Euro 2012 Quarter Finals Preview
Czech Republic v Portugal
In the first quarter-final of Euro 2012, Portugal take on the Czech Republic.
Portugal are clear favourites even though it is the Czechs who come into the game as group winners and that is in no small part due to 60-goal Ronaldo.
In what will be a repeat of the Euro 96 last-eight clash, where the Czechs prevailed and progressed to the final, both nations suffered defeats in their opening games at this year's championship.
But since their opening defeats, both sides regrouped and now have the opportunity to earn a semi-final berth.
Michal Bilek's men recovered to beat Greece 2-1 and Poland 1-0, surging to the top of Group A, much to the surprise of the football world, while Paulo Bento's side clinched second place in Group B with wins against Denmark (3-2) and Netherlands (2-1).
The Czechs have fitness concerns over Tomas Rosicky. The Arsenal midfielder missed the match against Poland and is yet to participate in training, meaning Daniel Kolar is expected to continue in his position.
Portugal head into the game with no injury worries but will have concerns over their defensive performances in the group stages.
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Germany v Greece
The second quarter-final match on the European Championship 2012 will be played on June 22nd, 19:45 UK time, and one of the favorites to win the title will be facing the underdog winner from 2004. Germany has failed to spread their offensive wings on this tournament as the defences are much tougher here than they were in the qualification stage, and now they'll be facing the toughest defence of all – the Greek one.
Coach Joachim Loew may need to consider some changes on the flanks to get the win against a stubborn Greek side.
Germany have been criticised for abandoning the attacking football that impressed fans at the 2010 World Cup but Loew hit back in the lead-up to Friday's quarter-final by blaming the opposition.
Loew claimed the teams they have played have not allowed Germany the space to attack at Euro 2012 and argued three wins and five goals in Group B was an impressive result.
"Look at these opponents, even the Dutch retreated against us," Loew said.
Greece will be without captain Giorgos Karagounis who is suspended and scored the winner against Russia in their final group match.
Coach Fernando Santos will likely send his team out to frustrate the Germans and hope to score from a corner or free-kick.
Defenders Vasilis Torosidis and Kyriakos Papadopoulos could therefore be crucial for Greece as goal-scoring options.
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Spain v France
France became the least impressive team to reach the quarter finals of the European Championship as they were beaten by Sweden 2-0. The match saw one of the most spectacular goals of the Euro scored by Zlatan Imrahimovic with an acrobatic volley in the 54th minute of the match.
This defeat ended France’s long 23 match no loss streak. Though Sweden were already eliminated they finally managed put 3 points on the table. It was Sweden’s first victory against France since 1969.
France followed up a 1-1 draw with England with an expected 2-0 victory over Ukraine, only to cap off group play with a disappointing 2-0 loss to Sweden. They will need to turn things around if they wish to advance to the semifinals.
Standing in France’s way is an intimidating Spanish team. Spain is the top team coming out of Group C with seven points. They qualified for the quarterfinals with decisive wins over Ireland and Croatia, in addition to a 1-1 draw with the second best team in Group C, Italy.
Spain is the highest scoring team in the 2012 Euro cup with six goals for. They have also been playing stifling defense, holding their past two opponents scoreless and allowing only one goal against in all of group play.
Tournament history weighs heavily in France's favor.
Les Bleus won 3-1 in the last 16 of the World Cup six years ago, won 2-1 in the quarterfinals at Euro 2000 and 2-0 in the 1984 Euro final. France also beat Spain home and away in Euro '92 qualifiers, and drew 1-1 in the group stage at Euro '96.
Nice for the record books, but of little help on Saturday, especially in the intense heat of Donetsk.
"The problem is that we are going to have to have to run - and run a lot - and also close down space, even though they always seem to find some," France coach, Laurent Blanc said. "I don't think Spain has just one strength, they have many. I like their way of playing. Not only is it pleasant to watch but it's efficient and spectacular. We have to try and match that, but we're a long way off."
Blanc was impressed by the way Croatia took the game to Spain in their final group game before losing 1-0 to a late goal.
"You need heart when you play Spain," Blanc said. "If you look at Croatia, there was an incredible bond between their players."
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England v Italy
England will step up their penalty-taking practice as they enter the Euro 2012 knockout rounds desperate to atone for repeated failures in shoot-outs, manager Roy Hodgson has revealed.
Hodgson's side face Italy in the quarter-finals in Kiev on Sunday haunted by the knowledge that England have won only one penalty shoot-out -- against Spain in 1996 -- while losing on five other occasions.
The England manager said that while the unique pressures of a shoot-out can never be replicated in training, he plans to devote more attention to the issue ahead of Sunday's meeting with the Azzurri at the Olympic Stadium.
Italy hasn’t met England in a major tournament in 22 years, and the excitement among the Azzurri for Sunday’s European Championship quarter-final match is palpable.
Midfielder Daniele De Rossi can’t wait to measure himself against Steven Gerrard, while reserve forward Alessandro Diamanti called the match in Kyiv “a dream” that he thought could only be realized on a computer game.
De Rossi added that temperamental forward Mario Balotelli, who plays in England with Manchester City, is “used” to dealing with the British tabloid press and that he won’t be affected by any negative media coverage before the match.
Italy’s last major tournament match with England came in the third-place game at the 1990 World Cup, when host Italy won 2-1.
The only other time they met at a Euros or World Cup came in a group match at Euro 1980, when the Azzurri won 1-0. Their last meeting overall came in a friendly 10 years ago that Italy won 2-1. Only captain Gianluigi Buffon remains on Italy’s squad from that match.
However, most of the Italy players have faced English teams with their clubs, and they are not lacking familiarity with the likes of Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Ashley Young.
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England manager Roy Hodgson has brushed off concerns over the form and fitness of Wayne Rooney after the striker's rusty comeback in the victory over Ukraine.
England returned to their Krakow training camp in buoyant mood after Rooney's goal in his first match back since suspension steered Hodgson's side into a Euro 2012 quarter-final meeting with Italy.
Although Rooney's 29th goal for England proved the difference between the two teams, it was a far from vintage display by the Manchester United striker, who had not played a competitive match since May 13.
The 26-year-old squandered a straightforward chance to head England into the lead in the first half and struggled to locate the sureness of touch he can usually take for granted when on form.
Hodgson acknowledges Rooney is some way off his best but believes the England striker will be better after ending his enforced exile.
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