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.

Arteta drawn into Ozil discussion, reacts to Liverpool doubleheader

Arteta on Ozil
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Mikel Arteta did his best not to give a soundbite that included Mesut Ozil’s name following Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Leicester City in League Cup action on Wednesday.

Ozil, 31, has not played since assisting the lone goal in a March 7 win over West Ham and has since only twice even made the bench (June 20 and 25).

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Asked six times about the German, Arteta painted in broad strokes before mentioning Ozil in the second set of questions.

Arteta said that Ozil simply hasn’t warranted a place in an 18. This is how he responded when asked if he understood why there are so many questions about a player who has 44 goals and 77 assists in 254 appearances for the Gunners.

From Football.London:

“Of course I understand and I respect your questions but I have to try to do my job as fair as possible. I try to select the players that are, in my opinion, in better condition.”

Okay then.

As for Wednesday’s win, the Gunners broke through on a Christian Fuchs own goal before sealing the deal on Eddie Nketiah’s marker just before the final whistle.

Arsenal was outshot 15-10 but both teams were decidedly second-string. Now the Gunners get consecutive affairs at Anfield, as Liverpool is the hosts for a Monday meeting in the Premier League and a League Cup fourth round tie days later.

Arteta was asked how big of a test that will be for the Gunners.

“You can imagine, probably the toughest place to go in Europe or the world. That’s the fixtures, we have to go there. Let’s go first on Monday, let’s prepare well and see how it goes.”

Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium in July to deny the Reds a 100-point season, weeks after the Reds clinched the Premier League title. The Gunners again topped Liverpool in the Community Shield one month later.

The atmosphere and stakes will be high again next week. Surely Arteta can’t go 4-0 against Jurgen Klopp, right? Right?

Leicester City’s Rodgers: Gruesome Ndidi injury could cost him 12 weeks

Ndidi injury
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For every team, there’s an indispensible player and it’s difficult to argue against Leicester City’s player being Wilfred Ndidi.

The groin injury that kept the Nigerian out of Leicester’s 2-0 home loss to Arsenal in the League Cup could require surgery, said Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers after the game.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

One of the game’s top destroyers, Ndidi had played two matches at center back as Leicester opened the season 2-0.

Rodgers could hardly have made the injury sound more painful.

From The Leicester Mercury:

“We’re just waiting to hear more on that but it could be anything between six and 12 weeks,” Rodgers said. “It’s a groin abductor which may have come off the bone, which is quite a nasty one. We’re waiting to see if he needs an operation or not. If he does, it will be at least 12 weeks.”

Leicester missed Ndidi for five-of-six games in early 2020 and went 2D-3L, starting a skid that ended up costing them Champions League football.

The 23-year-old already has 34 caps for Nigeria.

The Foxes have Nampalys Mendy, Hamza Choudhury, and Daniel Amartey amongst their defensive midfield options.

They next face Man City, West Ham, Aston Villa, and Arsenal in Premier League play. Leicester will learn its Europa League group on Oct. 2 before beginning its UEL run the week of Oct. 22.

Champions League: Six-goal thriller in Norway; Marsch’s Salzburg lead

Champions League qualifying
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The UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round is delivering entertainment, with six first legs dotting the European landscape over the past 27 hours.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

American coach Jesse Marsch saw his Red Bull Salzburg take a first leg advantage home from Israel, while U.S. right back Henry Wingo and Molde played the game of the round so far against Hungary’s Ferencvaros.


Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg

The Austrian visitors were heavy favorites, especially with the hosts dealing with positive COVID-19 tests, but Maccabi took a ninth-minute lead through Dan Biton.

But young Dominik Szoboszlai’s Man of the Match showing began with a goal in the 49th minute and Masaya Okugawan gave Salzburg the lead eight minutes later ahead of next week’s second leg in Austria.

Molde 3-3 Ferencvaros

A thriller in Norway saw the hosts erase a 2-0 deficit only to hand a big away goals advantage to the Hungarian visitors with minutes to play.

Ferencvaros scored early in each half through Franck Boli and Myrto Uzuni. Both goals were set up by Endre Botka and Ferencvaros looked set to cruise through the first leg.

Molde snapped awake through former Manchester United, Cardiff City, and Seattle Sounders man Magnus Wolff Eikrem, who set up Leke James in the 55th minute before scoring a classy goal that was started on the right flank by fellow ex-Sounder and American export Henry Wingo.

Martin Ellingsen gave Molde its first lead in the 83rd, but Ihor Kharatin made it 3-3 four minutes later to send Ferencvaros back to Hungary with three away goals. A draw any less insane would be enough for them to head to the group stage.

