Poland got off to a flyer through Robert Lewandowski but in a game full of controversy were pegged back by the Greeks and it ended all square. Russia thumped the Czech Republic 4-1 in their opening game and were hot favourites to top the group in comfortable style. Czech Republic then shocked many with a strong performance against Greece winning the game 2-1. Russia played Poland in a hard fought game where Poland surprised many earning a point. The group couldn’t have been more delicately poised with the winners of the Czech Republic Poland clash qualifying for the knockout stages. A win for Russia would see them top the group with 7 points. The Czechs managed a 1-0 victory over the Poles and the Greeks rocked the footballing world once more with a shocking 1-0 win over Russia sending them home. Petr Jiracek was a big performer for Czech Republic in the group stages playing in all three games and contributing with two crucial goals for his side.
The ‘group of death’ served up a shock in its first game as Denmark beat Holland 1-0 and put the Dutch side in a precarious position. The Germans won a closely fought game against Portugal through a Mario Gomez goal towards the latter stages of the match. Denmark then performed admirably against Portugal only to be beaten in the 86th minute leaving the Danes beaten 3-2 late on. Once again the Germans produced three points with a 2-1 win over Holland and almost ended the Dutch’s time at the competition. Holland somehow could still go through to the knockouts if they managed a win against Portugal and scoring two in the process. Denmark produced another fine display which was level until Lars Bender scored the winner with ten minutes remaining. Ronaldo had other ideas on Holland’s progression as he had a storming game netting twice helping his side to a 2-1 win and qualifying in second place for the knockout stages. Bastian Schweinsteiger has been key for Germany during their three games providing key passes for the two of Gomez’s goals and being an ever present figure in their midfield.
The group kicked off with a high profile tie between the holders Spain and Italy which produced a stalemate as Italy surprised a few with a 1-1 draw against the favourites. Ireland kicked their campaign off in very sloppy fashion getting beaten 3-1 by a decent looking Croatia side. Many dubbed this a must-win for Ireland as their second game was against Spain where they were emphatically beaten 4-0 by the holders. Croatia earned a hard fought point against Italy which gave them a real chance of qualifying for the knockout stages. Many expected Italy to beat Ireland and they duly delivered with a 2-0 win as they hoped Spain would secure a positive result against Croatia. Spain were unconvincing in their win over the Croatians though as they nicked the game 1-0 in the 88th minute. The key player of this group has been the ever present Andres Iniesta, whether it’s for club or country he seems to possess the ability to surpass his team-mates and looks set to get his name on another ‘team of the tournament’.
England performed resiliently in their first game against France securing a respectable 1-1 draw. Ukraine produced a fantastic comeback thanks to Andriy Shevchenko who netted twice as they beat Sweden 2-1 to top the group. France then played the Ukraine and secured a comfortable 2-0 victory which put them on top of the group. England fell behind to the Swedes but staged an epic comeback to win the game 3-2 and join France at the top of the group. Heading into the final games of the group stages Sweden were out but England needed to make sure they got a point at least to secure a way through to the knockout stages. In an edgy encounter England managed a 1-0 victory over Ukraine which put them top of the group as the Swedes beat France 2-0. Fortunately for France though it was irrelevant as they came 2nd and qualified for the knockout stages of the tournament. Steven Gerrard was outstanding for England during the three games securing two ‘man of the match’ awards which has raised expectation levels in England who face Italy in the next round.