Germany's Miroslav Klose embraces Lars Bender (bottom) as they celebrate after scoring a goal against Denmark during their Euro 2012 Group B soccer match at the new stadium in Lviv June 17, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Darren Staples)
Eight teams have made it past the Group Stage; some with strong soccer and some by pure chance. Here are the three best teams from the Group Stage of the World Cup.
Germany (3 Wins, 0 Draws, 0 Losses)
1-0 against Portugal, 2-1 against Netherlands, and 2-1 against Denmark. None of these scores are a clear indication of how good Germany has been in this tournament. Their least impressive match was against Denmark, a team desperate for a win to classify for the next round. Their best was a 2-1 defeat of the Netherlands that could have been more had it not been for timely saves from Maarten Stekellenburg. The 1-0 win over Portugal was impressive in the German ability to give Superstar Crisitano Ronald no space or opportunities with which to exert his offensive prowess.
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The team has looked steady on all areas of the field, especially up top where its aggressive and potent offensive has been commanded brilliantly by 23 year old Mezut Ozil. The German offensive has still not had its day and will breakout for three or four goals sooner or later. This is the same team that blitzed Australia for a 4-0 win against Australia, a 4-1 win over England, and 4-0 annihilation of Argentina in the 2010 World Cup. The only difference is that that team is now two years old, more experienced, and better. They are the only team to win all of its group matches and the front runner to win the tournament.
Portugal (2 Wins, 0 Draws, 1 Loss)
The one loss came against the aforementioned Germans. Portugal played well in that game containing the potent German offense and created several chances that could have changed the complexion of that game. The Portuguese then played a tremendous first half against Denmark before letting a 2-0 lead slip away to a 2-2 tie. However, they did as great teams do: they found a way to win and they did it without any contributions from their superstar player. In their following match, their superstar carried them on their shoulders and the rest of the team did their part in shutting down the Dutch who had dominated the opening 15 minutes but barely sniffed the net for the remaining 75. The Portuguese ran rampant on the Dutch in what could have been a 6-1 blowout had it not been for timely goaltending in the Dutch net.
This team can play defense, they have a potent offense, and Crisitano Ronaldo seems to be confident as ever. This team is going to be hard to stop if they continue playing the way they have been in the last two games. It has not been pretty, but the Portuguese have done the most important thing of all: find a way to win when it matters most.
Spain (2 wins, 1 Draw, 0 Losses)
Spain has been disappointing through the first round. But the disappointing is not a reflection of Spain playing poorly, but other teams knowing how to play against them. It seems that the days where the Spanish Armada could march into opponents' penalty boxes at will are now gone as teams like Italy and Croatia displayed a discipline to parking on the line and triple, quadruple-teaming ever Spanish attacker with the ball.
However, the same was said in the World Cup when Spain's once potent offense could not score more than 1 goal per game. But the lesson learned from that tournament is that the Spain not only knows how to win, but knows how to find ways to win. The team has enough creative geniuses and skill to come up with new ways to penetrate opponents' stingy defenses as was evidenced by Cesc Fabregas' loft over the Croatian defense to secure a victory and the group lead.
Their offense has drawn criticism thus far (even though it burned Ireland with four goals), but Spain's solid defense has only allowed one goal, the fewest by any of the remaining teams left in the tournament. More importantly, they have Iker Casillas who is perhaps the greatest goalie in the world and has made the big saves when his team has needed them.
Spain may be frustrating to watch at times, but they have been here before, facing adversity and questions of their ability to win. They are the defending champions, and there are numerous reasons why they hold this title.
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