Following a hectic selection of Euro 2012 warm-up games on Saturday, Goal.com studies the five main lessons learned in the participating countries' preparations for the finalsThe build-up to the 2012 European Championship has well and truly gathered steam as 10 of the 16 finalists intensified their preparations with a series of friendlies on Saturday.
There were shocks and surprises aplenty as Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Denmark - the quartet in the Group of Death - all failed to win with three of the four suffering defeats. Republic of Ireland, Poland, Czech Republic, and England ground out marginal wins, while defending champions Spain laboured to a 2-0 victory.
With most of the countries opting to field experimental sides as they continue to fine-tune their teams and wither down their provisional squads, there will undoubtedly be vital lessons learned less than two weeks out from the tournament.
Below, Goal.com picks out the five key points from Saturday's round of matches.
|PISZCZEK WILL BE A STAR FOR POLAND IF ...
By Ryan Hubbard | Poland Expert
Poland's first XI, barring injuries, are more than capable of making an impact on Group A. The attacking ability of the midfield is their main strength, but if their defensive midfielders begin to push up the pitch, the centre of the park could become too crowded and the team's counterattacking prowess will suffer as a consequence.
On the other hand, if the two holding midfielders drop back, Lukasz Piszczek will be allowed space on the right flank to join in with the attack; and his crossing is an added weapon to the Polish armoury. This was perfectly illustrated in the 1-0 win over Slovakia when he was allowed acres of space on the right thanks to Eugen Polanski sitting deep, and the Dortmund defender's cross was met by the head of centre-back Damien Perquis. The in-form Piszczek will be the ace up Franciszek Smuda's sleeve, but he will need the help of his midfielders.
NEITHER HUMMELS NOR MERTESACKER SHOULD START FOR GERMANY
By Clark Whitney | Germany Expert
Mats Hummels has been the Bundesliga's best defender for two and a half years. And yet, when he puts on a Germany shirt, he looks half the man he is in Dortmund's black and yellow. He even got the simple things wrong in Saturday's 5-3 loss to Switzerland. Meanwhile, Per Mertesacker, the man who is competing with Hummels for a starting berth in the heart of the rearguard, was similarly abominable at the back, albeit with the excuse of having missed several months with an ankle injury.
In any case, neither is anywhere near ready to play alongside Holger Badstuber at Euro 2012: to concede five goals with the tournament just less than 14 days away is extremely disconcerting. Joachim Low will be wise to consider Benedikt Howedes, who had a fantastic game against the Swiss, as another option.
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|VAN DER VAART WILL HAVE TO SETTLE FOR A SPOT ON THE BENCH
By Stefan Coerts | Netherlands Expert
Rafael van der Vaart may be the most experienced player in Oranje's 23-man squad for Euro 2012, but he is unlikely to play a key role at this summer’s tournament. With Wesley Sneijder being the preferred option for the No. 10 position, Bert van Marwijk opted to field the Tottenham midfielder as a left winger in Saturday's 2-1 friendly defeat to Bulgaria, and he failed to make an impact. His constant attempts to cut inside backfired as it left Netherlands lacking width, forcing all their attacks to go through the middle.
Van der Vaart cut a frustrated figure throughout the game, and he won’t have done his chances of winning a starting berth any good. Although the likes of Ibrahim Afellay and Arjen Robben also have a tendency to cut inside, they are able to provide a much bigger threat as they always start out wide. Van der Vaart simply isn't comfortable in the role he occupied last night.
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|QUARESMA IS NO ALTERNATIVE FOR PORTUGAL ON THE RIGHT
By Luis Mira | Portugal Expert
Enigmatic winger Ricardo Quaresma continues to flatter to deceive. He was given a chance to shine in the starting line-up against Macedonia as he occupied the right-wing slot, a position which is normally filled by Nani. However, the Besiktas star showed, if anything, that he is only part of Portugal’s 23-man squad for the Euros because of the lack of quality options available, rather than on his own merit.
The 28-year-old struggled on the right flank and his crosses aimed at the centre of the box rarely found the intended target. He was also unable to combine with full-back Joao Pereira or Nani when the Manchester United ace came on in the second half. It is likely that Quaresma will be handed some playing time against Turkey in the next warm-up friendly, but barring a much improved performance his chances of featuring in Poland and Ukraine look very slim.Follow Luis Mira on
|ADRIAN MUST BE IN SPAIN'S FINAL 23
By KS Leong
David Villa's confirmed absence from Euro 2012 has left a massive hole in Spain's attack. Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente look certain to be the two main attackers for Vicente del Bosque, but the backup spot(s) are still up for grabs.
Adrian Lopez, Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado were all handed an audition against Serbia, and it was the young Atletico Madrid forward who impressed the most. While Negredo did hassle the opposition defenders and reel off a couple of attempts at goal, Soldado was completely anonymous and barely had a touch of the ball in the 45 minutes he was on. Based on Saturday's game, it is Adrian who deserves Villa's vacant spot. His mobility, pace, ability to drop deep, play off the shoulder of the defender and race on to incisive through-balls fit perfectly into Spain's attacking style. That he broke the deadlock and then won the penalty which Santi Cazorla converted will only boost his chances of selection further.
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