Euro 2012: Round 2 Review

Back Page Football’s Ger McCarthy offers another comprehensive review of the second round of Euro 2012 Group fixtures and reviews each country’s hope of making the knockout phase and picking out their stand-out players.

Matchday 5 – Group A

The second round of group fixtures kicked off with the Czech Republic defeating Greece 2-1 to get their Euro 2012 campaign back on track. Two goals inside the first six minutes (a record for the Championships) saw Michal Bilek’s side race into a 2-0 lead they would never relinquish. Petr Jiracek broke the deadlock with a neat finish before Theodor Gebre Selassie setup Vaclav Pilar to make it 2-0 before six minutes was on the clock. The Greeks were handed a lifeline minutes into the second half when another goalkeeping blunder from Petr Cech presented Theofanis Gekas with an open goal to slot home. Greece were unable to rouse themselves for the closing minutes and the Czech Republic held on for a critical victory.

Poland and Russia kicked off the evening Group A fixture amid a backdrop of violent clashes between rival supporters on the streets of Warsaw. Inside the National Stadium the Poles and Russians served up one of the most exciting games of the tournament thus far with both sides counter-attacking at the earliest opportunity. Sebastian Boenisch went close to breaking the deadlock before Russia’s Andrey Arshavin took control of proceedings by prompting a succession of attacks with some intelligent passing. The tournament’s most potent striker, Alan Dzagoev, opened the scoring after 37 minutes when the Russian striker netted his third goal in two games. Roared on by their vociferous home support Poland fought back into the game and with Russia tiring, the co-hosts pounced to level. Arshavin’s poor pass saw another Russian attack breakdown before Borussia Dortmund’s Jakub Błaszczykowski cut in from the right wing and curled a majestic effort beyond Vyacheslav Malafeev to earn his side a share of the spoils.


Standout Player: Andrey Arshavin

Flitted in and out of the game but the Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder proved to be the catalyst for Russia’s best moves

Qualification Prospects: Very Good

Russia face Greece in their final Group A encounter requiring only a draw to progress to the last eight. Top spot is theirs if they manage a win.


Standout Player: Jakub Błaszczykowski

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder capped a fine individual display with Poland’s equaliser to earn his country a 1-1 draw. On an evening his compatriot Lewandowski was well marked, Błaszczykowski stepped up and delivered a powerful display.

Qualification Prospects: Good

The tournament co-hosts need a victory over the Czech in Wroclaw on June 16th to make it to the second round. Could yet top the group if Russia fail to win on the same evening.


Standout Player: Kyriakos Papadopoulos

Another eye-catching display from the young defender and one of the few Greeks’ to

Qualification Prospects: Good

Greece know exactly what they need to do if they are to reach the quarter-finals; beat group leaders Russia and hope Poland get the better of the Czech in the corresponding game.

Czech Republic

Standout Player: Theodor Gebre Selassie

The Czech Republic right-back is attracting plenty of attention from some of the top European clubs following two impressive displays in as many games. The right back’s willingness to get forward helped create Vaclav Pilar’s winning goal and Selassie has been one of the nest attacking defenders in the tournament thus far.

Qualification Prospects: Good

A tough task faces Michal Bilek’s side if they are to qualify from Group A. Avoid defeat to Poland in Wroclaw and hope Russia defeat Greece in the other fixture.

Matchday 6 – Group B

Portugal edged Denmark 3-2 in Lviv to reignite their Group B campaign and setup a tense final round of matches on Sunday evening. Pepe broke the deadlock with a deft header after 25 minutes and things got even worse for Denmark when Helder Postiga made it 2-0 shortly afterwards. That was the cue for Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner to stamp his authority on proceedings with a fine header hitting the net before the interval to reduce the deficit. The Portuguese roared back in the second period but a succession of wasted opportunities (most notably from Ronaldo) allowed the Danes to keep in touch. Bendtner duly equalised with his second header of the afternoon and at 2-2 a pulsating clash looked set to end in a draw. Substitute Silvestre Varela had other ideas however and despite an initial fresh air shot the Portugal forward recovered to hammer an unstoppable winner into the net with just 3 minutes left. There wasn’t enough time for Denmark to mount another comeback and Portugal held on for a precious 3-2 win.


Standout Player: – Mats Hummels

Hummels’ marvellous display during Germany’s 2-1 win over the Netherlands outshone the goal scoring exploits of his compatriot Mario Gomez. The Borussia Dortmund defender came close to scoring on one of his many foray’s forward but held the German defence together with some excellent defending throughout.

Qualification Prospects: Very Good

Six points from two games means the Germans have the luxury of resting a few first teamers for the final group game against the Danes. Joachim Low’s side requires just a point from their final Group B encounter to finish top even though a third straight win would eliminate their Dutch rivals.


