tymoshchuk (c), Garmash (Nazarenko 78’), Konopljanka

Milevs’kyj (Butko 77’), Dević (Shevchenko 70’)

COACH: Oleg Blokhin

GAME SUMMARY

After a two-match suspension, Wayne Rooney returned to the English team and scored the goal which earned England a 1-0 win over Ukraine and qualification as group winners. The Manchester United striker, who had missed a relatively simple glaring header in the first half, took advantage of Andrij P’jatov’s misjudgment to score with an easy tap-in at the far post. However, the English victory was marred by a controversial decision, as John Terry cleared a ball behind the goal line and none of the officials saw it on the field (although instant TV replays showed that the ball had clearly crossed the line). For an enterprising Ukrainian team—who had to play without their talismanic captain Andrij Shevchenko in the starting line-up due to a knee injury—the defeat was a hard blow, as they needed a victory to qualify ahead of England.

 

The co-hosts pressed hard during the opening period, with a relentless tide of attacks that kept England penned back. Shevchenko’s substitute, Marko Dević, was at the center of most Ukrainian moves. He had a goalbound shot blocked by Scott Parker in minute 12, then triggered the move that ended with Andrij Yarmolenko stepping inside the box and forcing a low save out of Joe Hart. Oleg Gusev shot over in minute 22 after being gifted possession by Ashley Young, as Ukraine continued pressing hard against a very defensive English team. In minute 28, Rooney’s lack of sharpness after his suspension was evident when Ashley Cole sent a perfect cross from the left to the far post, where the Manchester United attacker headed wide with only P’jatov to beat. Near halftime, Yarmolenko slalomed his way towards the England goal, dribbling past defenders as if trying to cross the goal line with the ball in his feet, until Joleon Lescott made a late clearance.

 

Ukraine had barely composed themselves for the second half when they were suddenly behind after only three minutes. A Steven Gerrard cross from the right took a deflection off two defenders, the ball bounced under P’jatov’s hand and Rooney had the simple task of nodding it home at the far post. Soon after, news filtered that France was trailing 1-0 in the other group game, which meant that Roy Hodgson’s side was temporarily qualified as group winner. With Ukraine throwing everything they had at England, in minute 62 came the controversial “ghost goal” that had Oleg Blokhin and his team seething: Dević beat John Terry with a turn and shot low on goal, the ball spooned up into the air after Hart had a hand at it and Terry recovered in time to clear it under the bar… although TV replays showed that the ball had clearly crossed the goal line before the Chelsea defender hacked it away. Whether this was divine or human compensation for England’s “ghost goal” in the 2010 World Cup against Germany, now it was time for Ukraine to lament the absence of FIFA’s new goal-line technology. The introduction of Shevchenko kept the momentum with Ukraine, but they could not trouble the English backline to the same extent again, in spite of Evgen Konopljanka’s dipping long-range effort that brought an excellent save out of Hart.

 

GROUP STAGE

STADIUM: NSK Olympyjskyj (Kyïv)

DATE: 19-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 63.010

REFEREE: Pedro Proença (POR)

GOALS: 1-0 (Ibrahimović 54’); 2-0 (Larsson 90+’)

BOOKED: Svensson (70’), Holmén (81’) / Mexès (68’)

[Incidents: A minute of silence was observed before kick-off to show condolence for the recent death of the famous French TV commentator Thierry Roland.]

SWE

Sverige

Sweden - France

France

FRA

2-0 (0-0)

SWEDEN

Isaksson

Granqvist, Mellberg, J. Olsson, M. Olsson

Larsson, Svensson (Holmén 79’), Källström, Bajrami (Wilhelmsson 46’)

Ibrahimović (c), Toivonen (Wernbloom 78’)

COACH: Erik Hamrén

FRANCE

Lloris (c)

Debuchy, Rami, Mexès, Clichy

M’Vila (Giroud 83’), Nasri (Ménez 77’), Diarra, Ribéry

Ben Arfa (Malouda 59’), Benzema

COACH: Laurent Blanc

GAME SUMMARY

Sweden, who had nothing to play for in this game except pride, said goodbye to the tournament with a deserved victory over France, who saved the day and advanced to the knock-out stages as group runners-up thanks to the defeat of Ukraine in the simultaneous game played in Donetsk, although this meant that Laurent Blanc’s side will face a showdown with reigning champions Spain. Zlatan Ibrahimović, who couldn’t help his team progress in the competition, left his quality mark in Euro 2012 with a superb volley to open the score early in the second half, then Sebastian Larsson lashed home the second in injury time to give the Swedish fans something to relish in their farewell to the tournament.

 

Knowing they had nothing to lose and absolutely no pressure in this game, Sweden showed their attacking intentions from the start, and only three minutes after kick-off they created the first opening, when Martin Olsson floated a cross from the left and Ola Toivonen outjumped the French defenders to head over the bar. Laurent Blanc’s side, with the dangeous Hatem Ben Arfa and Franck Ribéry on the wings, also threatened the Swedish goal, and Andreas Isaksson had to be at his best in minute 8 to palm away Ribéry’s low shot from a tight angle. The Swedes missed a golden chance in the 10th minute when a miscalculation by Philippe Mexès allowed Toivonen to spring clear and round French keeper Hugo Lloris, but his shot from an acute angle hit the outside of the right post. The French, probably in the knowledge that their qualification was virtually secure, were struggling to make much of an impact in this game, sitting too deep and failing to have a consistent creative spark. In minute 18, Ribéry took a touch to elude Andreas Granqvist and fed Karim Benzema in front of the area, but the Real Madrid attacker blazed the best French chance over the bar. However, it was Sweden who continued to attack with more purpose, with Martin Olsson in particular exploiting the space afforded him down the left. As the game drifted towards the interval in a rather tame fashion, France threatened in the final minute, when Benzema played in Ribéry and his shot from just inside the area was blocked to safety by Olof Mellberg.

