Monday, 18 June 2012

Day Ten

Portugal 2 Holland 1

Germany 2 Denmark 1

Ignoring goal difference there are 3 ways each game can go: win, lose or draw. With 6 games in each group, there are 729 possible outcomes for each group. This sounds a lot, but it actually reduces to a few standard patterns, and one of the most common ones is the 6:3:3:0 points distribution after the first 4 games. If there are no draws in those games, the group will always have this pattern, or 6:6:0:0, or 3:3:3:3.

The 6:3:3:0 distribution is the only one where a team can win their first two games and still go into the last game with no guarantee of progress. It's also the only one where a team can lose their first two games and still have some hope. That was the situation in Group B for Germany and Holland.

Germany needed a point to top the group, but if they lost could still be eliminated by a Portugal win over Holland. Holland knew they were out unless they beat Portugal and Germany beat Denmark.

This meant that in each game, both sides were hoping for the same news from the other one. Germany wanted Holland to beat Portugal and remove the chance of a three way split on six points, and Denmark wanted the same to give them the chance to progress with a draw. Portugal and Holland both wanted Germany to beat Denmark, for very similar reasons.

I decided to watch Portugal and Holland, and I think I made the right choice. Every time I flicked over to the other game to check what was happening it seemed flatter, somehow.

After 11 minutes, unexpectedly, Holland went ahead. It was van der Vaart of Spurs, doing what we'd seen him do a few times this season. Robben's run had carved the space for him, and his shot flew in from about 30 yards. Just for a little while everyone stopped talking about the disunited Dutch team.

Portugal, stung, launched a series of attacks. Ronaldo ran round Vlaar, and his shot hit the outside of the post. Just afterwards an ill-considered back pass from van der Wiel fell to Postiga, who had a free shot that went wide, then Meireles hit one into the side netting from a wide angle.

Soon after we heard that Germany had taken the lead against Denmark. Both sets of fans cheered. Well, I know the pretty ones did. As for the others, no evidence was provided.

That was Holland's highwater mark, by which I mean something more positive than a highwater mark would normally mean in Holland. Immediately afterwards, de Jong had a free header from a corner, in the Portuguese box. Unfortunately for him it was just too high for him to get over it, and it bounced harmlessly over. Had it gone in we might be looking at some very different headlines today.

A minute later Ronaldo had a header in the Dutch box. He hit it powerfully, but Stekelenburg saved well. It seemed like he'd never score a goal again.

Soon after we heard Denmark had equalised against Germany. They showed us the clip. Bendtner rose strongly to meet a header on the edge of the box, it passed over the German defenders and came down just the right height for Krohn-Dehli's head. He flicked it on and in it went.

Finally, after so many misses, Ronaldo scored. A quick darting run, a perfect through ball from Pereira, bang. It was now one all in both games, so we were back where we started. Two minutes later, Nani shot just wide. The game was shaping up to be a cracker.

The Portuguese kept bashing away. They had too many chances to recount, especially if you miss players names because you're trying to eat your dinner, but at half time it was still 1-1 in both stadiums. Yes it is, or at least it can be. Stadia is more commonly used as the plural of stadium when it means a measure of distance.

Holland were better after the break, but Willems was booked for a lunging tackle on Moutinho, and as a result would have missed the quarter final even if they got through. By this time it was starting to seem a remote possibility.

It could have been a bit nearer if Vlaar had scored when he had a free header in the box from a Dutch free kick. It flew high and wide. From his face, you could see he knew what a chance it was.

On the hour mark Postiga managed the getting-it-in-the-goal bit of scoring, getting on a Ronaldo shot that was going wide, but he was offside.

Soon after Meireles was brought down by de Jong and didn't immediately get up, but the Dutch played on. This meant that when Portugal took the ball off them they felt quite entitled to have an attack themselves. In the event Coentrao's shot was saved, but it would have been a talking point if it had gone in. Meireles was fine. Obviously.

The Dutch brought on Affelay for Willems. They'd left him out after Holland's previous failures, but now they needed all the striking power they could muster. Portugal brought Custodio on for Meireles.

Immediately after, Ronaldo played a perfect pass right across the 6-yard for Nani. He hit it firmly enough, but the keeper was in the right place.

A minute later, the roles were successfully reversed. A Dutch move broke down on the Portuguese box, and Moutinho broke out. He played it out right to Nani, who hit the perfect diagonal box to Ronaldo. Ronaldo, in a position to hit it first time, instead controlled the ball, cutting inside the defender, then he controlled it again, then he scored. After all his cockups up to this point it was, it must be said, a triumph of nerve and professionalism. He took the time he needed to ensure the score, and no more. Any fair minded person would have to admire him for it. I still think he's a twat.

I turned over. The tension was now in the Danish game. If Denmark scored, they would go through with Portugal and Germnay would be eliminated.

Instead it was Germany that found the winner. Lars Bender reached a cross pitch ball that had defeated everyone else and tucked it past the keeper, who'd suddenly found himself out of position when his defender Poulsen slipped and missed the ball.

Yes, I had noticed, I was drawing a veil. As pointed out, at least they don't have Kuntz any more

The Danes now needed three goals, at least one in both games. They did their best, but had no significant chances, and unlike the previous day the drama slowly dribbled out of both games. At full time, nothing had changed.

Which gives us our first two quarter finals. Portugal play the Czech Republic, then Germany play Greece.

We're now twenty games in, without a single goalless draw. There are 11 games left. Could this be the first tournament not to have one?

No comments:

Post a Comment