Standout Player: Nani

The Manchester United winger overshadowed another poor performance from his compatriot Ronaldo and was Portugal’s most potent attacking weapon in the 3-2 win over Denmark. A constant threat down the right wing, Nani created Helder Postiga’s goal and gave the Danish back four plenty of headaches throughout an all-action performance.

Qualification Prospects: Unsure

Portugal go into the final round of group matches in joint-second level on points with Denmark and facing a desperate Netherlands side who require 3 points to stay in the competition. A draw with the Dutch would be enough to go through provided Denmark fail to get a point out of their clash with the Germans.


Standout Player: Wesley Sneijder

The Dutch midfielder was the best player in an otherwise poor team performance in the Netherland’s 2-1 defeat to Germany. Sneijder set up Van Persie for Holland’s second half goal and was at the centre of his country’s best moments on an otherwise forgettable night for the Oranje.

Qualification Prospects: Poor

The Netherlands require a victory over Portugal, a German win over the Danes and a much-improved goal difference to have any chance of making the quarter-finals. A tall order considering how well the Portuguese played against Denmark and the chronic lack of confidence currently surrounding the Dutch camp.


Standout Player: Nicklas Bendtner

A brace of goals in the 3-2 defeat to Portugal reminded critics of the Sunderland striker’s ability in front of goal. Produced a glimpse of his Paddy Power sponsored boxer shorts after scoring which may land him in trouble with UEFA but a repeat performance against the Germans could yet see the Danes progress.

Qualification Prospects: Unsure

A draw is required against a German side yet to drop a point on Sunday evening. The Danes have looked dangerous on the counter-attack but need improved defensive solidity to have any chance of qualifying.

Matchday 7 – Group C

The Republic of Ireland became the first country eliminated from Euro 2012 following a 4-0 shellacking from Spain in Gdansk. The writing was on the wall for Giovanni Trapattoni’s men once Fernando Torres pounced on some hesitant Irish defending to end his recent goal drought and hand Spain an early lead. The reigning World and European champions dominated possession (as expected) for the remainder of the opening half and only some wayward finishing and some backs-to-the-wall Irish defending prevent Del Bosque’s side from increasing their lead. A tiring Irish side saw Spain retain control after the restart and David Silva made it 2-0 with an impudent finish to end Ireland’s resistance. After that, it was just a case of how many goals Spain would triumph by with only Keith Andrews offering any sort of resistance as Ireland struggled to repel wave after wave of attacks. Torres grabbed his second after a midfield mix-up between Sean St. Ledger and Aiden McGeady before Cesc Fabregas was afforded far too much time and space to wallop home Spain’s fourth of the evening. Ireland bowed out with the incessant singing of their loyal fans in their ears while Spain appear to be hitting form at just the right time and look odds-on to progress to the latter stages of the tournament.

Earlier in the day Croatia fought back from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Italy and keep alive Slaven Bilic’s side’s hopes of making the quarter-finals. The Italians dominated much of the first half but were unable to capitalise on their positive start until Andrea Pirlo curled a delightful free-kick past Pletikosa to break the deadlock. Both sides exchanged chances in an energy-sapping second period played out amid high humidity in the Poznan Stadium. Croatia drew level in the 72nd minute somewhat against the run of play when Daniel Pranjic crossed for Mario Manzukic to score his third goal from just four shots at this year’s tournament. Neither side was able to produce a winner leaving both Italy and Croatia in with a decent shout of making the last eight ahead of Group C’s final round of fixtures on June 18th.


Standout Player: Xavi

The Barcelona midfielder a marvellous individual display in the heart of Spain’s midfield to help his country move within a victory of the quarter-finals. Xavi produced a plethora of telling passes’ throughout Spain’s dominant win over Ireland and along with Iniesta and Alonso, now anchors the most effective midfield trio at the tournament. Xavi and Xabi Alonso completed more passes than the whole Irish team put together in the first half.

Qualification Prospects: Very Good

Spain are level on points (4) with Croatia heading into next Monday’s final round of Group C fixtures but will be favourites a second consecutive victory based on their superb display against the Irish. Fernando Torres has rediscovered his goal scoring touch and with Cesc Fabregas also in excellent form the Spanish are gaining momentum at just the right time.


Standout Player: Andrea Pirlo

The Juventus midfielder continues to excel in the centre of the park for Italy. Pirlo capped a superb individual display with a curling free kick that earned his side a 1-1 draw against Croatia. Pirlo has transferred his club form to the international stage alongside Juventus team mate Marchiso and Italy now look set to qualify for the next phase on the back of their midfield duo’s recent displays.

Qualification Prospects: Very Good

Ireland have already been eliminated from the competition so a victory in Poznan over Trapattoni’s men will see Cesare Prandelli guide the Italians into the quarter finals. The form of Balotelli and Cassano suggests Italy are capable of gaining he 3 points necessary to progress.