 

Sweden continued to look more likely to break the deadlock early in the second period, while the French struggled to break down a resolute Swedish defense, which they almost did in minute 51, when Benzema beat the offside trap to race clear on the left flank and, after cutting inside onto his favored right foot, unleashed a shot which flew just wide of Isaksson’s left-hand post. In minute 54, after Lloris had saved a Larsson volley from close range, Sweden took a deserved lead when Larsson himself delivered a drifting cross in from the right which Ibrahimović met with a spectacular scissors volley in mid-air to send the ball into the bottom right corner. Within three minutes, Sweden came close to adding a second goal when “Ibracadabra” chipped the ball into the area to Christian Wilhelmsson, who drew a magnificent close-range save out of Lloris, then the French goalkeeper made another fingertip save to deny Mellberg. France was having a strangely lethargic performance, but nevertheless their quality up front began to tell, with Samir Nasri drilling a shot wide and Yann M’Vila firing straight at Isaksson. Substitute Jérémy Ménez scuffed a simple chance straight at the Swedish keeper with eight minutes to go, then moments later Olivier Giroud headed over the bar from close range when he should have scored. The Swedish win was sealed in injury time, when Samuel Holmén hammered a Granqvist’s cross against the bar and Larsson lashed the rebound ball into the roof of the net. Then Wilhelmsson almost made it 3-0 when he was set for a one-on-one with Lloris, but the French keeper took the ball from him.

 

1/4 FINAL

STADIUM: Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)

DATE: 21-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 58.145

REFEREE: Howard Webb (ENG)

GOALS: 0-1 (Cristiano Ronaldo 79’)

BOOKED: Limberský (90’) / Nani (26’), Miguel Veloso (27’)

CZR

Česká Republika

Czech Republic - Portugal

Portugal

POR

0-1 (0-0)

CZECH REPUBLIC

Čech (c)

Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limberský

Jiráček, Hübschman (Pekhart 86’), Darida (Rezek 61’), Plašil, Pilař

Baroš

COACH: Michal Bílek

PORTUGAL

Rui Patrício

João Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fábio Coentrão

Raul Meireles (Rolando 88’), Miguel Veloso, João Moutinho

Nani (Custódio 84’), H. Postiga (Hugo Almeida 40’), C. Ronaldo (c)

COACH: Paulo Bento

GAME SUMMARY

Cristiano Ronaldo was again instrumental for Portugal, as he headed his team into the semifinals of Euro 2012. A diving header from the Real Madrid star, who had twice hit the woodwork, capped a dominant display of Paulo Bento’s side against a Czech team that struggled to impose themselves on the game. With his performance tonight, CR7 has taken a giant step in his pursue of the Golden Ball.

 

The Czechs—with captain Tomáš Rosický on the bench because of an achilles tendon injury—started as the more lively team, with their full-backs pressing forward and denying Portugal time to settle, but there was little incisiveness about their attacking play. Petr Jiráček had a decent opening after seven minutes when he worked his way into the area and drilled the ball from the left side, but his effort was blocked by Pepe. In minute 18, Milan Baroš went close to connecting with a Vladimír Darida cross from the right. Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani were struggling to create openings for Portugal, and when the former tested Petr Čech with a shot he was visibly frustrated when referee Howard Webb ruled that he had fouled Michal Kadlec in the build-up. The game was starting to open up as Czech full-back Theodor Gebre Selassie cut in from the right and crossed, with Pepe again alert to clear the danger. At the other end, Cristiano Ronaldo went close in minute 33 with an overhead kick at the far post, then he narrowly missed with a long-range free kick. Portugal was forced into a substitution five minutes before halftime when striker Hélder Postiga suffered a hamstring injury and Paulo Bento introduced Hugo Almeida as his replacement up front. However, the Portuguese grew up in stature as the game approached the interval and, after Nani had a penalty appeal dismissed by Howard Webb, Cristiano Ronaldo almost scored a spectacular goal in injury time when he collected a high ball into the box on his chest, swivelled around Kadlec and shot against the base of the near post.

