Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder walks of the pitch at the end of their Group B Euro 2012 soccer match against Germany at the Metalist stadium in Kharkiv, June 13, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Michael Buholzer)
Tuesday marked the end of the group stage of the opening round of the Euro Cup 2012. The Group Stage brought a great deal of satisfaction, but also brought incredible disappointments. Here are the major disappointments of the first round of the tournament.
Netherlands walks away with 0 points and major turmoil
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Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robbin Van Persie, Rafael van der Vaart, Luuk de Jong, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Maarten Stekelenburg, Nigel de Jong, Gregory Vand der Wiel. All of those names have the words "dream team" written on them. This squad was essentially the same one that almost defeated Spain in the 2010 World Cup Championship match and was expected to do as much or more in the Euro 2012. Now more than half of those players may end their careers without winning a major tournament with their international squad.
Despite being placed in the infamous "Group of Death" which included Germany, Portugal, and Denmark, Netherlands was still expected to get out of the group as either leaders or runner-ups. They did neither. In fact, they did nothing the entire tournament.
In their opening match to the Danish, the Dutch played perhaps their best game and generated numerous opportunities to win the game. However, the result was a 1-0 score line favoring their opponents.
In the ensuing match against the Germans, the Dutch looked porous on defense and lost in the German half. Germany took a 2-0 lead in the first half and essentially flooded the midfield until Robbin Van Persie scored in the 73rd minute. However, it was too little too late as the Dutch could not build on the score line.
In their most crucial match of the tournament against Portugal, they answered the call... for the first 15 minutes. After van der Vaart scored the opening goal on an incredible long range blast, the Portuguese clogged the midfield, took away the wings and let superstar Cristiano Ronaldo take care of the score. The Dutch and coach Bert van Marwijk did nothing about it and saw their tournament slip away with a catastrophic 2-1 loss that was far worse than the score indicated. If not for goalkeeper Stekellenburg who made some incredible saves, Portugal scored another four or five goals.
What was even more disappointing was the continued inner turmoil of the Dutch. After being subbed out during Germany, Arjen Robben jumped over some ads and took the long way around the field in protest of his substitution. Wesley Sneijder stated that he wished that the team would get rid of some of the egos. Huntelaar expressed irritation at being placed on the bench in favor of Robin Van Persie in the first two matches after scoring more goals in qualifications that van Persie.
Van Marwijk will likely be fired and some of these veterans will not be a part of the World Cup Squad in Brazil. Netherlands was easily the worst team of the tournament due to the expectations placed on them to succeed.
Host nations Poland and Ukraine fail to get out of their respective groups
For the second straight Euro Cup, the co-host nations were unable to get out the group stage. In 2008, Austria and Switzerland were unable to get out of their groups, and now Poland and Ukraine made their fans endure the same fate. Poland is perhaps the more disappointing of the two as they were placed in perhaps the easiest of the four groups, but did not even manage a victory in the entirety of group play. Group A included Poland, Russia, Greece, and the Czech Republic. With the exception of Russia, none of the teams were expected to be major contenders and it was widely believed that the home crowd would propel Poland to victory. They tied Greece after blowing a 1-0 lead, but managed a tie against heavily favored Russia. However, their luck ended when they lost to the Czech Republic and ended up as the last place team in their group.
Ukraine came out with a big win over Sweden, but followed up with an awful loss to France and an unfortunate one to England. They outplayed England for the duration of the match and should have come out victorious, but were never able to put together the perfect play to score.
For the remainder of the tournament, the Polish and Ukrainian fans will be forced to endure the suffering of watching other countries conquest their own for European Soccer glory.
Russia is currently ranked 13th on the FIFA rankings. Greece is currently 15th, Poland is 62nd, and the Czech Republic is the 27th best nation in the world according to FIFA. Expect Russia's ranking to drop dramatically after a disappointing first round exit from the Euro 2012.
Four years ago, the Russians came out in second place of Group D before knocking out the Netherlands 3-1 in the quarter finals. They would end their tournament at the hands of the eventual champion Spain, but would walk away as having had a successful run. In 2012, they were expected to have an even better run, especially after being placed in what many considered the "easiest" of all the groups.
One game in, it looked like Russia would be steaming through Group A when it demolished the Czech Republic 4-1 in the opening match of the tournament. However, they were slowed down a bit in a 1-1 draw with Poland, but few saw much to be concerned about.
In their third match, the score seemed headed for a 0-0 tie going into the half, until Greece struck on a Russian mistake. For the remainder of the match, Russia battled for its life but eventually found itself out of a tournament that they were expected to make a splash in.
But the tournament was only the beginning. Captain Andrei Arshavin got into an argument with a fan and told him that "The fact that we didn't live up to your expectations isn't our problem. It's yours."
The press has attacked its captain for his comportment and the comportment of his teammates who walked off the field without making any thankful gestures to fans. Russian coach Dick Advocaat has probably seen his last day as the leader of the squad and the future looks uncertain for a squad that managed four points in group play, but still failed to get out of the group. The country has a great deal of work to do leading up to its 2018 World Cup.
Spain does not look like the juggernaut many have expected
Sure, the defending Euro and World Cup Champions won two of three matches, but they have been unable to sustain the form of their previous tournament victories to this point. Against Italy, they looked frustrated and unable to generate quality opportunities against a foe that presented little offensive threats. Italy got on the board early in the second half and it even looked like Spain would never get the equalizer. They eventually did, but were far from the better team on the pitch.
They returned to form against woeful Ireland by breaking out for four goals, but then were frustrated time and again by a Croatian defense that almost sunk them early in the second. Spain eventually scored, but the entire match made it seem as if the Croatians, like the Italians had a manual on how to stop the great Spanish armada.
The Iberians passed the ball at will, but in two of the three matches, the passing was generally fruitless and often led to mistakes that created opportunities for the Croatians and Italians. Expect the French to sit back, crowd the penalty area, and put five players on any Spanish player that attempts to break in on their own.
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