With the ending of the group stages at the 2012 European Championships held in the Ukraine and Poland there are many things for football fans to ponder. Here are a few of the lessons we were taught;
1. Death by Germans is inevitable:
The famous 'group of death' was handed to the Danes, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the masters of death, the Germans. It was predicted that the Danes would be the whipping boys and would do well to come away with a point to their name. They will be in fact disappointed that they did not qualify for the knock-out stages after masterminding a victory against the faltering Dutch which in reality was allowed through the miss-firing of the perhaps the largest ego's in this championship. It was the ruthless Germans that ran away with the group with an air of elegance and efficiency to the envy of every other nation. If you were to be handed the group of death next time one may wish that the team establishing themselves as perhaps the greatest side in the world would not be there. But then of course how much would that group entail a feeling of death. In reflection any side that breezes through such a difficult group display a great number of attributes especially those required to win this tournament. The lack of an obvious weakness in this side is worrying for all. The Germans posses; determination, ability, composure and a youthful hungriness that spells domination for many years to come.
2. Messi may have been laughing too early...
To the group of death again. There were two reasons many viewers were staring at Cristiano Ronaldo for the first two games. One reason we are familiar too, his outstanding dribbling ability, the second baffling reason was his inability hit a cows backside with banjo. First key rule for defending against Ronaldo would be do not give enough space to attempt an effort on goal. This rule was turned on its head for the first two games as the greatest player in Europe this season failed to find the net with time and space on many occasions. In his final group game the Dutch were praying he would not break this duck for another game yet. One can picture Lionel Messi at home in Argentina with a smug smile on his face rubbing his hands for the next season... all too soon as Cristiano decided that he was in fact an outrageous player just like we all thought. Throughout this final group game the admittedly weak Dutch defence embarrassed their nation for one final game by twisting turning and ultimately like van der Wiel, falling at his feet. Nothing to fear, the Portuguese have the greatest player in the world at his finest once again.
3. Russian to get out of Poland:
The Russian national team will be kicking themselves and every Greek they see after they fell at the final, and what we all assumed was the lowest hurdle. After dominating the opening two games and establishing themselves further as a good footballing side the Russians displayed their largest weakness: a lack of hunger and determination. Perhaps harsh after the way the Russians have played but it was a clear sign of weakness as they hadn't truly faced a tough test in the easiest group of the Euro's. Many tipped Russia to do well, and rather embarrassingly, the fine pundit Ian Dowie tipped Russia to be a very very Dark horse. Wrong. It was quite apparent that as soon as Russia face a top side competitively they would falter and we didn't even need to wait as the mighty Greeks forgot their economic woes. They decided that this game was not the best one in which to go a goal down and took the lead through a slice of luck for the captain Karagounis. The Greeks are through somehow. A sign of what team spirit and determination can do for national teams in tournaments.
More to follow...