 

Portugal picked up where they left off in the second half and, within one minute, Hugo Almeida headed over a Raul Meireles cross from the left. Then, on 49 minute, Cristiano Ronaldo was denied by the woodwork again when his free kick clipped the outside of the far post with Čech beaten. At this point, it seemed only a matter of time before Portugal turned their pressure into goals. In minute 58, the Czech goalkeeper made a fine save to deny Nani’s long-range effort, and almost immediately an offside flag prevented Portugal from taking a deserved lead when Hugo Almeida glanced in a Nani’s cross. The Czechs were fully occupied in keeping their opponents out and offered little in attack, but nevertheless produced a dangerous break on the hour mark when Václav Pilař charged down the left into the penalty area, only to send a poor final pass which was hacked clear. Portugal were soon back on the offensive as João Moutinho’s dipping effort from outside the box was tipped over by Čech. On minute 74, Nani had a one-on-one with the Czech keeper, but his shot was deflected over the bar by a brilliant tackle from Kadlec. Cristiano Ronaldo finally broke the deadlock on 79 minutes, when he sent a diving header past Čech from João Moutinho’s right-wing cross. With a lead to defend, Portugal decided that the best way to stay safe was to continue keeping Michal Bílek’s side on the back foot, and Čech had to parry away an angled effort from full-back João Pereira. Cristiano Ronaldo had another penalty claim when he went down under a challenge from Gebre Selassie, but he looked like diving and was lucky not to see a yellow card that could have prevented him from playing the semifinal. Portugal comfortably saw out four minutes of stoppage time to secure their place in the last four, where they will face either Spain or France.

 

1/4 FINAL

STADIUM: PGE Arena Gdańsk (Gdańsk)

DATE: 22-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 39.150

REFEREE: Damir Skomina (SVN)

GOALS: 1-0 (Lahm 39’); 1-1 (Samaras 55’); 2-1 (Khedira 61’); 3-1 (Klose 68’); 4-1 (Reus 74’); 4-2 (Salpingidis [p.] 89’)

BOOKED: Samaras (14’), Papastathopoulos (75’)

[Incidents: The Greek players wore black armbands to show condolence for the recent death of former national head coach Alketas Panagoulias.]

GER

Deutschland

Germany - Greece

Ελλάδα

GRE

4-2 (1-0)

GERMANY

Neuer

Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm (c)

Reus (Götze 80’), Schweinsteiger, Özil, Khedira, Schürrle (Müller 67’)

Klose (Gómez 80’)

COACH: Joachim Löw

GREECE

Sifakis

Torosidis, Papastathopoulos, K. Papadopoulos, Tzavellas (Fotakis 46’)

Ninis(Gekas 46’),Katsouranis(c),Makos(Lybero. 72’),Maniatis,Samaras

Salpingidis

COACH: Fernando Santos

GAME SUMMARY

Germany reinforced their candidacy to win Euro 2012 with an emphatic 4-2 victory over Greece, in what was their 15th consecutive competitive victory (dating back to the win over Uruguay for third place at the 2010 World Cup). The three-time European champions were in control of the game throughout and were never troubled by the Greeks, who scored their goals much against the run of play. With Chancellor Angela Merkel cheering them from the VIP balcony, Germany missed a number of chances before Philipp Lahm broke the deadlock near halftime with a curling long-range effort. Although Georgios Samaras equalized for Greece in the 55th minute after finishing a swift counterattack, it was all Germany after that as Sami Khedira, Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus acored to put the game beyond contest. A late penalty goal by Dimitris Salpingidis came as a mere consolation for Greece, who couldn’t repeat their success of 2004.

 

Joachim Löw made four changes to the side that beat Denmark in their last group game—the most notable being handing Klose his 120th cap at the expense of top scorer Mario Gómez—whereas Greece only had one major change in their line-up, although it was more significant: that of captain Georgios Karagounis, their main creative force in midfield, who was suspended on yellow cards. Within the first five minutes, Klose came into action three times in the Greek area, in one of which he had an effort ruled out for offside after Michalis Sifakis had fumbled Khedira’s shot. Germany was laying siege to Greece’s goal with excellent movements and passing, although Fernando Santos’ side scrambled, scampered and blocked their way with a stout defense. In minute 23, Mesut Özil shot weakly at Sifakis after being set up by the impressive Reus. This chance triggered a triple opportunity for Germany within three minutes, when the Greek keeper palmed away Reus’ effort, Klose barely missed an André Schürrle’s shot at the far post, and Reus again missed the target after finding himself in an excellent position at the back post. In minute 36, Khedira had Sifakis scrambling with another shot after some good work by Özil on the left. Six minutes before the break, Germany took a more than deserved lead when captain Lahm darted off the left flank, controlled the ball with his chest and fired home a swerving effort from outside the penalty area that took a slight deflection off Kyriakos Papadopoulos. Joachim Löw’s side could have doubled their advantage in injury time, when Schürrle cut in from the right and curled a sudden effort into the side netting.

 

The Greeks looked better at the start of the second half, trying to keep ball possession and feed their wingers on the break, but still lacked attacking verve. Then, ten minutes after the break, Greece equalized out of nowhere when substitute Fanis Gekas released Dimitris Salpingidis on a quick break down the right, and the little PAOK attacker sent a perfect cross to the far post which Samaras poked home past Manuel Neuer. It was one of Greece’s few forays into Germany’s side of the field, but enough to make Löw’s side pay for their profligacy. However, the Germans were not shocked by this equalizer against the run of play and continued attacking. Only six minutes after the Greek goal, Khedira timed his run from deep perfectly to volley home a Jérôme Boateng’s cross from the right. Greece tried to produce an immediate response, but Gekas fired over the bar from the edge of the area. However, Germany was unstoppable at this stage of the game, and secured their place in the semifinals with two more goals. In minute 68, Klose outjumped Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Sifakis to power home a trademark header from Özil’s free kick. Six minutes later, the lively Reus lashed in a volley off the underside of the crossbar after Klose’s shot rebounded off the Greek goalkeeper. Although Salpingidis converted a consolation penalty in minute 89, awarded for Boateng’s handball in the German area, it was too late now for the Greeks to stage a dramatic comeback.

