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.

FA Cup: Man Utd drawn vs. Brighton in QF; Chelsea to face Leicester

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Three more Premier League sides joined Chelsea and Leicester City in the quarterfinals of the 2017-18 FA Cup on Saturday, followed by the draw for the final eight…

[ WATCH: Lionel Messi finds Luis Suarez with a brilliant through ball ]

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United

Romelu Lukaku‘s first season at Man United has been, on the whole, quietly fruitful (12 PL goals, plus another 8 in other competitions), though his $96-million price tag continues to loom large. On Saturday, the big Belgian fired the Red Devils into the final eight with a brace against fellow Premier Leaguers Huddersfield.

It was 1-0 after just three minutes, when Lukaku slotted home to finish a quick counter attack set forth by a brilliant through ball from Juan Mata.

Mata made it 2-0 just before halftime, but the goal was wiped away after utilizing the video-assistant refereeing system. They don’t get much closer than this one.

United’s second came 10 minutes into the second half, when Alexis Sanchez took his turn playing Lukaku into acres of wide open space.

When the draw was made following the conclusion of Saturday’s game, we learned that United will host another PL side, Brighton & Hove Albion, in the next round.

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 Coventry City

That’s because Brighton brushed aside League 2 side Coventry City to reach their first quarterfinal since 1986.

Jurgen Locadia, Connor Goldson and Leonardo Ulloa bagged the goals for the ‘Gulls.

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Southampton

Southampton are also through to the quarterfinals, thanks to their 2-1 victory away to West Brom. Salomon Rondon’s stunning volley undoubtedly stole the headlines (WATCH HERE), but Saints are the ones to advance, thanks to goals scored by Wesley Hoedt (11th minute) and Dusan Tadic (56th).

In the next round, Southampton will be away to the winner of Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester City (Monday, 2:55 p.m. ET).

Sheffield Wednesday 0-0 Swansea City

The last thing relegation battlers Swansea City would have wanted is for a replay to be shoehorned into their remaining schedule, but Carlos Carvalhal’s side was unable to best Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, thus a replay at the Liberty Stadium on a yet-to-be-determined date over the next month.

Full quarterfinal draw

Sheffield Wednesday/Swansea City vs. Rochdale/Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Leicester City vs. Chelsea
Wigan Athletic/Manchester City vs. Southampton

Sunday’s FA Cup schedule

Rochdale vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester City — 2:55 p.m. ET

Bundesliga wrap: Bayern wins it late, Leverkusen goes second

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It looked like Bayern Munich was on pace to drop points for just the fifth time this season, but then the club’s star striker stepped up in the biggest of moments.

[ MORE: TFC on the brink of adding Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ager Aketxe ]

The German leaders came back to pick up a 2-1 victory on the road at Wolfsburg after Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty kick in stoppage time.

Sandro Wagner’s second-half header had pulled the match level off of an Arjen Robben cross in the 64th minute. Robben atoned for an earlier penalty-kick miss, which would have tied the match ten minutes prior.

Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke were each big winners on the day, with the two clubs moving into the top four.

Leverkusen’s 2-1 win on the road against Hertha Berlin saw Heiko Herrlich and his side move up to second place in the Bundesliga, albeit a lengthy distance behind leaders Bayern.

Schalke took care of business at home against Hoffenheim, bringing the Miners one step closer to the top four. The side is now level on 37 points with Borussia Dortmund for fourth, but the Christian Pulisic and Co. currently boast a superior goal differential.

Below are all of Saturday’s scores from around Germany’s top flight.

Cologne 1-1 Hannover 96
Hertha Berlin 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg 1-0 Werder Bremen
Wolfsburg 1-1 Bayern Munich
Schalke 2-1 Hoffenheim

Rodchenkov to AP: Russian footballers immune from drug bans

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Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov claims he helped soccer players in the country to avoid being caught doping after he followed government orders to ensure cheating was covered up.

[ MORE: Mourinho denies Pogba exit rumors ]

The former Russian anti-doping laboratory director told The Associated Press in response to questions through his lawyer that an instruction to avoid scandal came from Vitaly Mutko. Mutko is the former Russian sports minister who serves as deputy prime minster despite being at the center of the doping deception controversy exposed by Rodchenkov.

The focus is sharpening on doping practices in Russian soccer with the World Cup kicking off in Moscow in four months.

Rodchenkov says “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”

Rodchenkov claimed Mutko said “avoid any scandal by hiding positive results” and that “doping would be handled internally”.

Video: Rondon’s exquisite volley not enough to save West Brom

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Salomon Rondon’s second-half volley was not only a beauty, but one of tremendous difficulty.

Unfortunately for he and his West Bromwich Albion side, though, it wasn’t enough for the Baggies to survive in this season’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Southampton.

[ MORE: Brilliant Messi through ball sends Suarez in for Barcelona opener ]

The Saints progressed to the quarterfinals on Saturday behind goals from Wesley Hoedt and Dusan Tadic, and join fellow Premier League sides Chelsea, Brighton & Hove and Leicester City in the final eight.

Tadic’s goal came in the 56th minute, doubling the Southampton lead, but Rondon’s quality volley two minutes later provided West Brom with a temporary moment of relief (below).