Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Looking forward with four teams left

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Crystal Ball: What Needs to Happen Next Round

Spain’s the known quantity. While there’ve been qualms about how they’ve gone about business defense, they can win this competition using the same patient, conservative, possession-sensitive approach that has got them to the semis. The approach leaves two unresolved issues: a.) Whether del Bosque will make any tweaks and finally try to limit Spain’s exposure, and b.) whether Portugal can exploit whatever exposure del Bosque provides.

Expect Portugal to play their preferred game: reserved, reactionary, reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo. In the previous two rounds, we advocated Portugal be aggressive from the get-go. Not here. Over potentially 120 minutes, Ronaldo and Nani are likely to get the chances they need. They just need to convert and allow Portugal to sit deep, keeping Spain at arm’s length.

If Germany’s going to get their much sought after major competition victory over Italy, it’s hard to imagine a better time than Thursday. Italy’s still in a regroup mode, with their semifinal appearance doing wonders to restore the national team’s place in the world soccer pecking order. Germany is the better team, and with Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus proving viable options against slower defenses, Joachim Löw has multiple ways of breaking down the Italians.

Who knows how Italy plans on beating the Germans. On paper, the game looks like a mismatch. But Italy wasn’t expected to get a result from Spain, yet they did. They’ve also never trailed in the tournament, having gotten results form three of the world’s top eight teams along the way. Is Germany so special that they aren’t subject to the same hiccups that befell Spain, Croatia and England?

PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings

Taking a long term look, toward teams’ title hopes.

In:

1. Germany – To answer the question we just posed: Yes, Germany is so special that they won’t be subject to the same issues that left Spain, Croatia and England deadlocked with Italy. The attitude that made Croatia so successful in their second half against Italy? Germany plays like that from the opening kickoff.

2. Spain – Expect to see the real, full throttle Spain on Wednesday. To this point, they haven’t had to turn it on, and they may not need to turn it on to beat Portugal, either. But ahead of Sunday’s final, they need to find out if they still have that extra gear in them.

3. Portugal – And if they don’t, the Seleccao can pounce. The key will be pressing for chances from the start. The worst thing that can happen for Portugal is to see early success by sacrificing their attack. Perhaps that means keeping Nani deep while having their striker (likely to be Hugo Almeida) track back on Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo alone. That could get them into the second hour at 0-0, giving them only a sliver of the match to equalize after Spain gets their customary winning goal.

4. Italy – Whatever mistakes Germany make, the Italians more are capable of exploiting them than any team the favorites have faced to this point. And as good as the Germans are, mistake-free games haven’t been their thing. As many chances as Andrea Pirlo has generated for Mario Balotelli, it’s not hard to envision Mats Hummels paving the way for at least one great chance.

Out:

5. England – Though England showed well at Euro 2012, they leave the tournament with little to build on for Brazil 2014. Still, given where this team was at the point Fabio Capello resigned, this is a great result for Roy Hodgson and The FA.

6. Czech Republic – The players probably would have preferred Michal Bilek employ a more aggressive approach against Portugal, but after a bad opening night against Russia, the Czechs represented themselves well at Euro 2012.

7. Greece – Their quarterfinal loss wasn’t as close as the final score indicates, but they managed to knock off a good Russian team while give the Germans a momentary second half scare. This seventh place ranking speaks to the cliff teams like Russia, France, the Netherlands and Sweden plunged off, but given how little was expected of the Greeks, their fans should be elated with their shock quarterfinal appearance.

8. France – By the end of the tournament, their stock had fallen farther than Enron’s.

… and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist

1. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
2. Andres Iniesta, Spain
3. Mesut Ozil, Germany
4. Sami Khedira, Germany
5. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
6. Fabio Coentrao, Portugal
7. Xavi Hernández, Spain
8. Pepe, Portugal
9. Joao Moutinho, Portugal
10. Mario Gomez, Germany

For the first time this competion, we have somebody who’s a clear frontrunner for the Player of the Tournament. And really – who would be upset with Andrea Pirlo winning this award?

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.

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”