 

1/4 FINAL

STADIUM: Donbass Arena (Donets'k)

DATE: 23-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 46.145

REFEREE: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)

GOALS: 1-0 (Xabi Alonso 19’); 2-0 (Xabi Alonso [p.] 90+’)

BOOKED: Sergio Ramos (31’) / Cabaye (42’), Ménez (76’)

SPA

España

Spain - France

France

FRA

2-0 (1-0)

SPAIN

Casillas (c)

Arbeloa, Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba

Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso

Silva (Pedro 65’), Fàbregas (Torres 67’), Iniesta (Cazorla 84’)

COACH: Vicente del Bosque

FRANCE

Lloris (c)

Réveillère, Rami, Koscielny, Clichy

Debuchy(Mén. 64’),Cabaye,M’Vila(Giro. 79’),Malouda(Nasri 65’),Ribéry

Benzema

COACH: Laurent Blanc

GAME SUMMARY

Xavi Alonso celebrated his 100th international cap with Spain with two goals that put the world and European champions into the Euro 2012 semifinals. An early header and a late penalty from the Real Madrid midfielder were enough to see off a pity French team that rarely threatened to impose themselves on the match. La Roja will now face Portugal in an Iberian derby for a place in the final.

 

The team line-ups hinted at a tight game, as Spain reverted to their striker-less starting formation (wth Cesc Fàbregas taking the place of Fernando Torres) while France set out in a 4-5-1 which included two right-backs in Anthony Réveillère and Mathieu Debuchy, trying to prevent the runs and crosses of Jordi Alba. Spain began well, holding possession in their trademark tiqui-taca style with Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta combining magnificently in midfield, but they were not finding it easy to create chances against a very defensive French team, although Álvaro Arbeloa and David Silva enjoyed plenty of space to attack down the Spanish right flank. However, the breakthrough after 19 minutes came from the left, when Jordi Alba latched onto an Iniesta’s pass and sent a deep cross that was met by Xabi Alonso wth a firm downward header. The goal didn’t alter France’s game, as they struggled to keep possession and find meaning connections between Franck Ribéry, Karim Benzema and Florent Malouda in attack. In minute 23, Silva twisted his way into the box and Manchester City teammate Gaël Clichy was ready to clear his cutback to Fàbregas. A Yohan Cabaye’s free kick in minute 32, tipped out from under the crossbar by Iker Casillas, was the closest France came to scoring in a first half where Spain were comfortably in the ascendancy. The Real Madrid goalkeeper caused just a brief moment of panic in the Spanish defense when he dropped the subsequent corner under pressure, but he recovered quickly. Meanwhile, Spain continued trying to pick Les Bleus apart, and Laurent Koscielny had to be alert to intercept Fàbregas’ delightful lofted pass towards Iniesta, then Gerard Piqué was left inexplicably unmarked in the French box from a corner, although the Barcelona defender missed the target with his header.

 

After the break, France tried to increase the tempo, but with no further success, as the midfield was completely Spanish. It wasn’t until the hour mark that Laurent Blanc’s side had their best opportunity of the night, when Ribéry’s cross from the right was headed by Debuchy at the back post just over the bar. As the dormant French attack tried to come back to life, Benzema ran at the Spanish defense before unleashing a shot way too high. The introduction of Samir Nasri and Jérémy Ménez made little difference for France, while Spain brought on forwards Pedro Rodríguez and Torres, a clear indication that Vicente del Bosque didn’t feel that France could overrun his comfortable midfield. Les Bleus were finding some joy down the left flank, where Ribéry worked his way to the byline before driving a low cross towards Ménez, which Casillas just about dealt with. However, Spain were never seriously threatened by their rivals, and found that the best way to defend their lead was keeping ball possession. In injury time, Del Bosque’s side secured their victory when Pedro went down in the French area under pressure from Réveillère and Xabi Alonso dispatched the ensuing penalty kick. Never before had the Spanish team such a peaceful, nerveless qualification for the semifinals of a big tournament.

 

1/4 FINAL

STADIUM: NSK Olympyjskyj (Kyïv)

DATE: 24-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 64.340

REFEREE: Pedro Proença (POR)

GOALS: -

BOOKED: Barzagli (82’), Maggio (93’)

PK: 0-1 (Balotelli); 1-1 (Gerrard) / 1-1 (Montolivo [out]); 2-1 (Rooney) / 2-2 (Pirlo); 2-2 (Young [out]) / 2-3 (Nocerino); 2-3 (Cole [saved]) / 2-4 (Diamanti)

ENG

England

England - Italy

Italia

ITA

0-0 (0-0;0-0) (pk: 2-4)

ENGLAND

Hart

Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole

Milner (Walcott 60’), Gerrard (c), Parker (Henderson 94’), Young

Rooney, Welbeck (Carroll 60’)

COACH: Roy Hodgson

ITALY

Buffon (c)

Abate (Maggio 90+’), Barzagli, Bonucci, Balzaretti

Marchisio, Pirlo, Montolivo, De Rossi (Nocerino 80’)

Balotelli, Cassano (Diamanti 78’)

COACH: Cesare Prandelli

GAME SUMMARY

Italy booked their ticket to an enthralling semifinal with three-time European winners Germany after a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory over a grey England. The Italians had a superior play over 120 minutes at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, but failed to convert their domination into a goal. The English team, although enjoyed some clear opportunities to score on the break and from set pieces, paid the price for Roy Hodgson’s defensive philosphy and never gave the impression of going for the game. In the penalty shoot-out, it was not really luck but destiny itself which sealed the English fate, as they had only won one out of their last seven penalty shoot-outs in World Cups and Eurocups (against Spain in Euro 1996). Substitute Alessandro Diamanti struck the decisive penalty after Ashley Young and Ashley Cole failed for England.

