UEFA EURO2012™: Group B Results

June 17, 2012

Sports

A young, determined German team wins-out and tops the group as a lackluster Netherlands shows a display quite the opposite of what was shown in their run to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Finalé.

Coming into this year’s EURO tournament, most fans were already fixated on Group B, or the aptly named Group of Death.  Many, aside from myself, gave Denmark very little hope of advancing to the Quarterfinals, while most were still riding the high of Holland’s magical run to the World Cup Finalé two years ago (v. España) in South Africa.  Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo was looked at as his nation’s real only-hope of advancing, as Joachim Loew’s Germany was a vastly popular choice as favorites to hoist the trophy at tournament’s end.

Netherlands

Group play began, as unexpectedly expected (if you’re picking up what I’m putting down), with a bang.  Denmark attacker Michael Krohn-Dehli’s winner saw the Danes pull-off an impressive upset of the World Cup runners-up, Holland, 1-0.  Immediately, fans and analysts worldwide opened-up floodgates of criticism toward Le Oranje, questioning Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk’s decision to start winger Arjen Robben, coming off a disappointing showing in the UEFA Champions’ League Final v. Chelsea FC in his home Allianz Arena, as well as Arsenal FC’s (ENG) 30-goal man Robin van Persie.  Robben and van Persie would have both been seen as no-brainers to appear in the starting-eleven but six or-so weeks ago, however a poor run in form by Robben and a sensational scoring record in qualifiers by the Bündesliga’s leading goal-scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar led many to suggest van Marwijk started Rafael van der Vaart and KJH ahead of them.

Dutch winger Arjen Robben has had quite a dismal past couple of months.

Unfortunately for the Dutch, their proverbial commander-in-chief recognized this necessity much too late and left the team to compete largely with Mark van Bommel and Ibrahim Affelay in the fold.  Tottenham midfielder van der Vaart’s inclusion, whether as a substitute or starter, quite visibly made Holland a much more viable contender.  Unfortunately, VDV’s delayed-presence was for nought, as the Dutch finished dead-last in Group B without a single point to show for their efforts.  Robin van Persie, aside from perhaps his lone-bright spot (a sublime weak-footed strike v. Germany), was completely missing-in-action.  Arjen Robben again played as a shell of his old self, and the Dutch back-four might as well have stayed lounging at the team’s hotel.

Three players that I did, however, notice had given 120% were midfielder Wesley Sneijder, 18-year old left back Jetro Willems, and AS Roma (ITA) netminder Maarten Stekelenburg.  This trio can be given a warm round-of-applause by Holland supporters, unlike the rest of the squad.  All-in-all, Holland put on one of the most disappointing performances of any nation in any major international tournament in recent memory.

Better luck in Brazil, gents.

Denmark

What can be said about these Danes that hasn’t already been?  Their stunning clean-sheet victory over the Dutch in the first match of Group B play sent a message to all three of their adversaries that the Danes were in Poland/Ukraine not as tourists, but as hungry contenders.  Outstanding goalkeeping by Stephan Andersen, coupled with extremely commendable efforts by M. Krohn-Dehli, captain Daniel Agger, oft-confident striker Nicklaus Bendter, D. Rommedahl and L. Jacobsen helped put Denmark on the map and reminded the world just why they came into this tournament ranked 11th in the world (according to FIFA.com).  Incredible efforts by the Danes in their next two fixtures versus the Portuguese and Germans may have ended in disappointment, but there is no denying that Denmark made their mark in the footballing world.

In their second game of the group against Portugal, Denmark were hard done by two Nicklaus Bendtner goals being trumped by a last-gasp, 87th-minute winner by FC Porto forward Varela.  Just today, versus the mighty Germans, Denmark may not have played their best game, but they certainly could have made things quite interesting.  Following newly-acquired Arsenal FC forward Lukas Podolski’s 19th-minute strike, Denmark’s hero in the Holland match, Michael Krohn-Dehli, again came to the rescue just five-minutes later to equalize.  Then, in the 80th-minute, stand-in right back Lars Bender (due to J. Boateng suspension) turned out to be the man to cement Germany’s flawless group record, scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory over the Danes.

Denmark’s fans can take a lot of positives from this EURO tournament as they look ahead to key 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

One real disappointment, if one had to be noted, was Ajax starlet Cristian Eriksen’s inability to live up to the hype, as his name’s been mentioned in several high-profile moves during the summer transfer period.  If anything else, this could be seen as a positive for the young man, as we all know how lofty expectations and enormous sums of money can often lead to players being put under too much pressure, causing them to under-perform considerably.

