After only 11 days of world class soccer, the EURO 2012 group stage is under wraps. Before we move onto coverage and promotions (stay tuned!) for the quarter finalists, let’s recap on the brilliant moments and the disappointments of the first 24 games of the 2012 European Championships from Poland/Ukraine.
Group A (1. Czech Rep., 2. Greece)
With Poland as the only country missing a EURO title, Group A deserved a lot more attention probably given to Group B instead. Regardless, these teams showed some true talent. Greece failed to go ahead on a penalty to tie Poland while Alan Dzagoev & Russia smashed on Czech Republic in a 4-1 victory. The second match draw between Poland and Russia would prevent both teams from advancing in the end. Czech Republic and Greece would win 1-0 to send Poland and favorite Russia home early.
Group B (1. Germany, 2. Portugal)
Denmark came out of nowhere to defeat Netherlands 1-0 while Portugal and Germany both battled to finish 1-0 Germany on a goal from Mario Gomez. The second round would expose teams unsteady, as Denmark & Portugal offered a scoring frenzy, with a combined 18 shots on goal. Danish Nicklas Bendtner scored his second goal of the match to equalize with 10 minutes left, only to see Portugal midfielder Varela score in the 87th to finish 3-2. Meanwhile, Netherlands couldn’t contain the German attack, Mario Gomez scored two more goals (3 total, T-1st overall). The final matches were exciting, as Cristiano scored twice to lift Portugal to quarters, and Germany would win out the group (only team to do so).
Group C (1. Spain, 2. Italy)
Italy showed their tenacity in the opening match against Spain. Antonio di Natale came on for Mario Balotelli, only to score on his first touch. Spain brought an interesting formation with no strikers (Villa injured; Torres on the bench). Cesc Fabregas equalized only minutes later. Spain would will their creative and aggressive attacks but Italy held them for a draw. On the other side, Croatia showed tremendous skill in Mario Mandzukic & Luka Modric, to beat Ireland 3-1. Italy battled to tie against Croatia 1-1, and with Spain knocking Ireland 4-0 (two goals for Fernando Torres), Italy could only hope for a victory of their own and a non-draw in Spain v. Croatia to advance. If Spain and Croatia drew, both of them would advance. A 2-0 victory for Italy and a last-minute goal by Spanish sub Jesus Navas (88′) would put the Latin countries forward.
Group D (1. England, 2. France)
The group kicked off with a very dominant French side ending in a Draw against their English rivals. Sweden v. Ukraine proved the co-hosts might have a shot at advancing out of group stage, on the back of veteran Andriy Shevchenko (55′ & 62′). Sweden showed resiliance in their match against England, but veterans Andy Caroll (23′), Theo Walcott (64′), and Danny Welbeck (78′) sealed the deal for Sweden’s departure. France showed their strength against Ukraine, with 11 shots on goal to Ukraine’s two. The final matches would set the standings, as England held on to win 1-0 over Ukraine on a goal by Wayne Rooney, while France fell to runner up in a 2-0 loss to Sweden.
Now the bracket looks like this: