UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine
Review of the Tournament 

 

 

By Adam Higgins & Alex Byrom
Chief Football Editor & Deputy Football Editor

 

 

The UEFA Euro 2012 tournament in the heart of Eastern Europe in Poland & Ukraine was one of the best footballing festivals of this generation with some of the best players producing some exhibition football and some great goals, games, moments and drama with controversy staying at home. We have seen some truly outstanding talent and exciting games unfold- it has been an utter pleasure to watch the best players in Europe compete for the prize of the trophy. Here is my lowdown of some of the best bits of the tournament which played out over three weeks and thirty-one matches contrasting between some goal-filled extravaganzas and dull drab stalemates. Thankfully we only saw two goalless draws throughout- although one did involve England. The categories I have been breaking up to pick out my favourites include best goal, best captain, my team of the tournament and best referee amongst others.

 

 

BEST GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT:

 


Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)          Group Stages          Group D Game Three          Sweden 2-0 France           19th June 2012 


Having already been confirmed as being out of the tournament, Sweden went into their final match of the group with nothing to fear against France, who still had the chance of finishing top of the group, so it was left to  Sweden's captain and talisman Ibrahimovic came up with the goods and a terrific finish to open the scoring. After a spellbinding sequence of play, Sebastian Larsson stood it up from the right for his skipper stood at the edge of the box, the AC Milan forward held his run to thrust himself at the ball connecting spectacularly with a beautiful volley which left Lloris diving more in hope than expectation as it landed in the corner of the net. It was a double blow for the French whose play had lacked sharpness upto this point and consequently went on to lose 2-0 and finish in the group's second position behind England.

 

Our Other Contenders:-


Samir Nasri (France)                       Group Stages            Group D Game One           France 1-1 England         11th June 2012

Jakub Blaszcyzkowski (Poland)          Group Stages            Group A Game Two           Poland 1-1 Russia           12th June 2012

Sylvestre Varela (Portugal)               Group Stages            Group B Game Two         Denmark 2-3 Portugal        13th June 2012

Andrea Pirlo (Italy)                          Group Stages            Group C Game Two            Italy 1-1 Croatia           14th June 2012

Theo Walcott (England)                   Group Stages            Group D Game Two          Sweden 2-3 England        15th June 2012

Rafael Van der Vaart (Holland)          Group Stages            Group B Game Three         Portugal 2-1 Holland        17th June 2012

Sami Khedira (Germany)                   Quarter-Final             Quarter-Final Two           Germany 4-2 Greece        22nd June 2012  

Marco Reus (Germany)                     Quarter-Final             Quarter-Final Two           Germany 4-2 Greece        22nd June 2012

Mario Balotelli (Italy)                         Semi-Final                 Semi-Final Two              Germany 1-2 Italy          28th June 2012

 

 

Tottenham midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart curls in a beautiful effort for Holland against Portugal in the 12th minute to give them the lead

 

 

BEST ASSIST OF THE TOURNAMENT:

 


Steven Gerrard (England)
          Group Stages         Group D Game Two          Sweden 2-3 England           15th June 2012

Adam: The Three Lions went into their game against Sweden with huge expectation after showing their defensive resolve to battle to a 1-1 draw with France in their opening game of the tournament with many expecting this to be an easy three points following Sweden's loss to Ukraine. Goalscoring chances had been few and far between as England hadn't penetrated a Swedish backfour whom all of its members had experienced Premier League football during their careers. But a Liverpool combination came up trumps on 24 minutes as Steven Gerrard splendidly crossed early on his right-foot from thirty yards near the right hand flank with his Anfield team-mate Andy Carroll heading in accurately leaving former Manchester City goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson stranded as he found space between the two central defenders to score his first England goal on his fifth appearance for the senior national side. 

Alex: Personally, Gerrard's three assists were all of real quality; but you can only pick one. England's real threat from wide areas came from the wide areas and from Gerrard in particular. Bastian Schweinsteiger against Holland showed why he's a world class talent: two passes of top quality and Gomez finished it off. Adam's favourite goal (above) was assisted by Sebastian Larsson- again a fantasric bit of play, likewise for Jakub Blaszczykowski against Russia. My favourite though has to be David Silva's against Italy in the winner's opening game. He picked the ball up in the area, and picked a pass that no-one else saw and Fabregas did the rest. Outstanding.

