Sports journalist and Newton Aycliffe FC reporter Glen Robertson writes a regular Euro 2012 blog for Aycliffe Today…
DAY TWO REVIEW
Denmark 1-0 Netherlands
The first upset of the tournament as Denmark battled to victory against a Netherlands side that looked like a collection of individuals, rather than a cohesive unit. Despite the excellence of Wesley Sneijder, the Oranje couldn’t find a way past the Danes rearguard, mainly due to the wastefulness of Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
Denmark rode their luck at times but a brilliantly taken goal from Michael Krohn-Dehli gave them a huge three points. Sunderland fans must have been wondering who the dangerous, selfless striker who was playing for Denmark was. Nicklas Bendtner rarely looked that good on Wearside.
Germany 1-0 Portugal
The Germans were off-key against a negative Portugal side, but prevailed thanks to Mario Gomez’s late header. The Bayern Munich hit-man put in a classic-Gomez display. He was wasteful, frustrating and on the verge of being subbed before popping up with the winning goal.
Germany should get better and will look forward to getting the chance to all-but knock rivals Netherlands out in their next game. As for Portugal, they might want to try taking the game to Denmark rather than sitting back and praying Cristiano Ronaldo works miracles by himself.
DAY THREE PREVIEW
Another pair of intriguing fixtures await today. Reigning World and European champions Spain take on fellow heavyweights Spain (5pm) while Ireland get their campaign underway against Croatia (7.45pm).
For Ireland and Croatia, three points is a must if they are to qualify for the knockout stages. Ireland will defend deep and hit on the counter, while Croatia will play through the Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric.
Game of the Day: The Spaniards are aiming to create history. No international side has ever won three consecutive tournaments. Their first task on the road to greatness will be one of the toughest tasks. It may not be a vintage Italy side, but they can still cause Spain problems.
Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano are both capable of hurting any opposition if they are fully focussed, while Gianluigi Buffon remains one of the best goalkeepers around.
Key Battle: Xavi versus Andrea Pirlo.
Xavi is perhaps the greatest ever Spanish footballer. He has been key to the most successful Barcelona and Spain sides in their respective histories in the past four years. He has utterly dominated every game he has played in the last few years, often completing more than 100 passes a game.
If there is any midfielder to come close to his level of influence in world football, it’s Pirlo. The 33-year-old was immense as Juventus regained the Serie A title, going the entire league season unbeaten. Not bad for a free signing in the summer.
The two midfielders will both want to see as much of the ball as possible. Xavi will move about the field, playing short passes, before trying to thread a through ball in behind the Italy defence. Pirlo will sit just in front of the Italian defence and look to loft balls down the sides of the Spanish defence, looking for the pace of Balotelli. Xavi will be tasked with denying Pirlo the space to pick his paces.
Whichever player has the better game will go a long way to deciding the winner of the game.
Bet of the Day: Nikica Jelavic to be first goalscorer against Ireland. 6/1
Longshot: Following yesterday’s successful tip about Denmark to beat Netherlands, get on Spain to beat Italy by three goals. 12/1