Elsewhere

Gent 1-2 Dynamo Kiev
Olympiakos 2-0 Omonia Nicosia
Krasnodar 2-1 PAOK
Slavia Prague 0-0 Midtjylland

Second legs

Sept. 29
Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Sept. 30 
Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv

League Cup: Havertz hat trick as Chelsea scores 6, Newcastle hits 7

League Cup scores
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There were few surprises to be found in the League Cup, one day after several eyebrow-raising results in the tournament’s third round.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]


Morecambe 0-7 Newcastle United

The League Two side was absolutely hammered by a Newcastle team who must’ve been read the riot act after a sleepy home loss to Brighton in weekend Premier League action.

It was already 4-0 when Morecambe’s Toumani Diagouraga was sent off. Joelinton scored twice and three players had a goal and an assist (Jamaal Lascelles, Jacob Murphy, and Miguel Almiron).

USMNT defender DeAndre Yedlin started at left back and set up an Isaac Hayden goal, with Matt Ritchie picking up an assist on Newcastle’s sixth of the game. An own goal rounded out the scoring.

A visit to League Two’s Newport County is next, and Steve Bruce’s men would be expected to win and find a spot in December’s quarterfinals. Halcyon days, or something.

Leicester City 0-2 Arsenal

A Christian Fuchs own goal finally helped Arsenal onto the scoreboard, though the Gunners were good money for the win.

The Foxes had an excellent goal mouth clearance from Wes Morgan with about 20 minutes to play, but could not find the equalizer.

Eddie Nketiah grimaced that he didn’t get to tap in the pass that Fuchs directed into his own goal, but got his marker in the 90th.

If Liverpool handles its business against Lincoln City this weekend, the Reds and Gunners will square off twice in four days (or less)

Chelsea 6-0 Barnsley

Kai Havertz scored his first Chelsea goal and hat trick, all assisted by Tammy Abraham, as the Blues made short work of their Championship visitors.

Havertz’s first Chelsea goal was one of two first-half markers and his second iced the contest.

Abraham scored in the 19th minute. Eight minutes later, he let Mount’s pass set Havertz up for a classy snap finish.

Ross Barkley scored in the 49th and Abraham got his second assist of Havertz six minutes later. His third came in the 65th minute and was followed by Havertz leaving the pitch to hand Ben Chilwell a Blues debut.

Chilwell didn’t disappoint, setting up Olivier Giroud for the match’s final goal.

Preston North End 0-2 Brighton

Graham Potter’s rotation allowed some talented players to showcase themselves away to a Championship side.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Alexis Mac Allister were the goal scorers as the Seagulls outshot PNE 11-4 to set up a match next week with Manchester United, who they meet this weekend in the PL.

Millwall 0-2 Burnley

As cagey as you’d expect from these two, with the Premier League visitors’ class a bit too much for the Championship’s Lions.

Josh Brownhill and Matej Vydra scored for Sean Dyche’s men with Matthew Lowton and Chris Wood collecting assists.

Burnley will face Man City or Bournemouth in the fourth round.

Fulham 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday

It was as tight as you’d expect from two sides who shared Championship scraps last season.

Aboubakar Kamara and Bobby Reid scored in the first 32 minutes to supply the Cottagers a fourth-round date at West London rivals Brentford in a rematch of the promotion playoff final.

Americans Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson both went the distance in the win.

Stoke City 1-0 Gillingham

The Championship side had all of the ball and the only goal, as Tyrese Campbell’s 37th-minute marker was enough to clinch a visit to either Bristol City or Aston Villa.

Fleetwood Town 2-5 Everton

Carlo Ancelotti’s dominant Toffees suffered a brief scare after building a 2-0 lead through a Richalrison double.

Mark Duffy scored in the 48th before Alex Iwobi restored the two-goal lead.

That’s when Jordan Pickford, well, he messed up.

Fortunately for the Toffees, who out-attempted Joey Barton’s Fisherman by a healthy margin, Bernard scored with 17 minutes left to ease any frayed nerves. Moise Kean finished the scoring off a Niels Nkounkou feed.

Everton faces West Ham at Goodison Park in the fourth round.


Next League Cup third round fixtures

All times ET

Thursday
Bristol City v Aston Villa — 2 pm
Lincoln City v Liverpool — 2:45 pm
Manchester City v Bournemouth — 2:45 pm


Previous third round results

Luton Town 0-3 Manchester United
West Ham United 5-1 Hull City
Newport County 3-1 Watford
West Bromwich Albion 2-2 (4-5 pens) Brentford
Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur — postponed


League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Arsenal
Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
Brentford v Fulham
EvertonWest Ham United
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea
Newport County v Newcastle United
Brighton and Hove Albion v Manchester United