CommentaryEuro 2012

Euro 2012: Quarterfinals Wrapup

June 30, 2012 — by Suman


After a tremendously fun twelve days of Euro2012 group stage matches, we found the knockout phase over the past week a bit of a letdown. Well, until the 2nd semifinal match on Thursday.

(This was originally going to be a wrapup of the quarters and semis, but got long enough with just the quarters. See here for some thoughts on the semifinals.)

The quarterfinals were all one-sided, at least in terms of possession and chances created. Indeed, they fell into the Manichean proactive/reactive divide that Jonathan Wilson identified early in the tournament, in a column about “the flaw of tiki-taka“:

A clear pattern has emerged from the first round of group games at Euro 2012. Holland against Denmark, Germany against Portugal, Spain against Italy, Ireland against Croatia, France against England, the first half of Poland against Greece: each have featured one proactive team taking the game to the opposition; one reactive team sitting deep with compact lines absorbing the pressure, trying to restrict the opposition and looking to score either from counter-attacks or set-plays.

That was also the pattern that emerged in the quarterfinal games: Portugal proactive against a reactive Czech Republic, Germany against Greece, Spain against France, and Italy against England.

But of the proactives, only Germany was able to finish their chances, lighting up Greece for 4 goals (reinforcing the then-growing conventional wisdom that der Nationalmannschaft were the clear favorites to win the whole thing).

The only drama in the first quarterfinal, a week ago Thursday, was waiting to see if Cristiano Ronaldo would finally score, which he finally did with an admittedly spectacular header late in the game (reinforcing the then-growing sense that just maybe he could carry them to the final).

Last Saturday night in Donetsk, Spain unlocked the l’autobus the French had garé, scoring an early goal, and then spent the 70 minutes playing the recently much-maligned tiki-taka, before adding a late PK score (oddly, Xabi Alonso scored both goals, in what was his 100th cap).

In the last quarterfinal match, Sunday in Kyiv, Italy bossed the match (especially the much-praised deep-lying midfield capo Andrea Pirlo), but Gli Azzurri  couldn’t find their way to a finish against Roy Hodgson’s English bus.  It was scoreless through 120 minutes, all the way to penalties, which at least made for a tense end to the quarterfinals–a shootout that will be remembered for Pirlo’s audacious Panenka.

From Daniel Taylor’s writeup in the Guardian:

Italy had 815 passes compared with England’s 320. The shot count was 35-9. Italy had 20 on target, one more than England managed in their four games. Andrea Pirlo put together more passes, 117, than England’s entire midfield quartet of Gerrard, Milner, Scott Parker and Ashley Young.

It was a peacock-like spreading of Pirlo’s feathers. What a player he is and what a moment when he ambled forward for his penalty and popped the ball into the back of the net. Hart had tried everything to put off Italy’s penalty-takers. He eyeballed them. He stuck out his tongue, pulled faces, made silly noises. He did everything but drop his shorts and squirt water from a flower. Pirlo talked afterwards of deliberately setting out to bring him down a peg or two. So he went for the Panenka chip, named in honour of Antonin Panenka’s decisive penalty for Czechoslovakia against West Germany in the 1976 final. Of all the moments that encapsulated Sunday’s quarter-final, it was this: the man in the England shirt acting the fool while the serial champion put him in his place and the rest of the football world sniggered behind their hands.

(Emphasis added, with a h/t to the English friend of ours who copied and pasted that last sentence to facebook midweek, prefaced with: “I know its ancient history now, but this sums up England’s lack of a game today.”)

The details of the quarterfinal results, with links to’s match reports/facts:

21 June 2012
Czech Republic Czech Republic 0-1 Portugal Portugal
Referee: Howard Webb (ENG) – Stadium: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)

22 June 2012
Germany Germany 4-2 Greece Greece
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN) – Stadium: Arena Gdansk, Gdansk (POL)

23 June 2012
Spain Spain 2-0 France France
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)

24 June 2012
England England 0-0 Italy Italy
Italy win 4-2 on penalties
Referee: Pedro Proença (POR) – Stadium: Olympic Stadium, Kyiv (UKR)

Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Euro 2012: Quarterfinals Fixtures

June 21, 2012 — by Suman


The group stage is behind us–60 goals in 24 matches over 12 days–and now the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 are upon us. Four matches in four days, starting with the first kicking off in a few hours.  Here are your fixtures, along with a link for each:


Thursday, 21 June 2012
Czech Republic Czech Republic Portugal Portugal
Referee: Howard Webb (ENG) – Stadium: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)
  • Zonal Marking’s Czech Republic v Portugal preview: “The key battle is likely to be down the left flank. This is Portugal’s biggest strength going forward – they have the goalscoring potential of Ronaldo coming inside, and the overlapping threat of Fabio Coentrao bombing down the outside. But this means they’re also weak defensively down that side: all four goals they’ve conceded have originated from that side of the pitch, and Ronaldo’s non-tracking against Denmark was a problem Paulo Bento should have resolved earlier. As it happens, the right has been the strongest area of the Czech side…”
Friday, 22 June 2012
Germany Germany Greece Greece
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN) – Stadium: Arena Gdansk, Gdansk (POL)


Saturday, 23 June 2012
Spain Spain France France
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)
  • Jonathan Wilson poses The Question: position or possession?: “The flaw of Spain’s tiki-taka is that a team can control possession or it can control position, but it can’t do both.”
Sunday, 24 June 2012
England England Italy Italy
Referee: Pedro Proença (POR) – Stadium: Olympic Stadium, Kyiv (UKR)

Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Matchday 9: Group Stage Enters Final Round–Greece-Russia & Czech Republic-Poland Today

June 15, 2012 — by Suman


The last round of group stage matches starts today, with the last two matches in Group A–meaning that we’ll have our first two quarterfinalists by the end of the day. It also means the day’s two matches are played simultaneously. So get your picture-in-picture ready–or put one on your TV and stream the other on your computer.  Or better yet, head to your local footy-friendly watering hole–we’ll try to watch at least one of the next few days at our local spot, WoodworkBK.

The match to watch today is Czech Republic-Poland. Poland will be playing in front of a partisan home crowd in Wroclaw, while Czech captain and playmaker (and GunnerTomáš Rosický (“the Little Mozart of football”, as we detailed in an extended postscript to this post) is doubtful following an Achilles tendon injury suffered against Greece.  So Poland are perhaps the favorites–but they have yet to win a match, and the pressure will be on them. For Poland the focus and onus will again be on the Dortmund trio–attacking right back ?ukasz Piszczek, right-sided midfielder (and captain) Jakub (“Kuba”) B?aszczykowski, and striker Robert Lewandowski.  In addition, goalkeeper (and another Gunner) Wojciech Szcz?sny returns after a one-game suspension for the red card he received in the opening match against Greece.

In the other match, Russia, a team that has impressed, should beat a Greece side that hasn’t. But the Russians have a reputation for losing interest and focus–and remarkably Greece would advance with a win.  For Russia the standout performers have been captain Andrei Arshavin (still on Arsenal’s books, but went back to Mother Russia in January on loan to his home club of Zenit St. Petersburg) and youngster Alan Dzagoev–who is, as Eastern European football expert Jonathan Wilson writes today, finally meeting Russia’s expectations.

See below for Group A standings and today’s fixtures (via, and below that a scenario analysis (via wikipedia) of which teams advances in each of the 9 outcomes (3 possible outcomes in each of the 2 matches implies 3^2 = 9 possible outcomes). Although it’s even more complicated than that, as certain of those scenarios bring into play goal differential (the first tie-breaker).

In fact, it appears that not only do all four teams have a chance to advance, but that each of the six 2-team combinations is still a possibility. No wonder writes: “I’m not too sure who will be more interested in the final round of group matches in Groups A and B: football fans or mathematicians. To say things are tight is an understatement. To say they’re complicated is a fair statement.”

Group A

Teams P W D L F A +/- Pts
Russia Russia 2 1 1 0 5 2 3 4
Czech Republic Czech Republic 2 1 0 1 3 5 -2 3
Poland Poland 2 0 2 0 2 2 0 2
Greece Greece 2 0 1 1 2 3 -1 1
16 June 2012
Greece Greece Russia Russia
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (SWE) – Stadium: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)
Czech Republic Czech Republic Poland Poland
Referee: Craig Thomson (SCO) – Stadium: Municipal Stadium Wroclaw, Wroclaw (POL)

Scenario analysis via UEFA Euro 2012 Group A – Wikipedia:

On the last match day (16 June) the teams advancing from this group (winner; runner-up) will be:[1][2][3]

