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Friday, June 29, 2012

Euro 2012 Germany vs Italy: Live Report

AFP IS CLOSING THIS LIVE REPORT AFTER Italy upset the odds as two goals from Mario Balotelli saw them beat Germany 2-1 in the second Euro 2012 semi-final in Warsaw.
The enigmatic Manchester City striker powered home a header from an Antonio Cassano cross after 20 minutes to send the Azzurri into the lead, before doubling their advantage with a resounding right-footed strike 16 minutes later.
"He (Balotelli) was excellent, just like the entire team were," said coach Cesare Prandelli after what was Italy's third win over Germany in a major tournament semi-final.
"I really believe that a team needs to have an idea in the way they play and he really subscribed to this playing style. He was high up the pitch and available and I think he put in a very good performance this evening."
A much-fancied Germany team struggled to contain Italy's attacks in the first half and found their defenders in miserly mood at the other end, despite an improvement when Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose were brought on at the interval.

A penalty converted by Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil two minutes into injury-time after Federico Balzaretti's hand-ball was scant consolation for Joechim Loew's side.
Read on to find out how all the action unfolded in the National Stadium in Poland's capital and join us again on Sunday as the Italians take on defending champions Spain in the final in Kiev.
2055 GMT: Scenes of unbridled joy amongst Italy fans - the famous Tifosi - are beaming in from Rome - flares have been lit, flags are being waved and they are looking forward to a shot at glory in Sunday's final.
2046 GMT: Italy's players are dancing with delight on the pitch, and why not -- not many people backed them to get past a Germany side that had won their last 15 competitive games.
That's now eight times Germany have played Italy in major championships and failed to win - what's the Italian for bogey team?
90 + 5 mins: FULL-TIME: Germany 1 Italy 2
90 + 3: YELLOW CARD - Germany's Hummels in the book for dissent after a dramatic Italian dive.
More from Barnaby in Warsaw: "Loew's chewing his lips, Ozil's hanging his head, Neuer's coming up for corners with five minutes left. Germany have lost their heads and Italy are in total command? until they give away a penalty. Spanner, works??
90 + 2 mins: GOAL! Germany 1 Italy 2 - Penalty after a Balzaretti hand-ball and Ozil smashes it home! Lifeline for Germany!
90 mins: Germany's 'keeper Neuer went forward for a corner there - it falls to Ozil on the edge of the area but he can only fire wide.
88 mins: YELLOW CARD - Italy's Thiago Motta
85 mins: It opened up in the area for Germany's Reus there but Balzaretti gets across to block him. He punched the air with delight at that intervention.
82 mins: Surely Antonio Di Natale has to kill the game off now - Balotelli puts him through and he's one-on-one with Neuer but can only side-foot the ball into the side-netting. Wasteful.

Federico Balzaretti then thinks he has scored after curling it around Neuer but he's flagged offside.
YELLOW CARD - Italy's Danielle De Rossi in the book.
77 mins: This from AFP's Barnaby Chesterman at Warsaw's National Stadium: "Old habits die hard and Italy are taking no chances here. They've switched to a five-man midfield, taking off both forwards and trequartista Montolivo. They certainly don't intend to try to kill off this game."
And for those who don't know, a trequartista is a playmaker...
75 mins: Germany centre-back Holger Badstuber stumbles in the area and Claudio Marchisio has a chance to finish Germany off - but he drags his shot wide of Neueer's lefthand upright. Excellent chance.
71 mins: SUBSTITUTION - Bayern striker Thomas Mueller on for Jerome Boateng - Loew has gone for it with that change.
69 mins: SUBSTITUTION - Antonio Di Natale replaces Mario Balotelli. The striker had pulled up with cramp and was chuntering as he went off but he's put Italy in charge of this game.
67 mins: Claudio Marchisio plays it into Alessandro Diamante who returns the favour with a measured pass but the midfielder can only slice wide of Neuer's goal. That would have sealed it for Italy.
64 mins: SUBSTITUTION - Cesare Prandelli makes a change for Italy - defensive midfielder Thiago Motta on for playmaker Riccardo Montolivo.
62 mins: Germany are knocking at the door here - Kroos curls in a delightful right-footed free-kick from outside the area and forces Buffon to palm it onto the crossbar. Good effort.
60 mins: Balotelli has got the bit between his teeth - he cuts in from the righthand touchline and fires in a powerful right-footed shot but it's well wide of Neuer's goal.
57 mins: SUBSTITUTION - Italy's Antonio Cassano is replaced by Alessandro Diamante who is earning just his fourth cap.
52 mins: Another opening for the Germans - Ozil makes a thrusting run to the right-hand touchline and pulls it back to Khedira but he's crowded out by Italian defenders.
49 mins: Great chance for Germany's captain Philipp Lahm on the edge of the area... but he blazes over! He played a lovely one-two to set the chance up.

