Shipped from abroad, Euro 2012: Team of the day, memories from Group A’s closing round

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source: Reuters

How we’ll remember …

Greece 1, Russia 0 – As our ultimate reminder these three game mini-tournaments can be quite unpredictable. Russia finished with the best goal difference in Group A, a small bit of evidence to confirm suspicions that they were the group’s best team. Of course, there is one very big piece of contradictory evidence: their third place standing. Greece goes through in second after an unimpressive yet opportunistic round robin.

Czech Republic 1, Poland 0 – As a game where the intensity never matched the stakes. You wouldn’t have known both teams needed a win to advance. From the 30th minute forward, the Czech were the better side, with their 72nd minute counter attack sending them through as unlikely group winners.

Team of the Day

G: Michalis Sifakis, Greece
LB: David Limbersky, Czech Republic
CB: Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Greece
CB: Michal Kadlec, Czech Republic
RB: Theodor Gebre Selassie, Czech Republic
DM: Tomas Hubschman, Czech Republic
M: Giorgos Karagounis, Greece
M: Kostas Katsouranis, Greece
LW: Vaclav Pilar, Czech Republic
RW: Jakub Blaszczykoswki, Poland
F: Robert Lewandowski, Poland
Subs: Tomas Sivok, Czech Republic, Roman Shirokov, Russia; Petr Jiracek, Czech Republic

Three lessons to take home

1. Embrace the randomness of the three-game mini tournament – We all know about the any give day principle. In international soccer, it’s promoted from principle to rule. Any team can beat another, especially when they get the first goal. One errant header (Sergei Ingashevich), one point of clairvoyant opportunism (Giorgos Karagounis), and you’ve got enough to get through.

Don’t let that diminish what Greece accomplished today, knocking Russia off their perch and advancing to the quarterfinals. In the opening minutes, Kostas Katsouranis’s redirection onto goal served notice. Greece weren’t just going to sit back and hope. They were taking hope into their own hands.

We see results like these all the time during league seasons and, after picking our jaws up off the floor, move on realizing these things happen. It’s only one game in a long campaign.

In these tournaments that are major final group stages, these results are one-offs, but the implications loom large within the context of a three-game season.

Russia are the Seattle Sounders. Or Arsenal. They’ve just lost to the Columbus Crew. Or Wigan Athletic. It’s surprising and they should have done better, but it’s hardly the biggest upset we’ve ever seen. In fact, these things happen.

And if they happen to you in a three-team tournament, you’re probably sunk.

2. ‘Best’ and ‘most deserving’ are two different things – Are Russia better than Greece? Probably, but these tournaments aren’t about finding out which teams’ best, no matter of the cliches have inadvertently packaged them as such. They’re about winning, and thankfully, the best team doesn’t always win. To suggest otherwise would mean we have a lot of explaining to do about the non-2004 history of Greek soccer.

It works the other way, too. Following this sport would be boring if the best team always won, but it would be disingenuous if we assumed the winner was always the best team. It’s better to recognize that over two hours on Saturday, Greece did what it took to win the game. They managed the circumstances of the match better, and while that doesn’t necessarily make them empirically better, it does make them more deserving of moving on.

And there’s no doubt: Greece is more deserving. Nothing about Russia’s performance said “we deserve to be in the final eight.” Greece played to the occasion while Russia played as if they were owed a win just by showing up.

The effort Giorgos Karagounis put forth on that goal? Effort that was match by his teammates for 90 minutes? No doubt Greece deserve their place in the quarters.

3. Don’t take people’s picks too seriously – It’s a spot number expected them to claim. Almost everybody had Greece going out at this stage of the tournament. Does that mean those prognosticators were idiots? Not any more so than it meant Greece wouldn’t make the quarterfinals.

Every site (including ours) offer predictions. They’re a lot of fun, but the best way to ruin that fun is to take them too seriously. After today, does anybody need to be reminded about sports’ beautiful variability?

Not that anybody wants to get picks wrong, but part of the charm behind Greece’s upset lies in those bad predictions. There is an against the odds subtext to their performance that undoubtedly enhances it. How do those odds come about? Predictions.

Discard predictions if you must. You’re also throwing out part of what makes Greece special.

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.

Bayern Munich win streak stopped short of Guinness World Record

Bayern Munich streak
Photo by DANIEL ROLAND/AFP via Getty Images
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The Guinness World Record people can cancel their midweek trip to Munich, unless they want to go for pleasure in place of business.

Coritiba’s 2011 world record for wins (24) is safe after Bayern Munich failed to match it in a 4-1 loss to Hoffenheim on Sunday at PreZero Arena, also ending a 32-match unbeaten run for Hansi Flick’s Bavarians.

[ MORE: Schalke fires Wagner ]

Maybe a slightly-weakened Bayern was weary from Thursday’s UEFA Super Cup defeat of Sevilla in Hungary.

Maybe Bayern men overlooked Hoffenheim with Wednesday’s German Super Cup date with rivals Borussia Dortmund on the docket

Or maybe it was just inevitable given the quality of football teams in the world and the fact that Hoffenheim played pretty well.

Regardless, Bayern made it five big German teams to drop points this week when Andrej Kramaric scored twice to join Munas Dabbur and Ermin Bicakcic in sending Hoffenheim to all three points (Borussia Dortmund lost Saturday, while Leipzig, Gladbach, and Bayer Leverkusen all drew).

Joshua Kimmich was good as usual for Bayern and brought the score to 2-1 by halftime, but Kramaric’s goals came in the 77th minute and deep in stoppage time as Hoffenheim overcame 28 percent possession to win.

Robert Lewandowski and Leon Goretzka started on the bench in favor of Joshua Zirkzee and Corentin Tolisso, but entered the match in the 57th minute and could not produce an equalizer.

Hoffenheim joins Augsburg as the lone 2-0 teams in the Bundesliga, though Freiburg can join them Sunday with a win over Wolfsburg. All the burgs.

Newcastle’s Bruce: Handball rule ‘nonsense’ hurting the game

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Given most of the words coming out of Steve Bruce’s mouth, you would’ve thought the penalty given late in a 1-1 draw between Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United hurt his side.

But Bruce did not mince words when asked about VAR awarding Newcastle a stoppage-time penalty for Andy Carroll’s late header onto the back of Eric Dier’s arm that allowed Callum Wilson to take a point for the Magpies at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

[ MORE: Match recap | Mourinho reacts ]

In fact, toss in the penalty given against Crystal Palace’s Joel Ward on Saturday and Bruce thinks the managers should approach the Premier League and demand change.

“I can understand why Spurs are going to go berserk and the way Roy Hodgson reacted yesterday,” Bruce said after the game. “It’s a total nonsense. Look we got one today and we should be jumping for joy and through hoops but I’d be devastated if it was against us. The handball rule has been around for years but the decisions are, for me, ruining the spectacles. It’s great for me today but I think we have to get together as the managers, coaches and go to the Premier League and say it must stop.”‘

What will the Premier League do about the rule and how VAR interprets it? Stay tuned…

Newcastle moves to 1-1-1 on the season to match Spurs but the Magpies did little to deserve the point aside from Karl Darlow’s 11-save day between the sticks.

It was Newcastle’s first penalty conversion after missing the only one awarded to them in 2019-20 and two of three in 2018-19.

Mourinho: Spurs’ Son out ‘a while’; Comments on VAR controversy

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Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho was enraged as VAR and FIFA’s odd handball rule conspired with a magnificent performance from Newcastle’s backup goalkeeper to take points away from Spurs in stoppage time on Sunday.

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce wasn’t too happy either, calling it “a total nonsense” despite the decision helping his Magpies to a point.

[ RECAP: Spurs 1-1 Newcastle ]

Spurs dominated but only Lucas Moura found a way past Newcastle’s Karl Darlow on an 11-save day at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

That looked like it would be enough until Newcastle’s Andy Carroll nodded a free kick onto the arm of Eric Dier, who was not facing the play, and Callum Wilson smashed home the spot kick.

“I can understand why Spurs are going to go berserk and the way Roy Hodgson reacted yesterday,” Bruce said after the game. “It’s a total nonsense.”

Mourinho tried not to comment too much on the incident except to imply that Spurs get worse calls in their 18 than other teams.

“Every box is 18-yard box but we know that the Tottenham box is a special box so we managed to keep them a-ways away,” he said. “And we had that situation where we lost two points but I’m not going to comment.”

Mourinho refused to be drawn into the handball discussion on television after the game, giving praise to his team and wishing not earn a fine.

“I don’t want to speak about it. If I want to give some money away, I give to charities. I don’t want to give to the FA,” he said.

“I think about my team performance. Very good. First half, amazing. Should be three-, four-nil easy but Darlow was fantastic. We hit the post and they managed to survive. In the second half we kept control and kept them from the box.”

Mourinho also said that star forward Heung-min Son will miss “a while” with a hamstring injury, as the rain is pouring down on North London.

Son has been wonderful this season and was in a particularly rich vein of form after scoring four times last weekend and starring in Thursday’s Europa League win in Macedonia.

Gareth Bale will hope to heal even quicker now.

Newcastle backup GK Darlow, VAR steal point from wasteful Spurs

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Tottenham – Newcastle United: Karl Darlow helped Newcastle United stick around and VAR helped them go level as the Magpies committed larceny in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in North London on Sunday.

Darlow made 11 saves, seven of which came from shots inside the box as Spurs out-attempted Newcastle 23-6.

[ MORE: Mourinho livid | Bruce, too! ]

The visitors got a penalty off an unknowing Eric Dier handball and Callum Wilson beat Hugo Lloris deep in stoppage time to earn a point and move Newcastle and Spurs to 1-1-1 on the season.

Lucas Moura put Spurs ahead but they could not find a second goal following a 10-day span which saw them play in Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Tottenham lost Heung-min Son to a hamstring injury and Jose Mourinho said the South Korean will be “out a while.”

Newcastle beat Spurs 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last season, as Steve Bruce has now taken points from Mauricio Pochettino and Mourinho.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Three things we learned: Tottenham – Newcastle United

1. What travel? Spurs have played matches in England, Bulgaria, and Macedonia over the last 10 days, so a sluggish start might’ve been expected in North London. Instead, Jose Mourinho’s men raged out of the gates and could’ve been up 4-0 inside of a half-hour if not for Karl Darlow’s success in limiting the damage to one.

2. Oh, that travel: Spurs’ second half was significantly lackluster and Newcastle stuck around albeit with a distinct lack of threat. Introductions of Jamal Lewis, Jacob Murphy, and Andy Carroll ultimately did affect the game as the big Geordie’s header went off Dier’s arm for the equalizing penalty.

3. VAR has its new storyline: If you thought changes to the handball rule had straightened-out any controversy with VAR, you were sorely mistaken. Eric Dier had an Andy Carroll header hit the back of his splayed arm. VAR asked the head referee to go to the television screen after the play was ruled onside despite challenging visual evidence, and he gave the penalty to Newcastle for 1-1.

Man of the Match

Darlow. Spurs were credited with four big chances (SofaScore) and scored once to go with 11 saves for Martin Dubravka’s backup.

Tottenham – Newcastle United recap

Karl Darlow made two quick stops in a solid defiance of a Tottenham free kick from Giovani Lo Celso and a rebound effort from Harry Kane, then stymying a point-blank Harry Kane header.

Moura gave Spurs a deserved lead in the 25th as Kane slid a cross through the six and Newcastle’s backs were nowhere to be found.

Matt Ritchie was at the back post for that Spurs goal and was slow to react on what became a 2v1 chance broken up by Jamaal Lascelles.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Son that rattled the bar in the 42nd as Tottenham seemed well on its way to a blowout win but could not find the second marker.

Newcastle’s only real danger came on a Jonjo Shelvey volley that missed the far post in first-half stoppage. Would it be a cakewalk? Kinda-sorta.

Newcastle was wrongly-awarded a corner kick that ended with Joelinton ripping wide of the far post but the Magpies mostly struggled to manufacture danger despite Spurs growing weary in the second 45.

That’s when the late penalty call came via VAR. Dier dodged one late handball in the box but not a second in a call that will increase the attention paid to the handball.