Standout Player: Mario Mandzukic

The in-form striker netted his third goal in two games and led the Croatian attack superbly despite living off meagre possession against the Italians. Took his one clear-cut chance and beat Buffon from close range after cushioning a deep cross with a deft first touch.

Qualification Prospects: Good

Slaven Bilic leads his side out against the reigning champions, Spain in Gdansk on Monday night knowing a draw may not be enough to qualify for the last eight. Croatia excelled against and Ireland and were determined enough to get a point against Italy despite playing poorly for long stretches. Bilic needs a big performance from his team otherwise Croatia could exit the tournament without having lost a game.

Republic of Ireland

Standout Player: Keith Andrews

The West Bromwich Albion midfielder was the only bright spot on an otherwise dreadful night for Ireland. Commanding in possession and responsible for breaking up a series of Spanish attacks, Andrews’s honest efforts prevented Vincente Del Bosque’s side from running riot.

Qualification Prospects: Over and Out

The Republic of Ireland became the first country to be eliminated from Euro 2012 following their comprehensive 4-0 loss to Spain. Trapattoni’s men have nothing to play for but pride in their final group game against Italy.

Matchday 8 – Group D

France proved too strong for co-hosts Ukraine by recording a 2-0 Group C victory in Donetsk to go joint-top of the group on Friday night. A thunder and lightning storm caused the game to be suspended after only four minute and it was nearly an hour before play eventually resumed. The French completely dominated the game and two goals shortly after half time killed off the Ukrainians and ensure Laurent Blanc’s side required only a point from their final encounter with Sweden. Jeremy Menez broke the deadlock after good approach play from Karim Benzema and the Madrid forward provided the telling pass for Newcastle United’s Yohan Cabaye to seal a 2-0 win.

The evening kick-off saw England and Sweden produce a 5-goal thriller in Kiev. A towering Andy Carroll header from a Steven Gerrard cross handed England a 1-0 interval lead. Sloppy defending contributed to Sweden’s equaliser however when Olaf Mellberg took advantage of some poor Glen Johnson positioning to fire home from close range. The former Aston Villa defender was afforded a free header shortly afterwards to put the Swedes 2-1 ahead before Theo Walcott’s introduction brought England back into contention. A deflected long range effort from the Arsenal winger drew the sides level before his darting run into the Swedish box found Danny Wellbeck who won it for England with an impudent close range finish.


Standout Player: Andriy Yarmolenko

Andriy Yarmolenko was one of the few Ukrainian players to shine during an otherwise forgettable performance in the 2-0 defeat to France. The tall midfielder gave Gael Clichy plenty of issues down the right wing but was unable to produce a telling pass to the likes of Shevchenko despite his impressive workrate.

Qualification Prospects: Poor

A home tie against England in Donetsk and in front of a capacity crowd should inspire Ukraine to produce a decent performance in their final group game of the tournament. Blohkin’s side must win to have any chance of progressing so expect an engaging battle on June 19th.


Standout Player: Karim Benzema

There were plenty of standout performers during France’s defeat of the Ukraine in Donetsk with Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri, Yohan Cabaye and Jeremy Menez each producing individual moments of magic. Yet Real Madrid’s striker, Benzema, set up both French goals and led the attack superbly to help Laurent Blanc’s put one foot in the knockout phase.

Qualification Prospects: Very Good

Only an already eliminated Swedish side stands between France and a place in the quarter-finals. Laurent Blanc needs only a draw to progress while a better result that England’s will guarantee top spot and a more favourable draw in the last eight.


Standout Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

For the second game running Zlatan Ibrahimovic proved to be Sweden’s only class performer. True, Olaf Mellberg scored twice in the 3-2 defeat to the English but Ibrahimovic’s first touch, ability to knit attack with midfield and general all round play marked him down as Sweden’s top performer.

Qualification Prospects: All Over

Sweden’s second consecutive Group D defeat coupled with England and France reaching 4 points means they follow the Republic of Ireland out of the tournament with one round of group fixtures yet to be completed.


Standout Player: Theo Walcott

Arsenal’s winger changed the course of the England vs. Sweden game when introduced as a second half substitute. Walcott hauled his side back into contention with a deflected effort from the edge of the box before setting up Danny Wellbeck’s winner. Could prove an ace of Roy Hodgson’s sleeve before the tournament concludes.

Qualification Prospects: Very Good

Only co-hosts Ukraine stand in the way of England reaching the last eight of Euro 2012. A win or a draw in Donetsk on June 19th would secure England’s passage and Roy Hodgson has cause to be optimistic with Wayne Rooney set to enter the fray following his two game suspension.

The Author

Ger McCarthy

Author of the book entitled 'Off Centre Circle'. Champions League correspondent for Back Page Football, contributor to the Hold The Back Page football podcast, also a contributor to the Irish Examiner Newspaper, SetantaSports Satellite TV Sports Network, NewsTalk National Radio station, Shoot! Magazine and Dangerhere websites.

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