June 21, 2012

Euro 2012’s group stage amazes

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Have you been watching Euro 2012? Well if not, shame on you. What you missed if you weren’t tuned in for the group stages was some of the best international soccer we’ve seen in a long time. Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights) that occurred over the past two weeks.

-There were only three red cards in 24 games – and two were handed out in the opener. They were all deserved too, so no team went down to 10 men on a bad call by the referees

-There was only penalty awarded and it too was deserved. When Wojciech Szczesny took down a Greek attacker in the box, it was the only time at a player got to step up to the spot. With many criticizing players for taking a dive and trying to get a penalty, there refs haven’t been fooled.

-There were zero 0-0 draws. Every game had a goal. Some weren’t as nice as others, but they all count and nobody went home bored after watching any group stage game.

-The hosts gave it all and home-field advantage seemed to matter. Poland and Ukraine were arguably the worst teams in the two worst teams at Euro, but got some results thanks to the encouragement from the home fans. Sure, neither side went through to the knockout stages, but both put up great fights before bowing out.

-There were some amazing upsets. Who would have thought that the Danes would beat the Netherlands? Or Greece would top Russia? Or how about Ukraine over France? It’s these types of results that keeps everyone interested – and boy were we interested.

-The Group of Death, where all of the teams were in the top 10 of FIFA rankings, featured no draws. You would have thought that when the teams were so evenly matched, there would be quite a few ties. Not the case here.

-Speaking of the Group of Death, how was it that Germany was the only team to pick up all nine points in the groups? Earning 100% points in a group that featured Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark is definitely more than a feather in your cap.

-How about all that craziness? We saw an Italian teammate try to shut up Mario Balotelli, a thunderstorm and torrential rain delay a game by an hour, flares being thrown on the field and some good ol’ fashioned riots in the streets. Yes, there was tons of crazy at Euro – and less racism than everyone anticipated.

-And yes, the John Terry “goal-line clearance” gets its own paragraph. Just what we needed: Another call for goal-line technology. The last thing I wanted to hear out of Euro 2012 was this debate, but at least the issue is getting settled very soon.

-Lastly, we saw some of the best players in the world step up and show what they can do – even if just for a game. Wayne Rooney scored the winner for England in his only game after missing two due to suspension and Cristiano Ronaldo looked completely amazing against the Dutch – who didn’t feel the need to mark the second best player in the world. It’s always nice to see what these guys can do and when it’s on a huge stage, it’s even better.
Now, let’s throw down some quarterfinal predictions.
Portugal 1, Czech Republic 0 – The Portuguese survived the Group of Death and Cristiano Ronaldo has found his life.
Germany 2, Greece 0 – The Greeks have been more than lucky to even make it this far. They won’t be able to counter against the strong Germans.
Spain 2, France 0 – The French will get some chances, but won’t be able to convert them. Spaniards are unquestionably one of the best here.
England 1, Italy 1 (England wins on penalties) – At least one of the quarterfinals will go to penalties and this is the most even of the matchups.

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