Joachim Loew's side have started this half with more conviction but can't afford to miss too many of those if they're going to get back into this.
46 mins: Promising early run at the Italian defence from Reus, who cuts in on his left foot on the edge of the area but can only mishit a tame shot.
1949 GMT: SUBSTITUTIONS - Two changes for Germany for the second half - Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus on for Lukas Podolksi and Mario Gomez.
We're under way again in Warsaw...
1945 GMT: Just to put the 2-0 scoreline into some kind of context, my colleague Ryland James at the game in Warsaw has sent me this little nugget:
"This is the first time Germany have been behind at a European championships game since the Euo 2008 final.
"That includes 10 qualifiers, three group matches and the quarter-final win over Greece."
1936 GMT: News from Berlin -- AFP's Raphaelle Logerot in the fan zone at the Brandenburg Gate: "Some German fans have stood up and walked out of the zone, disgusted by that second goal from Balotelli."
45 +2 mins: HALF-TIME Germany 0 Italy 2
36 mins: GOAL! Germany 0 Italy 2 - a screamer from Balotelli and Italy have doubled their lead!
A simple ball over the top from Montolivo splits the two German centre-backs and picks out Balotelli, who bears down on goal leaving Philipp Lahm in his wake before lashing a vicious shot past a stationary Manuel Neuer.
Joachim Loew on the Germany bench looks shell-shocked.
YELLOW CARD - Balotelli was booked for taking off his shirt to celebrate the goal but I doubt he's too bothered after that pearler...
34 mins: Big chance for Italy to make it 2-0... but Montolivo's wasted it! Cassano found him with a cunning pass into the area but he tries to cut onto his right foot rather than shooting first time with his left and is tackled.
28 mins: Italy are getting a good deal of possession in midfield - Pirlo is central to some tidy passing moves as he was against England in the quarter-final.
Forgot to mention that Lukas Podolski has come back into Germany's starting line-up on the left wing at the expense of Bayer Leverkusen's Andre Schuerrle, who played in their 4-2 win over Greece in last Friday.
26 mins: Powerful centre-forward play from Germany's Mario Gomez, winning a long ball which he controls and rolls to Mesut Ozil only to see the midfielder fire in a tame shot that doesn't trouble Buffon.
20 mins: GOAL! Germany 0 Italy 1 - a towering header from Balotelli and Italy are in front!
Italy worked it well down the left, Antonio Cassano beat two defenders before getting a good cross to Balotelli in the middle who rose highest to power a header home from six yards out.
Simple but deadly.
12 mins: Sami Khedira passes it out to Jerome Boateng on the right, who whips in a low cross and Buffon can only fumble it awkwardly against defender Andrea Barzagli - he is relieved to see the ball roll just past his righthand post.
More early uncertainty from the veteran Italian shot-stopper.
Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos fires in a powerful shot rom the resulting corner that Buffon parries away.
10 mins: A reminder that Germany have won their last 15 competitive games, a new world record according to UEFA. So the Italians are going to have to spring a real shock to get past them...
6 mins: Nervous moments for Italy there though - a corner is whipped in from the left and Mats Hummels knees it towards goal. It beats 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon but Andrea Pirlo is on the post to clear it. Lucky escape!
3 mins: Riccardo Montolivo steals possession in the Germany half and tries to slips it through to Mario Balotelli - but it's just out of the striker's reach in the area... Promising opening for the Italians.
1847 GMT: KICK-OFF: We're under way in Warsaw...
1844 GMT: Both captains, Gianluigi Buffon and Phillippe Lahm talk to the fans over the PA about the importance of UEFA's 'Respect Diversity' message, which is received to resounding applause.
1840 GMT: Both sets of players have filed out and are lined up for the national anthems - Italy's tub-thumping one first, 'Il Canto degli Italiani'...
1830 GMT: "As soon as he came onto the pitch, Mario Balotelli went over the corner of the stadium where his friends - and his brother Enoch - are sitting to greet them," my colleague Emmanuel Barranguet writes from the National Stadium.
Balotelli has friends? Remarkable (nb - I'm sure he's just misunderstood...)
1820 GMT: ...and this has just landed from AFP reporter Laurent Geslin in Berlin: "The atmosphere is building around the famous Brandenburg Gate as small groups of swap thoughts about the upcoming match as a few beers are sunk.
"Germany's fans seem certain that 'Die Mannschaft' are going to win... 'You have to be optimistic and ignore the statistics which point to an Italian victory,' says Dennis Schiller a 25-year-old Berlin-born entrepreneur, referring to the surprising fact that Germany have yet to beat Italy in seven meetings at major championships.
'Tonight it's Germany's turn as they have the better team - we've never had such a good team.'
1810 GMT: My colleague Françoise Kadri has sent me this little snippet about the atmosphere that's building among fans in Rome's Piazza del Popolo (or People's Square): "There are already hundreds of (exclusively) Italian supporters, mostly young men, getting excited in the build-up to kick-off.
"We're in the middle of a heat wave here and it's nearly thirty degrees at 8pm local time! There are lots of trumpets, Italian flags being waved and faces -- not to mention several torsos - painted in the red white and green of Italy..."
1804 GMT: The starting line-ups for the game are in - it looks like Mario Gomez has reclaimed his striker's spot from Miroslav Klose while Toni Kroos also comes in:
Germany (4-2-3-1)
Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm (capt); Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Lukas Podolski, Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos; Mario Gomez
Coach: Joachim Loew
Italy (4-3-1-2)
Gianluigi Buffon (capt); Federico Balzaretti, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Daniele De Rossi; Riccardo Montolivo; Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano
Coach: Cesare Prandelli
Referee: Stephane Lannoy (FRA)
1750 GMT: AFP's Emmanuel Barranguet has been in touch from Warsaw: "On the streets of the city on Thursday afternoon, hundreds of Germany fans have been teasing their Italian counterparts by singing "Arrivederci Italia!" to the Seven Nation Army tune ("Po popo po popo pooooo...")
In the face of such inventive musical mockery the 'tifosi' may as well pack up and go home...
WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT on the second semi-final of the Euro 2012 football championships which sees Germany take on Italy for the right to play Spain in Sunday's final in Kiev.
Kick-off at the National Stadium in the Poland's capital Warsaw is just over hour away at 1845 GMT - stay with us for all the team news and build-up with input from our reporters at the game Barnaby Chesterman and Ryland James. -- AFP