 

Our Other Contenders:-


Jakub Blaszczykowski (Poland)       Group Stages            Group A Game Two             Poland 1-1 Russia            8th June 2012

David Silva (Spain)           Group Stages             Group C Game One             Spain 1-1 Italy            10th June 2012 

Aiden McGeady (Rep of Ireland)       Group Stages          Group C Game One          Rep of Ireland 1-3 Croatia        10th June 2012

Steven Gerrard (England)        Group Stages          Group D Game One             France 1-1 England            11th June 2012

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)        Group Stages           Group B Game Two           Holland 1-2 Germany         13th June 2012

Luis Nani (Portugal)        Group Stages           Group B Game Three            Portugal 2-1 Holland            17th June 2012

Sebastian Larsson (Sweden)        Group Stages           Group D Game Three             Sweden 2-0 France            19th June 2012 

Ricardo Montolivo (Italy)          Semi-Final            Semi-Final Two             Germany 1-2 Italy              28th June 2012  

Xavi (Spain)          Final         Assisted Jordi Alba's second goal for Spain             Spain 4-0 Italy               1st July 2012 

 

 

Xavi threaded a delightful pass through to his new Barcelona colleague Jordi Alba to score Spain's second goal in their 4-0 victory over Italy in the final

 

 

MY FAVOURITE MOMENT OF THE TOURNAMENT:

 


Jakub Blaszczykowski goal for Poland against Russia     Group Stages     Group A Game Two     Poland 1-1 Russia   12th June 2012 

Adam: It was the massive derby between the Poles and he Russians- 16th in the latest FIFA rankings- in their second clash of the Euro 2012 group stages with fans already making the game look potentially combustible after clashing outside the ground before kick-off. It looked as though the match could turn into a fight zone. Russia, leading through an Alan Dzagoev header in the first half, still searched for a second goal in the second period breaking quickly when they could but it didn't stop the co-hosts from levelling the game. Parity was restored in the 57th minute as Obraniak slid the ball to skipper Blaszczykowski who momentarily had the beating of ex-Chelsea full-back Zhirkov by jinking away from him before the Dortmund winger unleashed a sensational left-footed pearler which found the net as pandemonium broke out in the Poland end of the National Stadium in Warsaw with their boisterous fans showing how much it means to the country's patrons with the fans cheering and showing some excitement. There was a real connection between all of the Polish faithful while Blaszczykowski showed sheer emotion and the Polish players gathered around with one or two almost in tears. I was watching for the Football Site and I could hear the electric atmosphere all around- it was very moving and special certainly my favourite moment of the tournament and one that I will not forget in a hurry. The goal had been coming and it was a typically exciting "I was there" occasion.

Alex: Adam's sums it up brilliantly. 


 

Our Other Contenders:-


Opening performance & ceremony of Euro 2012      Group Stages       Group A Game One      Poland 1-1 Russia      8th June 2012

Thunderstorm halts play for an hour in Donetsk       Group Stages      Group D Game Two      Ukraine 0-2 France      15th June 2012

England overcome tough test to comeback against Sweden        Group Stages        Group D Game Two     Sweden 2-3 England
15th June 2012

Ukraine boss threatens fight with journalist       Group Stages       Group D Game Three       England 1-0 Ukraine      19th June 2012

Spain's passing masterclass to outfox Italy in Kiev's showpiece final          Final            Spain 4-0 Italy            1st July 2012 

 

 

Play was suspended for an hour after five minutes of Ukraine's defeat to France after a deluge of rain and spectacular thunderstorm hit the capital

 

  

BEST REFEREE OF THE TOURNAMENT:

 


Adam: Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

Age:  41             FIFA referee since 2007           Promoted to Elite Category in 2009          Other job:  Financial advisor     

Season 2011-12 highlight:  Taking charge of UEFA Champions League Final in May between Bayern Munich and Chelsea

Euro 2012 tournament highlight:  Overseeing the final- Spain versus Italy- at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev



Games refereed at Euro 2012:


Thursday 14th June 2012        Group C     Spain (Torres 4, 53, Silva 49, Fabregas 83) 4-0 Republic of Ireland     PGE Arena, Gdansk 
Bookings:-  Alonso, Javi Martinez (Spain), St Ledger, Whelan, Keane (R of Ireland)
Red cards:-  None
Penalties:-  None

Our match report rating:-  8.5/10             Click here to read our match report

 

Tuesday 19th June 2012          Group D        Sweden (Ibrahimovic 54, Larsson 90+2) 2-0 France         Olympic Stadium, Kiev

