Each team has played one game in EURO 2012, and we have already gotten an idea of what to expect from this summer’s tournament. With a few surprises after a mere four days of games, this is shaping up to be quite the spectacle of European football.
Russia: 1-0-0, 3 points
Greece: 0-1-0, 1 point
Poland: 0-1-0, 1 point
Czech Republic: 0-0-1, 0 points
The tournament’s weakest group got off to an exciting start with the Greece-Poland draw that featured two red cards, Greece scoring with 10 men and Poland’s backup goalkeeper saving a penalty. However, the strongest team in this group is Russia, and that proved to be self-evident in its 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic. Young star Alan Dzagoev scored two goals, leading Russia’s deadly counter-attacks as they overwhelmed the Czechs. Russia is the clear favorite to advance out of this group, and the second spot is up for grabs.
The big surprise so far has been Denmark’s 1-0 upset victory over the heavily-favored Netherlands. Although it wasn’t a master-class defensive performance by the Danish, they held their ground and frustrated the Dutch’s high-octane attack. The Dutch may have to win their last two games in order to make it out of the group. Germany remains the favorites to advance after its own 1-0 win over the Portuguese, who have to figure out their identity as a squad with the presence of one-man-show Cristiano Ronaldo.
Poor Ireland has basically sealed their fate with a bad 3-1 defeat at the hands of Croatia. Behind world powers Spain and Italy, the Irish have a long uphill battle. Speaking of those two powers, both Spain and Italy’s fate is in their own hands; after an exciting 1-1 draw, the squad with less points in the next two games will simply have to go home. It seems like common sense, but with Croatia’s great form, games can not be taken for granted.
The star of this group is Andriy Shevchenko, who at 35 years old, scored two goals as host Ukraine came from behind and defeated Sweden 2-1. This is a tremendous boost to Ukraine, who are the leaders and are in the driver’s seat of the group. It was a tough break for the Swedes, whose strength (aerial threats on defense) betrayed them in the game. The 1-1 draw between England and France was the spark of a lot of arguments as to whether England had a valiant performance against the rejuvenated France side or simply parked the bus and hoped it wouldn’t concede a second goal. Either way, those two clubs have a lot to fight for; contrary to our beliefs before the tournament, a matchup against Ukraine is not an easy three points.