Germany Training - Group B: UEFA EURO 2012

As it happened: Germany, Portugal sit top of Group B; Dutch lose second straight

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It was highlighted as the must-see match of group stage when UEFA drew Euro 2012 in December. After all, it isn’t every day two of the top four teams meet in the group stage of a major competition, though Netherlands-Germany wouldn’t need such grandiose context to get our attention. One of the world’s major international derbies, pride is a palpable factor whenever these neighbors meet.

Of small concern for the Dutch are reports of discontent. That’s expected after a disappointing result, but with the Netherlands having a history of being undermined by this kind of nonsense, Wesley Sneijder’s remarks are eye-opening. I fully expect Robin van Persie to say squad ethos is fine and half the locker room supports him.

First up, though, is Denmark-Portugal – two teams who have been drawn together in the last two qualifying cycles. If those results are any guide, the Danes are slight favorites.

We’ll be updating you on the day’s significant events below. In the interim, here’s some pre-match reading:

And now that you’re through skipping over the bullets, here’s Wednesday’s action:



(All times Eastern)

1636 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany, Final – Germany stay top of Group B, with the Netherlands in last place. The van Persie goal helps a potential three-way, goal difference scenario for second place, but things still look very bleak for the Dutch.

It could be worse, though. If they post a lopsided result on Portugal while Denmark fall to Germany, then they’re through.

1635 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany – Last moments, and Germany brings on Lars Bender for Thomas Muller. The Netherlands are having a difficult time getting the ball off them. Camera shows Netherlands bench with van Bommel and Robben commiserating.

1630 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany – Jerome Boateng picks up a care for time wasting. He’ll miss the next game.

1625 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany – Nope. Arjen Robben is the man coming off for Kuyt. He puts on a show by walking all the way around the pitch then shows his frustration by yanking off his kit as he approaches the bench. Apparently, he’s not sitting on the bench. He’s sitting outside his team’s dugout, frustrated at having been taken off with his team needing a goal.

1623 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany – Toni Kroos is on for Mesut Ozil, who put on quiet a show of skill, even if none of it necessarily translated into something on the scoresheet. Dirk Kuyt is going to come on for the Dutch eventually. He might take van der Wield or Willems’ place.

1614 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany – Mario Gómez is coming off. Miroslav Klose is one.

The Dutch are looking much better in their final third. They’re moving the ball better than they have all half, with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder fully into this game.

But it’s Robin van Persie that breaks through. Taking the ball to feet from the left, he turns inside and loses Mats Hummels. A right footer from 20 yards goes into the right of goal. The lead’s only one.

1606 – Netherlands 0-2 Germany – The Netherlands have had a couple of danger-moments, but all from outside the area. Van Persie struck a very nice ball in the 58th minute, and moments ago Wesley Sneijder almost snuck a 30-yard shot far post past Neuer. Of course, Neuer’s better known as the antagonist from Jack and the Beanstalk, so it’s hard to sneak a ball back him.

Germany is still in control, though. The Netherlands as escalating, but Germany’s able to clam things when they want, with the trio of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, and Mesut Ozil defining this match.

1547 – Netherlands 0-2 Germany – Two changes for a Netherlands team that desperately needs a shake up. Mark Van Bommel, whose last action was a frustrating takedown of Lukas Podolski, is off, as is Ibrahim Afellay. Team-first Rafael van der Vaart is on, as is Klass-Jan Huntelaar.

We’re underway.

1537 – Netherlands 0-2 Germany, Halftime – The numbers … Possession: Netherlands 59-41; Shots: 3-3; Shots on target: 2-2.

1532 – Netherlands 0-2 Germany, Halftime – For the Netherlands’, at least it’s over. Germany is up two and is playing exactly the game they want. They’re sitting back and absorbing feckless Dutch attacks before busting into attack, ruthlessly exploiting their advantage down the right. Both goals were balls played to Schweinsteiger from the right, the German midfielder’s one touch finding Mario Gomez.

What’s the point of playing both Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong if you’re going to let this happen? One of those two should be coming out to challenge Schweinsteiger before he plays the ball for the second. On the first, they didn’t even have to come out. Schweinsteiger was able to get very high up the pitch before playing the ball.

Replays show a number of other errors. Van der Wiel helps Gomez on for the first goal (Gomez with a very nice turn to take the ball), while Jetro Willems has been ruthlessly targeted.

1523 – Netherlands 0-2 Germany – Schweinsteiger. Gomez. Goal.

Neuer plays a long ball to the right that Gomez collects and plays back to Ozil. He plays back to the middle for Schweinsteiger, up plays forward to Gomez. The Bayern attack calmly puts a perfectly places shot right inside the far post. It’s 2-0.

