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Euro 2012: Group B - Ronaldo sends the Dutch home, Germany remains perfect
Cristiano Ronaldo's two goal performance lifted Portugal to a 2-1 victory, vaulting the Portuguese into the quarterfinals and sending the Netherlands home far earlier than anyone had guessed.While Germany continued their strong play, edging Denmark 2-1 and finishing atop the group with a perfect 3-0 mark. Leaving them as the only side to have not dropped any points during the group stages at Euro 2012.
Edmonton - June 17, 2012 - Heading into Euro 2012, Group B was dubbed by many as the "Group of Death" and it certainly lived up to its billing, as one of the pre-tournament favourites were bounced from the competition in the group stages. Cristiano Ronaldo's two goal performance lifted Portugal to a 2-1 victory, vaulting the Portuguese into the quarterfinals and sending the Netherlands home far earlier than anyone had guessed. Germany continued their strong play, edging Denmark 2-1 and finishing atop the group with a perfect 3-0 mark. Leaving them the only side, in all four groups, to have not dropped any points during the group stages.
After telling anyone willing to listen how unhappy he was being left out of the starting eleven in the Netherlands opening two fixtures, Rafael van der Vaart was not only given a starting role but was handed the captain's armband to boot. He wasted little time proving his worth, scoring on a cracker of a strike at the eleven minute mark. Just the start that the Dutch were hoping for.
The two sides decided to open things up after the van der Vaart marker and it was a decision that would prove costly for the Netherlands, as Cristiano Ronaldo finally made his mark on Euro 2012. Having hit the post earlier in the half and making a number of quality runs, he would get Portugal back on level terms. A perfectly placed through ball from Joao Pereira sprung Ronaldo in the Dutch penalty area, after his perfectly timed run, and in a flash the ball was in the back of the net.
Holland carried the play in the initial stages of play but it was all Portugal the rest of the way. If not for some timely stops from goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg and a bit of bad luck, the Portuguese should have found themselves in front after forty-five minutes of play.
Over in L'viv Arena, Denmark were hoping for a good showing against the Germans and while the group leaders carried much of the play, the Danes held their own in the first half. After missing a number of quality chances earlier, Germany found the back of the net at the nineteen minute mark and for the first time it was not from tournament scoring leader Mario Gomez. Lukas Podolski put home a cross from Thomas Mueller that Gomez could not handle, giving Podolski his first of the championship, in his one hundredth cap for his country.
To the Danes credit, they would respond five minutes later, on a beautiful header from Michael Krohn-Dehliat off a corner kick. In a role reversal of their game against Portugal, it would be Nicklas Bendtner finding Krohn-Dehliat with a header/pass across the goal, that was neatly flicked past a stunned Manuel Neuer.
It was simple heading into the final half in both matches, the Dutch needed to score twice and hope for a Germany win or they would be done. With the unlikelihood of Denmark pulling off the upset, all the Portuguese would need to guarantee their way through would be a draw.
Another goal from Ronaldo sealed the Netherlands fate as the Portuguese bounced the Dutch with a 2-1 victory. A late goal from Lars Bender pushed Germany past Denmark 2-1 and sending the hard working Danes home, despite a gritty performance in the "Group of Death". While Holland being bounced in the group stages is surprising, it is not an all out shock. Germany and Portugal are both world class clubs and are more than capable of beating the Dutch. However, the fact that they went 0-3 for the championship says a lot about the lack of character currently on the Netherlands roster.
The top half of the quarterfinal draw is now set, with the Czech Republic set to take on Portugal in Warsaw on Thursday, June 21st. Germany will face Greece in Gdansk in the second match in the final eight on Friday, June 22nd.