Saturday, 9 June 2012

EURO 2012: Group B Review

Netherlands bombardment not enough whilst Gomez pushes lacklustre Portugal aside...

Match day 1: By Archie Barnett

The start of “the group of death” was an eagerly anticipated one, with Netherlands taking on Denmark. The expectations for Netherlands are high, being one of the favourites to win the tournament.

With this expectation on their shoulders, they started with a high tempo and great attacking flair. Robben had a chance within the first 20 minutes, having the opportunity to shoot at close range, however he opted for the square ball which resulted in the attack being squandered.

It was Denmark who were to provide the opening goal though, as the ball fell cutely for Krohn-Dehli who calmly slotted the ball through a sprawling Steklenburg's legs.

The Netherlands then had a penalty appeal turned down in the 28th minute, as the ball struck a Danish players arm in the area. However, the claim was turned down.

RVP had an off day vs Denmark
Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe
A mistake from Danish keeper Stefan Anderson meant that Robben had a chance to grab a much deserved equaliser, with options left and right. However, Robben went for goal with a curling shot, only to see his strike crash against the post and come back out.

Another great chance for the Dutch fell for Arsenal hit-man Robin Van Persie, but a poor first touch left Holland rueing another missed opportunity to level.

Holland’s dominance continued after the break and Stefan Anderson had to be on top form, denying strikes from Robin Van Persie and a thunderbolt from Van Bommel.

For me, the game started to resemble that memorable game on the 13th May, a dominant side that simply could not get ahead. 

An exquisite ball from Sneijder should've been enough to supply a goal for the Dutch courtesy of Huntelaar, but the keeper was there to deny a chip when faced one on one with the striker, and Holland remained 1-0 down.

A huge penalty claim in the closing minutes of the game for Holland was turned down, with the frustration of the players in orange clearly showing. 

28 shots for Holland was just not enough to grab the goal they deserved and they will feel hard done by to leave with nothing. However, credit must go to Denmark - they defended well all game and have come out with a vital win despite being a huge underdog.

With Netherlands losing 1-0 to Denmark earlier on, both Germany and Portugal would've been licking their lips at the opportunity to take top spot in Group B. Germany entertained Portugal at Arena Lviv, with the Germans coming out 1-0 victors thanks to a brilliant header from striker Mario Gomez. 

What a finish! Gomez scores a fine header for Germany
Photo: Joern Pollex/Getty Images Europe

The first half failed to bring the display that we expected, two huge footballing countries up against each other but canceling each other out. 

There were very few chances throughout the opening 45 minutes, however a major chance fell to Thomas Müller who dragged his shot wide after a drilled cross from Mezut Ozil, leaving Bayern Munich team-mate Mario Gomez with his head in his hands.

Objects that appeared to be paper cups were then projected onto the pitch, as seen earlier when Raul Meireles went to take a corner in the third minute, resulting in the PA threatening to abandon the match, if this continued.

On the stroke of half time, Portugal and Real Madrid defender Pepe saw a desperately unlucky curling strike come off the underside of the bar, leaving him questioning whether the ball had crossed the line or not. The official on the line didn't think so, and play resumed.

We have to question Neuer's tactics in goal, does he have some kind of magnetic force field preventing the ball from going in? Thoughts of South Africa 2010 come to mind, where Lampard had a goal go unnoticed, despite the ball crossing the line.

The second half began with Germany pushing forward, looking for that vital break through. A Podolski strike was blocked by the Portugal defence, before Khedira tried his luck. The ball however was deflected off the defender again, falling into the path of Muller who played a ball into the area before Meireles made a vital block, turning the ball out for a Germany corner.

Cristiano Ronaldo failed to make an impact throughout the game, with his club manager in the stands. However, he showed glimpses of what we expected, delivering a tentalising cross into the box which was headed behind by Mats Hummels. 

However, Ronaldo could've been close to opening the scoring if it wasn't for a vital challenge from former Manchester City defender Jerome Boateng. 

But it proved that it would be Gomez who would open the scoring eight minutes after, moments before coming off. A ball in from the right flank was deflected into the box, and a backtracking Mario Gomez managed to get a superb head on the ball, sending the ball into the right hand side of an outstretched Rui Patricio's net.

There was no doubt that this goal gave Portugal a rude awakening, as they suddenly burst into life. A mishit cross from winger Luis Nani hit the frame of a goal, before substitute Silvestre Varela saw his strike saved by Manuel Neuer.

In the end, a Mario Gomez header was enough to separate the two sides, sending Germany joint top of Group B. 

Germans go top as the Dutch occupy fourth

Match day 2: By Archie Barnett

The second round of the "group of death" started with a vital victory for Portugal over Denmark after a late winner and ended with a 2-1 win for Germany, sending the Germans top and leaving the Dutch in last place.

Pepe celebrates opening the scoring vs Denmark
Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe

The Portuguese were the ones who opened the scoring at Arena Lviv, after Real Madrid's Pepe fired a thumping header into the net after 24 minutes. The second came only 12 minutes later courtesy of a low ball from Manchester United's Nani, allowing Helder Postiga to place the ball in the roof of the goal. 

