Poland's Robert Lewandowski (L) reacts as Czech Republic's players celebrate winning their Group A Euro 2012 soccer match at the City stadium in Wroclaw June 16, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Bartosz Jankowski)
As can be expected in any major sports tournament, surprises are prone to happening. The Euro 2012 has had its wealth of surprises. Here are the most impactful of them.
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Russia was supposed to waltz through the "easiest group" of all and book a spot in the Quarter Finals. The Czech Republic was supposed to fighting for the runner-up spot. After one game and a 4-1 dismantling at the hands of those same Russians, most were already booking return flights for the Czechs.
But they would not be had and silenced their critics with two goals in the first six minutes of their match against Greece. They held on for a 2-1 victory and followed it up with a clutch 1-0 victory over Poland in front of a highly unfavorable crowd.
Their reward is a date with a streaking Portugal in what may be one of the better matches in the tournament.
Mario Gomez Leads all Goal Scorers
The German has been known for being clutch in the big time, but also for being madly inconsistent. There were even questions of whether German Coach Joachim Low would start the striker over German veteran Miroslav Klose. But Low put his confidence in Gomez and Gomez has responded with three goals and one assist. Of the three strikers tied with three goals in the tournament, Gomez is the only one remaining in the quarter finals. He could still add more and may end up with the Golden Boot.
The Dutch were supposed to be in contention to win it all, but instead fell apart with three losses. In their final match against Portugal, perhaps the most important match of the tournament, the Dutch team started off strong but then performed a first-rate disappearing act for the final 75 minutes of the game. The squad that was runner-up in the 2010 World Cup, left without a single point in the Euro 2012.
Russia was supposed to win Group A and after a 4-1 destruction of the Czech Republic, they looked well on their way. But the Russians could not win or tie their decisive match against Greece and found themselves out of the tournament.
Fernando Torres Shows Up, for one game/ Cesc Fabregas Sits on the Bench
Many believed that Fernando Torres' career was over after a pathetic showing in the World Cup and poor performances for his club teams. However, Vicente Del Bosque found his hands tied to open the Euro Cup 2012 when striker David Villa went down with injury and was unable to play in the tournament. Del Bosque tried Torres late in the Italy match and the striker missed prime scoring opportunities. He did however finish well against Ireland and scored two goals.
The man he replaced, Cesc Fabregas, has been the best Spaniard in the tournament thus far with a tying goal against Italy, a goal against Ireland, and a brilliant pass to set up Spain's game winner against Croatia. Despite his brilliance, Fabregas has found himself on the bench for most of the tournament. That will probably change in the quarter finals, but is still surprising considering his strong play on the pitch thus far.
Sweden was already eliminated after poor efforts against England and Ukraine and was set to play against the top team in the group. Reports indicated that the Swedes were all packed up and ready to go home after the game. France had showed it quality in its defeat of Ukraine and was a win away from wrapping up the group and taking on Italy in the Quarter Finals.
The team that came to play was not the team anyone expected. Sweden not only defeated France 2-0, but shutdown France's potent offense which had almost no strong chances at the net. Even Swedish Captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, known for his laziness on the field and his diva-like attitude, put his offensive prowess on display with the goal of tournament.
Other Reactions to the Group Stage of the Tournament