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.

UEFA Champions League semifinal predictions

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With the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League to kick off over the next few days, let’s take a look at both games and predict which teams will make it to the final in Kiev on May 26.

[ MORE: Champions League scores

Liverpool or Roma? Real Madrid or Bayern Munich?

Here’s the lowdown as two eagerly anticipated games take center stage across Europe.


Liverpool vs. AS Roma
First leg: Apr. 24, 2:45 p.m. ET at Anfield
Second leg: May 2, 2:45 p.m. ET at Stadio Olimpico

This should be one heck of a tie with defending optional for both teams but both have very different ways of playing. Jurgen Klopp will unleash the fluid trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on an often brittle Roma defense but the Italian giants have a giant in their own up top in the shape of Edin Dzeko. How Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s defense deal with the threat of Dzeko will likely decide the outcome of this game. Liverpool will look to feed off the famous Anfield atmosphere to wrack up a big first leg lead before they head to Roma for Leg 2, and I fancy Salah to blow his old team away in the first leg. Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate.

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
First leg: Apr. 25, 2:45 p.m. ET at Allianz Arena
Second leg: May 1, 2:45 p.m. ET at Santiago Bernabeu

A proper heavyweight clash as Bayern and Real do battle knowing that whoever wins will be the favorites in the final. Cristiano Ronaldo is in the form of his life (again) after a slow start to this season and Zinedine Zidane’s side made hard work of it against Juventus in the last round but are on course for a third-straight UCL trophy. As for Bayern, they have been in imperious form and you feel like Robert Lewandowski can get the better of Real’s center backs. Expect this to be a tight game with extremely high quality from both teams. Real being at home in the second leg is a big advantage. Real Madrid to advance 3-2 on aggregate. 

Cologne’s Hector extends contract despite likely relegation

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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) Germany defender Jonas Hector has shunned reported interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund by extending his contract with Cologne – despite the club’s almost certain relegation from the Bundesliga.

Cologne, eight points from safety with three games remaining, says its 27-year-old captain has signed a two-year extension to 2023 instead of using a release clause in his contract.

Hector, who has been at the club since 2010, says, “It wouldn’t have been a problem to switch to another club after this season but it didn’t feel right for me. I belong to Cologne and want to tackle the new season with the team and the fans behind us.”

Cologne sporting director Armin Veh says Hector’s decision is, “a great signal for the team, the club and our fans.”

Klopp talks politics: “Brexit makes no sense”

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Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of Brexit and he doesn’t care who knows it.

Liverpool’s German manager has spoken in the past about his disdain towards the vote by British citizens to leave the European Union, with Brexit officially planned for March 2019.

Klopp sat down with the Guardian to chat about a whole host of topics but it was his political views which will get the headlines ahead of Liverpool’s huge UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against AS Roma at Anfield on Tuesday.

The man who has Liverpool on the cusp of reaching a major European final and comfortably in the top four of the Premier League also admitted that he has a “helping syndrome” and wants to help out everyone and he cares about them greatly.

It is worth letting the words speak for themselves when it comes to Klopp’s comments on Brexit as it is clearly something else he cares a lot about.

Take it away, Jurgen…

“When Mr [David] Cameron had the idea [of a referendum] you thought: ‘This is not something people should decide in a moment.’ We are all influenced by the way only some of the argument is given, and once the decision is taken nobody gives you a real opportunity to change it again. The choice was either you stay in Europe, which is not perfect, or you go out into something nobody has any idea how it will work.

“So you give people the chance to make this big decision. And then it’s a 51-49 [51.9%-48.1%] vote and you’re thinking: ‘Wow, 49% are not happy with the decision that’s going to change the country.’ For the 51%, I’m sure they realized pretty early after the vote: ‘What have we done?’ The two leaders of the leave campaign then stepped aside. It was a pure sign they were surprised themselves by the vote. OK, that can happen. But then, come on, let’s sit together again. Let’s think about it again and let’s vote again with the right information – not with the information you’ve got around the Brexit campaign. They were obviously not right, not all of them. It makes no sense at all.”

“The EU is not perfect but it was the best idea we had. History has always shown that when we stay together we can sort out problems. When we split then we start fighting. There was not one time in history where division creates success. So, for me, Brexit still makes no sense.”

VIDEO: Napoli fans celebrate Juventus win

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It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.

Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.

The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.

Take a look at the video below. Wow.