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Euro 2008 Group Stage Round 3

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In Group A, hosts Switzerland exited the tournament in style with a 2-0 win over group leaders Portugal. The Portuguese, who had already qualified, fielded a reserve team to keep their whole squad sharp in preparation for their quarter-final tie, meaning key players like Deco and Ronaldo were rested. The Swiss took advantage by winning 2-0, with both goals coming from Hakan Yakin. Yakin finished the tournament as Switzerland’s only goalscorer, with 3.

The other game was one of the most dramatic International matches in years- or, at least, the last 20 minutes was. Whoever won between the Czech Republic and Turkey would go through, with a penalty shoot-out in store were the game to finish level. Jan Koller and Jaroslav Plasil put the Czechs 2-0 up, leaving Turkey looking dead and buried. But just as they had made an amazing comeback against Switzerland in the previous game, the Turks came back again. First Arda pulled a goal back with 15 minutes to go. Then the Czech goalkeeper, Petr Cech (one of the very best goalkeepers in the world), made a huge mistake with just three minutes remaining by dropping a crossed ball at the feet of Nihat, who slotted the equaliser home. Two minutes later, the revitalised Turks scored a sensational winner, when Nihat curled a high dipping shot in-off the crossbar. The drama wasn’t over yet – Turkey’s goalkeeper Volkan was red-carded for pushing over Jan Koller in an off-the-ball incident. Having used their three substitutes already, Turkey had to ride out injury-time with an outfield player, striker Tuncay, in goal. But the dejected Czechs were unable to test him, and Turkey qualified with a 3-2 victory.

Group A Final Standings
(Columns are Played, Won, Drawn, Lost, Goal Difference, Points. Teams level on points are separated on a head-to-head basis first, on goal-difference second.)
Portugal……………..3….2….0….1….+2…6
Turkey……………….3….2….0….1…..0….6
Czech Republic…….3….1….0….2….-2….3
Switzerland…………3….1….0….2…..0….3

Group B‘s final games weren’t very exciting. With Croatia already qualified, they also fielded many of their second-choice players for the match against Poland. They still dominated, and won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Ivan Klasnic. Klasnic’s story is remarkable – the big striker, who plays for Werder Bremen in Germany, suffered kidney failure in January of last year. He underwent a kidney transplant, but the organ was rejected, meaning he needed another transplant in March of 2007. Finally he was able to play football again at the end of the year, and returned to the Croatia squad in March. Though he still has to wear a protective shield around his mid-riff, his goal against the Polish marked the culmination of a truly impressive comeback. Croatia will now face Turkey in the Last 8.

In the other game, Germany struggled to beat Austria 1-0, thanks to a thunderbolt free-kick from captain Michael Ballack. There’s a huge rivalry between Austria and Germany, mostly on the Austrian side, and they were putting everything they could into stopping the Germans. But they just didn’t have enough quality up-front to threaten. Germany will now face Portugal in the first quarter-final.

Group B Final Standings

Croatia……………..3….3….0….0….+3….9
Germany……………3….2….0….1….+2…6
Austria……………..3….0….1….2….-2….1

Poland………………3….0….1….2….-3….1

Don’t ever take financial advice from me. I predicted that France and Italy would both have qualified from Group C after two games, and that Holland would finish bottom. In fact, the Dutch had qualified in style after two games, while France and Italy faced each other in the play-off to qualify – but neither would if Romania could beat an under-strength Dutch team. The Netherlands did field a reserve team, but it still included top quality players like Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie, who have only just returned from injury. Romania weren’t able to take advantage of that though, going down 2-0 after goals from Huntelaar and Van Persie.

In the big play-off, a repeat of the 2006 World Cup final, France were dealt an early blow when flying winger Franck Ribery was carried off on a stretcher, to be replaced by Nasri. Italy soon took the lead when French centre-back Eric Abidal, in for the hugely experienced Lilian Thuram, brought Luca Toni down just as Toni was about to score. Abidal was sent-off and Pirlo converted the resulant penalty kick. Samir Nasri, who had only been on the pitch for 16 minutes after replacing Ribery, was taken off again as Jean-Alain Boumsong was needed to fill in for Abidal in defence. But without Ribery or Nasri, France were unable to create chances for Henry and Benzema up-front. A lucky deflection allowed a Daniele de Rossi shot to fly into the net with half an hour left, securing the 2-0 victory and qualification for Italy. The French embarrassingly finished bottom of the group, their 0-0 draw with Romania being their best result, and coach Raymond Domenech looks certain to lose his job. Still, he isn’t too unhappy – the amateur astrologer bizarrely took the opportunity of being interviewed on live TV after the match to propose to his girlfriend. She said “oui”, while the French fans gave an emphatic “non!”

Group C Final Standings
Netherlands………..3…..3….0….0….+8….9
Italy…………………3…..1….1….1….-1….4
Romania…………….3…..0….2….1….-2….2
France………………3…..0….1….2….-5….1

In Group D, Spain had already won the group thanks to wins over Russia and Sweden, so they allowed most of their reserve players to play instead of the first choicers. They faced holders Greece, who had already been eliminated from the competition, in a dead rubber game. But the Greeks took a shock lead in the first half thanks to Angelos Charisteas’ bullet header. It was to be his and Greece’s only goal of the tournament. Two late goals won the tie for Spain – first, Ruben de la Red slammed home with 30 minutes left, before Dani Guiza headed home the winner two minutes from time, 2-1. Spain will now face Italy in a quarter-final tie.

The second qualification spot behind Spain was up for grabs between Russia and Sweden, and it was the Reds who secured it was an easy 2-0 victory. Roman Pavyluchenko opened the scoring in the first half after a wonderful flowing team move down the right wing, and recalled playmaker Andrei Arshavin doubled the Russians’ advantage after the break after another pacy move down the flank. Really, 2-0 flattered the Swedes, who looked tired and slow in comparison to the fleet-footed dynamism of the young Russian team. Chance after chance was passed up, with Pavyluchenko particularly guilty of missing a few sitters, in a game that could easily have finished 5- or 6-0. The Russians, terrible in defence against the Spanish but thrilling going forward here, will now face current tournament favourites Holland in the quarter final.

Group D Final Standings
Spain…………………3….3….0….0….+5….9
Russia………………..3….2….0….1…..0…..6
Sweden………………3….1….0….2….-1….3
Greece……………….3….0….0….3….-4…..0

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About Ally Brown

  • Alessandro

    Good job, Ally.