Germany and Portugal escape Group of Death
A brace from Cristiano Ronaldo saw Portugal come from behind against a sluggish Holland to book their place in the last 8 along with Germany who topped the group with 9 points after beating Denmark.
Holland coach Bert Van Marwijk, knowing his side had to win the game to have any chance of reaching the knockout phase, fielded a much more attacking line up and it made for a really good first half in Kharkiv.
Holland started brightly and after just 11 minute Rafael Van der Vaart justified his selection by opening the scoring from range with a beautiful left foot curler.
With the Oranje in front, the game opened up and it was end to end stuff as Portugal looked for the leveler. Helder Postiga wasted the best chance, dragging his effort wide when through on goal.
Ronaldo, slightly wasteful himself up until the 27th minute, hauled Portugal level. The Real Madrid star beating the offside trap and finishing smartly from Pereira’s great through ball. After that it was Portugal asking all the questions and the Dutch were probably relieved to get in at half time all square.
The second half was altogether a much cagier affair as Portugal seemed content to sit in and play on the break. Holland though, largely failed to create with only one chance falling to Ron Vlaar, who should have done better when he headed over after coming forward for a corner.
Going for broke, Van Marwijk sacrificed a defender to add Affellay to the attack but even with all the talent on the pitch the Dutch just were not at the races.
Then with just over a quarter of an hour to go Portugal delivered the killer blow. A rapid counter attack involving Moutinho and Nani saw the ball fall to Ronaldo who shifted the ball onto his right foot before drilling in a low finish leaving the Dutch needing a miracle.
There was still time for some late drama but Holland were clutching at straws by the time Van Persie put his chance wide on 88 minutes. Ronaldo was then denied his hat-trick when his stoppage time effort struck the post. His side though progressed with a deserved win and will now fancy their chances against the Czech Republic. The Dutch on the other hand, head home without gaining a single point.
Meanwhile group favorites Germany overcame a battling Denmark to top the group with an ominous 3 wins from 3.
Joachim Low’s side, still not completely assured of qualification started well and it took a great reaction save from Stephan Andersen in the Danish goal to deny Muller early on.
The group leader’s patient and attractive football saw them retain the ball and pin the Danes in. It was not long before the pressure told and it was Lukas Podolski, winning his 100th cap, who broke the deadlock. The Arsenal bound forward blasted home from just outside the six yard box after Muller’s cross from the right.
Denmark though responded positively and were level within six minutes courtesy of a second Euro 2012 goal for Michael Krohn-Delhi when he nudged the ball in after Bendtner had got his head on a corner.
Germany immediately went on the attack and ended the first period completely on top although it was Denamrk who almost took the lead when Poulson shaved the post after the re-start.
As the second half wore on Low’s side continued to assert themselves but with the teams locked at 1-1 the news that Portugal had gone on front in the other game reached the stadium. This meant that one goal for Denmark could send them through at the German’s expense and the tension was just beginning to build when Lars Bender netted his first international goal. The full back finished calmy after latching onto a through ball and his winner sent the Danes home.
Germany now look hot favourites to progress to the semi’s as they square up against Greece. Denmark meanwhile can go home proud after shaking up the group of Death.