Germany and Portugal looked the more likely teams to progress before the last round of matches kicked-off in the group of Death and they are the ones who have indeed progressed after a night that saw the Oranje dreams fade away. Italy have to win their game against Ireland and hope the match between Spain and Croatia ends favorably for them, while all it took was a win for England for Rooney to declare that this team can, in fact, go on and win the tournament.
Netherlands crash out
One of the pre-tournament favorites, along with Spain and Germany, departed the grand stage of Euro 2012 with a grand total of zero points from three games, losing to Denmark, Germany and finally to Portugal.
Bert van Marwijk, the beleaguered manager of Holland, made changes to his playing eleven, the most notable being the exclusion of captain Van Bommel for Van der Vaart, who had not started previously but on this night found himself captaining the side! However, he repaid the faith the manager had shown in him by an early goal that should have instilled belief in the Dutch. The other change was the inclusion of Klaas Jan Huntelaar in place of Afellay.
After the goal, the intensity level within the Dutch ranks mysteriously dropped – and, Portugal led by under-fire captain Cristiano Ronaldo took the game to Netherlands, who buckled under pressure. This has been a disastrous tournament for the Oranje, who must now introspect and put together a proper team rather than disoriented individuals for the next major tournament, which would be the world cup in Brazil.
Cristiano Ronaldo silences his critics
Ronaldo powered Portugal to the quarter-finals
They said he isn’t the same player for Portugal as he is for Real Madrid. They joked about his glaring misses in the game against Denmark, which Portugal anyway won. They chanted Messi’s name from the stands, just to irritate him – and irritated he certainly was.
However, as Fernando Torres before him, last night Ronaldo appeared to be in a different zone altogether. This was the match Portugal needed to win and before he actually scored, he came close quite a few times, hitting the post once. However, unlike previous games, he didn’t let frustration creep into his game; more than anything else, he appeared determined and focused. A perfect run, blazing burst of speed and trade-mark finish later, there was belief in the Portuguese ranks that they can prevail against this disjointed Dutch team. “Portugal has succeeded in its great aim“, he said.
Italy needs to win – and, hope that they are lucky
“This is the most important game I have been in charge of, absolutely. If it only depended on what we do in the 90 minutes I would be very happy with my squad, our fitness and our preparation, but of course a lot has been said about the other game that I am not too happy about. I think we are in danger of getting ahead of ourselves, and if you do that you slip up. Three days ago I said it all depends on ourselves and I still hold that view. I am solely focused on the result against Ireland, nothing else. I don’t think we should be talking about what might happen in the other match; let’s just win our game first and then see where we stand. After all this talking I just want to get on with it.” – Cesare Prandelli, the head coach of Italy
The problem here is that a win against Ireland would see Italy finish with 5 points and if Croatia plays out a 2-2 draw with Spain, there would be three teams with 5 points each. If head-to-head fixtures between the teams have ended in draws, it comes down to the number of goals scored by teams in these matches only, so Italy can even score 10 against Ireland and still crash out in case the result of the other game is a 2-2 draw.
Previously, in Euro 2004, Italy had managed to get eliminated despite a win against Bulgaria in their final game, as Denmark and Sweden played out a 2-2 draw. Surely, lightning cannot strike the Italians twice, or can it?
Wayne Rooney claims England can win Euro 2012
“But before the tournament started I said a country like ours needs to be in there with a shout of winning major tournaments and I firmly believe that. We’ve got the squad, we’re more organised than we ever have been as long as I’ve been in the squad, and we are hard to beat now. If we keep doing that and keep working hard then there’s no reason we can’t go really far and be in with a shout of winning it.” – Wayne Rooney
Rooney, who has now served his ban and is in a reckoning for a starting berth against Ukraine, has wasted no time in declaring his intentions. In every previous major tournament, there used to be so much hype surrounding the English team that they crumbled under the weight of expectations, if not because of the strength of their opponents. For a change, Euro 2012 had seen England quietly make their way to the competition. It would have been better for them to keep performing on the pitch and stay as far away as possible from giving unnecessary statements to the press. It would have helped the team. However, it took merely one positive result for Rooney to declare that England can win the prestigious European championships. It’s bound to get the media salivating. Hopefully for Roy Hodgson, it won’t affect the players, who have to remain focused on football on the pitch, rather than off it.