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Semi-finals. Portugal - Spain

In the semi-finals UEFA EURO 2012 in Donetsk, European and world champions from Spain could not print the gate of contenders from Portugal for 120 minutes. However, in the penalty shoot-out proved to be more successful competitors and earned a ticket to the finals.
In terms of Paulo Bento was not able to surprise his counterpart does, but Vicente Del Bosque a surprise. In the "basis" for the position of center-forward Fernando Torres does not appear, or Cesc Fabregas, and Alvaro Negredo. The Spaniards entered the match with mourning ribbons in memory of Miki Roque, 23-year-old defender, "Betis", who died of cancer, the official site of UEFA.
But with the starting whistle the game with the composition and the thought of the tragedy have gone away - in the first place out of His Majesty the football. Contrary to expectations, the Portuguese did not play a "number two" from the very beginning, and pressed the Spaniards to the gate, one after another, by submitting a couple of corners. However, it quickly returned to normal - Spanish "tick-tock" went to the move, European and world champions took possession of the ball, and most of all for some time in the spotlight turned out to Pepe, who had to work up a sweat in the center of the Portuguese defense.
Spanish perepas nearly led to big trouble for Rui Patricia is the ninth minute when Alvaro Arbeloa punched over the crossbar, ending mnogohodovku, which originated on the left flank. Characteristically, in a potentially goal-attack has participated almost the entire Spanish team. Ronaldo said Portugal shed from the left flank, but, again, speaks volumes, gave the captain to Nani, who was surrounded by four defenders.
Yet already in the debut it was clear that far from the Spaniards in order to feel as comfortable as in the quarterfinals against France. At times world and European champions simply outplayed, and keep the ball in the corporate style they could not always. But these episodes were enough to create moments. For example, in the 29th minute, Andres Iniesta struck a blow with a dangerous free kick almost on the border standing ball and almost hit the target.
Of course, on the edge of the injection response was Ronaldo. The ball after it hit another from the penalty literally licked the bar, and attack the Portuguese to be not less acute. Then the game settled down, and the remainder of the first half was a completely equal to the positional struggle, a kind of chess. In the first half, Spain showed the lowest for itself in the UEFA EURO 2012 the percentage of accurate transmission.
The second half began in similar vein, which was completed first. The Spaniards did not work to dominate the same way as in all previous matches at Euro 2012, with the exception of the game with Italy, but Portuguese is still unable to create enough about them to the gate intensity. From polumomentov the first half of the second half, it may be noted that a couple of really scathing attacks Hugo Almeida missed the target.
Already at the end of hours of play Del Bosque left to fight Cesc Fabregas and Jesus Navas instead of Negredo and David Silva. Tangible dividends to no avail - can recall except that a tight kick Xavi straight at the goalkeeper in the 65th minute. Once again, the entire Portugal Ronaldo answered - in the 73rd minute penalty it could be very dangerous, but the ball flew over the crossbar. The same thing happened after the "standard" in the 85th minute - again higher. As a result - equal to almost no points a game in which the Portuguese looked at least as good a formidable opponent.
The moment of truth could come to pass in the 90th minute - in the course of four to three counter-attacks, which could well prove to be scoring, Raul Meireles gave a pass is not too convenient Ronaldo, who on the run from the border sent the ball into the heavens. The match went to the endgame - the extra time, which does not help figuring out who among semifinalists stronger.
Until I came 104th minute when Rui Patricia pulled Iniesta strike that hit a few meters, it seemed certain. To reinforce the impression, in the end of the first additional half-time with a penalty kick shot Ramos - in centimeters from the cross. Ten minutes before the end of the meeting was the moment of Navas, but his kick from an acute angle took Rui Patricia.
The result - a series of penalties, and even the first two shots did goalkeeping heroes. First, Rui Patricia did not give Xavi Alonso to score and then Iker Casillas has done the same thing with Jose Moutinho. The following are not scoring defender of "Zenith" Bruno Alves, shot in the woodwork. After that, Fabregas of Spain recorded a victory in the hardest for the world and European champions match.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