Many may have predicted that Portugal would romp it after going 2-0 up, however Nicklas Bendtner made sure this would not be the case. A delivery in the form of a lofting header across the 6 yard box allowed Bendtner to nod into an open net, after a sprawling Rui Patricio failed to collect the ball, providing a signal that the game was not over.

Cristiano Ronaldo seemed absent for many parts of this game and first major chance came in the second half, however he was unable to make this chance count, firing his shot at the Danish goalkeeper.

Ronaldo then had another chance to make it three, this time clear cut as Nelson Oliveira played a wonderful through ball, with Ronaldo finding himself one on one with the goalkeeper. Many would've put their mortgage on one of the world's best players finding the target from that position, with Ronaldo placing the ball wide of the right hand post.

As if he wasn't already kicking himself, Ronaldo was punished for missing vital chances as moments later Bendtner found the net for the sixth time in five encounters against Portugal, after a searching cross from Lars Jacobsen found the Danish striker free at the back post.

However, a brilliant strike from substitute Silvestre Varela meant that Portugal took all three points on the day, coming out as 3-2 victors.

Gomez scores his second of the game
Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe
Later on, Germany striker Mario Gomez scored a brace in order to all but secure the Germans a place in the quarter finals. 

The Bayern Munich hit man's first goal came in the same minute as Pepe's opener, with the breakthrough coming when a defence spltting pass was combined with an exquisite turn and a composed finish from Mario Gomez.

Gomez then doubled the lead with a great strike, with a helpless Steklenburg left clutching at thin air, as he watched Gomez's strike hit the top left corner of his net.

However, Van Persie set up a nervy ending for both sides as he saw his 73rd minute strike beat Manuel Neuer from outside the area.

The Dutch were unable to manage to clinch an equaliser within the last 17 minutes, leaving them bottom of the table with no point out of a possible six. On the other side, Germany find themselves in first place with six points, needing just a win to clinch a place in the quarter finals.

Germany through whilst Holland crash out

Match day 3: By Alex Babcock

The final games of the ‘Group of Death’ began, for the first time in the tournament at the same time.

The Dutch took on the Portuguese and the Germans took on the Danes. With both games featuring teams that can all still qualify they were bound to be tasty encounters.

Holland started their game magnificently and were on the front foot straight from the start. The first few opportunities went their way and after a couple attempts Rafael Van Der Vaart of Tottenham curled a sublime finesse shot into the bottom left corner of Rui Patricio’s goal on the 11th minute.

Shortly after Holland took the lead the game opened up again and was more of an end to end game. An out of form Cristiano Ronaldo latched onto a cross and forced Maarten Stekelenburg into an immense save on the 22nd minute, as well as hitting the post a few minutes earlier. The Portuguese where knocking at the Dutch door. However, 5 minutes later Ronaldo wasn’t going to squander another chance, and this time he received the ball just outside the box and placed the ball into the bottom right of Stekelenburgs goal in fine style.

Not many chances were occurring after Ronaldo’s equaliser but Nani began to cause the dutch back line some problems but only to find Stekelenburg in fantastic form getting in the way of the Portguese. And minutes later they were at it again, but this time it was Ronaldo again coming close, but not quite getting that final product and putting his team in front.

After the break not much was happening, bar the odd chance. But on the 72nd minute Nani came close but for a great save by Stekelenburg. Ronaldo broke away off a Moutinho ball and made a fabulous run, rolling a great ball towards Nani in the box, but he was denied. He really should have made it 2-1 with that opportunity.

Ronaldo completes the comeback for Portugal
Photo: Lars Baron/Getty Images Europe

Moments later Ronaldo had made it 2-1 however, meaning Nani’s miss didn’t matter at this stage. It was a terrific move on the counter from Portugal. A great little ball from Moutinho tees up Nani, who rolls it to Ronaldo in the box. The skipper strokes home a brilliant finish for his second of the night.

Ronaldo almost sealed Portugal’s place in the quarter finals in the 90th minute when he struck a fierce shot which pounded off the post, which denied him of a hat-trick. However the game did in fact finish 2-1 seeing the Portuguese through to the quarter finals to face Czech Republic in 5 days’ time.

In the other game the Germans were first to break the deadlock and make sure that in 20 games of Euro 2012, there still hadn’t been a 0-0 draw. They broke through the Denmark defence and Thomas Muller pulled the ball back to the penalty spot where the new Arsenal striker, LuKas Podolski was waiting to pounce to make it 1-0 on the 19th minute. What a great way for him to start his 100th cap for Germany.
Although, Germany weren’t ahead for long as Nicklas Bendter kept up his fabulous form and flicked on a header for Michael Krohn-Dehli to nod in from close range on the 24th minute.

Exactly the same as the other group B game, both teams went in at half time scoring just one.
After the restart in this game, again not much was happening. Until the 79th minute when substitute Lars Bender broke into the box a snatched a half chance from an over hit pass and slid the ball into the bottom left corner of Andersen, Denmark’s goalkeepers net.

It seemed Joachim Low's substitution of putting Bender on was going to be the most vital of them all, sending them through to the quarter finals. And it proved to be that as the game finished 2-1 to Germany seeing them through to the quarter finals to face Greece in Gdansk, and quite obviously clear favourites.

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You can also follow Archie on Twitter: @ArchieMCFC

You can also follow Alex on Twitter: @AlexMatthewBab

(c) The Sky Blue View 2012

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