Euro 2012: Top 5 matches of the tournament

A memorable Euro 2012 is now over. Reliving the action over the duration of the Championship, brings to you the top five matches from the tournament...

5. Ukraine 2-1 Sweden

This match could be called a perfectly written script for Ukraine’s iconic striker Andrey Shevchenko, as he scored two brilliant goals to take his total goal tally even higher, before he finally announced his retirement at the end of the tournament.

After all the unenthusiastic murmuring about their capabilities to host this tournament, Ukraine managed to get a perfect start, thanks to Shevchenko, who scored with two headers, as they came from behind against Sweden to secure a historic victory.

Their results in the past two years would have easily seen them being tagged as the weakest side in the tournament but this performance was a clear indication to the other teams to not to take them lightly.

For Sweden, it was an evening of huge disappointment. Erik Hamren, the Sweden coach, accused his team of playing like "cowards" during a first half when his side enjoyed a huge possession advantage.

Shevchenko, Andriy Yarmolenko and Evhen Konoplyanka all wasted decent chances as Sweden struggled to play with any fluency.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was later denied by Andriy Pyatov, the Ukraine goalkeeper, before he set up a wonderful chance for Johan Elmander in the last minute, only for the former Bolton striker to thrash his shot high and wide.

Hamren was not impressed. "We needed 11 players on top form together because we're not that big a team," he said. "But only five or six showed the quality I want and that's not enough.We tried to stop the crosses, we only had one player to stop but Shevchenko was stronger.”


4. Sweden 2-3 England

Theo Walcott emerged from the substitutes' bench to score one goal and set up another as England earned a 3-2 victory over Sweden, who were eliminated from Euro 2012 after an enthralling game in Kiev.

Roy Hodgson introduced Andy Carroll to the Three Lions starting XI and the decision paid dividends when the Liverpool striker sent England into a first-half lead with a powerful header

Sweden, however, improved dramatically after the break and after Glen Johnson failed in his attempt to keep Olof Mellberg's finish out, the Olympiakos defender headed home a second to put Erik Hamren's team in front.

But Walcott made all the difference when England seemed to be crumbling, levelling the score with a 25-yard volley before laying on Danny Welbeck's outstanding winning goal.

The match provided entertainment and excitement till the very last minute.

Welbeck's winner ensured Sweden's departure from the competition with one group game left, against France, still to play, but England marched on, beating Ukraine to top the group, before losing to Italy in penalties.

3 Spain 1-1 Italy

This match wasn’t about El Nino, as most of the La Roja faithful wished for, as Fabregas emerged as the saviour to help his team avoid the embarrassment of losing their opening fixture.

Spain should have won it without much trouble, considering their dominance, but the battling Azzurri proved to be stubborn opponents, as they almost caused a notable upset.

The headline news that preceded the match was the inclusion of Cesc Fabregas as the man who would be bestowed with leading the line for the Spaniards in a 'false No.9' role, ahead of recognised strikers Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente.

Meanwhile, coach Cesare Prandelli went with a 3-5-2 formation, with Daniele De Rossi lining up in defence. Emanuele Giaccherini was also given his maiden bow for the Azzurri at left wing-back.

Predictably, inside the first 10 minutes, Spain set out their stall as Italy were put on the back foot. La Roja threatened to impose their tiki-taka style in the early stages, but la Nazionale's wall at the back refused to be beaten, lead by Daniele De Rossi.

However there were no goals in the first half, and it seemed the game had swung in Italy's favour when Antonio Di Natale drew first blood for the Azzurri on 60 minutes, coming straight off the substitutes bench to put his side ahead, but only four minutes later, Cesc Fabregas ensured their opening day ended with a share of the spoils in Gdansk, though Torres did have two golden chances to stake his claim for a starting berth, but the Chelsea striker fluffed his lines.

2. Denmark 2-3 Portugal

It was one of those nights when not only the world but Cristiano Ronaldo himself, would have questioned the tag, of him being the world's costliest footballer. The Portuguese skipper looked helpless, as he missed two magnificent second-half chances that looked like being costly, when Nicklas Bendtner scored his second to tow Denmark level but Silvestre Varela, a late substitute, struck three minutes from time to spare his captain, and his side, the blushes and give Portugal a crucial win.

Goals from Pepe and Helder Postiga gave the Iberian nation a strong head-start but it was Denmark’s striker Nicklas Bendtner who seemed to be on his way to steal the limelight, as he scored two beautiful goals, continuing his undoubtedly remarkable goal scoring spree on the international stage taking his tally to six in five matches against Portugal.

It was a thespian end to a persuasive game, thanks to a late substitution that invigorated Portugal's hopes of reaching the quarter-finals, and left Denmark cursing their failure, losing the match after so much of labour. They had more possession, made 200 more passes than the opposition but a vulnerable defense was punished for a third time through Varela.

Denmark without any doubt had a better start but lost all their concentration just after the first ten minutes of the match. João Moutinho's in swinging corner was directed towards the near post and Pepe timed his run perfectly, heading powerfully inside the upright of the net. A second Portugal goal came 12 minutes later when Manchester United winger, Nani, took advantage of space and time and passed the ball to Helder Postiga, whose crisp first time shot from close range found the back of the net, to get his team a good lead.

Then came two beautiful goals from Arsenal’s Bendtner who scored in the 41st and 80th minutes respectively, to bring his team level in the match, with many wondering if Denmark could now go on to win the game! But a late substitute, Varela, changed it all in the favour of the men in white that night, as the Porto man easily found the back of the net three minutes before the final whistle, leaving everyone surprised, and shocked.

Ronaldo, himself could not believe his luck and stared at the ground in disbelief!

1. Portugal (aet. 2-4 on penalties) Spain

This match was one terrorizing encounter for the Spanish side, as the two Iberian nations fought tooth and nail for 120 minutes non-stop!  But much to the delight of the fans, this match provided complete entertainment. Portugal, undoubtedly, handled Spain better than any other team in the competition. They attacked as well as defended with vigour and importantly did not fear the defending champions.

Spain did manage to march on to another final, with the chance to become the first country to win three successive major titles. But in reality, they were unconvincing. Paulo Bento’s team pushed Spain to the brink of elimination, but it all came down to penalties and Cesc Fàbregas stepped up to the plate once again.

They say there is only one poster boy; it was Spain’s apparent number 9 Cesc Fabregas this time!  Although Del Bosque’s team started brilliantly, Portugal’s well-disciplined pressing game disrupted Spain’s usually polished passing game. And after two early missed chances by Álvaro Arbeloa and Andres Iniesta, Spain abruptly found themselves in the role of a villain, in the match! Cristiano Ronaldo looked dangerous in attack and the tenacity of midfielders Raul Meireles and Joao Moutinho caught the eye.

In the added half hour, Andrés Iniesta was denied brilliantly by goalkeeper Rui Patricio from six yards and Sergio Ramos sent a free-kick inches wide, as Spain upped the tempo following a dismal opening 90 minutes in which Ronaldo missed an amazing opportunity to find the back of the net in the 88th minute!

Despite Xabi Alonso seeing his first effort saved by Patricio. Iniesta, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos and Fàbregas all did their bit, leaving the well-struck penalties by Pepe and Nani to mean nothing for Portugal.

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