UEFA Euro 2012 Semifinals

 Can anyone stop Spain? After winning the UEFA Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, Spain looks poised to win their third straight major international tournament and cement the place in history as the greatest national team of all-time.
Spain has been playing in their typical Spanish style; steady as a rock. Aside from a 4-0 thrashing they dished out to a weak Irish squad, Spain has muddied along with a 1-1 tie against Italy and a 1-0 win against Croatia before defeating France 2-0 in the quarterfinals.
Meeting Spain in the semifinals is Portugal. After slipping 0-1 to Germany in their opening match; Portugal has been a runaway freight train. The Portuguese squad has won three straight, including wins over Denmark (3-2) and Netherlands (2-1) in the group stage and Czech Republic (1-0) in the quarterfinals.
Spain will be the clear cut favorite in the semifinals. As defending Euro and World Cup champs, they have earned the right to be called "world's best" until they can be defeated. But one can't help but think that perhaps now is Portugal's time. After many disappointing performances in recent major tournaments, this might be their time to breakthrough and make their mark on the world stage.
Here is the information you need to know for the first semifinal match between Spain and Portugal:

Event: UEFA Euro 2012 Semifinals
Stadium: Donbass Arena - Donetsk, Ukraine
Date: Wednesday, June 28
Time: 2:45 AM GMT(+8:00)
Teams: Spanish National Team vs. Portuguese National Team
Winner: Advances to the finals to face the winner of the Germany-Italy semifinal match

Semifinal 2 - Germany vs. Italy
Germany is on a roll. After dominating the group stage with impressive wins over Portugal (1-0), Netherlands (2-1) and Denmark (2-1), the Germans took their play to a whole other level by crushing a feisty Greece squad 4-2 in the quarterfinal round.
Waiting Germany in the semifinal round is Italy. The Italians have had a tougher time making it this far in the tournament. Italy tied both Spain and Croatia with 1-1 scores and beat a hapless Irish team 2-0 to advance to the knockout stage. In their quarterfinal against England, Italy played well but needed to come from behind in PKs to advance onward.
Germany will be the clear favorite in this match, but Italy will be tricky. Expect the Italians to sit back and play a ball-controlling style to counter the impressive team speed of Germany. Even if Italy plays well, it is hard to imagine anything but a Germany - Spain final.
Here is the information you need to know for the second semifinal match between Germany and Italy:
Event: UEFA Euro 2012 Semifinals
Stadium: National Stadium - Warsaw, Poland
Date: Thursday, June 29
Time: 2:45 AM GMT(+8:00)
Teams: German National Team vs. Italian National Team
Winner: Advances to the finals to face the winner of the Spain-Portugal semifinal match

Monday, June 25, 2012

England's penalty curse strikes again at Euro 2012

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — It was the same old penalties heartache for England. This time, though, there was no hard-luck story to accompany the loss.

Defeat by Italy in the European Championship quarterfinals made it six losses in seven tournament shootouts as England's curse struck again on Sunday. Outclassed and outplayed comprehensively by Italy, Roy Hodgson's side clung on to a 0-0 draw. But in Kiev, there were no near misses, no decisions by the referee to bemoan, just a timid display from a weary team.

