Euro 2012: Round 1

The first round of Euro 2012 group games have been played, throwing up a few shockers.

Here’s a summary of the games, and my thoughts on what has been, what is, and what will be.

Group A

Poland 1 – 1 Greece

Salpingidis’s strike rescued a point for Greece after Lewandowski put them ahead with a good header after 17 minutes. Both teams finished the game with 10 men, although one was a deserved red card (Szczesny’s for bringing down Salpingidis in the box) the other wasn’t, as neither of Papastathopoulos’ yellow cards were warranted.

The ref had a shocker in my opinion, but Greece as a whole had a shocker too. Despite Poland’s dominance throughout the game, they were lucky to come away with a point because Karagounis couldn’t convert the penalty – which was a huge moment for Tyton, who’ll take his spot in goal for the next game against Russia.

Russia 4 – 1 Czech Republic

Arguably the best game of the round. I did expect Russia to win, but not by this  margin. They were consistently finding the space between defence and midfield and running riot with their through balls. It was a great game to watch, full of passion and desire, rounded off with some top class goals.

Pavlyuchenko was a surprise omission from the first time for me, but when he came on he had an instant impact, turning inside and out before firing home a shot into the top corner. I think Petr Cech will be disappointed with his contribution to the game. Usually I’m the first one to be defending a goalkeeper (as I played in that position for a while, and it’s ALWAYS the defence’s fault, no matter what!) but he really should have done better with one or two of the goals.

The Czech’s face Greece in what I expect to be a tight and low-scoring game.

Group B

German 1 – 0 Portugal

This game was marred with controversy throughout. The German fans were repeatedly told over the tannoy to stop throwing ‘missiles’ onto the pitch. It was only paper, but rules are rules, and they didn’t stop. So now the German FA have been charged with failure to stop their fans from doing so.

The fans were probably frustrated that Portugal were playing for a 0-0 draw, despite having the better attacking side on paper. It took 72 minutes for the deadlock to be broken by Mario Gomez’s fantastic header back across the ‘keeper, and thankfully that spurred Portugal into life.

For the next 20 minutes the game was actually fun to watch, but unfortunately no more goals were scored.  On the pitch the game was played generally in a good spirit, it’s just a shame that a selection of fans have ruined how people will perceive them from now on.

Netherlands 0 – 1 Denmark

Obviously the biggest upset in the first round, Denmark managed to hold on to their 24th minute lead when Krohn-Dehli smashed the ball through the Dutch ‘keepers’ legs.

The Netherlands had 29 shots at goal. 29! But couldn’t make a single one count as only 9 of them were actually on target. They came into the match with a certain arrogance which said “we’re going to win this comfortably”, and you’d have thought that to be right for the first 20 minutes when they were getting closer and closer to a goal, but couldn’t quite put the final piece to the puzzle.

I was bewildered as to how Holland couldn’t put the ball into the net, with all their strikers and attacking prowess you’d have thought they could make one chance count, but time and time again they seemed to be playing “Arsenal football” and trying to make one too many passes, rather than having a dig themselves.

There’s a tasty affair next with Germany for the Netherlands. I wonder what team will turn up – I hope one with a decent pair of shooting boots at least.

Group C

Rep. of Ireland 1 – 3 Croatia

The Rep. of Ireland absolutely went for it in this game, playing very attacking football like they had nothing to lose. All credit to them. It’s just a shame they came up against a very good Croatian team who had a bit of luck.

The Croatian’s third goal especially was lucky, as the ball came back off the post but only to rebound back into the goal off Shay Given’s head. He could have done a better job with the first goal though, a tame deflected shot just gliding softly passed him. If he could have kept that out, maybe it would have been a different game entirely.

St Ledger scored Ireland’s first goal with a decent header but it wasn’t enough to bring them back into the game after being 2-0 down. Their next game is against reigning champions Spain, and you can’t really see them getting anything from the game.

Spain 1 – 1 Italy

A game that I thought would be full of goals, but instead turned out to be a little bit disappointing in that respect. Spain started with no recognizable striker, which I couldn’t work out, especially if you have the likes of Llorente and Torres on the bench.

The first half was about 50/50, both teams playing tactically superb and having numerous opportunities, to only be denied by either good goalkeeping or defending.

Di Natale broke the deadlock shortly after coming off the bench to stake his claim for a starting place in the next game, but Cesc Fabregas managed to grab an equaliser after some neat (obviously) passing play and fluid movement around the box.

It was probably a fair result in the end, and means that either one of Spain or Italy will have to pull their socks up in their remaining games to battle it out for a spot in the knock-out section of the tournament.

Group D

France 1 – 1 England

A good result for England? Before the game you would have said yes, but looking back, I think we all know we could have taken them. If Milner had scored when he rounded the ‘keeper it could have been a whole different outcome, but it wasn’t to be.

Lescott’s first goal was a good one on the half hour. It could have led the way for an England onslaught, but it was the opposite. France fought back and could have equalised sooner than they did when Diarra – whose fault it was for the goal – missed a good opportunity.

Joe Hart was in good form, and I dare say that if it was any other England goalkeeper, we wouldn’t have got a point from the game. Even though he’s one of the youngest players in the squad, he’s probably one of the first players who you’d pick to start. A future England great.

France’s attackers did disappoint me a bit. I thought there wasn’t much movement and, even though it was very hot, not a lot of energy expelled. England’s defence though coped really well when called upon, especially Scott Parker who threw himself in front of every shot that came in, apart from one, the goal from Samir Nasri. But Parker can’t be blamed for that, it was a clever strike and a good goal.

I’d take the point and run.

Ukraine 2 – 1 Sweden

An historic win for Ukraine as the co-hosts came from behind to beat Sweden in front of  a packed stadium full of yellow.

Ibrahimovic – for me, the most overrated striker in the tournament – put Sweden ahead but only for Shevchenko to score two headers in six minutes to get three points and put them on top of the group.

The second header should never have been a goal. From a corner, with a man on the post, and the header goes between the post and that man, terrible terrible defending. If I was the Swedish coach, that defender wouldn’t be starting the next game, I don’t care if he was the captain, or the most consistent player of the game, his lack of concentration cost the team a point and left them at the foot of the table.

It was a good win for the underdog, and I really enjoyed watching the crowd and the players erupt as if they’d won the tournament once the final whistle had gone. It’ll be interesting to see if they can continue this good run of form against France and maybe help England get a step up on their fierce rivals.

Sweden looked in disarray for most of the game, purely relying on Ibrahimovic to come up with something special and win them the game. That isn’t how football is played, it’s a team effort. They’ll need to seriously improve if they want to get anything from England in their next game.

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About Matthew Norman

A Search Manager working in the SEO department with three years of digital marketing experience in Middlesbrough, UK and now in Sydney.

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