Bookings:-  Svensson, Holmen (Sweden), Mexes (France)
Red cards:-  None
Penalties:-  None

Our match report rating:-  9/10                Click here to read our match report

 

Sunday 24th June 2012              Quarter-Final           England 0-0 Italy (Italy win 4-2 on penalties)         Olympic Stadium, Kiev

Bookings:-  Barzagli, Maggio (Italy)
Red cards:-  None
Penalties:-  None

Our match report rating:-  7.5/10              Click here to read our match report

 

Sunday 1st July 2012           Final          Spain (Silva 14, Alba 41, Torres 84, Mata 88) 4-0 Italy           Olympic Stadium, Kiev

Bookings:-  Pique (Spain), Barzagli (Italy)
Red cards:-  None
Penalties:-  None

Our match report rating:-  8.5/10              Click here to read our match report

 

Comment:    I think it was a fully deserved appointment for Pedro Proenca at the end of a terrific season for him in which he refereed a large number of Portuguese SuperLiga matches, a Portuguese cup semi-final and the Champions League final in May between Bayern Munich and Chelsea at the Allianz Arena which he handled well, getting all the big calls right. He is a consistent performer and has now proved himself at the highest level. He has impressed during his first major international tournament as a referee, controlling his four matches well generally and dealing with any problems that arose with minimal fuss. Normally an official who uses the yellow card frequently, his card count has decreased slightly at Euro 2012 dishing out fewer bookings while issuing no red cards or awarding any penalties. His best performance probably came in the match between Sweden and France in the group stages where he was barely mentioned quietly getting on with the game, making the decisions he needed to and kept everything under control. In the England-Italy quarter-final, there were more free-kicks for him to give and more pressure on him to perform however once again, he was left with no major calls to make. Having took charge of a quarter-final clash, I was expecting his tournament to be done and dusted but to have been in the reckoning for the final and to actually be appointed to the showpiece was a fantastic achievement for an official who has slowly worked up the rungs of the officiating ladder. In the final, he made one or two small decisions which were questionable such as the odd harsh free-kick although nothing to be considerably concerned about or to put a cross against his name for. For the way he imposed himself, the number of prestigious appointments over the last twelve months in terms of experience gained, his assured nature and control over the players and ability to remain calm under pressure have painted a significant picture made up of attributes which make up the perfect referee. It has been good watching him during Euro 2012- he has been in the news for the right reasons and that can only be a good thing for a match official. Definitely the best of the twelve referees.

 

 

Alex: Stephane Lannoy (France)

Age:  41             FIFA referee since 2006           Promoted to Elite Category in 2008          Other job:  Video games distributor     

Season 2011-12 highlight:  Europa League semi-final 1st leg between Athletico Madrid and Valencia

Euro 2012 tournament highlight:  Overseeing the semi-final- Germany versus Italy- at the National Stadium, Warsaw



Games refereed at Euro 2012:


Saturday 9th June 2012            Group B              Germany (Gomez 72) 1-0 Portugal               Arena Lviv Stadium, Lviv 

Bookings:- Badstuber & Boateng (Germany), Coentrao & Helder Postiga (Portugal)
Red cards:-  None
Penalties:-  None

Our match report rating:-  8/10                Click here to read our match report

 

Tuesday 12th June 2012      Group A      Greece (Gekas 53) 1-2 Czech Republic (Jiracek 3, Plasil 6)    Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

Bookings:-  Torosidis, Papadopoulos & Salpingidis (Greece), Rosicky & Plasil (Czech Republic)
Red cards:-  None
Penalties:-  None

Our match report rating:-  6.5/10              Click here to read our match report

 

Thursday 28th June 2012         Quarter-Final       Germany (Ozil pen 90+2) 1-2 Italy (Balotelli 24 & 36)     Olympic Stadium, Kiev

Bookings:-  Hummels (Germany), Baloteli, Bonucci, De Rossi & Motta
Red cards:-  None
Penalties:-  1

Our match report rating:-  7.5/10              Click here to read our match report

 