And one that's going home on Monday. "We might have to accept that we weren't quite good enough to win it over 120 minutes," Hodgson said. "Penalties is the same road we have been down before." The only victory when England players have been put on the spot from 12 yards (meters) came in the Euro '96 quarterfinals against Spain.

The English penalty jinx started in the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup against West Germany and the unified Germans ousted them at the same stage in Euro '96. Argentina was the shootout victor in the second round at the 1998 World Cup, and Portugal ousted England at the quarterfinals at both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.

"It's obviously a hard way to go out," England striker Wayne Rooney said. "And it's maybe happened too many times now." How different it might have been in Kiev as Sunday turned to Monday. Rooney put England 2-1 in front in the shootout after Riccardo Montolivo missed his penalty.

But England's dreams soon ended up in ashes. Both Ashley Young and Ashley Cole failed to score as the Italians converted their penalties, allowing Alessandro Diamanti to net the decisive kick that secured a semifinal with Germany.

"The two Ashleys are strong enough lads to come back from this and the lads will be with them," winger Theo Walcott said. Cole scored in Chelsea's Champions League-winning shootout last month, but couldn't reproduce such accuracy for his country.

"Penalty-taking has become a bit of an obsession for us, and those players have done extremely well," Hodgson said. "But you can't reproduce the tension, you can't reproduce the nervousness and you can't reproduce the occasion (in training). The sort of, cool, calculated way that (Andrea) Pirlo had the confidence and chipped the goalkeeper is something you either have as a player or you don't. There is no amount of training or coaching that can teach a player that.

"We saw Ashley Cole take a penalty in the Champions League final. We have seen Ashley Young convert penalties for Manchester United and Watford. We were confident we had five very good penalty takers. Unfortunately two missed."

England's tourist board made light of more shootout misery on Twitter, writing: "England lose on penalties. For more on our culture and traditions go to" But any culture of playing football was largely lost on Hodgson's side on Sunday.

One statistic exposed England's anxieties in front of goal. The Italians produced 20 shots on target — one more than England managed in all four Euro 2012 matches, with only five coming Sunday. Italy also had 64 percent of possession and a pass completion rate of 81 percent compared with England's 61.

"I don't begrudge Italy their victory but I thought for long periods of time it was an interesting tactical battle," Hodgson said. "When we got into one or two good occasions, we didn't do as well as we could."

It didn't help that Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker in England's midfield engine room were struggling with injuries. Gerrard stayed on the pitch to score in the shootout despite struggling with cramp in his hip and calf. Parker was forced off early in extra time with a reoccurrence of an Achilles' injury.

"We had three very tough games before this one," Hodgson said. "At least we go away unbeaten during normal time." England opened with a draw against France but beat Sweden and Ukraine to advance to the quarterfinals as group winners.

But that feat couldn't disguise tepid displays when they failed to keep hold and relied on ultra-defensive tactics. While Rooney returned from suspension to clinch the victory over Ukraine in the final group match, the striker lacked sharpness against Italy, spurning several chances including an early header.

"We had lots of players out there running on empty, with very tired legs, fighting off cramp," Hodgson said. "But they kept us in there until the end and when you go to penalties you do have a chance."
Italy seized the chance. But just reaching the quarterfinals could be considered a success for a side Hodgson only took charge of last month following Fabio Capello's resignation in February.



Friday, June 22, 2012

Germany vs. Greece

GDANSK, Poland -- Germany's most prominent fan will be in the stands for the quarterfinal against Greece at the European Championship.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, wins no popularity contests among the Greek contingent. So the political dimension of Friday's game only heightens what is already an intriguing match in strictly soccer terms.Germany is a three-time champion. Greece is the surprise winner of the 2004, and the Greeks are still standing again, with an unexpected place in the knockout stages.

It was always our main aim to reach the quarterfinals. So now we have nothing to lose," said defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos, one of the many Greece players with Bundesliga experience. "We are playing against one of the best teams here. All I can say is that we'll fight. If we get the win, that would be a huge result."

Greece has plenty of reason to be thankful to Germany - the 2004 championship team was coached by a German, Otto Rehhagel.

German and Greek officials are trying to play down the politics. Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has been a major contributor to international bailouts for Greece and was instrumental in demanding structural reforms and hugely unpopular spending cuts in return. Greek fans are unlikely to take kindly to Merkel's presence at Gdansk Arena.

"We are playing for our shirt, our flag and for the people back home," midfielder Costas Katsouranis said.

Added Greek forward Dimitris Salpigidis: "I don't think anyone on the team believes this will be our last game at this tournament. People have so many problems in their everyday lives. We're really hoping that we can put a smile on their face."

