Portugal's Ronaldo attends a training session for the Euro 2012 at training field in Opalenica

Ronaldo, history’s overlooked tale, and Denmark-Portugal: Wednesday’s Euro 2012 A-Side

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When Group B was drawn, most people felt sorry for Denmark, seeing them as the group’s weakest link. It just shows you how little people care about international soccer outside of major tournaments. They weren’t paying attention to the two qualifying campaigns, where Denmark went head-to-head with Portugal and beat them.

Side 2: Your Netherlands-Germany playlist

In 2008, the countries were drawn together in Group 1 of UEFA World Cup qualifying. Denmark finished top of the group, taking four points from Portugal. In 2010, they were drawn together in Group H of Euro 2012 qualifying. Denmark finished top of the group, splitting their games with Portugal.

In 2012, the teams are drawn into Group B of the European Championships. Denmark probably won’t finish top of the group, but based on the teams’ recent meetings, there’s a good chance they’ll finish ahead of Portugal.

The craziest thing about people overlooking recent history: Portugal hasn’t won anything. Usually when teams are overrated, it’s because they won major tournaments (think France, Italy in the last two major tournaments). Portugal’s not only never won, the only time they made a major final was when they hosted Euro 2004. Denmark, on the other hand, has won a major title (Euro 1992).

But that’s all in the past. Portugal may very well be better than Denmark. We might find out on Wednesday. But there’s no reason to see the Danes a fourth of four.

Here’s your playlist for Wednesday’s noon Eastern kickoff:

Side 1: Denmark vs. Portugal

1. Miss you when you’re gone

Christian Eriksen was a non-factor on Saturday. Given the drama underscoring the result, nobody missed him, but if the 20-year-old Ajax midfielder goes the whole tournament without doing something special, all his hype will be for naught. Having led his club side (Ajax) to consecutive Dutch titles, Eriksen’s been tabbed as a potential breakout star.

How much that Dutch performance is worth is open to debate. There is this strange aura surrounding the Dutch league because of historic successes at Ajax and PSV as well as the luster of the Dutch national team. But it’s been a while since the Eredivisie was among Europe’s best leagues, something reflected in Eriksen’s stats. In his three year career, Eriksen’s been good for a goal every six games in league, and an assist in every three. In Europe, his rates fall to a goal every 11 games, an assist every seven.

How good is Christian Erikson? He looks very good to the eye. If he did some damage in this group, it would help his case.

source:  2. Sweet thoughts in my past

Denmark can’t let their past successes go to their heads, including Saturday’s win over the Netherlands. Lacking the talent of their group-mates, their successes have been built on organization and execution. Nobody watches Morten Olsen’s team and thinks “They never looked like they had a plan,” but if they make like upstarts and buy into their own hype, they’re going to stop doing the little things that have got them to this point. You know … organization and execution.

With Denmark, there’s little chance of that happening. Morten Olsen’s been in charge of the team for 12 years, an eternity for a national team coach. His players are more drilled in team’s system than anybody they’ll face in this tournament. Against a familiar opponent, they’ll be very aware of what works and what doesn’t, who to stop and who they don’t have to worry about.

Come kickoff, none of Denmark’s previous successes matter. They probably be drilled in that, too.

3. Cristiano

Cristiano Ronaldo had a good game on Saturday. He created four scoring chances, mostly exploiting one-on-one situations against Germany right back Jerome Boateng. His teammates weren’t able to convert, and Paulo Bento’s tactics left him without support, but he was still able to have an impact (albeit a small one).

That’s not quite good enough for a player that’s supposed to be the world’s best. While it’s not fair to judge Ronaldo exclusively against that standard, it is fair to say Portugal have adjusted their approach based on expectations of his performance. That means their midfield sits very deep, plays long balls behind the defense for him to run onto, and they expect him to produce.

