Ronaldo’s blushes spared, while Germany deal with Dutch storm


Matchday six at Euro 2012 gave us eight goals in two fantastic matches. Germany have one foot in the quarter finals, while the Netherlands, pre-tournament kick off third favourites to win it all, have it all to do.

Portugal 3-2 Denmark

Cristiano Ronaldo – fantastic, mesmeric, but today; very very lucky. Had it not been for Valera’s late winner for Portugal, I would have said that the Real Madrid man was the difference between his side winning and dropping two points today. I’m not normally a Ronaldo-basher, but his performance against Denmark will give those who say he can’t turn up in big games another stick to hit him with.

Ronaldo wastes another chance

With around 12 minutes left on the clock, with Portugal still in the lead at 2-1, Nani played a sublime through ball to his ex Manchester United teammate. Ronaldo was left one-on-one with Stephan Anderson in the Danish goal, but the Portugal star pitifully hit his shot well wide of the goal. Two minutes later, Nicklas Bendtner crashed a header home to equalise.

Had Ronaldo scored to make it 3-1, it almost certainly would have been game over, and Portugal wouldn’t have needed to have been bailed out by Valera. As well as this, on 86 minutes, the captain mis-hit a shot when the ball came his way from a corner. It was the type of mis-queue that would be typical in an under-12s Sunday League game, but one that could have won Portugal their second group game at Euro 2012, as it was still 2-2 at the time.

Elsewhere, Cristiano’s tracking back was predictably poor. Lars Jacobsen showed the world that he is relatively capable of attacking on his right wing. He was allowed a lot of freedom against Portugal for Ronaldo’s lack of consideration or interested in the defensive, more tiresome side of football.

Jacobsen was also one of the reasons why Denmark began the game as well as they did. For the first 15-20 minutes, Denmark looked quite comfortable and confident. This confidence may have come from the fact that recent history has already shown that they’re good at getting the upper hand against Portugal, and of course their excellent victory in match day one over the Netherlands.

Elsewhere on the pitch, Nicklas Bendtner’s positional sense and all-round play, bringing midfielders and wingers into attacks, showed us why Arsene Wenger took an interest in him. Even minus his goals, Nicklas Bendtner performed well in this highly entertaining encounter.

On the other hand, Danish left back, Simon Poulsen, could have had a much better evening. A spotlight was shone over his lack of pace when coming up against Luís Nani. Plenty of times, Nani had little trouble skipping past the defender. For Helder Postiga’s goal, Poulsen was also very lazy to step out of his box. As a result, Nani was given all the time in the world to pick out his striker to put Portugal 2-0 to the good.

Germany 2-1 Netherlands

The later match tonight showed us two strikers with some of the best positional sense and run-making ability in world football today. For the Dutch, Robin van Persie was causing a lot of problems for the German back four, playing up front on his own, while Mario Gomez showed his footballing intelligence throughout the first half.

The key difference between these strikers who’ve both had highly impressive seasons – finishing. Van Persie actually got his chances much earlier in the half, before Gomez was given any sniffs. Twice in the first ten minutes, the Arsenal striker was sent through on goal, only to be foiled by himself. RVP shouldn’t be short of confidence after a 37 goal season at club level, but one couldn’t help but wonder was that his problem as he fluffed his lines so poorly and so early on.

Mario Gomez used clever runs to show his worth again

At the other end of the pitch, Mario Gomez was able to peel off his markers elegantly and perfectly, leaving them to claim offside as he turned and controlled the ball with one foot in one graceful move, before coolly slotting it past Stekelenburg to make it 1-0. Similar intelligence was shown as he created space to both hammer and place his second past the Dutch goalkeeper.

Gomez collected passes from midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger for both goals. For the first, we can see a perfect contrast in the performances of both team’s midfields for the first half. Schweinsteiger occupied the space where the ball was likely to break, or where his teammates on the wing would like to see a player to pass to. His Dutch counterpart, Mark van Bommel, left that area all for Bastian to do what he liked with.

Van Bommel was drawn out to the wing far too easily, especially when defensive midfield partner Nigel de Jong was already out there trying to pressure the wingers. The Netherlands captain was subbed off at half time in attempt to rejuvenate the lackluster efforts the Oranje were offering. On the other hand, Schweinsteiger played his centre mid role excellently, offering the option pass to wingers either side when in attack.

One player that Bert van Marwijk has obviously put a lot of trust into for this tournament is Arjen Robben. Unfortunately for the Dutch, the Bayern winger has so far failed to produce in Euro 2012. Decision making let the ex Chelsea and Real Madrid player down badly, as a number times he tried audacious long shots when his side were trying to patiently construct attacking plays. Never did these shots come to anything particularly useful or beneficial to his team.

When the Netherlands changed to a 4-4-2 system, they looked a lot more dangerous, but it still took them time to get used to this change. For a large part of the second half, it looked as though the change in formation did nothing to trouble Germany, as Joachim Loew’s side kept the ball easily and hunted down a third goal, albeit unsuccessfully.

Once the reality of being dumped out of the Championships hit the Dutch, their intensity and ambition went up, and the larger number of attack-minded players helped with this. Robin van Persie forgot about his earlier poor efforts and smashed an unstoppable effort in with 17 minutes to go. However it would be too little too late for the Oranje, as Germany were strong enough to hold out and win 2-1.

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