Netherlands 1-0 Denmark
Krohn-Dehli strike humbles Oranje
The Danes have sprung the first surprise of the tournament, with victory against the Dutch belittling their billing as outsiders and throwing Group B wide open.
Netherlands suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Denmark at Metalist Stadium on Saturday to kick start its Euro 2012 campaign in dreadful fashion.
Despite fashioning a slew of chances almost straight from kickoff, the tournament favorite was extremely poor in front of goal, and the team's profligacy was punished by a fine finish from Michael Krohn Dehli after 24 minutes.
The Dutch were similarly wasteful during the second half, their performance epitomized by the laboring Robin van Persie, who showed none of the killer instinct from his stellar 37-goal season with Arsenal.
The race for qualification from Group B is now wide open, after a stunning smash and grab result from Denmark, which defied the odds and now has three points to give its hopes of making the Round of 16 an undeniable boost.
With first choice left back Erik Pieters unavailable, Bert van Marwijk began with Jetro Willems at the back who, at 18 years and 71 days old, became the youngest player ever to feature in the tournament.
It was the PSV Eindhoven youngster who had the first chance of the match, sending a crashing drive from long range over the bar with only three minutes gone.
Moments later, Van Persie spurned a more obvious opportunity when he belted a deflected cross off target from close range.
The Dutch appeared to be in control of proceedings, Ibrahim Afellay sending another effort off target, before Arjen Robben’s dangerous center was toe-poked into the grateful arms of Stephan Andersen.
However, for all its dominance, Netherlands lacked a cutting edge in front of goal and with 24 minutes gone, Denmark showed the team how it should be done.
Krohn-Dehli still had work to do after picking up possession just outside the area, but the Brondby winger did not hesitate, nipping past his marker and drilling between the legs of Maarten Stekelenburg.
The goal sparked Denmark into life and the team began to cause more problems by using its wide players to apply pressure down the flanks and pinging crosses into the heart of the Dutch penalty area.
The goal was almost pegged back after 36 minutes though, after a poor clearance from Andersen was pounced upon by Robben, who strode forward and bent an effort onto the base of the post.
Afellay skied another attempt following a marauding run into the box, but it was Van Persie’s miss a few minutes before halftime that left Van Marwijk shaking his head.
The Arsenal striker’s heavy first-touch betrayed a glorious set up by Wesley Sneijder, but he still should have hit the target, instead of firing wide via a deflection by Andersen.
The interval did little to turn Van Persie’s fortunes. He wasted two setups from Sneijder, with a trip over his own feet a particular cause of frustration.
Mark Van Bommel called Andersen into action with a long range pile driver, before Afellay squeezed an attempt from the edge of the box inches wide of the post, as Netherlands seemed capable of everything but putting the ball into the back of the net.
Robben planted a header the wrong side of the post, but Netherlands could have been further behind on 70 minutes had Stekelenburg not gotten a touch onto a stinging drive by Krohn-Dehli.
Denmark was holding firm at the back, and survived a late flicked header from Van Persie that inched over the bar. When a late penalty appeal for handball against Jacobsen went unanswered, the Dutch knew that their time was up.
Netherlands will have a difficult task getting its campaign back on track when it faces fellow favorite Germany in the next group match, while Denmark squares off with Portugal. Both fixtures take place next Wednesday.
Germany 1-0 Portugal
Gomez header settles tense encounter
The Bayern Munich striker stole all three points for the tournament favorites with a second-half header, in a closely-fought encounter that could have gone either way
Germany kicked off their Euro 2012 campaign in efficient fashion, grinding out a narrow 1-0 win over Portugal at the Lviv Arena on Saturday.
Mario Gomez's pinpoint header on 72 minutes sent the beaten 2008 finalists to a crucial three points, and joint-top of Group B with Denmark after their tournament opener.
The match was certainly not one for the purists, with clear-cut chances hard to come by. Both sides gave a disciplined, if not dynamic performance on the field, with the tension becoming unbearable at times in the stands.
After much pre-tournament speculation as to who would spearhead the attack for Germany, coach Joachim Low gave Gomez the nod ahead of Miroslav Klose as the lone striker.
The Bayern Munich man looked to repay his manager’s faith early on, sending a guided header from Jerome Boateng’s cross towards goal, which was smothered by Portugal keeper Rui Patricio.
Neither side seemed in any hurry to take control of proceedings, though Cristiano Ronaldo did cause a few hearts to flutter when he flashed a low centre across the face of goal.
With just under a quarter of an hour gone, Germany keeper Manuel Neuer was floored by a dreadful late challenge from Helder Postiga, who was perhaps fortunate to escape his briefing with referee Stephane Lannoy with only a yellow card.
Earlier in Group B’s other fixture, a chance-laden affair saw Denmark stun Netherlands, but there were no signs of such a spectacle repeating itself as goalmouth action remained elusive.
Germany, despite boasting nearly two-thirds of possession throughout the opening period, could muster nothing more than a few half-chances, with Lukas Podolski guilty of sending a pair of them off target.
Muller lashed across goal after a hurried attack by the Germans moments before Holger Badstuber was booked for clipping Nani's heels.
In fact, the best opening of the half fell to Portugal minutes before the break. Pepe attacked a rebound from a corner, but his side-footed attempt bounced off the crossbar and onto the goalline.
The match remained finely poised as the second-half wore on, with Germany just about able to claim the upper hand, though with little improvement in their cutting edge in front of goal.
On the hour mark, a heavy tackle on Sami Khedira by Fabio Coentrao saw the Portugal left-back man receive a yellow card. Boateng soon joined him in the book for manhandling Ronaldo as Paulo Bento's men looked to break.
The match needed a spark, and Low seemed set to provide one by readying Klose on the sidelines with 72 minutes gone, with the departure of Gomez appearing imminent.
But no substitution was made at that moment, because after Boateng floated in a cross from the right towards Gomez, the Bayern striker climbed above Pepe to head Germany into the lead.
The 26-year-old soon came within inches of adding another, just failing to get a toe on Muller’s centre, before belatedly making way for Klose 10 minutes from time.
That sparked a late surge for Portugal, with Nani twice coming close to bringing them back into the game, one of his efforts being an audacious 35-yard cross-shot that clipped off the woodwork.
Portugal had their best chance of the match two minutes before the end, but Neuer did fantastically well to spread himself and block Valera from point blank range.
An even later Nani effort was blocked away from goal, with Bruno Alves sending a header from the resulting corner over, as Germany held on to claim victory.
Next up for Germany is a clash against fellow favourites Netherlands, while Portugal square off against Denmark, with both matches taking place on Wednesday.