Gdansk also was also the scene of the first battle of World War II, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. A German soccer federation delegation laid a wreath Wednesday at a memorial for Poles at the Westerplatte peninsula on the outskirts of the Baltic city.

Germany has two Poland-born players in its squad, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, and Polish fans could throw their support behind the Germans. By winning its group, Germany got to stay in Gdansk and was spared having to travel.

Merkel attended Germany's 4-0 rout of Argentina at the 2010 World Cup and saw Germany beat Turkey in Berlin in the most important Euro 2012 qualifier for her team. She has visited the German locker room and briefly spent time with the team in Gdansk before the tournament.

"She seems to bring us luck," midfielder Sami Khedira said.

Germany is the only team to have won all three group games and goes into the quarterfinal as the overwhelming favorite. But the Germans understand the ability of the Greeks."They are a very good team, underestimated by many.

They create few chances but score from them. Technically, they are strong and play well one-on-one," Khedira said.

"It will be tough to crack their defense, but we have the means. We have to be patient, but we also have to be constantly on the move. They will try to disrupt our game and beat us, but they will not succeed."

Added midfielder Thomas Mueller: "We know what we have to do, but it's not going to be a piece of cake."

Greece will be missing playmaker and captain Giorgos Karagounis because of suspension.

There is speculation Germany coach Joachim Loew will return Klose to the starting lineup, although Mario Gomez scored three goals that won matches against Portugal and the Netherlands. Klose, a 34-year-old striker, scored the last time these teams played each other, a World Cup qualifier in 2001.

Six Greece players have either played or still play in the Bundesliga.

Greece has five defeats and three draws in the eight games it has played Germany or the former West Germany."We are not too bothered about statistics. ...

That doesn't really matter," Salpigidis said.



Greece v Germany, the bailout game

When Germany was pitted against Greece in Friday's quarter-final of Euro 2012, the subtext was obvious. And as German journalist Paul Ronzheimer discovers, based in Athens for Bild newspaper, few people are talking about the football.
For almost three years, Greece has been going through one of the worst crises it has ever experienced. Since the 1-0 victory against Russia and the entry into the Euro 2012 quarter-finals, euphoria is in evidence again for the first time.
Of all the teams they could have faced, Greece plays Germany, in the most political match a European tournament has seen for a long time.
The Greeks are looking for payback against the Germans. They feel that a duel between Greece and Germany has been going on for much longer, an unequal duel.
Since the start of the crisis, they think they have been insulted and dictated to by German politicians, as the country has had to introduce sweeping austerity in return for bailout payments. 
They criticise the fact that Chancellor Merkel is sticking to the austerity plan, even though the situation in Greece is worsening and homelessness is on the increase.
The arguments have already escalated to the extent that Ms Merkel has been depicted time and again in an SS uniform on the front page of Greek newspapers.
And over 70% of Greeks now believe that Germany wants to bring in a "Fourth Reich".
On the German side, incomprehension reigns at the Greek reaction to the policies introduced after the crisis, and they refuse to send further billions to a country which is clearly overburdened with the reforms.
Many Germans who in previous years spent their holidays on Greek islands have booked their holidays elsewhere this time.
And now, the football.
One of the few Germans still considered untouchable in Greece is Otto Rehhagel.
He led the Greeks to victory in Euro 2004 and since then has been a popular hero. In an interview with the Bild newspaper, Mr Rehhagel said: "Germany shouldn't underestimate Greece."
In fact, numerous players in the Greek squad have already announced that they will be especially motivated against Germany.
Otto Rehhagel in AthensGerman Otto Rehhagel was revered after masterminding Euro 2004 success
Ahead of the duel, Greece's newspapers have been taking aim at Ms Merkel once again. Hardly anybody is talking about the German team and its footballing abilities.
The Live newspaper quipped: "The referee should give Merkel a fright and toss a drachma coin at the beginning of the match."
And Gata sports newspaper joked: "The first measure that our new government has to push through on the urging of Merkel: we have to lose against Germany on Friday."
The German press has also drawn on the eurozone crisis. Bild newspaper said on Tuesday: "Be happy dear Greeks, the defeat on Friday is a gift. Against Jogi Loew, no rescue fund will help you."
And Berliner Kurier newspaper printed a cartoon depicting a government spokesman telling the German press "our stance on Greece remaining in the eurozone depends entirely upon how the quarterfinal goes".
People in the streets of Athens are also feverishly awaiting the game - and repeatedly drawing parallels with politics. So far, Greece's matches have hardly been accompanied by any big celebrations, but the bars are expected to be full on Friday.
Nikos Petsas, a 56-year-old salesman, says: "I'm worried that a lot of Greeks are confusing politics with sport with this match. I've put money on the Greek team, because we're in a better position psychologically. Our players have lots of fire in their bellies."
Postman Dimitris Tzikas, 46, says: "There are no problems between Germany and Greece. But with the crisis, Mrs Merkel has chosen to break us as a country.
"The Greek players must run and fight against Germany, so we can win the match. For our country it's much more than a football match."
The news that Merkel was going to be sitting in the stands caused much joy among Greek journalists.
They now hope that new Greek PM Antonis Samaras will also travel to Poland to be at the match.
But whatever the outcome, the politicians will still have a crisis to solve. And that's no laughing matter.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

