One nils. Something we are used at The Arsenal. That’s exactly what happened in yesterday’s matches at Euro2012. More tactically played games compared to the first day but equally as exciting to watch, if not better. Well, not many can appreciate that side of the game. Goals aren’t always the best judge on the quality of the game.
The first upset of the tournament occurred with the defeat of Holland at the hands of Denmark. The Danes knew what to expect of the Dutch, possession and sharp incisive passing. Morton Olsen’s side rode their luck in the opening period of the first half as Holland peppered their goal with shots. Few needed saving but it was mostly about wayward finishing. Yet, it would be hard to begrudge a deserved win for the Danes.
Van Persie left his shooting boots at home while Robben forgot that he had team mates. For all the prodding and clever passing from Sneijder, the Oranje couldn’t find the breakthrough. Van der Wiel was reduced to concentrate solely on his defensive duties. The pace of Rommedahl worried the favourites and that meant the threat of Van der Wiel going forward was easily nullified. Something we’ve seen a lot in recent seasons with Ashley Cole when we managed to field Walcott on the right.
That pace was ultimately the one that undone Holland in the end. A subdued Christian Eriksen found little space in the middle of the pitch. There were however more joy down the wings for Denmark. Michael Krohn-Dehli made and scored the only game of the game as the makeshift Dutch defence were caught flat footed. The thunderous drive went through the legs of Stekenlenburg but the Roma keeper was hardly the one to blame for it.
Every time RvP missed an opportunity, the camera pans to Hunterlaar on the subs bench. The Shalke 04 striker fared no better when he finally got on in the 71st minute. He had one chip, similar to the one RvP had against Milan but further away, which was blocked by the impressive Andersen. Yet, he would quite rightly be livid later in the game when Skomina (another Milan match link) failed to award the Dutch a penalty when Jacobsen handled inside the box twice.
Bendtner, Kvist and Zimling were the other Danish players outside of their defence who can pat themselves on the back for a good night’s work. Tactically, Bert Van Marwijk got beat today and it isn’t just only about him fielding two defensive midfielders. It’s will not be easy for Holland to qualify out of the group now, while Daniel Agger will quietly be confident about his team’s chances.
In the later match, Germany justified their top billing by garnering their first 3 points of the campaign but it was not without it’s heart in mouth moments for them. Portugal left Arena Lviv with zero points will be heartened by the earlier result and the commendable effort that they put in. Group of death is the most apt word for this group.
There were no major surprises in the starting line-up for both sides with the exception of Loew selecting Hummels instead of his usual preferred starter in Mertesacker. While Bento went for his tried and tested formula of Ronaldo and Nani at the wide positions with the strong midfield of Veloso, Moutinho and Meireles. The exploits of Coentrao from left back was particularly interesting. It replicated what he did 2 years ago in South Africa, driving from deep and becoming one of the attacking outlet for Portugal.
For Germany, Schweinsteiger looked unfit and one wonders how long more will Loew persevere with him before taking a look at Toni Kroos or Ilkay Gundogan. He had plenty to be thankful to Hummels who was a rock at the back when Bastuber had some shaky indecisive moments. Khedira was full of running and covered very well for the defence. Just like his future captain, Podolski must have mistakenly put on the wrong boots, the one that could never find the target.
The cagey affair was blast wide open when Gomez got on the end of a deflected Khedira cross which settled the tie. That was not before Neuer had to make a one-on-one save against Varela and Boateng producing the tackle of the tournament so far against Ronaldo. Varela was the bright spot for Bento’s side as the attempted to find the equaliser but the German wall stood strong.
Advantage Germany but if the matches yesterday told us anything, it was that there were no easy games in this group. Portugal looks much better and organised than I initially thought they were. That’s two teams I’ve got the wrong pre-tournament impression of. Them and Greece.
On to the matches tonight. First up Spain versus Italy. Big game this one. An Italy side filled with the unbeaten (league) side of Juventus in their squad will take on the holders of the competition. Reigning champions who will be looking to be the first side ever to win back to back European Championships while still holding the World Cup. Vicente del Bosque will hope that the 3 weeks have given his side sufficient time to recover from their hectic season while Cesare Prandelli wants his side to concentrate on the match and not the match fixing allegations back home.
The battle of Marchisio/Pirlo/Montolivo against Busquets/Xavi/Alonso as De Rossi more or less confirms that he will play in defence. Both have a pivot who’s not exactly the traditional defensive midfielder in Pirlo and Alonso and it looks to be a real contest. If Balotelli keeps his cool, there will be chances for him against what is likely to be Pique-Ramos partnership at the heart of Spain’s defence. Could be the tie of the tournament, this one.
Later in the day, Republic of Ireland sets foot once again in a major tournament as they come up against Slaven Bilic’s Croatia. One could easily see the fighting spirit of Ireland who looks to overcome their technical inferiority by the tenacity of their game. I don’t think this match will be one for the purists. Trapattoni does not have a lot of attacking options his squad and perhaps he could be looking at salvaging a couple of draws and one win which could see them go through to the next round.
One goal could do it for this match but Bilic will not have the service of Olic to find that elusive goal. That burden should now fall on the shoulders of the man who helped Everton to finish above Liverpool in the Premier League, Nikica Jelavic. However, Irish defenders won’t be adverse to facing him as most of them already play in the Premiership anyway. Will the oldest team in the competition (Ireland) hold up and achieve their target? This has draw written all over it.
Enjoy today’s matches.