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Euro 2012 - Knockout Phase Review

Knockout Phase Review

 

A look at how the business end of Euro 2012 played out in Ukraine/Poland

The knockout phase of any major international tournament really is the business end of the deal for the best nations around and Euro 2012 was certainly no exception.

France, England, Germany, Portugal, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy and Spain all made it through to the quarter-finals in Ukraine/Poland this summer with the latter emerging triumphant to defend their title and subsequently become the first country in footballing history to win three consecutive major competitions.

But although Spain were favourites all along to rule supreme on the continent, it really was all to play for as soon as the group stage was negotiated – and all the qualified teams knew that they had to step up markedly in terms of performance to take a hand and potentially progress all the way to the showpiece final in Kiev.

England topped Group D against all expectations after France were beaten by Sweden on match day three.

The Three Lions held out well against a far superior Italy side in the last eight however they justifiably exited the tournament after a nail biting penalty shoot-out.

France meanwhile turned in a woefully disappointing effort against champions elect Spain who coasted to a nonchalant 2-0 victory.

Czech Republic and Greece surfaced somewhat surprisingly from Group A but both would find themselves on the plane home after the quarters.

Portugal accounted for the Czech’s 1-0 in a tight, hard fought encounter whilst 2004 kings Greece were outclassed by a seemingly rampant Germany.

Joachim Loew’s men were outgunned nevertheless in the semis by the Azzurri who put the game out of sight within the first half courtesy of a double strike from controversial striker Mario Balotelli.

Mezut Ozil pulled a late goal back for the Germans via the penalty spot but it proved too little too late as Italy held on for a place in the final against Spain who defeated Iberian rivals Portugal on penalties.

That match arguably provided the most drama as Cristiano Ronaldo missed the chance to take a spot kick after opting to go last, by which time his country had already been defeated.

Spain and Italy had met earlier in the group stage – a 1-1 draw which offered plenty of hope for Cesare Prandelli’s charges going into the final as significant underdogs.

But their jaded legs simply could not cope with a Spanish side which clearly saved their best until last.

David Silva put Spain in front within fifteen minutes and from that point on they didn’t look back.

Jordi Alba doubled Spain’s lead and the contest was effectively over after Italy ran out of substitutes following an injury to Thiago Motta.

Vicente Del Bosque’s men scored twice more to wrap up a glorious 4-0 success to ensure that they are still the sole dominant force in European football.