 

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli started wayward Mario Balotelli ahead of Antonio di Natale, with Riccardo Montolivo and Leonardo Bonucci also coming in for the injured Giorgio Chiellini and Thiago Motta, while Roy Hodgson named an unchanged English line-up. All the pre-match predictions of a tight, cagey affair were blown to bits inside the opening five minutes. As soon as minute 3, Daniele de Rossi almost scored the best goal of the tournament as he fired a spectacular first-time volley from outside the area which curved away from Joe Hart’s despairing dive, only to crash back off the post. Then it was England who came close to scoring the opener when, after good build-up work, James Milner picked out Glen Johnson in front of the goal line; however, the Liverpool defender took vital seconds manoeuvring the ball into a position from which he could shoot, and when he did Gianluigi Buffon stood firm to make an excellent one-handed save. After this crazy start to the game, Italy began to dominate possession and created more openings. England was still dangerous on the break though, and in minute 12 Danny Welbeck’s precise effort sailed over after he had run onto Wayne Rooney’s return pass, then Rooney himself met a dangerous Johnson cross with a diving header that went over the bar. The classy Italian playmaker Andrea Pirlo released Balotelli in the 25th minute with a defense-splitting pass, but John Terry made a crucial block to deny the Manchester City striker when he tried to flick the ball over Joe Hart. After the half hour mark, Antonio Cassano’s clipped pass looped over the English defense and dropped invitingly for Balotelli, whose volley went straight to Hart. For minutes before halftime, Pirlo sent a cross to the far post, Cassano headed the ball back to the area and Balotelli was denied in front of goal by Manchester City clubmate Joleon Lescott.

 

Italy spurned further chances at the start of the second half. Within three minutes, Claudio Marchisio found De Rossi in the box, only for the Roma midfielder to miskick a volley wide in front of a gaping goal. Balotelli and Montolivo then passed up consecutive opportunities that arose after Hart could only parry De Rossi’s powerful shot in minute 52. It was the start of an onslaught that had England teetering on the brink as Pirlo took command in imperious fashion, dropping deep and dictating the tempo of the game. After a Balotelli overhead kick that went just over the bar, Roy Hodgson decided to make a double substitution, introducing Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott in an attempt to reignite the English attack. These changes didn’t immediately work though, as Italy continued to dominate the game, with a higher percentage of ball possession and more scoring chances. With ten minutes to go and overtime looming in a game that was losing its initial punch, Cesare Prandelli also introduced two substitutions, bringing on Diamanti and Antonio Nocerino for Cassano and De Rossi. With two minutes left, Nocerino was denied by Johnson just as the ball looked to be heading into the net. In deep injury time, Rooney drew gasps from the crowd with an overhead kick that ended up high over Buffon’s bar.

 

The situation in overtime didn’t change at all, with Italy completely dominating the game (although more tired and predictable at this stage) and England defending orderly and waiting for their chance in the courterattack (rather imprecise and hasty now). In minute 11 of the extra period, what was intended as a cross by Diamanti clipped the far post of Hart’s goal. As the match was heading for a penalty shoot-out, Nocerino scored what seemed a winner five minutes from the end, but his header was correctly ruled out for offside. In the spot-kick lottery, England thought they could change their fate when they were leading 2-1 after the first two shots, but then Young and Cole missed their efforts and Diamanti converted the decisive penalty to book a semifinal showdown against Germany.

 

1/2 FINAL

STADIUM: Donbass Arena (Donets'k)

DATE: 27-06-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 51.500

REFEREE: Cüneyt Çakır (TUR)

GOALS: -

BOOKED: Fábio Coentrão (45’), Pepe (61’), João Pereira (64’), Bruno Alves (86’), Miguel Veloso (90+’) / Sergio Ramos (40’), Busquets (60’), Arbeloa (84’), Xabi Alonso (113’)

PK: 0-0 (Xabi Alonso [saved]); 0-0 (João Moutinho [saved]) / 0-1 (Iniesta); 1-1 (Pepe) / 1-2 (Piqué); 2-2 (Nani) / 2-3 (Sergio Ramos); 2-3 (Bruno Alves [out]) / 2-4 (Fàbregas)

[Incidents: The Spanish players wore black armbands to show condolence for the recent death of Betis defender Miki Roqué.]