Plan B is to the do the same with Nani (who plays right while Ronaldo plays left), but it’s a plan subject to the same shortcomings as Plan A. Much of the time Nani has the ball, he’s expected to create and finish his own chances.

The only difference: Nobody thinks he’s a failure when he can’t do the remarkable.

4. Help for him

Analysts noticed how effective Portugal was after Germany scored and they had to open up. The pressure Portugal applied over the last 20 minutes had people asking why they don’t play that way all the time. Apparently every other opponent plays as if protecting a 1-0 lead in match’s final moments?

There’s this assumption about a Portuguese style of play that’s turned into a fallacy. People assume they’re entertaining, but they rarely are. Just because they have Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t mean his teammates play like him.

Nonetheless, Portugal does need to open up. Their midfield three played far too deep against Germany, and while they almost got a point, they were also sitting ducks. When Germany made its second half adjustment and started crossing for Mario Gómez, it was a matter of which came first: the final whistle, or the inevitable Germany goal.

Against decent competition, Portugal can’t expect to hold out. They need to have something going forward, if for not other reason than to offset the goal they’ll probably allow.

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: Howe says Bournemouth hero Fraser “deserved his opportunity”

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Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe had time to collect himself after the Cherries stunned Liverpool, coming back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 in injury time.

He was very praiseworthy of the opponents, who appeared to have an easy day after scoring twice early on before Bournemouth stormed back later.

“It was a great game, obviously from our perspective because we won, but I thought Liverpool showed their quality in the first half,” Howe said. “I thought they were excellent, but we showed a great attitude and never gave up.”

After falling behind 2-0 thanks to a pair of errors by goalkeeper Artur Boruc, it was a tough road to halftime, and although they got one back, Liverpool responded quickly to again restore the two-goal lead at 3-1. It looked bleak for the Cherries at home.

“It was a tough afternoon,” Howe said. “We knew the quality of Liverpool, we knew how they played. They did it very well, and we didn’t, we were flat, and it really took our substitutes to have a big impact in the game and liven us up.”

Finally, the Cherries boss said that he had his eye on the hero Ryan Fraser for some time, and that he knew he was ready to take his chance. “He’s been training like that for a few weeks now, I think he’s deserved his opportunity. He came on the pitch and gave us that belief.” The 22-year-old came on and scored his first Premier League goal as well as assisted two others in the comeback.

VIDEO: Should Marcos Rojo have been sent off for two-footed challenge?

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The box score only shows a yellow card for Marcos Rojo in the 16th minute, but the game tells a much different tale.

Early on in a physical battle, minutes after Gareth Barry seemed to have been let off without punishment for a hard foul on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rojo left his feet and flew in with both studs up on Idrissa Gueye. Referee Michael Oliver showed him only a caution, but replays showed that Rojo was airborne for a moment, and his crunching challenge landed directly on Gueye’s right leg.

[ MORE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic puts Manchester United 1-0 up on Everton ]

Looking at the moment of impact, it seems a miracle that Gueye was able to pop straight up from the challenge without so much as a scratch, as it could have been much, much worse had Rojo’s feet landed in a vulnerable spot on the Everton midfielder’s leg. Referees never like to condemn a team to such a disadvantage in the early stages of a game, but this seemed to be an incredibly dangerous moment.

Everton ended up with a 1-1 draw in the match after former Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini conceded a late penalty just two minutes after coming off the bench, but the Toffees likely would have benefitted even greater from playing 74 minutes with a man advantage.

Did Rojo deserve a red card? Or did Michael Oliver get the decision right? The guys in studio at halftime seemed to agree that Rojo should have been sent to the showers.

Everton 1-1 Manchester United: Fellaini concedes late penalty

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Jose Mourinho has complained all month that Manchester United is the unluckiest team in the Premier League, and he will have more fodder for his rant – deserved or not – as the Red Devils conceded a late penalty as they drop points at Everton in a 1-1 draw.