Comment:    I think it was a fully deserved appointment for Pedro Proenca at the end of a terrific season for him in which he refereed a large number of Portuguese SuperLiga matches, a Portuguese cup semi-final and the Champions League final in May between Bayern Munich and Chelsea at the Allianz Arena which he handled well, getting all the big calls right. He is a consistent performer and has now proved himself at the highest level. He has impressed during his first major international tournament as a referee, controlling his four matches well generally and dealing with any problems that arose with minimal fuss. Normally an official who uses the yellow card frequently, his card count has decreased slightly at Euro 2012 dishing out fewer bookings while issuing no red cards or awarding any penalties. His best performance probably came in the match between Sweden and France in the group stages where he was barely mentioned quietly getting on with the game, making the decisions he needed to and kept everything under control. In the England-Italy quarter-final, there were more free-kicks for him to give and more pressure on him to perform however once again, he was left with no major calls to make. Having took charge of a quarter-final clash, I was expecting his tournament to be done and dusted but to have been in the reckoning for the final and to actually be appointed to the showpiece was a fantastic achievement for an official who has slowly worked up the rungs of the officiating ladder. In the final, he made one or two small decisions which were questionable such as the odd harsh free-kick although nothing to be considerably concerned about or to put a cross against his name for. For the way he imposed himself, the number of prestigious appointments over the last twelve months in terms of experience gained, his assured nature and control over the players and ability to remain calm under pressure have painted a significant picture made up of attributes which make up the perfect referee. It has been good watching him during Euro 2012- he has been in the news for the right reasons and that can only be a good thing for a match official. Definitely the best of the twelve referees.

Our Other Contenders:-


Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)

Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)

Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

 

 

Slovenian referee Damir Skomina (pictured above) also caught the eye for three impressive and commanding performances during Euro 2012

 

 

WORST REFEREE OF THE TOURNAMENT:

 

 

Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain)

Age: 41            FIFA referee since 2005            Promoted to Elite Category in 2008          Other jobs:  Former industrial engineer 

Season 2011-12 highlight:  Taking charge of UEFA Champions League Last 16 1st leg clash- Napoli against Chelsea in Naples 

Euro 2012 tournament highlight:  Given the honour of being man in the middle for the tournament's first match-  Poland vs Greece



Games refereed at Euro 2012:


Friday 8th June 2012          Group A         Poland (Lewandowski 17) 1-1 Greece (Salpingidis 51)        National Stadium, Warsaw
Bookings:- Papastathopoulos, Holebas, Karagounis (Greece)
Red cards:-  Szczesny (Poland), Papastathopoulos (Greece)
Penalties:- 1
Our match report rating:- 6/10              Click here to read our match report 

Sunday 17th June 2012        Group B        Denmark (Krohn-Delhi 24) 1-2 Germany (Podolski 19, Bender 80)      Arena Lviv, Ukraine

Bookings:- None
Red cards:- None
Penalties:- None

Our match report rating:- 8.5/10            Click here to read our match report

Comment:   After a good full and lengthy campaign in La Liga and Europe for him, I was not really surprised by the appointment of Carlos Velasco Carballo to the opening match of the tournament between Poland and Greece in Group A. Although it wasn't a standout fixture, massive derby or big decider between two of the best footballing sides in the world, it was still important to perform well in such a match that everyone is anticipating with millions watching. I thought his performance in the big curtain raiser was average at best. For a man who has handled the massive El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona in hostile atmospheres and difficult circumstances, you would expect him to make the big calls without any fuss and get them right most importantly which he didn't do unfortunately in the first match. The sending off for Greece's Papastathopoulos could have set a precedent for the rest of the tournament in terms of how the referees were instructed to officiate and everyone, including me, feared the worst therefore it was a dangerous decision that he made. And ultimately the wrong one. The two fouls that he was booked for were debatable as to whether they were fouls in the first place let alone a yellow card. The red card for Polish goalkeeper Szczesny looked dubious at first however looking closely at replays, they showed that the slightest contact was made with the Greece player therefore you can consider the decision correct. He was in a hurry to reach to his pocket once more nevertheless. Overall in that match, he was too picky awarding some soft free-kicks and not getting all of the fouls right. He is one of the disciplinarian officials who doesn't really allow the game to flow which is a result of the strict Spanish style of refereeing that he is used to on a regular basis at domestic level. In his second and final match of Euro 2012 between Denmark and Germany in Group B, he avoided controversy which would have been a relief not only to him but to UEFA. It was a quiet game with no cards brandished, very few free-kicks and you barely noticed he was there. As far as first tournaments go, he will look back in reflection with one or two regrets perhaps that he didn't perform to a higher level than he is capable of. He will need to buck up his ideas over the next couple of years in order to get himself in contention for selection for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where the shortlist is currently being drawn up.