If: Czech Republic win draw Poland win
Greece win Czech Republic; Greece Greece and Russia or Czech Republic1 Poland; Greece
draw Czech Republic; Russia Russia; Czech Republic Russia and Poland2
Russia win Russia; Czech Republic Russia; Czech Republic Russia; Poland
  1. Positions determined by score of Greece v Russia
    (a) Russia; Greece – if Greece win by 1 or 2 goals
    (b) Greece; Russia – if Greece win by 3 to 5 goals
    (c) Greece; Czech Republic – if Greece win by at least 6 goals
  2. Poland win the group if they win by at least 4 goals (3 if they score at least 4 more than Russia); otherwise Russia win the group



  1. ^ Peter Katsiris (13 June 2012). “UEFA EURO 2012: The Math behind Group A”. Football Hellas. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  2. ^ “Euro 2012 Diary: Mathematicians to work out who qualifies from Groups A and B”. Betfair. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  3. ^ Johnson, Dale (13 June 2012). “Euro 2012 Group permutations”. ESPN. Retrieved 15 June 2012.

Euro 2012

Russians steamroll Czechs

June 8, 2012 — by Sean1


What a lot of exciting football we had today! But before that, there were the opening ceremonies.

There was some prancing around, which I honestly didn’t mind. Gives a sense of fanfare beyond your regular club get together is what I think. Toward the end of proceedings a clearly geeked pianist was joined in the center circle by a wild-looking, overweight DJ to perform a Chopin – house music mashup that, though I couldn’t hear, was probably as good as it looked.

Then it was on to the game, and what a game! Dodgy calls, red cards, a saved penalty kick. Poland were lively moving forward, connecting quick strings of passes on the way to chance after chance. Long story short: great game, 1-1 and the points shared. Go watch a replay. ESPN3 has them up

The second game between the Russians and the Czechs started out closer to the Velvet Revolution, but ended more like the Prague Spring. I’ll be damned if I can remember much in the way of who did what, but the Russians pretty much dominated the periods between 5 minutes and 50mins, and then from about 55mins until the final whistle. It looked a lot like the video below.

Euro 2012News

Matchday 1: Poland-Greece & Russia-Czech Rep

June 8, 2012 — by Suman5


It’s the opening day of Euro 2012.  Join us in the comments if you’re watching either of today’s two fixtures

Poland Poland Greece Greece
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP) – Stadium: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)

(Two time conversions to keep in mind: 18:00CET = 12pmET and 20:45CET = 2:45pmET.  All matches kickoff at one of those two times!)

Russia Russia Czech Republic Czech Republic
Referee: Howard Webb (ENG) – Stadium: Municipal Stadium Wroclaw, Wroclaw (POL)


Your daily link roundup:


What to Watch This Weekend – Interlull Edition, Pt 1 (Friday March 25)

March 24, 2011 — by Suman2

The Interlull is upon us.  Just when the domestic and Champions leagues are hurtling towards their conclusions, getting us all hot and bothered…they take a break so the best players can fly all over the world to risk injury playing for their respective national teams in largely meaningless international games.  (Full disclosure: we picked up the “Interlull” terminology from the indispensable Arseblog.)

That said, some of these games aren’t completely meaningless–included on this weekend’s are a handful of Euro 2012 and African Cup qualifiers featuring some nations/players we like to watch. And some of the meaningless international friendlies shouldn’t be completely uninteresting–particularly USA hosting Argentina at the (New) Meadowlands (Saturday), Brazil playing Scotland at the Emirates (Sunday), and Ghana playing England at Wembley (Tuesday).

But you’ll have to come back for our previews of the latter matches.  There are so many fixtures (over 100) spread out over so many days (Friday thru Tuesday) that we’ve been forced to split up this weekend’s viewing guide into a multi-installment day-by-day affair.   As in the past, we’ve relied upon WaPo’s Soccer Insider for a complete listing of matches, times, and US television options.  Here our choices for…

Friday, March 25

Hungary-Netherlands in Budapest (3:30pmET,; 7pm on ESPND): A Euro 2012 qualifier between the two teams at the top of the Group E standings.

For the Dutch, no Arjen Robben nor Huntelaar due to injuries.  But still plenty of talent to watch in midfield, on the wings, and up front: Schneijder, van der Vaart, van Persie, Kuyt, Elia, Affelay.  Plus watch for up-and-coming right wingback Gregory van der Wiel. Barcelona was said to be keeping an eye on him in case they were unable to resign Dani Alves.  Now that Alves has turned his back on a potential big money transfer to Man City and signed on for a few more seasons in Catalonia, Man City has apparently shifted their focus to van der Wiel.

We’re really not sure who to watch for on the current Hungarian squad–but after watching this match we should know for the return fixture in Amsterdam on Tuesday (see below).