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|Taken from Logo Design Love|
Euro 2012 was, without doubt, something to remember. 31 matches and 76 goals later, we can reflect on what was certainly a thrilling tournament. New stars have been found, and certain so called old boys reminded us that they still had life in their aging legs.
With only two goalless matches in the whole tournament, and even they weren’t fully without goals as these games went to penalties, everyone who watched the tournament, whether in Poland or Ukraine or at home in front of the TV, was thoroughly entertained.
But along with all the thrills and spills, anyone could have predicted that Spain would win the tournament, and that’s exactly what happened; thrashing a somewhat unlucky Italian side 4-0 in the final in Kiev.
While the final itself maybe did not quite live up to expectations with Spain running away with it in the end, just about every other game in the tournament was closely fought out, and thoroughly enjoyable.
The two host nations, Poland and the Ukraine, had their moments of glory throughout the tournament, but sadly, both bombed out in the group stages, and this is something which is commonly seen in major tournaments nowadays; the host nation/nations don’t manage to make it out of their respective groups. This, in a way, is a shame for the tournament as a whole, as when the host nation is still involved in the tournament, it always just feels that little bit more special.
And although in this tournament the host nations didn’t make it through their respective groups, they provided the tournament with plenty of bright moments. The Poles opened the tournament with their game against Greece in Warsaw, in a thrilling 1-1 draw.
While the home crowd were left disappointed with failing to win, the Poles performed slightly better than expected, and while so many opening games in major tournaments are generally dull and flat affairs, this was certainly not, with red cards on both sides and even a missed penalty to boot.
But that was nothing compared to what was awaiting the Poles in their second group match. Facing the Russians, who were coming off the back of a stunning 4-1 beating of the Czech Republic which made all of Europe sit up and take notice, this was always going to be a highly charged fixture, especially considering the political history between these two countries.
And while issues before the game between the two sets of fans weren’t too pretty, the game itself was the complete opposite. A free flowing fast paced match between two teams who are fantastic on the counterattack, it was one of the games of the tournament, which eventually finished in a 1-1 draw after the Poles equalized in the second half after one of the tournaments major finds, Alan Dzagoev, had put the Russians in front earlier.
It was a game to make all of Poland proud, and although they fell to the Czechs in their next match 1-0 which sent them out of their own tournament, they could leave with their heads well and truly high.
The same could be said for the Ukrainians. Just like Poland, a matchday three defeat sent them crashing out, but they could certainly feel a certain amount of injustice.
In their final group match, against England in the mining city of Donetsk, they needed to win to have any chance of making it through to the quarter finals.
While in the first half they put on a good and high paced performance, they couldn’t find that all important goal, and straight anyway after the restart returning striker Wayne Rooney pounced for the English after a goalkeeping error.
That really put the pressure on the host nation, and it showed as they went hell for leather after that setback, and then came probably the most controversial moment of the whole tournament.
Striker Marko Devic broke through one on one, and after just about beating the England goalkeeper Joe Hart, English centre back John Terry looked as though he just managed to hook the ball of the line, but in fact when replays were shown, the ball had quite clearly crossed the line.
|Taken from Times of Malta|
A referee’s assistant, who was standing a mere 5 meters away, somehow inexplicably failed to see that the ball had crossed the line. And so no goal was given, and with that went Ukraine’s chances.
While that moment and game as a whole certainly ruined their tournament, the Ukrainians can certainly be proud of what they achieved. A matchday one comeback win against the Swedes was certainly the highlight, with Ukrainian veteran and legend Andrey Shevchenko pouncing with two wonderful headers after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had stuck against the hosts in Kiev, which sent the whole country into raptures.
While their second match against the French, a 2-0 defeat and their match day three fiasco against England somewhat spoiled their campaign as a whole, they can still be proud of what they showed to the rest of Europe.
As for the rest of the teams in the group stages, the majority of affairs went according to plan.
In group C, the footballing giants that are Italy and Spain managed to find their ways past Croatia and the Republic of Ireland. although at the time of course, we had no idea that these two countries would contest the final between themselves. However, even in the group stages, the match between Italy and the Spanish was a high quality affair which ended in a 1-1 draw.
France and England managed as we know to find their way past the Ukrainians and the Swedes, but without either team really impressing or showing what they were capable of. But in the other two groups, there certainly were surprises and shocks.
In particular group A, Poland’s group. The Russians, Czechs and also the 2004 European champions Greece made up the group, and it was the two less fancied countries who made it through. After demolishing their Czechs in the first game, much was expected of the exciting Russians, and they went into the final group match against the decidedly weak Greeks needing only a draw.
But they conspired to give an insipid performance, which ended with a deserved 1-0 defeat, which in turn shocked the whole of Europe, and the world. With that result the Russians were boarding the next flight home, and the Greeks were preparing for their quarter final along with the Czechs, but it all wasn’t so bad for the Russians.
Young attacking midfielder Alan Dzagoev plundered 3 goals and was the only Russian player to come out of the tournament with any credit at all, and clubs such as Inter and Arsenal are now certainly following him with close intent.
But for the team who topped group A, the Czech Republic, a new star seems to have also been found. Vaclav Pilar, a 23 year old who played for Viktoria Plzen in his home nation but looks to have signed for German side Wolfsburg, managed to score 2 goals, including a sumptuous goal against the Russians, certainly caught the eye with his tricky play, and he is another one who is definitely one to watch.
