vrijdag 29 juni 2012

Euro 2012 Report - 27 and 28 Juni

The Big Final: Sunday - 1 July

Portugal 0-0 Spain (aet, 2-4 on penalties)
Fabregas puts holders into final
The Barcelona man netted the decisive spot-kick after Bruno Alves had rattled the bar to book La Roja a date in the showpiece event in what will be their third successive final

Spain progressed to their third consecutive major final with a 4-2 penalty win over Portugal in the Euro 2012 semi-final at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

Despite playing at far from their best and with chances to find the net at a premium, a total of 120 minutes failed to separate the two sides as the game ended 0-0. And after Bruno Alves rattled the bar with Portugal's fourth penalty of the shoot-out, it was left to Cesc Fabregas to score the winner.

Vicente del Bosque sprung a surprise before kick off as he made one change to the side that defeated France in the quarter-finals, electing to start with Alvaro Negredo in attack ahead of both Fabregas and Fernando Torres.

His Portuguese counterpart Paulo Bento also made one alteration, with Hugo Almeida replacing the injured Helder Postiga after naming the same side for their six previous competitive fixtures. 

The Seleccao set about disrupting Spain's rhythm immediately by pressing their opponents high up the pitch. It worked for the opening few minutes as La Roja struggled to get their foot on the ball but they soon forged a chance for themselves.

Andres Iniesta played a give-and-go down the left flank with Jordi Alba before passing the ball into the box. Negredo could not get a shot away but managed to stab it back to the top of the penalty area where Alvaro Arbeloa tried to caress it into the top corner but his attempt flew over the bar.

But the Spaniards were by no means dominating and Cristiano Ronaldo was proving difficult for Del Bosque's men to deal with. However, two charging runs down the left failed to result in anything to truly test Iker Casillas with a free kick and a wild volley on the spin inside the opening 25 minutes.

Bento's men continued their high-intensity pressing and Spain were unable to get the most out of Xavi when on the ball. A long delivery forward resulted in an opportunity for Iniesta but he failed to hit the target, and moments later Ronaldo pulled an effort wide of the goal.

Spain continued to look uncomfortable on the ball and just nine minutes after the restart Del Bosque had to concede that his pre-match gamble had not paid off as he replaced Negredo with Fabregas.

Portugal were getting a lot of joy from putting the Spaniards under pressure in their own half but Almeida failed to make the most of it in the 57th minute. After his side won the ball back he could have passed to Nani or Ronaldo but instead produced an ambitious shot from 35 yards that did not work Casillas.

Shortly after the hour mark Spain began to have their best spell of possession in the opposing half but there remained little to separate the two sides as the tension mounted. Xavi got the game's first shot on target with a drilled attempt that was straight at Rui Patricio, shortly followed by a Ronaldo free kick that flashed over the bar.

In the 90th minute Portugal found themselves in a four-on-one but when the ball was shifted to the left, Ronaldo failed to make a solid connection and blazed his well off target in what was the last opportunity of normal time.

As the Seleccao grew tired they were no longer forcing their opponents to play from deep, instead allowing them to control the ball in their own half during much of extra time. Del Bosque's side dominated the extra 30 minutes but Rui Patricio brilliantly thwarted both Iniesta and Jesus Navas either side of the interval to ensure the game went to a penalty shoot-out.

Both teams got off to the worst start possible as Patricio and Casillas both saved from Alonso and Moutinho respectively. Iniesta, Pepe, Pique, Nani and Ramos all scored - including a 'Panenka' from the latter - before Bruno Alves hit the bar to make the score 3-2 to Spain after four spot-kicks each. 

It offered Fabregas the chance to book their spot in the final and he obliged, scoring via the post and setting up a date in Kiev for the final with either Germany or Italy on July 1.

Germany 1-2 Italy
Balotelli double sets up Spain final
The enigmatic striker has come through on the big stage, with two well-taken first half goals leading the Azzurri into the Euro final for the first time since 2000

EURO 2012, Italy vs. Germany, Mario Balotelli, Philipp Lahm
A brilliant performance from Mario Balotelli has driven Italy into the Euro 2012 final, after a 2-1 win over Germany at the National Stadium in Warsaw on Thursday. 