It appeared that Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s goal in the final minutes of the first half would be enough, but Everton was gifted a way back as a lumbering Marouane Fellaini conceded a penalty just two minutes after coming off the bench, and the game finished level despite a flurry of activity down the stretch.

The game had a chippy start, with a number of early thumping challenges. Referee Michael Oliver missed an easy decision, as Marcus Rojo found only yellow for his 16th minute lunge on Idrissa Gueye, clearly deserving red as he lept off both feet and went studs-in on the 50/50 ball, an incredibly dangerous challenge lucky not to leave the Everton man with a lasting impact.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

As tensions rose early, the game opened up. United seemed to have the best chances forward as they launched balls into the box, but struggled to find the final ball as the half-hour mark passed. The visitors came close to threading players through, such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan on 37 minutes, but Ramiro Fuenes Mori – in for the benched captain Phil Jagielka – made a vital sliding tackle to end the chance.

Everton, meanwhile, struggled to get out of its own half as United pressed hard throughout the first half. Finally, just three minutes before the break, Manchester United got the breakthrough. A long ball from Anthony Martial from United’s own half met a streaking Ibrahimovic guarded by Funes Mori. Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg inexplicably came off his line, leaving the goal gaping for Zlatan to karate-kick the ball in. The ball took forever to cross the line, bouncing four times and touching the crossbar and a post before it tricked in. Funes Mori gave it a run, but having given up on Zlatan’s touch, he was just too late to prevent the goal.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Everton didn’t seem too incisive until suddenly their best chance of the game came in on 53 minutes. A one-two between Belgians Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku saw the former in on goal, but David De Gea produced a fabulous reflex save with his right leg to keep out the shot. United could have gone 2-0 up as Ander Herrera volleyed a bouncing ball on net on the hour mark, but he clattered the crossbar with his powerful shot.

The Toffees made the first change on 65 minutes with Tom Cleverley coming off to home fan jeers, replaced by Gerard Deulofeu. Neither team had a big moment as time ticked down, and Jose Mourinho looked to bring on fresh legs as he introduced Marouane Fellaini and Anthony Martial.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

As the clock wound down, it was a substitute to make an impact, but not in his own team’s favor. Fellaini, on the pitch just two minutes before he thumped into Gueye in the penalty area, and Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. Leighton Baines slotted home the penalty just past the outstretched gloves of de Gea, and Everton were level.

The home side, awoken by the opportunity for more, lurched forward in huge spurts as the game wound down. Despite the pressure, United held well down the stretch, even producing a counter-attack that nearly produced a winner on the other end if not for a vital interception by substitute Mason Holgate.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The game represents the third 1-1 draw in a row for Manchester United in league play despite good midweek form in the cup. They sit on 21 points in sixth position in the Premier League table, now 13 back of the top of the table. Meanwhile, the point for Everton at home is also somewhat disappointing, as they’ve won just one in their last eight and have 20 points in eighth.

VIDEO: Zlatan Ibrahimovic punishes Stekelenburg mistake with incredible looping goal

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Of course Zlatan would score like this. Of course he would.

With Maarten Stekelenburg deciding to come off his line and challenge Zlatan Ibrahimovic all the way out at the corner of the box, the super Swede poked the ball with his trademark karate kick. His touch sent the ball looping over Stekelenburg and into the net, but not without plenty of fun.

[ RECAP: Manchester United held by Everton on late penalty ]

The ball comes down right on the line, bounces straight up into the crossbar, and comes back down still without having crossed the line. As the ball pin-balled around, Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori realized the goal maybe could be kept out, and began to sprint his way back, but the ball slowly bounces over the line just before Funes Mori got there to clear it out. Unfortunately, replay showed the Toffees defender gave up on Zlatan’s touch; had he sprinted the whole way back, he likely would have reached the ball before it trickled over the line.

The goal is Zlatan’s eighth of the season, and put Manchester United 1-0 up just three minutes before the halftime break.

Scoring off four bounces and two posts is definitely daring to Zlatan.