Elsewhere in the last remaining group, group B, the supposed group of death, more surprises were witnessed. 2010 World Cup finalists the Netherlands somehow managed to hit back of the net only 2 times in 3 matches and went down passively and meekly to 3 defeats from 3, amid rumours of serious problems and unrest in the team camp.
A 1-0 opening defeat to the Danes, who were supposedly the worst team in the group, didn’t set the tone off right, but instead of showing character to regoup, the team fell apart, completely. But for the Danes, despite that opening victory, failed to make it out of the group, falling to the Germans and Portuguese, and the Germans especially impressed everyone with the strength and power of their game, and their renown ruthless efficiency.
The knockout stage wasn’t exactly boring, either. Although, you could say that the results of the quarter finals themselves were somewhat predictable. Portugal managed to see of the un-fancied Czechs 1-0 with a bullet Cristiano Ronaldo header after the Czechs decided to do nothing else for around 80 minutes of the 90 apart from sit in defence, and the strong German team managed to see off the Greeks in the second quarter final, but that certainly was more of an intriguing affair.
The Greeks even managed to equalize the game at 1-1 for a certain period of time, but as the Greeks started to open up more in the second half of that game the Germans took them to town, scoring 3 unanswered goals to make it 4-1 before a late Greek consolation with a penalty, which made it 4-2, and in turn giving the scoreline more of a respective look.
Reigning champions Spain comfortably made it through to the semi finals with a 2-0 win against a French team which seem to lack any confidence in their own abilities, but maybe the most exciting quarter final was the final one between Italy and the English, which may seem a bit of a paradox, seeing as it was the first game in the tournament to end in a goalless draw.
But in a game which had a lot of chances for both teams, in particular with the Italians having many chances to finish off the English in normal time and even hitting the upright, the dreaded penalty shoot out was required.
Italy were first to blink first and miss, but the English conspired to spoil their big chance to end their traditional penalty shoot out nightmare which has tormented them for so many years, and the Italians eventually deservedly found their way through to the semi final, a heavyweight semi final clash with the Germans.
And it certainly was some game. The Germans were favourites, after impressing everyone throughout the whole tournament as a whole, but it didn’t work out quite how everyone expected.
Germany were the favourites but history favoured the Italians, who had never lost to Germany in a major tournament before this game, most recently beating them 2-0 in the 2006 World Cup semi final which incidentally was in Germany.
In this match for the first 20 minutes however, it looked as though Germany could change the history books for good, attacking in numbers, and creating many chances in a slightly nervous looking Italian defence, but after failing to convert, the turning point came.
Controversial but highly talented striker Mario Balotelli headed in from close range against the run of play, and then close to half time, blasting in a stunning powerful drive which in principle finished the match.
The Germans rallied in the second half but could only muster a response in added time, which left no time to find an equaliser. While that was an engrossing semi final, the second semi final, an Iberian derby between Spain and Portugal, didn’t quite follow suite.
A dour affair followed which saw very few shots hit the target, and inevitably penalties ensued, and finally we saw some dramatic action.
After both teams had already missed a penalty each, Bruno Alves smashed his penalty off the bar for Portugal, which left Cesc Fabregas to slot home, with a little more luck from the goalposts, to send Spain through to the final and a rematch of the 1-1 group match between themselves and the ever impressing Italians.
The final didn’t quite match up to the group match however. While that was a closely fought affair, this wasn’t quite so, with bad luck conspiring against the 2006 World Champions, and also the fact the Spain decided to turn up and play their best football, sending them down to a crushing 4-0 defeat.
The Spanish started off quickly, with David Silva heading in off a superb pass and excellent passing attacking move from the reigning world and European champions. And they only got better and better.
Young full back Jordi Alba, who shone throughout the whole tournament and in doing so earned himself a lucrative move to the best club team in the world, Barcelona, charged through off yet another delicious pass to easily beat Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and making the score 2-0 before half time, and practically finishing the match as a contest.
But if it wasn’t already over, it certainly was when Italian substitute Thiago Motta was forced off with injury shortly after coming on, and with Italy already having used all 3 substitutes, the team were left to fight with only 10 men. But it wasn’t much of a fight.
The Spanish, almost disrespectfully, ripped apart the depleted and defeated Italians at ease, scoring 2 late goals through Juan Mata and beleaguered striker Fernando Torres to give the score a slightly flattering look, and giving the Spanish their third major trophy on the bounce, incidentally a world record.
|Taken from Four Four Two|
While they didn’t exactly sparkle throughout in every game, they showed the all important quality in real champions, which is to win when playing badly, and to step it up when needed. It’s going to take some team to somehow stop the Spanish runaway train in not just European football, but world football.
All in all, we won’t be able to forget Euro 2012 in a hurry. Poland and Ukraine certainly put on a good show for all of Europe, and in turn showing themselves in a good light, certainly off the field anyway, where they have certainly proved themselves to be more than adequate hosts.
But maybe in the next time in a major tournament, finally a host nation will be able to make an impact on the tournament in footballing terms, and with the 2014 World Cup taking place in Brazil, the tradition of host nations performing poorly is sure to change.
Written by Shaun Nicolaides
Follow me on Twitter @zenitfan93
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