POR

Portugal

Portugal - Spain

España

SPA

0-0 (0-0;0-0) (pk: 2-4)

PORTUGAL

Rui Patrício

João Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fábio Coentrão

Raul Meireles (Varela 113’), M. Veloso (Custódio 106’), João Moutinho

Nani, Hugo Almeida (Nélson Oliveira 81’), Cristiano Ronaldo (c)

COACH: Paulo Bento

SPAIN

Casillas (c)

Arbeloa, Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba

Xavi (Pedro 87’), Busquets, Xabi Alonso

Silva (Jesús Navas 60’), Negredo (Fàbregas 54’), Iniesta

COACH: Vicente del Bosque

GAME SUMMARY

Spain will defend their title in the Euro 2012 final after a cagey game and a nail-biting penalty shoot-out against Portugal. Denied by a stubborn Portuguese defense for most of the match, La Roja came back to life during the extra-time, but couldn’t avoid the spot-kick lottery and had a terrible start after penalty specialist Xabi Alonso missed the first shot. However, Casillas saved the next penalty from João Moutinho, and when Bruno Alves crashed his shot against the bar, Cesc Fàbregas converted the decisive kick to send Spain into their third consecutive final in a major tournament, something that no other team has achieved.

 

The semifinal between Spain and Portugal, billed as an Iberian showdown, turned out to be a close, mostly unexciting encounter, with goalmouth incidents at a premium and both midfields dominating the game. Vicente del Bosque pulled yet another surprise with his starting line-up, sending Álvaro Negredo up front for the first time in the tournament, whereas Portugal had Hugo Almeida in the striker position for the injured Hélder Postiga. The European and world champions had a better start to the game, and should have gone ahead from their first chance in the 9th minute, when Negredo pulled the ball back for namesake Álvaro Arbeloa to fire over the bar from the edge of the area. The Portuguese set a deadlock in midfield, wth the trio Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso and João Moutinho shutting down the space where Spain usually dictates matches, while probing the Spanish defense through their wingers Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo. With action missing at both ends, Del Bosque’s side almost grabbed the lead in the 29th minute, when Xavi Hernández’s clever ball found Andrés Iniesta on the edge of the box, who rolled the ball onto his right foot before floating a shot narrowly over Rui Patrício’s goal. Almost immediately, Cristiano Ronaldo had the best Portuguese chance when he dispossessed Jordi Alba and shot with his left foot against the side netting.

 

Portugal continued controlling the game into the second half, with Nani almost picking out the head of Hugo Almeida from a dangerous right wing cross. Vicente Del Bosque thought he had seen enough and replaced the ineffective Negredo for Fàbregas on 54 minutes, thus reverting to a “false nine” attacking formation. Two new shots off-target from Hugo Almeida before the hour mark prompted a new substitution in Spain, with the lively winger Jesús Navas taking the place of a frustrated David Silva, as Del Bosque was trying to stretch the play from the right flank. Belatedly, the Spaniards started to show signs of stirring, and Xavi drilled a long-range shot straight at Rui Patrício in minute 67. However, despite beginning to edge possession, chances continued to be few and far between for Del Bosque’s men. The game was being strangled in the middle, with both teams unable to sustain pressure in the final third. Cristiano Ronaldo, very imprecise during the match from set pieces and shooting, had a glorious chance to score the winner in the last minute, when Raul Meireles fed him after a swift counterattack and the Portuguese captain fired over the bar from the left side of the box.

 

In extra-time, Spain began to dominate as Portuguese legs tired. A run from substitute Pedro Rodríguez set up a chance for Iniesta in the 6th minute of the additional period, but his low shot was blocked by Bruno Alves. In minute 104, Jordi Alba worked his way into the left side of the area and crossed the ball to Iniesta, whose point-blank shot was deflected by Rui Patrício with a reflex save. Spain kept pressing in the second half of extra-time and had new chances in the boots of Jesús Navas and Pedro, but by then there was a certain inevitability about the penalty shoot-out, as neither Spain nor Portugal could fashion a true breakthrough. Rui Patrício initially gave his teammates hope by saving Xabi Alonso’s kick, but it was not to be for Paulo Bento’s side. Casillas evened things up after denying João Moutinho, then Iniesta, Pepe, Piqué, Nani and Sergio Ramos (Panenka-style) all put away their penalties before Bruno Alves—who had inadvertently stepped up for the previous Portuguese penalty ahead of Nani—hit the bar, leaving Fàbregas to put Spain through.

 

1/2 FINAL

STADIUM: Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)

DATE: 28-06-2012 (20:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 55.540

REFEREE: Stéphane Lannoy (FRA)

GOALS: 0-1 (Balotelli 20’); 0-2 (Balotelli 36’); 1-2 (Özil [p.] 90+’)

BOOKED: Hummels (90+’) / Balotelli (37’), Bonucci (61’), De Rossi (84’), Motta (89’)

GER

Deutschland

Germany - Italy

Italia

ITA

1-2 (0-2)

GERMANY

Neuer

Boateng (Müller 71’), Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm (c)

Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Özil, Kroos, Podolski (Reus 46’)

Gómez (Klose 46’)

COACH: Joachim Löw

ITALY

Buffon (c)

Balzaretti, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini

Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi, Montolivo (Motta 64’)

Balotelli (Di Natale 70’), Cassano (Diamanti 58’)

COACH: Cesare Prandelli

GAME SUMMARY

Two goals by Mario Balotelli earned Italy qualification for the Euro 2012 final after a spectacular display by Cesare Prandelli’s side, who outplayed Germany with a top-class performance and extended their unbeatable streak against Die Mannschaft (Germany has never won Italy in a competitive game). The Azzurri neutralized the heavy favorite Germany with a combination of tight defense and ball control, conceding just an injury time penalty after repelling the talented German firepower for the full match. Midway the first half, Balotelli headed the opener from an Antonio Cassano’s perfect cross, then he lashed an unstoppable volley past Manuel Neuer to double the Italian lead before the break. An increasingly frustrated German team was unable to penetrate the Italian defense in the second half, and Mesut Özil’s last-minute penalty was not enough to prevent Joachim Löw’s team from suffering their first defeat in a competitive game since their World Cup semifinal loss to Spain two years ago (they were holding a world record of 15 consecutive victories before this game).