1520 – Netherlands 0-1 Germany – So here’s how this game is going to go, if the last 10 minutes are an indication: Germany’s going to absorb the Dutch attack, and if the Netherlands want to fool around with it before entering the final third, that’s fine. Once there, Germany’s going to try to win the ball and hit the Dutch quick on the counter, and with Thomas Müller having his way with Jetro Willems, expect a number of those “hits” to come down the right.

Here’ Müller forces a foul, and Mesut Ozil’s ball into the six finds a ridiculously unmarked Holger Badstuber. He thumps it down, but it finds Stekelenburg. It’s still 1-1.

1509 – Netherlands 0-1 Germany – That was just too easy. From the get go, Netherlands had been applying no pressure high, and here it allows Mats Hummels to start a movement, hitting right to Muller. Again, not enough pressure allows Muller to curl back and in from the right, eventually squaring to the middle for Bastian Schweinsteiger (one of his first ventures forward this tournament) who plays a ball forward for Gomez. Gomez turns and finishes into the left of net, easily beating Maarten Stekelenburg.

The Dutch were just following the ball around, not doing much, and Germany was able to string together four easy passes.

1503 – Netherlands 0-0 Germany – We get the first glimpse of a tactic that should work all night. Thomas Müller beats Jetro Willems on the right floats a cross into the box, and fun ensues. A shot is eventually blocked at seven yards …

And the Dutch break into a counter that ses Ibrahim Afallay given his second opening to roll a ball to the top of the six. Between those two chances and a couple of long diagonals targeting a left-leaning Robin van Persie, perhaps the Dutch have decided Jerome Boateng is German’s weakest link.

1452 – Netherlands 0-0 Germany – Robin van Persie gets the first chance of the match after losing Mats Hummels to get onto a ball the drops near the spot. His touch goes straight to Manuel Neuer.

1445 – Netherlands 0-0 Germany – And we’re off. Netherlands kicking off going left to right in orange. Germany’s in white.

1437 – Lineups for the match that starts in just under 10 minutes. There are no surprises:

Germany: Neuer, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Boateng, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Özil, Müller, Podolski, Gomez SUBS: Wiese, Zieler, Schmelzer, Höwedes, Mertesacker, Gündoğan, Schürrle, Bender, Kroos, Götze, Reus, Klose.

Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Willems, Van Bommel, N. De Jong, Sneijder, Robben, Van Persie, Afellay SUBS: Vorm, Krul, Bouma, Vlaar, Boulahrouz, Schaars, Strootman, Van der Vaart, Kuyt, Huntelaar, L. De Jong, Narsingh.

Big controversy with Rafael van der Vaart complaining about playing time. People saying they’re surprised Huntelaar didn’t come in. C’mon now, people. There’s a difference between what we want to happen and what we think will happen. Nobody should have expected changes at this point from Bert van Marwijk.

1436 – We’re back after writing this, our post-match report on the Portuguese victory.

1352 – Denmark 2-3 Portugal – Huge and deserved in for Portugal, and Denmark have failed to take advantage of the three points they got from the Dutch. For now, Portugal goes second in the group, Silvestre Valera the hero off the bench.

1345 – Denmark 2-3 Portugal – Minutes after coming on for Raul Meireles, Silvestre Varela has restored Portugal’s lead. A cross from the left from Fabio Coentrao sees Varela’s levt-footed try blocked. It bounces out to where Varela can turn onto a right-footed half-volley, blasting it just inside the right post.

Paulo Bento takes off Nani – who had a very, very good day – and brings on Rolando to help close this out.

1339 – Denmark 2-2 Portugal – Excellent execution by Denmark leads to a second Denmark goal that I’m not sure Portugal could have stopped. Those Ronaldo misses are looming large now.

Ball out to Lars Jacobsen deep on the right is crossed beautifully for Bendtner at the far post. Bendtner’s a good two yards wide, seven yards out and meets a ball that barely gets over Pepe. He redirects it two feet inside the post, and although Rui Patricio gets a hand to it, he can’t keep it out.

Obviously, Portugal is in big trouble now.

1336 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Oh, wow. How does Ronaldo not convert that one? Oliveira holds up play and squares it wide to Nani, who picks out Ronaldo’s run behind the defense. Again, he is alone on Andersen, but this time Andersen’s committed too soon. Ronaldo appears to panic a bit and just kick at it instinctively. The shot goes well wide of the right post.

1333 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Portugal influencing play a little bit more, as if Denmark’s having to regroup to come up with another plan. It looks like the Portuguese have this one firmly under control.

1320 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Portugal is ready to make their fist chance. Helder Postiga’s coming off. Nelson Oliveira will come on.

Denmark is still having the better of possession and look to be making some progress toward goal. They’re working the ball to the flanks and putting in some dangerous balls, though Pepe is starting to assert himself, leaving the Danes with no real chances.

