Portugal 3-2 Denmark
They made extremely hard work of it, but Portugal are off and running.
It’s strange because for much of the first half the Portuguese were in control, if a little light in the actual chances. But they were pressing forward, dominating midfield, staying solid when Denmark came at them. The two goals were the reward for that pressure, the second being especially good, Positga hitting the ball first time really sweetly.
That should have killed the game off, but Portugal took their foot off the gas. Bendtner’s first, offside, kept the Danes in it and must have provided a substantial morale boost at half time. The Danes went for it in the second, asserting some control, but Portugal should still have killed it off, Ronaldo with a rake of chances. He wasn’t marked out of this contest like he was against Germany, but he failed to take any of the glorious opportunities that came his way. He’s suffering away from Madrid, away from a squad built to support him.
Portugal got away with it in the end, and the Danes can feel a little aggrieved at the footballing Gods for denying them a crucial point. But the last Portuguese goal was taken well and they have upped their game since the first match. The Danes need to do a lot of work on their back line, which fell to pieces in the first half. No easy task against…
Germany 2-1 Netherlands
It has become clear that the Dutch have some big problems.
Between a porous defence and misfiring strikers, the Dutch are a shadow of the team that made it to the World Cup final in 2010. Though they dominated possession they just wasted good chances and good play, letting Germany punish them time and again. Robben has had a dire tournament so far and Van Piersie’s goal will deflect some of the criticism he will have rightfully earned for his lack of form. Huntellar wasn’t a happy man on the sideline, and seemed lethargic and uninterested when he came on. So many others in an orange shirt just didn’t seem to have the commitment of their counterparts.
The Germans turned on the style twice in the first half, the first a wonderfully worked team effort, everything that this German outfit can be at their peak, the second a dazzling piece of positional intelligence and curving finishing from Gomez. When the Dutch went forward you were waiting for them to mess it up, when the Germans went forward you expected a goal. Boeteng throwing himself in front of a Dutch shot was typical of the German attitude, markedly better then that displayed by their opponents.
And they could have had more goals, from a variety of sources. The Dutch crawled back into contention with the rocket of a shot that RVP provided, but Germany were just so comfortable, so assured, that it never really looked like the Dutch could snatch a draw past the 80th minute.
The German team, when playing well, are the peak of efficiency, communication, passing, runs and awareness. When they hit that sweet spot and turn it on, it is a joy to behold. The Dutch were left in their wake tonight.
Netherlands/Portugal promises to be an intriguing tie, with the Dutch needing to win (preferably by a wide enough margin). They’re lucky enough that Portugal got that last goal against the Danes, or else they would be out already. I can see the Dutch getting a draw, but nothing beyond that. As for the Danes, they’ll hope to catch a qualified Germany off guard and seal their own advancement. Can see it happening.