 

Italy began the match without their injured right-back Ignazio Abate, whereas Löw chose to shuffle his forward pack again, wth Mario Gómez and Lukas Podolski returning to the starting line-up instead of Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus. Within five minutes, Germany had the first opening of the game when Mats Hummels’ miskicked effort on goal from a corner kick was cleared by Andrea Pirlo on the goal line. A low cross by Jérôme Boateng in minute 13 caused mayhem in the Italian area after Gianluigi Buffon spilled the ball and Andrea Barzagli almost scored an own-goal with his clearance. From the resulting corner, Toni Kroos tested the Italian goalkeeper again with an effort from outside the area, as the game was following the expected script of German domination. Italy pulled themselves back into the contest though, and Riccardo Montolivo and Cassano posted their intentions in quick succession with long-range shots that Neuer neutralized with two routine saves. However, the German keeper was helpless in minute 20 when Italy took a shock lead, after Cassano showed great skill down the left wing to beat Hummels before sending in a pin-point cross for Balotelli, who soared over the wrong-footed Holger Badstuber and headed home from close range. With Germany restricted to long-range efforts that posed no serious threat for Buffon, Pirlo started to be influential in the Italian midfield as he was against England. Joachim Löw’s side, sitting deep on the halfway line, allowed the Italian playmaker too much space to show his excellent ball control and touch in midfield as he retained crucial possession for Italy. In minute 36, an Italian counterattack caught the German defense napping when Montolivo advanced from deep inside his own half. The Fiorentina midfielder could scarcely believe how much room he was given before he sent a through-ball to Balotelli, who broke the offside trap, composed himself and smashed the ball brutally into the top corner of Neuer’s goal. The young Manchester City attacker was booked for removing his shirt and showing his muscular torso in celebration, but he couldn't care less as, according to the new UEFA disciplinary regulation, single yellow cards don’t carry over to the semifinals and therefore a booking in the last-four doesn’t result in suspension for the final.

 

Joachim Löw made two substitutions at halftime in an attempt to spark his team into life, removing Podolski and Gómez for Reus and Klose, and Germany came forward in waves, with chances for Reus and Philipp Lahm within the first five minutes. However, their efforts at hauling themselves back into the contest were repeatedly thwarted by the Italian backline. In minute 54, a disappointing Özil burst down the right side of the box before cutting the ball back to the near post for Sami Khedira, who was crowded out by a number of Italian defenders before he could react. On the hour mark, Balotelli came close to score a hat-trick when he outmuscled Lahm with his shoulder to make space on the right of the area and then sent an angled drive just wide of the left post. The Italian marksman had to be replaced due to a muscle cramp, but by then Italy were comfortably in control of the game, and came closest to extending their lead as they picked off the holes in the advancing German defense. First Claudio Marchisio and then substitute Antonio di Natale should have wrapped up the Italian victory when presented with gilt-edged opportunities, but their shots went off-target. Germany were struggling to get past the Italian defense, and they failed to produce a string of chances to change the momentum of the game, in spite of piling bodies forward. Buffon twice denied Reus, while Lahm spurned a great chance following a one-two with Kroos. A penalty two minutes into injury time for Federico Balzaretti’s handball gave Özil a goal and his team some hope, but it came too late to produce another classic German comeback, and Prandelli’s men were able to reach the final whistle and celebrate their triumph.

 

FINAL

STADIUM: NSK Olympyjskyj (Kyïv)

DATE: 1-07-2012 (21:45 h)

ATTENDANCE: 63.170

REFEREE: Pedro Proença (POR)

GOALS: 1-0 (Silva 14’); 2-0 (Jordi Alba 41’); 3-0 (Torres 84’); 4-0 (Mata 88’)

BOOKED: Piqué (25’) / Barzagli (45’)

[Incidents: In minute 61, Motta suffered a hamstring injury and had to leave the game. As he was Italy’s last substitution, Cesare Prandelli’s side had to play the last 28 minutes wth only ten men. Fernando Torres won the Golden Boot trophy thanks to his assist to Mata in the last Spanish goal (the Chelsea player tied at three goals and one assist with Mario Gómez, but had less playing time than the German attacker).]

