Euro Gunner Watch: Van Persie Toothless, Bendtner Caged and Podolski Efficient
After all the pre-tournament hype, the fabled “Group of Death” had its first set of fixtures that promised to be mouthwatering contests.
The day started with tournament favorites, the Netherlands, locking horns with potential banana skins, Denmark. Despite the fact that the Danes enjoyed a good qualifying campaign, nobody has given them any measure of “respect” as they’ve been touted as one of the favorites to be eliminated from the group.
The Dutch lined up a very formidable side with class and experience brimming from the squad. The Danes also featured their finest XI but judging from both team sheets, the pendulum certainly swung in Holland’s direction.
It was really unfortunate to know that profligacy became the watchword of Holland’s game.
Ibrahim Afellay attempted a decent scissors kick that flew over the bar. Shortly afterwards, Robin van Persie fired Arjen Robben’s cut back just wide.
Nicklas Bendtner’s only telling contribution to the game was to win a free kick on the edge of the area that was wasted by Christian Eriksen.
Holland continued to press and probe the Dane backline but against the run of play, Morten Olson’s hordes grabbed the lead from Michael Krohn-Delhi.
Mikael Silvestre’s long lost clone, Simon Poulsen found some space on the left but his cross was deflected into Krohn-Delhi’s path. The winger waltzed past Johnny Heitenga before slotting his effort through Maarten Stekelenberg’s legs.
Arjen Robben has been renowned for his sultry skills, good technique, pace and finishing ability but his selfishness on the pitch is also a thorn in the flesh of his team.
Denmark’s goalie, Simon Andreasen, made a panicky clearance that arrived at Robben’s feet. With van Persie unmarked on his far side, Robben had a few touches before sending a shot that clipped the post.
Late in the first half, Wesley Sneijder fashioned a great chance for van Persie but the usually dependable forward fluffed his chance.
In the start of the second half, Robben picked up where he left off in regard to his selfishness and spurned another great chance. Sneijder sent another delightful through ball to van Persie but he miscued his effort.
Mark van Bommel found some space on the edge of the area and fired a missile of a shot that was brilliantly parried by Andreasen.
Klass-Jan Huntelaar was brought on to add some firepower to the attack and he almost got the equalizer, but he decided to be cheeky when a harder shot would have paid dividends.
Right at the death, the Dutch folks had a strong claim for a penalty for a handball in the box but the ref was having none of it. At the end, it was a shocking yet famous victory for the Danes that held their nerve till the very end. Some blame must also go to the Netherlands for their woeful finishing.
Euro Gunner Watch hands a rating of 5.5 to Robin van Persie. Despite being so profilic in the concluded campaign, he probably left his shooting boots at the Emirates.
Nicklas Bendtner gets a 6.0 rating for being a peripheral figure all game long.
Holland’s loss handed over the initiative to Germany and Portugal as both sides knew that a victory would grant them a place in pole position.
The German side had a great haul of Bayern Munich players (7) in the starting lineup. The remaining four slots were shared among Real Madrid (2), Dortmund (1) and Arsenal (1).
Portugal on the other hand, fielded a very attacking side, with the world’s most expensive footballer in the spotlight yet again$
Portugal’s Fabio Coentrao made a mazy run that saw him take on all comers before earning his side a corner. Miguel Veloso attempted to curl in the corner, but some mischievous German fans kept throwing projectiles around the corner flag.
Mesut Ozil was pulling the strings in the midfield. He almost created an assist for Lukas Podolski but the forward killed a bird in the sky with his effort. Podolski drilled an effort into the box but Young Muller baby flapped at the ball, sending it wide.
Portugal almost got the lead when Pepe’s effort smashed the underside of the bar.
Elsewhere, Brazil’s Under-23 Olympic team and Argentina’s senior squad displayed South America’s finest football and I must say that I drifted a bit to watch their game as the Germany vs. Portugal contest was boring me to tears.
For some strange reason, Muller invoked the spirit of Gervinho in him as he kept on disappointing in the final third. However, Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger worked well on the right to swing a cross for a perfectly placed Mario Gomez, that nodded home a perfect header past Rui Patricio in goal.
Matt Hummels had a great game in defense and he sent in a lovely diagonal ball to Muller. The young Bayern star drilled in a better pass to Gomez but his legs couldn’t connect with the ball.
Portugal went for broke late on and attacked Germany with a late surge. It took 81 minutes to see the first Ronaldo shot but Manuel Neuer made an awkward yet effective save.
Luis Nani managed to clip the cross bar with a cross but the chance of the night went to Varela but Neuer made another great save. The replay showed how Phillip Lahm threw his body in the line to block the ball while Sami Khedira stationed himself on the line.
At the end of the night, it was a fully deserved victory for Joachim Loew’s German Machines.
Lukas Podolski gets a 7.0 rating for an efficient performance on the left wing. At just 26, he’s closing in on his 100th cap for the Germans.
The quote of the day goes to the commentator of the Brazil U-23 vs. Argentina game:
“You can’t stop him, but the only thing you can do is stop and admire him”…It could only be Messi”
You can watch his scintillating hattrick here.
To those that don’t know, it’s my birthday today.
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