Euro 2012 reaches final day of the first preliminary round
Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy wait for the final two teams to make into the Euro Cup Quarterfinals
Sandeep Kumar Delhi
What a fantastic game of Football the fans are witnessing from past three days .After being booed, jeered and taunted in his last appearance, Christiano Ronaldo could not have found a better way to silence his critics than the thrilling delight he gave to Portugal and his fans all over the globe. In a must win game against the Dutch, CR7 was at his best, scoring in both halves of the match to cancel out the superb Rafael Van der Vaart’s strike and sealing a quarter final berth against the Czech Republic.
The conditions at the Oblasny Sport Komplex Metalist, Kharkiv were similar to L'viv Arena, where Portugal played their previous match against Denmark. Many Dutch fans were sporting jerseys and overcoats saying - “there is only one real Ronaldo from Brazil”. The Messi chants were on a full song every time Ronaldo ran with the ball. But the Madrid star was calm and more focused than his previous appearance. On the other side, the Dutch needed a win with a two goal difference to brighten their prospects in the next round. Coach Bert van Marwijk, therefore, opted to field a very attacking side including in it Van der Vaart, Ron Vlaar and Huntelaar Van de Vaart justified his inclusion with a superbly finessed shot from outside the box in the eleventh minute to give his side a much needed confident start..
After missing two chances to score, Portugal leveled the score in the twenty eighth minute with Ronaldo receiving a clearance from João Pereira and shooting perfectly into the net. The talisman striker was playing as if he had a point to prove, creating three more chances for Nani and Postiga, who missed the target. Netherlands made some valiant attempts to score but couldn’t beat the Portuguese goalkeeper. In the seventy four minutes, Christiano made things worse for the Orange team with a fast and accurate run with plenty of space inside the box. Rather than shooting, he stopped, fooled Van der Weil and slot the ball into the corner of the net to end all scope for the Dutch team to qualify. Three minutes later, Ronaldo curled the ball right to the goalkeeper to hit the post thus missing his hat trick. With two goals, Ronaldo became the seventh player in Europe to score in three European championships. He also moved above Luis Figo to become the all-time leading goal scorer for his country.
In the other match of the group, Germany defeated Denmark to move into the Quarters of the tournament. Goals from Podolski and Bender were enough for the Germans to seal the match.
Group C matches were far from being super tense. The Spain and Croatia encounter failed to fulfill the expectations it had generated. A late strike from Jesus Navas in the eighty eighth minute guided Spain to an uninspiring victory, sending her into the knock out phase as the group winners. Both the teams played with a defensive mindset, though Spain capitalized on the ball possession whereas the Croats failed to create too many changes. Fernando Torres was definitely off colour after his match winning performance in the previous game and his slow approach almost killed the game for the Defending Champions. For a change, Italy who were up against the Ireland Republic played their heart out scoring two goals to seal their birth into last eight phase of the tournament.
With six teams already into the Quarters, the tournament has reached the final day of the first preliminary round. In an important clash, England, after their magical win over Sweden, take on the host Ukraine, and France play against Sweden. Finally there is some good news as Wayne Rooney is available after having served a two-match ban. England just requires a single point to qualify to the last eight and it is going to be a difficult decision for coach Hodgson to decide whether to drop Andy Carroll or Danny Welbeck, to make way for Rooney.