Story by Adam Wilson
So with all the teams having played their second group stage game, let’s separate the magic from the madness.
3. Mario Gomez.
Mario Gomez is an unmistakable talent, his combination of pace, strength, and height enable him to find the back of the net frequently for his club side Bayern Munich. Nevertheless he has been accused in the past of not scoring enough goals when he is called up for the national side. This is no longer the case. Since becoming a regular in Joachim Loew’s starting 11, Gomez has been scoring freely and Wednesday’s game against the Netherlands was no different. Germany considers their confrontations with the Dutch as their fiercest rivalry, contrary to English belief and on the biggest of occasions Gomez stepped up and finished twice past a helpless Stekelenburg.
2. England and super sub Walcott.
England came into this game after a satisfactory stalemate with the French and needed a win to put themselves into a commanding position for their final game. Everything looked to be going superbly as the three lions controlled the first half and led through a sublime Andy Carroll header, who was doing his best to prove his doubters wrong. However as the second half began, fans were treated to the same defensive errors that so often cost England dear and within 20 minutes of the restart England were behind. Fortunately for England an on form Walcott was substituted for Milner providing the vital spark that they greatly needed. Walcott first fired a curled finish past an off balance Isaksson, before storming through the heart of the Swedish defence to supply Welbeck with what was to be the winning goal.
1. Spain and Torres on form?
Prior to kick off between Spain and Ireland, the Germans had crept their way to becoming bookmakers favourites to win the tournament. The Spanish were clearly disgruntled by this and after a draw against Italy in the first game; they had a point to prove. Unlike their first game Spain set up with a recognised striker leading the line, that man was Fernando Torres. This decision turned out to be an inspired one as ‘el nino’ found the back of the net within five minutes. The Irish struggled on until half time, but after the break their midfield was overrun and Spain moved up a gear, which led to three more goals finding their way past Shay Given into the Irish net. Spain once again were bookmakers favourites after a remarkable display, Ireland were out of the tournament.
3. Arjen Robben throws his toys out of the pram.
Germany vs. the Netherlands was one of the most important matches of the tournament, especially for those of the Dutch persuasion who had lost their opening game against Denmark. Holland had to win this game if they were to retain real hope of qualification from their group, but they were simply not as good as the Germans on the day. However many of their attacking chances fell at the feet of one of their most talented players in Arjen Robben, only for Robben to waste them through selfish play. Robben is famed for his ability to cut in off the right wing and strike the ball with his brilliant left foot, but today he wasn’t hitting the target and should have looked up to find a teammate. To make matters worse Robben stormed off the opposite side of the field when he was substituted, removing his shirt in front of the fans before sitting to the side of the dugout. Robben’s actions showed exactly what happens when a player puts himself before the team.
2. Ronaldo almost costing his team.
Portugal went into the second game as another team that needed a win after losing their opening fixture to the impressive Germans. To achieve three points they had to face Denmark who themselves were coming off a win over the Netherlands and all was looking well as they flew into a 2-0 lead. However Nicklas Bendtner pulled one back before a brace of glorious chances to seal victory fell at the feet of Cristiano Ronaldo only for the most prolific player in the tournament to fire once at the keeper followed by an awful shot wide. Bendtner then equalised, leaving Ronaldo sweating for seven minutes until substitute Varela spared his blushes by winning the game for Portugal with a powerful strike in the closing stages.
1. England’s defence of set plays.
Many people have suggested that certain English defenders such as Micah Richards and Rio Ferdinand should have been included by Hodgson in his team for the current tournament and as much as England’s opening game against France vindicated Hodgson’s decision, their Friday night clash with Sweden did exactly the opposite. As an attacking threat they were lethal, more so when Walcott was substituted on. However poor defending from two free kicks led to both of the Swedish goals. Never famed for his defending ability, Glen Johnson was at fault for the first, as his amateurish positioning left an unmarked Mellberg onside. The Second saw Mellberg unmarked again as he rose above everyone else to power a free header past Joe Hart, who was left wondering where his centre backs were and whether he should have challenged the ball himself. It was an unwanted stain on an otherwise exciting display by England.