And so, the resilient Denmark has been eliminated from EURO2012™.  However, their class and ability will surely not be eliminated from the eyes of the world footballing community, as the Danes look ahead to qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™.

Portugal

There wasn’t much doubt surrounding the notion that as captain Cristiano Ronaldo goes, as does Portugal.

Their first encounter, a match-up against Germany, seemingly seemed to prove that theory.  Ronaldo’s performance was forgettable, though much credit should be given to Germany right back Jerome Boateng for keeping the former FIFA World Player of the Year in-check.  Bayern München hitman Mario Gomez netted the game-winner in the 72nd-minute, just before he was to be substituted for the prolific Miroslav Klose, and Portugal was both held scoreless and found themselves in the bottom of the Group B barrel.

Portugal’s second-match, against the Danes, was a much-improved showcase of offense.  The Portuguese scored three goals, albeit the third and game-winner had to wait until the 87th-minute (Varela).  Again, Cristiano Ronaldo was largely missing, and the criticism of his inability to show-up on the grandest of international stages surfaced once more.  Most believed had CR7 played to his potential, Portugal could have dispatched of the Danish opposition in a much more dominating fashion.

Whether Cristiano took this to heart or not is unclear, but none can dispute that Captain Ronaldo certainly turned it up against the Dutch in Portugal’s final group match.

CR7 reminded us all how dominant he can be today as his Portuguese side defeated and eliminated Netherlands from EURO2012.

Ronaldo reminded all of us just how gifted of an athlete he is, scoring his first two goals of the campaign and lifting Portugal to a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands.  CR7’s pace, ball-control, and knowledge of the game were all on display — and just at the right time.  Cristiano’s brilliance instantly silenced all of those who were giving Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi a much greater lead in the “Who’s the world’s best player?” debate.

Ladies and gentleman, Cristiano Ronaldo has arrived — not the kind of news Petr Cech and his Group A-winner Czech Republic were hoping for.  Portugal fans will see their country as one to be reckoned with.

Germany

My, my, my.  Germany’s depth is mind-boggling.  Their wealth of talent is perplexing.  Their balance of youth and experience is befuddling.  Apparently, I have a man-crush on Die Mannschaft. (Hm, that sounded weird…)

Germany got their EURO2012™ journey off to a winning-start against the Portuguese, in a hotly-contested 1-0 victory.  Joachim Loew’s side then took the pitch against the Dutch, in a match which seemed to be over by halftime.  Marío Gomez tallied two first-half goals, bringing his ‘Shots:Goals’ ratio to three a-piece.  Netherlands understood that much needed to be altered during the break if they were to get back into the match, and they did just that by bringing on Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to begin the second-half.  These two tactical switches, in addition to a remarkable Robin van Persie strike, were still not enough to steal any kind of result from the Germans’ grasp.

In today’s contest against Michael Krohn-Dehli and the pesky Danes, Germany had to play a very methodical match as it was a Lars Bender 80th-minute winner that awarded Germany the only perfect 3-0 record in group play that we will see in this year’s tournament.

It’s become clear that Germany’s real strength comes from their entire squad playing as one.  From their goalkeeper to their forwards, Germany always appear to be on the same wavelength moving forward or backward.  Unlike the Dutch, whose star-players seem to have brought the “there is an ‘i’ in ‘team'” approach to Poland/Ukraine with them, Germany has taken pride in performing as a cohesive unit.  Captain Philipp Lahm has kept his relatively young back-four in sensational form, with the likes of Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, and Holger Badstuber all keeping the opposition at bay.

Germany coach Joachim Loew has an absolute hoard of youth, talent, and experience at his disposal.

A dream-team in midfield, boasting Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil, and Lukas Podolski, has been the backbone of the squad.  Striker Marío Gomez has noticeably put the horror that was the UEFA Champions’ League Final behind him and reverted back to the form that led to him being regarded as one of the premier forwards in all of world-football.

Group B:  Final Results

1.  Germany  3-0-0  9 points

2.  Portugal  2-1-0  6 points

3.  Denmark  1-0-2  3 points

4.  Netherlands  0-3-0  0 points

Quarterfinals

As the brackets suggest, the winner of Group B (Germany) will clash with the runner-up of Group A (Greece).  The winners of Group A (Czech Republic) will square-off against the runner-up of Group B (Portugal).

Most will agree that both Germany and Portugal should be heavy-favorites to advance to the EURO2012™ Semi-Finals, but as we’ve seen throughout the tournament, crazy things can and will happen.

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About raymondbolduc

A 24-year-old from Rhode Island [USA] simply seizing the opportunity to share my thoughts with you and the rest of the world. I hope you enjoy my material.

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