Players sent off, a surprise defeat of one of the tournament favorite’s, a fervent victory for the host nation and just one draw – The first games of the group phase of Euro 2012 have been completed, so where are we now? What have we learnt? Who should I put a tenner on now?
In Group A Russia are were the standout performers putting four past the Czech Republic to top score after the first round. Andrey Arshavin, playing his club football at Zenit St Petersburg, was instrumental in much of the positive, attacking play on display. Co-hosts Poland and Greece finished with a 1-1 draw in a match were the referee made the headlines when he sent off the unpronounceable Sokratis Papastathopoulos for two tame yellow cards as well as Poland and Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
In the actual group of death containing Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany there was a monumental success for the Danes when they beat 2010 World cup finalists 1-0 setting up the remaining fixtures in the group as tantalizingly important match-ups. Portugal who came through the play-off route to get to the Finals were only roused to life once Mario Gomez had headed the Germans into the lead. Joachim Loew’s side lived up to their clinical ruthlessness by being certain to dispatch one of their few chances.
The second tier group of death, Group C, didn’t produce particularly surprising results as Spain and Italy ended 1-1 and Croatia defeated the Republic of Ireland 3-1, but the outcomes do leave an air of unpredictability if Croatia can maintain the pace they started with.
France came into the tournament unbeaten in their last 21 games with a third of this total being draws. That is exactly what they got against England, despite going one goal down Manchester City striker Samir Nasri secured a point for les Blues. Surely the best of the group stage games was kept to last as co-host Ukraine took on Sweden in Kiev. The home side was inspired by their star man Andriy Shevkenko who scored twice to force his side to a 2-1 win. Having to come from behind seemed to ignite the passion of the players who were determined to perform for their enthusiastic supporters. On paper the Ukraine were the underdogs but as is often the case, the honour of hosting appeared to give them the impetus to succeed; upsets can bring the whole competition to life.
The second round of group matches get underway tonight when Poland take on Russia in Warsaw while Greece hope to improve against the Czech Republic at the Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw.
- ‘Les Cott’ silences ‘Les Bleus’ France 1-1 England