1316 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Ball played long for Dennis Rommedahl ends up the hands of Rui Patricio, but the veteran winger has pulled up and immediately calls to the bench. Seems his hamstring went, and there’s no discussion. He’s coming off. Tobias Mikkelsen comes on, making his second consecutive substitute appearance.

1310 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Portugal just missed a great chance to restore their two goal lead. A ball for Nani played to Postiga 10 yards into Denmark’s half is dummied, allowing the ball to roll to Cristiano Ronaldo. He has enough room to get in alone on goal from 40 yards out. He pulls up just inside the box as Stephan Anderson comes out and, going for the far post, sees his shot saved.

Denmark has dominated possession in this half but have not gotten Rui Patricio involved.

1303 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – We are back. Portugal is now moving from left to right. No further changes at halftime.

1248 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal, Halftime – After a pedestrian start, the match came to life, with Portugal going through a controlling 20 minutes before Denmark pulled one back.

By the end of the half, Denmark are stopped dropping so deep in anticipation of crosses, and they seemed much better for it. Their defenders were able to win more balls quicker, and by the end of the half, the Danes had restored their significant possession advantage.

The numbers … Possession: Denmark 58-42; Shots: Portugal 6-4; Shots on target: 4-4.

1241 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Beautiful goal for Denmark, and a much needed response. Nicklas Bendtner heads the Danes within one.

The play starts on the left, but Michael Krahn-Dehli hits a ball to the right for an oncoming Lars Jacobsen. He’s closed down and has to play it back to the middle for Jakob Poulsen. He plays a great ball far post for Krahn-Dehli, whose run beats Joao Moutinho. As Riu Patricio comes to defend, Krahn-Dehli heads it back across the box for Bendtner, who heads in uncontested from a yard out.

1236 – Denmark 0-2 Portugal – Since the 15-minute mark, Portugal’s been in complete control, and with Helder Postiga fishing high to the near-post on a Nani pass to the middle of the box, they’ve got a two goal lead.

Portugal’s threat on crosses into the middle had forced Denmark’s defense to prematurely recede into their area. It hurts here as Nani, on the right wing, has plenty of room to pick out Postiga coming across the box. Postiga beat Simon Kjaer to the ball and one-times it into the top of the net.

1225 – Denmark 0-1 Portugal – A corner whipped in by Joao Mountinho finds Pepe at the near post, and it’s 1-0, Portugal. Denmark was man marking, and Pepe went around a crowd of Portuguese runners to lose Daniel Agger, leaving him unmarked on Moutinho’s in-swinging cross.

1215 – Denmark 0-0 Portugal – Neither side has created a meaningful chance on goal. Denmark has had the better possession but, according to the numbers, not more of it. A big blow for the Danes: Niki Zimling is off. The midfielder had just hit a nice ball for Dennis Rommedahl, but with reports that he’d been working through an ankle problem, he’s coming off. Jakob Poulsen is on, and Morten Olsen’s down a sub.

1200 – And we have started. Denmark is in red going from left to right. Portugal is in white.

1156 – Teams are out on the field and singing their anthems Looks to be a good crowd for today’ds first game.

1154 – The patronization of Denmark continues. Scanning various pre-match punditry, the consensus is Denmark should be happy with a draw against a team like Portugal … all of which reinforces on thing: I shouldn’t be so reliant on English-language soccer coverage.

1115 –Still 45 minutes until kickoff, here are the teams:

Portugal: Patrício, Alves, Pepe, Coentrão, Pereira, Veloso, Moutinho, Meireles, Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga SUBS: Eduardo, Beto, Costa, Rolando, Lopes, Custódio, Quaresma, Micael, Viana, Almeida, Oliveira, Varela.

Denmark: Andersen, Kjær, Agger, S Poulsen, Jacobsen, Kvist, Eriksen, Zimling, Krohn-Dehli, Rommedahl, Bendtner SUBS: Lindegaard, Schmeichel, Bjelland, Okore, Wass, C Poulsen, Schøne, Silberbauer, J Poulsen, Kahlenberg, Pedersen, Mikkelsen.

Both starting lineups are unchanged since Saturday.

Today’s picks: Two 1-1 draws. Forced to say who’s more likely to win, I’d give you Denmark and Germany.

 
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.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.

Qatari official says World Cup drunks will be treated “very gently”

In this photo taken during a government organized media tour, laborers work at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, May 4, 2015. Qatar’s top labor official told The Associated Press Monday that Qatar’s inability to ensure decent housing for its bulging migrant labor population was “a mistake” the government is working to fix as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, vowing his country would improve conditions for its vast foreign labor force. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
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One of the biggest unanswered questions still hanging over the 2022 World Cup — at least for fans traveling to Qatar for the tournament — has to do with the rules and regulations placed upon their consumption of alcohol.