UEFA EURO 2012 Updates

The UEFA European Football Championship together with Euro 2012 consists of three stages --  the qualifying group stage, the play-off and the 16-team final tournament (Poland and Ukraine from 8th of June to 1st of July 2012.

Fist Match will be Czech Republic vs. Portugal.
Date: June 22, 2012 
Time: 2:45 AM GMT + 8:00
Place: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)
Referee: Howard Webb

Below is the Fixture for Euro 2012 Quarter – finals Schedule (GMT + 8:00), provided with match date and also the stadium and city name.


UEFA EURO 2012 Updates

The UEFA European Football Championship together with Euro 2012 consists of three stages --  the qualifying group stage, the play-off and the 16-team final tournament (Poland and Ukraine from 8th of June to 1st of July 2012.

Fist Match will be Czech Republic vs. Portugal.
Date: June 22, 2012 
Time: 2:45 AM GMT + 8:00
Place: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)
Referee: Howard Webb

Below is the Fixture for Euro 2012 Quarter – finals Schedule (GMT + 8:00), provided with match date and also the stadium and city name.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shevchenko wants to play 1 last Ukraine match

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — This wasn't the farewell game he was hoping for, so Andriy Shevchenko wants another one.
The Ukraine captain confirmed his competitive career was over after a 1-0 loss to England on Tuesday, which eliminated his team from the European Championship. However, Shevchenko wants to play one last match for his country to thank his fans for their support throughout his career.
"If it's possible, I will play one more game," Shevchenko said. "It will probably be one of the friendlies. I will ask for the organization of this match." It wasn't a fitting end to his 111-match international career in which he scored 48 goals — more than three times as many as any other Ukrainian player.
Shevchenko didn't start the must-win match for Ukraine because of a left knee injury and came on as a substitute in the 70th minute. Fans chanted "Sheva, Sheva" but he couldn't help the team mount a comeback.
Long before Euro 2012, Shevchenko announced that the tournament would be his last after persistent knee and back problems weighed him down in recent seasons. He is not the predatory striker he was in his heyday when he regularly scored more than 20 goals per season for AC Milan, and he recently said he would not be able to play three full matches a week.
Still, Shevchenko proved to be of great value for Ukraine at Euro 2012, scoring twice in helping the co-host beat Sweden 2-1 in their opening match last week. The 2004 European Football of the Year, who is without a club after his contract at Dynamo Kiev expired, believes the Ukraine team has a fruitful future ahead without him.
"I think there is a time to give the opportunity to the younger players," Shevchenko said. "They have a very good future." The striker said the squad's younger players have gained valuable experience at Euro 2012 — only the second major football tournament in which Ukraine has taken part besides the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
"It will really give them the opportunity to feel stronger and feel they have played at the highest level of European football," Shevchenko said. "I will give them an opportunity to play."


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

UEFA EURO 2012 | France vs. Sweden

This match is going to be intense, and neither of these teams are averse to physical play. That's terribly convenient, considering that the referee for the match isn't averse to yellow cards. Viktor Kassai of Hungary previously officiated the match between Italy and Spain in this tournament, during which he handed out seven bookings. In the Euro 2012 playoff match between Estonia and Ireland, which the Irish won 4-0, he handed out six bookings, including two red cards. Milner, Young, Tymoshchuk and Yevhen Selin are facing a suspension if they pick up a yellow.

Glen Johnson says former team-mate Shevchenko is still one of the best around. “He didn’t have the best part of his career when he was at Chelsea, but you don’t lose your quality overnight," says England defender. Right-back Johnson played with Shevchenko at Stamford Bridge, where the striker scored just nine goals after signing from AC Milan for £30.8million.

Shevchenko left Chelsea after three unhappy years, but has rediscovered some of his old form at Dynamo Kiev and scored twice in Ukraine’s Group D opening victory over Sweden.

England face Ukraine in their final Group D game in Donetsk on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to qualify for the quarter-finals, with the co-hosts chasing a win to be sure of staying in the tournament after defeat to France.

