Tuesday saw the introduction of the second group stage matches as the co-hosts of Poland challenged Russia in their own national stadium in Warsaw. The Czech Republic were looking to bounce back from the 4-1 mauling against Russia on Friday night as they entertained Greece in Wroclaw in the earlier kick-off.
The Czechs, who looked flat and uninspiring in their opening contest got off to a flying start against the 2004 champions of the tournament. Vaclac Pilar doubled his tally for the tournament on 6 minutes, only moments after the impressive Petr Jiracek opened the scoring for the Czechs.
With just six minutes gone they had already accounted for half of the shots on target which would occur for the remainder of the match. The match saw just 16 shots, a combined low total for any Euro match since 1980. Greece had a goal ruled out before the break as Theofanis Gekas saw his celebrations cut short.
Petr Cech gifted Greece their second goal of the tournament as Gekas, who was denied before half-time, had a gaping net to aim for on 53 minutes as Cech managed to spill the ball out to the Greek substitute. Greece’s tame attempts to salvage the draw meant they would prop up the group table going into the final matchday knowing that only a win against Russia will send them through to the quarter finals.
The later kick-off between fierce rivals Poland and Russia was marred prior to the beginning of the match due to violence between some sets of fans outside the national stadium in Warsaw. Because it was Russia’s national holiday, some Russian fans set-up a march through the city only to be denied by sections of the Polish contingent.
In contrasting scenes inside the stadium, the match was a delight to view. Polish peppered the Russian goal early on but it was Alan Dzagoev who opened the scoring, netting his third of the tournament as Russia set their sights on qualification from Group A in Warsaw.
Russia’s efforts were to be undone by a stroke of genius from the co-hosts’ captain, Jakub Blaszczykowski as his rasping right-footed effort from outside the area nearly tore the net apart. Both sides battled right until the bitter end until the final whistle blew and Poland had a credible 1-1 draw to celebrate against their rivals.
The draw blows Group A wide open ahead of Saturday’s crunch matches.
The second group was blown wide open as the group of death took another turn for the worse in the case of Robin van Persie and his Dutch side as Denmark and Portugal played out an exciting encounter in Lviv.
Just like Mario Gomez who now tops the scoring ranks alongside Russia’s Alan Dzagoev, Cristiano Ronaldo has rattled in plenty of goals for his club side but the difference between the two forwards is that the Portuguese and Real Madrid Ronaldo couldn’t pull off the performance necessary.
Ronaldo, who was prolific, netting 60 times in the season must transform when he stepped on the Ukrainian turf in his Portuguese shirt. Many chances went a begging for Real’s top goalscorer, many that he would have netted with consummate ease in the white of Madrid.
In a dull opening, Pepe’s header brought the game to life 24 minutes in and soon after former Tottenham forward, Helder Postiga doubled Portugal’s lead over Denmark who didn’t look as though they were going to emulating their shock against Holland.
Michael Krohn-Dehli and Nicklas Bendtner linked up via headers to claw a goal back shortly before the break. As soon as the hour mark passed it seemed as though all of the match’s chances were falling to Cristiano Ronaldo, he had his first thwarted by Andersen but he slotted a one-on-one a couple of yards bizarrely wide of the mark.
That latter miss looked crucial as on the next attack, Nicklas Bendtner doubled his tally for the match and in turn levelling the match up with just ten minutes to go. With Nani and Meireles off for the likes of the inexperienced pair of Varela and Oliveira, it looked as though Denmark were scraping through to the quarter finals.
However, the former of the substitutions, Varela was the cue needed for the Portuguese fans to let out a huge sigh of relief. The Portuguese forward struck a ferocious effort at goal which Andersen, the Dane in goal wasn’t equal to it.
The late strike was irreversible for the Danes as it seems they would face a nail biting finale when they face Germany in Lviv on Monday. Germany, alternatively, are all but through after a commanding 2-1 victory over Holland, whose tournament looks to be over after a Mario Gomez brace.
The third prolific striker of the Group B story, Robin van Persie had the chance to salvage Holland’s failing campaign and in part he did, by netting a long range strike. It would become only a consolation prize after Gomez’s double in the first half.
As Ronaldo has flopped, so has van Persie with Gomez seemingly winning the race for the Euro 2012 golden boot. The German forward’s turn leading up to his first was majestic and managed to improve his poor performance from the opener against Portugal. If his first strike was good then his second crack at goal ripped through the net, pinpointed into the side netting to double Germany’s lead.
Van Persie may have ensured that every nation as scored at the championships but it may only result in a consolation as they prepare for their final group match against Portugal who could seal their qualification on Monday with a win.