The Manchester City forward has hit the headlines for all the right reasons, opening the scoring with a powerful header before smashing home an emphatic second to clinch a date with Spain at the Olympic Stadium on July 1.

It was a deserved victory for Italy, who could have added further goals in the second half had they taken one of the numerous chances afforded to them by Germany's rushes forward to find a way back into the match. 

Mesut Ozil ensured a nervy finish to the encounter with a penalty in second-half stoppage time, but there was to be no miracle for Germany, who bowed out at the semi-final stage for the second major tournament in a row. 
Joachim Low restored Mario Gomez and Toni Kroos to his starting XI after the Bayern Munich pair were benched for the quarter-final victory over Greece in the quarter-finals.

Cesare Prandelli made only one change from the side that eliminated England on penalties, with Giorgio Chiellini recovering from an injury in time to replace Ignazio Abate.

It was Germany who threatened first only six minutes in, after Mats Hummels’ scrambled shot was blocked on the line by Andrea Pirlo, allowing Gianluigi Buffon to smother.

The Azzurri skipper nearly forced an own goal moments later after inadvertently diverting a Jerome Boateng cross into Andrea Barzagli, but the deflection rolled just wide of the post.

Despite the scares at the back during the opening exchanges, Italy were quicker to settle into the match, and began to establish a rhythm with some patient play in midfield.

Riccardo Montolivo blasted into the arms of Manuel Neuer from the edge of the box, but the Germany keeper was forced to work much harder by Antonio Cassano, whose curler towards the bottom corner was tipped away.

Italy started to get into their stride, were asking growing questions of the suspect German defence. Then, with 20 minutes gone, the Azzurri carved them completely apart.

Chiellini fed Cassano on the overlap down the left, and the Milan forward delivered a superb cross into the heart of the area, where Balotelli rose above Holger Badstuber to head Italy into the lead.

Italy were buoyed by the goal, with Germany still unable to shake off the erratic edge to their play. Montolivo’s hesitation allowed Badstuber to strip him of possession deep inside the area, but the new Milan signing would make a far more decisive contribution with 36 minutes gone.

His searching ball over the top caught the German back line out completely and released Balotelli, who stormed towards goal and smashed an unstoppable finish high into the back of the net.

The Manchester City man was booked for ripping his shirt of in a passionate celebration, but there were no such signs of desire from Germany, who were showing none of the verve from their entertaining win over Greece in the previous round.

Low was facing an uphill battle to get his side back into the match, and responded in kind, hauling off Gomez and Lukas Podolski at half-time for Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose.

Germany improved in the second-half but Phillip Lahm should have done a lot better after the restart, blasting over from the edge of the box after he was teed up in space by Kroos.

Reus was next to try his luck with a powerful free-kick from 20 yards out, but Buffon was equal to it and managed to punch over the crossbar.

However, for all Germany’s increased endeavour in the second half, they still lacked a cutting edge in front of goal, and with their urgency in the Italian half, were increasingly vulnerable to the counterattack.

A sweeping break just past the hour mark saw Alessandro Diamanti slip in Claudio Marchisio behind Badstuber, but his finish was driven the wrong side of the post.

The Juventus midfielder spurned an even greater chance with a quarter of an hour to play, when Badstuber’s slip allowed him with a clear sight on goal, but he disappointingly dragged his shot wide.

Germany were simply nowhere to be found, and could not make their forward pressure pay as Italy continued to take them apart on the counter.

Substitute Antonio Di Natale wasted the pick of the chances on 82 minutes after being put one-on-one with Neuer, but with all the time in the world to pick his spot, he instead found the side netting.

Germany were handed a late lifeline after Balzaretti's handball was spotted in the box, giving Ozil the chance to bury from the spot.

However, there was nothing left from Low's side despite an even later surge forward, giving Italy a nervy, but deserved victory and setting up a second meeting with Spain in this European Championship.


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