“Sheva’s a fantastic guy,” said right-back Johnson, who quit Chelsea in 2007 and is now at Liverpool. “He didn’t have the best part of his career when he was at Chelsea, but you don’t lose your quality overnight. He’s still one of the best strikers around. I rate him very highly.

“He was very genuine, although I don’t think he was too confident with his English – but he tried to join in with everything.

“Every player at the European Championship wants to be at his highest level, so I am sure he’ll be up for it against us.“Everyone has ups and downs during their career, but, arguably, Sheva’s one of the best strikers around.

Teams’ Information:
England Squad Possible Lineups
Goalkeepers: Butland, Green, Heart
Strikers: Carroll, Defoe, Rooney, Welbeck
Midfield: Downing, Gerrard, Lampard, Oxlade,-Chamberlain, Milner, Parker, Walcott, Yound
Defense: Baines, Cahill, Cole, Jagielka, Johnson, Jones, Lescott, Terry
Coach: Roy Hodgson

Ukraine Squad Possible Lineups
Goalkeepers: Goryainov, Koval, Pyatov
Strikers: Devic, Milevskiy, Seleznyov, Voronin, Shevchenko
Midfield: Aliyev, Garmash, Gusev, Konoplanka, Nazarenko, Rotan, Tymoschchuk, Yamolenko
Defense: Butko, Khacheridi, Kucher, Mikhalik, Rakitskiy, Delin, Shevchuk
Coach: Oleh Blokhin


Monday, June 18, 2012


UEFA EURO 2012 | ITALY VS. IRELAND WHO WILL ADVANCE? Match starts at 2:45 AM GMT +8:00

Ireland’s 7 losses against Italy are enough to fuel the Irish fire and reclaim their lost honour and glory. Drawing inspiration from Jack Charlton, Ireland is set to grab victory. As a matter of fact, Ireland got the upper-hand during their last three (3) matches. These wins foretell that Ireland shall not be kind to Italy during its EURO matchup this June 19.
Meanwhile, Italy’s Azurri is serious in taking the crown back. The Italian squad is hungry for yet another title. It has been years since they won the EURO Championship title in 1968 and after making two (2) semi-final appearances, Italy would never let Ireland get into their way.
Will Italy make it to the finals or will Ireland put a stop into Italy’s quest for victory?

  • Total previous matches: 6
    • Italy – 7 Wins
    • Republic of Ireland – 2 Wins
    • 2 Draw
  • Previous EURO Head to Head Matches
    • None

Italy must tackle three points in their final Group C match cons of Ireland. Series or lose, Gli Azzurri have to return home. In fact, any win, Italy may not be able to qualify for the quarter-finals. Italy has always followed the Euro or World Cup event since 1992, they have never been absent until now. While Ireland's Euro 2012 is the first event they qualify for the EURO group stage since making his debut in 1988. In 1988, Ireland had beaten England, but they did not qualify from group stage after a series against the Soviet Union and the defeat of theNetherlands.
Italy's record of 11 so far is 7x Irish victory, 2x serial, and 2x less.
Of the six official matches of both teams, Italy won 3 games, 2x serial, 1x and losing.
This is the first time for Ireland's success to the group stage since making his debut at EURO 1988. In 1988, Ireland had beaten England, but they did not qualify from group stage after a series against the Soviet Union and the defeat of the Netherlands.

Italy is currently ranked the 12th FIFA World Ranking, while Ireland was ranked the 18th FIFA World Ranking.

June 14, 2012: Italy 1-1 Croatia (EURO 2012)
June 15, 2012: Spain 4-0 Ireland (EURO 2012)
June 10, 2012: Spain 1-1 Italy (EURO 2012)
June 11, 2012: Ireland 1-3 Croatia (EURO 2012)
June 2, 2012: Italy 0-3 Russia (Friendly Match)
June 5, 2012: Hungary 0-0 Ireland (Friendly Match)
March 1, 2012: Italy 0-1 USA (Friendly Match)
May 26, 2012: Ireland 1-0 Bosnia-Herzegovina (Friendly Match)
November 16, 2011: Italy 0-1 Uruguay (Friendly Match)
March 1, 2012: Ireland 1-1 Czech Rep. (Friendly Match)


Bonucci - Barzagli - Chiellini
Maggio - Marchisio - Pirlo - De Rossi - Balzaretti
Cassano - Di Natale
Coach: Cesare Prandelli (Italy)


O'Shea - Ledger - Dunne - Ward
Duff - Andrews - Whelan - McGeady
Cox - Keane
Coach: Giovanni Trapattoni (Italy)