SPA

España

Spain - Italy

Italia

ITA

4-0 (2-0)

SPAIN

Casillas (c)

Arbeloa, Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba

Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso

Silva (Pedro 59’), Fàbregas (Torres 75’), Iniesta (Mata 87’)

COACH: Vicente del Bosque

ITALY

Buffon (c)

Abate, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini (Balzaretti 21’)

Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi, Montolivo (Motta 57’)

Balotelli, Cassano (Di Natale 46’)

COACH: Cesare Prandelli

GAME SUMMARY

Spain went down in the history books after wnning their third consecutive major tournament (two Eurocups and a World Cup), and they did it in style, crushing Italy 4-0 in a rather one-sided final. After a regular tournament and several critics about their game (from “boring” to “slow”), La Roja rose to the occasion and produced a memorable performance when it mattered most. Although Vicente del Bosque chose again his “false nine” starting formation, Spain proved that their danger can come from anywhere, and goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Manuel Mata topped their dominance in this game. As for Italy, although they were faithful to the attacking football that became their trademark in Euro 2012 and were not disgraced during the game, their hopes of a comeback suffered a blow when Thiago Motta, who was Cesare Prandelli’s final replacement, was stretchered off within five minutes of his arrival, leaving the Azzurri to battle through the final half hour with only ten men. It was the first competitive victory of Spain over Italy—penalties excepted—since the 1920 Olympic Tournament.

 

Although the majority of the Spanish fans had shown their preference for a regular centre-forward to be included in the starting line-up, coach Vicente del Bosque refused to bow to these demands and reverted to his preferred striker-less starting formation, after the experiment with Álvaro Negredo in the semifinal. His bet was immediately rewarded wth a magnificent fifteen minutes, in which Spain showed all the virtues that made them European and world champions. Contrary to other teams in the tournament, who tried to stop Italy’s creative playmaker Andrea Pirlo through a tight defense, Spain only needed the quality of their own midfield to hold possession and remove the Italian “architect” from the equation. Xavi Hernández was at the center of operations, dictating play and feeding Andrés Iniesta and Silva in the wngs.

 

Sergio Ramos had a couple of early efforts before Xavi came close to scoring in minute 10 when he shot narrowly over the bar from the edge of the box. On 14 minutes, Spain made the opener with a trademark interpassing play: Iniesta sent a defense-splitting pass to Cesc Fàbregas inside the right side of the area, the Spanish “false nine” got behind Giorgio Chiellini to the byline and floated a cut-back for Silva to head home. After the Spanish goal, Italy tried to react and finally started to see some of the ball. Pirlo’s accurate deliveries from set pieces caused some problems to Iker Casillas, who palmed the ball away to safety as the Italian attackers lurked waiting for scraps. Problems started early for Cesare Prandelli’s side, as Chiellini suffered an injury in an attempted clearance and had to be replaced by Federico Balzaretti on 21 minutes. Disposssessed of the ball in midfield, Pirlo was forced to drop deep into his own defense to start the Italian attacks, and this allowed Daniele de Rossi more space than usual to spread the play between the advancing full-backs. This width suited the wandering movements of attacker Antonio Cassano, who registered his first shot at Casillas, through a slew of bodies, after 29 minutes. Just four minutes later, a fizzing drive from “Talentino” was punched clear by the Spanish keeper. In minute 38, Mario Balotelli wriggled free of Sergio Busquets, but was closed down as he neared the area and let fly with a wild effort that sailed over the bar. These Italian chances reflected their dominance in possession and territory in the last stage of the first half, but Spain showed that they can also defend orderly. Then, four minutes from halftime, the Spaniards made it 2-0 after another series of passes as simple as effective: Xavi was allowed far too much space in midfield to drift into the Italian half and send a perfectly-timed through-ball to Jordi Alba, who broke the offside trap and rolled the ball past Gianluigi Buffon into the bottom corner. FC Barcelona can be thankful they had agreed to pay Valencia 14 million euros for the left-back before the final, as his price would have gone up significantly otherwise.

 

At halftime, although Italy could boast of having played more passes and secured 53% possession (something almost unheard of against Del Bosque’s team), it was Spain who were leading 2-0 thanks to their accuracy and confidence. Cesare Prandelli introduced a second substitution after the break, withdrawing Cassano for Antonio di Natale, and the veteran Udinese striker had a chance on goal within the first minute, but his header flew narrowly over the bar. Spain replied almost immediately when Fàbregas tiptoed into the area past three defenders and shot from close range, only for Buffon and Ignazio Abate to clear the danger before Iniesta could poke the ball in front of the goal line. After a clear handball by Leonardo Bonucci in the Italian area with no penalty call, in minute 51 Di Natale was played by Riccardo Montolivo for a one-on-one with Casillas, but his shot brought a decent save out of the Spanish keeper. The last substitute introduced by Prandelli in minute 57, Motta, made Italy’s attempts to come back utterly hopeless after just five minutes, as he unfortunately pulled a hamstring and had to be taken off again, leaving his team with only ten players for the final half hour. The game slowed down to walking pace as Spain teased Italy and the Azzurri tried to limit the damage. The introductions of attackers Torres and Mata ensured that Spain’s victory would be deservedly emphatic with two more goals in the final minutes. First Torres latched onto a perfect through-ball from Xavi to slot the ball past Buffon, then he sprung the offside trap to square the ball to his Chelsea teammate Mata, who rolled the ball into an empty net. The 4-0 was probably too much punishment for a brave Italian team, who didn’t deserve this humiliation, but there was no way La Roja could be stopped in this game.

 

Spain broke several records after this final, including an unbeatable streak of 29 matches in the European Championship (since their last defeat against Sweden during the Euro 2008 Qualifiers). History makers, how boring...

 

 

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