[EURO 2012 WRAP] Cristiano Ronaldo's tour de force sent the Dutch home without a point and Portugal to the quarterfinals. Germany finished top of the group after beating Denmark, which should leave with heads held high. Both games finished with 2-1 final scores.
Germany didn’t bring it best game to Lviv, Ukraine, and it could’ve cost them. Lukas Podolski’s right-footed finish in the 19th minute was answered by Michael Krohn-Dehli’s header five minutes later, set up by Nicolas Bendtner. The game stayed tied late into the second half, with Portugal even with the Dutch the Germans could lose and still go through. When Portugal’s second goal gave them the lead in the 74th minute, Germany was exposed to going out -- if Denmark won 2-1.
Daniel Agger’s 76th-minute free kick from his own half touched on by Bendtner was saved while Holger Badstuber got away with a shirt-tug that could have earned the Danes a penalty kick – and possibly the clinching goal -- had referee Carlos Velasco Carballo noticed.
Lars Bender scored four minutes later and the Germans place in the quarters was secure.
Germany will face Greece in the quarterfinals on Friday in Gdansk.
Ronaldo knocked out the Dutch and carried Portugal into the quarterfinals at the Metalist Stadium in Ukraine.
The Netherlands entered the game knowing it had to win by two goals to have any chance of advancing. Rafael Van der Vaart and Klaas Jan-Huntelaar were given the start, and Ibrahim Afellay came in as a sub late. Van der Vaart gave the Dutch a moment of hope, with a finish from the edge of the box in the 11th minute. After that, Ronaldo made it clear he can play his best when it counts in a Portugal shirt. Ronaldo’s goals came in the 28th and 73rd minutes, he also hit the post twice, and left everyone struggling for superlatives.
Ronaldo was headline news on Wednesday for his missed opportunities, even in a thrilling victory by his country against Denmark. Against the Dutch he provided the best individual performance at Euro 2012 so far.
Portugal faces the Czech Republic in Warsaw on Thursday.
Denmark will head home knowing it almost made it out alive in the Group of Death, as Bendtner, Agger and Krohn–Deli played outstanding. But it’s hard to find anything for the 2010 World Cup runners-up Dutch to feel good about.
Did you know? ...
* Twenty years ago at Euro 1992 in Sweden: Denmark made the final tournament after being eliminated because Yugoslovia was at war and was forced to withdraw. The Danes went on win, beating Germany in the process.
* It was Podolski’s 100th cap for Germany.
* Bender’s winner was his first ever goal for Germany.
* It was the first time Germany won all three group matches at the Euros.
* Only three times in 23 previous tournaments have Germany failed to advance to the group stage.
* Ronaldo: Finished with 12 shots, a single game Euro Championship record – the Netherlands had 14 as a team. It was his son’s birthday.
* The Netherlands had made it out of the group in 11 straight previous major tournaments.