Sports journalist and Newton Aycliffe FC reporter Glen Robertson writes a regular Euro 2012 blog for Aycliffe Today…
DAY SIX REVIEW
Portugal 3-2 Denmark
This game simply summed up what a belting start to this tournament we’ve enjoyed. Two sides who like to keep things tight at the back forgot all their principles as they slugged it out for 90 minutes.
And if anyone had said beforehand that one of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nicklas Bendtner would put in a blistering display and score twice, while the other would miss a couple of sitters, nobody would have got it the right way round. Well, except Bendtner himself.
Arsenal and Sunderland fans must watch him with utter frustration, knowing that he is capable of such a display but he very rarely puts the work in. His two goals helped his country to fight back from two goals down, to be level at 2-2 and on the brink of the quarter-finals.
It was just a disappointment to the Danes that their defence failed to deal with an 87th-minute cross into their area and substitute Silvestre Varela fired home, at the second attempt, to send the Group of Death to the wire.
Germany 2-1 Netherlands
Netherlands need a miracle to qualify for the knockout stages after a defeat to their fierce rivals Germany. The Dutch were emphatically pulled apart by the Germans, who toyed with their opponents for over an hour.
But, giving a glimmer of hope to the rest of the teams in the tournament, the Germans took their foot off the pedal, allowing the Dutch back into the game through Robin van Persie’s wonder goal.
The Germans were well worth their win, with Bastian Schweinsteiger brilliant in the midfield. Mario Gomez, often seen as a liability of a player after poor performances in big games in the past, including this season’s Champions League final, silenced his critics with two superbly taken goals.
Germany need one point to reach the quarters. Netherlands need a big win over Portugal, and hope Germany beat the Danes.
DAY SEVEN PREVIEW
There is a very small chance that one of Italy or Spain could be sent packing today. If Croatia beat Italy (5pm) and Ireland shock Spain (7.45pm), then Croatia will be in the quarter-finals, leaving Spain, Italy and Ireland scrapping over the second berth.
Spain should beat Ireland, though Barcelona should’ve beaten Chelsea. The Spanish sides have struggled against ultra defensive sides, and that is exactly how Ireland will set themselves up.
Game of the Day – Italy vs Croatia
Italy have never beaten Croatia since the latter were founded. Croatia have won the last two, including a clash at the 2002 World Cup which the Croats won 2-1. That time the Italians still qualified for the knockout games, while Croatia went home. This time, the opposite would likely happen. But if Italy win Croatia will have to get a result against Spain. A truly key fixture in the group.
Key Battle: Luka Modric vs Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo has already outshone Xavi, the best midfielder in the world for the past four years (at least), at this tournament. Now he faces the best the Premier League has to offer in Luka Modric. The Tottenham midfielder was superb for Croatia in their first game, with everything the Croats do going through the little playmaker.
But Pirlo is the only player that can come close to Xavi’s ability to dominate a game. Modric’s national team manager, Slaven Bilic, claims Modric is better than Pirlo.
They can settle the debate this evening. The two will be given the ball by their team-mates at every available opportunity. What they then do with the ball will decide the winner of the game, and who goes through to the knockout stages.
Bets of the Day: Italy Croatia to end 1-1 5/1
Sergio Ramos to score first for Spain 25/1 (With the amount of headers scored in this tournament, there is value in backing the defenders)