Sensations and unpredictable scores – that's no way to describe Euro 2012, with favorites Spain, Germany, Portugal and Italy having few problems in making the semifinals.
“Everybody can play football these days. So, any team can beat any team,” that’s the phrase many footballers and coaches love so much to repeat in recent years.
But Euro 2012 has proven the statement wrong, with the tournament showing a huge gap in class between the favorites and the rest of the pack.
At the previous European championships – four years ago – we had Russia making waves and Turkey producing one of the most spectacular quarterfinals ever, with the help of Croatia.
But this time, it’s only the continent’s renowned football powerhouses in the semis, with Portugal taking on the defending champs from Spain and Italy going against their long-time German rivals.
There are just three games left to play in the competition, but we haven’t seen any sensations and only two really spectacular encounters to remember (Portugal 3-2 Denmark and England 3-2 Sweden).
There’s been a lot more drama off the pitch, with Polish hooligans displaying their “hospitality” with their fists.
In fact, the biggest surprise so far has been Team Russia, who failed to qualify for the playoffs from the easiest group.
Dick Advocaat’s men reached their peak too early as they destroyed Italy 3-0 in a friendly a week before the Euro 2012 kickoff, and then did the same with Czech Republic (4-1) in the event’s opener.
But then they had neither the strength nor tactical flexibility to continue in the same manner, with the tournament’s highest-paid coach being absolutely clueless on how to crack the tight Greek defense.
Yes, the Netherlands failed to make playoffs as well, but one has to keep in mind that they were playing in the Group Death, where one of the big names had to fall.
Germany and Portugal went on, while the Orange men crashed out losing all their three matches, which was the country’s worst-ever international display.
Well, the attack couldn’t make up for Holland’s traditionally poor defense this time, as they were even beaten by Denmark.
By the way, the Danes were one of the brighter spots as they gave battle to Germany and Portugal, just like Croatia, who made Spain and Italy experience some unpleasant moments.
But at the end of the day, both teams didn’t have what it took to qualify for the knockout stages, in which the favorites dominated.
Germany didn’t find eleven Greeks at the back much of a problem, collecting a confident 4-2 win, while Portugal’s 1-0 success against the Czechs doesn’t reflect their huge advantage as Cristiano Ronaldo could’ve finished the night with a hat-trick.
Even England couldn’t manage their usual heroic exit. Yes, they lost on penalties once again, but the shootout came after 120 minutes spent in defense, with their rivals – Italy – clearly the better side.
Another unpleasant discovery for lovers of the beautiful game is the pragmatic football from Spain.
The world and European champions play without a center forward in Poland and Ukraine… because they just don’t need to score goals.
Iniesta and Co. grab a fast lead and then completely deprive their rivals of the ball, passing to each other in the middle of the pitch.
The French can tell a lot about such tactics, after their 2-0 loss to Spain the quarterfinals.
Let’s hope the semis bring more drama, but we don’t need Paul the Octopus to see that the dream final between Spain and Germany in Kiev on July 1 is the most likely option.
Dmitry Gorshkov, RT
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