As the dust settles on the group stages of Euro 2008, a few surprises spring forth along with the regular slew of contenders pushing their case for continental glory. With the brackets drawn for the quarterfinals, here is a look at what happened in groups A through D.
Portugal and Turkey made it through, as expected but not before the Portuguese made heavy weather of their last group game against the co-hosts, Switzerland. The Turks powered their way into the quarters as they were comeback winners against the Czechs, where they scored three goals in fifteen minutes to take the game from 2-0 down. The Portuguese though, will be the team to watch out for as they get their game on, with world football’s current darling Cristiano Ronaldo flying in nigh top gear; Ballack and Germany be warned. Turkey’s game against Croatia will be a clash of different styles and should make for great viewing.
Another group that saw a co-host knocked out. Austria had the chance of knocking the mighty Germans out in the last game of the group, but a certain midfield marshal in Michael Ballack put paid to those hopes proving to the football playing community that the defeat to the Croats in the previous round was just a blip. With their quarterfinal being drawn against Portugal though, obviously not their first choise opponents, Joachim Loew’s men will be wary of the quick and sure footed arsenal of Ronaldo and Co. Croatia is one of the teams to have a 100 per cent record in the group phase and their game against Turkey will be a battle of a different kind. With both teams capable of heroics, this one is going to be impossible to predict. Last word for the Poles who finished ahead of Portugal in qualifying, they could only manage a solitary point out of 9.
Like some one said, the future is bright, the future is Oranje! The Dutch have taken the championships by storm, beating both World Cup finalists, and comprehensively, in a space of four days, and then crushing Romania to top the group with nine points. Marco van Basten seems to have lent the important adhesive to keep the often self destructive Oranje together, at the top of their game. Italy are the other team to have come through from the group, beating France yet again in the do or die game of the group, although Adrian Mutu’s Romania had the Azzurri running scared in their game. Yet another tournament where Sacre Bleus exit in the round robin phase, here’s hoping they reach the final in the next one.
Luis Aragones’ charges have exploded like no one else, except maybe the Dutch, at these Championships. Orchestrated by the likes of Francesc Fabregas and David Villa, the Spanish Armada has danced rings around their opposition, showing great resilience and skill, like they did against Greece, coming from 1-0 down to take the game. Group D runners-up Russia made short work of Sweden as they marched in to the quarter finals and will now face the free flowing might of Holland, as Spain take on world champions Italy.
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