[ MORE: All of the latest FIFA news ]

On Monday, Hassan Al Thawadi, the head of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup committee, attempted to ease those fears when he said that not only will the consumption of alcohol be permitted during the tournament in six years’ time, but that in the event of public drunkenness, the visitors in question will be dealt with quickly and “very gently” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I know in South Africa there where specific courts established during the World Cup for this kind of thing, and that is something we were discussing with FIFA.”

“In relation to drunk fans it will be as it is anywhere else, anyone who is rowdy, anyone who breaches the law, will be very gently – depending on how they react – taken care of in a manner to make sure that people are not disrupting the public order. Everyone will be able to have fun and be exposed to Qatari culture.”

“We welcome everyone in the world. We’ve hosted many people, from many places and [drinking] was never an issue. This will be a fun World Cup. It will be one of the best cups out there.”

Chelsea’s next manager? Juve GM tells Allegri to “think twice” about it

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri waits for the start of a Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Juventus at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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Chelsea fans, quickly think up a few qualities and characteristics you’d like your club’s next manager to possess. Got your list? OK, good. Massimiliano Allegri ticks just about every box you’d hope your next manager would do, which is why there are plenty of rumors flying around linking Juventus’ current boss to the Premier League’s highest profile vacancy.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

For staters, he’s young (48) and massively ambitious; he’s had plenty of success at his two most recent stops as a manager (2010-11 Serie A title with AC Milan; 2014-15 Serie A title, Coppa Italia triumph and UEFA Champions League runners-up with Juventus); and he boasts a successful enough playing career to command the respect of his players.

Juve aren’t going to let Allegri walk out the door without putting up a fight to keep their in-demand leader, though. The club’s general manager, Beppe Marotta, has warned Allegri that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side — quotes from the Guardian:

“In the space of one month we have to play in every competition: the league, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. The next month will tell us a lot about how the whole season is going to play out.

“But we talk to Allegri about footballing matters, not about other matters. Beyond the contracts you have to sign there are the relationships you must build with people, and we’re happy with Allegri.

“All the conditions are right for us to continue with him as coach. Results are what count and Allegri has delivered plenty of those. Football is a business and the role of a coach is important when it comes to breeding continuity.

“Chelsea are a top club and it’s obvious that they’ll want to look at the best coaches. All I can say is that Allegri is already at a top club, so he’d do well to think twice before leaving Juventus.”

[ MORE: Van Gaal calls Mourinho speculation false, a bunch of “nonsense” ]

In the end, if Allegri wants to test himself at a higher level where league titles are anything but a foregone conclusion at the beginning of the season (Juventus are currently in pursuit of their fifth straight Serie A crown), Marotta and Juve stand little chance of changing his mind. Not even Bayern Munich could withstand the pull of the PL and keep hold of Pep Guardiola, just as Diego Simeone will one day join Jurgen Klopp and many others as foreign coaches who established themselves elsewhere and eventually ended up in England.

Checking in with the Championship’s Premier League promotion hopefuls

HULL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07: Jake Livermore of Hull City in action with Diego Fabbrini of Middlesbrough during the Sky Bet Championship match between Hull City and Middlesbrough at the KC Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Hull, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
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With roughly one-third of the schedule to play, there are four clubs within three points of automatic promotion to the Premier League and five more in or within shouting distance of the promotion playoffs.

So while we’re tracking the race to avoid PL relegation between Aston Villa, Sunderland, Norwich City and others, let’s take a look at who’s making bids to take their places.

[ MORE: Difficulty looms for in-form, relegation-scrapping Villa ]

Only one of last season’s relegated teams is far removed from the race to rejoin the Premier League, and that’s Queens Park Rangers. The R’s are 11 points back of sixth place, the final PL playoff spot.

Top dogs

Steve Bruce has Hull City in line for an instant return to the Premier League, but it’s far from sewn up. The Tigers have the Championship’s best goal differential (26), but are tied with Middlesbrough on points and just a point ahead of Sean Dyche‘s Burnley.

Also within a win of the Top Two is Brighton and Hove Albion, led by ex-Norwich City and Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton. He guided the Magpies to promotion, and also got Birmingham City to the playoff in 2012.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01:  Jonathan Spector of Birmingham City during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Birmingham City and Leicester City at St Andrews (stadium) on August 1, 2015 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Also in the running

Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday would be headed to the playoffs if the regular season ended today, but either could drop out of the six within a single game weekend.

Ipswich Town is in 7th with 48 points, while Birmingham is a point back. And remember Vincent Tan? Cardif City’s 45 points have them in the discussion for a PL return.

Of those teams, only one carries an American player. That’s USMNT defender Jonathan Spector (right), the former Manchester United and West Ham United man.