Germany's national football team midfiel

Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Germany 1, Portugal 0

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Man of the Match: Germany had a series of good-not-great performances, and with his great finish to win the game, Mario Gómez takes the honor. His 72nd minute goal took full points from a game which, despite Germany controlling much of the ball, could have gone either way. Some might quibble that Gómez did little else, but he provided a consistent target for crosses, getting a ball on goal in the second minute and putting another one just over early in the second half. It’s a strikers life to always been on a unforgiving hunt, but late on Saturday, Gómez bagged his prey. Given the nature of the goal, you can’t say that just your run-of-the-mill striker would have delivered German full points.

NBC Sports: Gomez scores to give Germany 1-0 win over Portugal

Packaged for takeaway:

  • A lot of German players could have won Man of the Match, and that’s not a good thing. There were a bunch of above-average performances, and not surprise, that manifest into a slightly above average performance from the team:
    • Thomas Müller has the best shout. His crossing was very good all day, and he beame Germany’s most important player when the team abandoned attempts to break down the Portugal midfield, resolving to win this one by going wide.
    • Sami Khedira ultimately delivered the pay-off pass, but doing most of the work that Bastian Schweinsteiger (camped in the middle, possibly hobbled) would otherwise do, he seemed Germany’s most active player.
    • If Mesut Özil misplaced a pass, I didn’t see it. Or, maybe I didn’t want to see it. He didn’t influence this match as much as others, with Portugal’s midfield playing so deep, but like Wesley Sneijder in the first game, he did well with what he was given.
  • The Portugal midfield saw Miguel Veloso play most of the match barely five yards in front of central defenders Pepe and Bruno Alves. The top of the midfield triangle – Raul Miereles and Joao Moutinho – were only eight to 10 yards higher. Only once did that duo get forward to promote an attack. Bastian Schweinsteiger was often seen unmarked 35-40 yards from goal, allowed to move the ball around the outside of Portugal’s defense.
  • As a result, Portugal had one way of getting forward. They’d play the ball deep and wide to Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani and rely on them to … well, be Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. There were a number of times Ronaldo generated very good chances, but isolated, all he could do was try to beat Jerome Boateng and get a ball to a dangerous spot. The four times he did so, Portugal couldn’t convert.
  • Joachim Löw made the tough call to bench normal starting defender Per Mertesacker, going with a central duo of Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber. The pair weren’t really tested. Badstuber did some nice work, blocking a dangerous Nani shot late in the match, and Hummels looked much more comfortable as the match went on. After 90 minutes, though, we have little idea whether Löw made the right choice.
  • Going forward in this tournament, it’s not a huge setback for Portugal. They would have been happy with one point today, but they had to know losing to Germany was possible. Now they turn to Denmark (on Wednesday) needing a win (though there are other ways to get through). This shouldn’t be a surprising scenario.
  • For Germany, yes, they got three, but they have to hope things improve. The Dutch are up next, but as it concerns Germany’s goals (winning the tournament) the one thing that has to concern Löw as his team’s problems breaking down Portugal. They may not face another team that’s going to play like that, but it’s still worrisome to think they your team, when pressed to create something, couldn’t. At least, they couldn’t until resorting to pumping balls in the box. Ultimately, though, the worked.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

VIDEO: Man United’s Marcus Rashford scores 3 minutes into his England debut

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MAY 26:  Marcus Rashford of England arrives at the team hotel on the eve of their international friendly against Australia at the Hilton Gateshead on May 26, 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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12 months ago Nine months ago Six months ago Three months ago, if anyone asked you, “who is Marcus Rashford?” you, just like me, probably would have responded as such: “I haven’t a clue. Should I know who he is?”

[ MORE: Man United confirm Mourinho as new manager ]

Stars are, of course, born overnight in the sports world, and the 18-year-old Manchester United striker, who spent 12 years with the club’s youth academy, is just the latest example. On Feb. 25, he made his first-team debut and scored twice in the Europa League. Three days later, he made his Premier League debut, again scoring twice.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “I prefer to forget the last three years at United” ]

Fast forward to Friday, and Rashford is a fully-fledged England international. In keeping up with the theme of his other debuts this season, he marked his international debut with a goal against Australia after just three minutes of play at the Stadium of Light.

It remains to be seen whether Rashford completes his hat trick of debut braces this year. We’ll update this post if he does so.

Croatia gets 2-match World Cup stadium ban for fascist chant

POZNAN, POLAND - JUNE 10:  Croatian fans light up flares during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C between Ireland and Croatia at The Municipal Stadium on June 10, 2012 in Poznan, Poland.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) Croatia has been ordered to play two World Cup qualifying matches in empty stadiums for repeated cases of fans chanting fascist slogans.

FIFA fined the Croatian soccer federation 150,000 Swiss francs ($151,000), and ordered the stadium bans to take effect when Croatia hosts Turkey on Sept. 5 and Finland on Oct. 9.

Chile was also ordered to play one World Cup qualifier away from its national stadium over fans chanting anti-gay insults, FIFA said in disciplinary rulings announced Friday. FIFA also fined five Latin American soccer federations for “discriminatory and unsporting conduct by fans,” including anti-gay insults, at World Cup qualifiers.

[ MORE: USMNT-Bolivia preview | Castillo replaces Chandler ]

Croatia fans were guilty of discriminatory chants at friendlies against Israel and Hungary in March, FIFA said.

Croatia “had already been sanctioned for similar incidents by FIFA and UEFA” in previous seasons, the world soccer body said.

Before the 2014 World Cup, FIFA banned Croatia defender Josip Simunic for 10 matches for leading fans in a World War II-era chant used by the country’s then-puppet regime.

After incidents of anti-gay chants at the last World Cup in Brazil, FIFA has cracked down on insults aimed by Latin American fans at players on rival teams.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Chile cannot use its national stadium when it hosts Bolivia on Sept. 6 and must pay a fine of 30,000 Swiss francs ($30,250). A second stadium-ban sanction was deferred for a two-year probationary period.

In other sanctions for soccer federations, FIFA fined Honduras 40,000 Swiss francs ($40,300), Mexico and El Salvador 35,000 Swiss francs ($35,275) each, Paraguay 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150), and Peru 15,000 Swiss francs ($15,115).

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

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The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.