 

 

My Other Contenders:-


Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)

Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)

Viktor Kassai (Hungary)

 

Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai failed to live up to the high expectations of him at the tournament- not even selected for a knock-out game

 

  

BEST SUPPORTERS OF THE TOURNAMENT:

 


Republic of Ireland 


The support that the Irish received during their brief three-game spell at Euro 2012 was terrific. Around 20,000 fans made the 960 round mile journey from Dublin to Poland to back the national team and cheer on the players. They sang to their hearts content and never stopped. They never caused problems to stewards or become embroiled in an attempt to invade the pitch- then again there wasn't too much to celebrate on the pitch. Even when the team were being torn to pieces in their second group game against the reigning world and European champions Spain and losing 4-0 with five minutes to go, the supporters were still singing loudly and cheering and it almost had some of the Irish players in tears. They never stopped from the first minute of the tournament to the last. When the only goal they scored at the tournament went in against Croatia for St Ledger's equaliser, the City Stadium in Poznan erupted. It was bedlam in the stand holding the vociferous "Green Army" who just couldn't contain their emotions. And then just to rub it in, the Irish fans appropriately started doing the famous "Poznan" celebration in Poznan. Each Irish player interviewed after their disappointing 2-0 loss to Italy in the final game hailed the fans saying "they were incredible", "they deserved better", "the support was magnificent", "I thank the supporters who were just exceptional". Even Giovanni Trapattoni dropped a line on the fans saying "they were absolutely terrific all the way through. We cannot thank them enough." It's a shame they didn't have anything more to shout about other than one solitary goal- regardless of that, the vocal backing was still loud and certainly proud.

 

My Other Contenders:-


Poland fans 

Spain fans 

Ukraine fans

 

The fans of co-hosts Poland dress in red and white and hold up their scarves as they embraced the tournament with their vocal support

 

 

SHOCK/SURPRISE OF THE TOURNAMENT:

 

 

Italy knock Germany out in the semi-finals               Quarter-Final            Germany 1-2 Italy            28th June 2012

Adam: It was definitely the biggest shock of the tournament in my book- I just didn't see it coming. With the Germans looking so unbeatable, winning all four of their previous games without playing particularly well or showing the style that we saw at the 2010 World Cup, it looked like they would make it through to the final with minimal fuss when drawing the Italians in the semi-final stage rather than Spain who in the end they avoided altogether. It was a genuine surprise that the Germans couldn't get their act together when it mattered most when everyone expected them to win the whole competition to not even reach the final. Everything was in place for them, they have the right man to lead them, the squad is seaming with quality all over with younger and fresher talent being nurtured. Italy were just better on the night and had a positive mindset and attacking gameplan which played dividends. Their two forwards Balotelli and Cassano were imperious and a real handful for the young centre-back pairing of Hummels and Badstuber. Manchester City's enigmatic striker provided Italy with the cutting edge and two first-half goals as Joachim Loew's Germany failed to produce the impressive form that had seen them touted as potential tournament winners. Balotelli put Italy on the way when he directed Antonio Cassano's cross past Germany keeper Manuel Neuer then added a thunderous second from Riccardo Montolivo's pass. Mesut Ozil's injury-time penalty provided the briefest anxiety for Italy, whose victory was confirmed moments later, and Balotelli fell into the warm embrace of his mother as he made his way down the tunnel. No one expected this to happen- Italy had failed to get past England in normal time and Germany had battered Greece in the quarter-final. Everything pointed towards a victory for Joachim Loew's men so for the Italians to go through and produce the performance they did was a huge shock.

 

My Other Contenders:-


Greece progress ahead of Russia         Group Stages        Group A Game Three        Greece 1-0 Russia       16th June 2012

 

OUR STARTING ELEVEN OF THE TOURNAMENT:

 


ADAM:

(4-3-3)

 

Iker Casillas (Spain)

Mathieu Debuchy (France)

Sergio Ramos (Spain)

Pepe (Portugal)

Jordi Alba (Spain)

Xavi (Spain)

Andrea Pirlo (Italy)

Steven Gerrard (England)

Andres Iniesta (Spain)

Mario Balotelli (Italy)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

 

 

ALEX:

(Formation)

Iker Casillas (Spain)

Mathieu Debuchy (France)

Sergio Ramos (Spain)

Joleon Lescott (England)

Jordi Alba (Spain)

Xavi (Spain)

Andres Iniesta (Spain)

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Antonio Cassano (Italy)

Mario Gomez (Germany)

 

 

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