Portugal 3 Denmark 2
Portugal was the better team, and they proved it by going up 2-nil, but the Danes were mentally tough and battled back to tie it up at 2-all with Bendter’s second header after Christiano Ronaldo sent wide a perfect through ball that would have sealed the game. I think he actually had too much time; that’s often a problem for otherwise efficient scorers. I thought the Danes merited a draw, but a bit of untimely defensive carelessness combined with a powerful shot from Varela in the 87th minute cost them the point. Contra my assumptions prior to the tournament, it looks as if Portugal will finish second in the group instead of Holland.
Germany 2 Holland 1
Aside from Van Persie’s goal from outside the box after the game was largely sealed, the Dutch looked more like a second-tier team than a legitimate powerhouse. Before his goal, Van Persie was dreadful for a second straight game, falling over his own legs, the defender’s legs, and even the ball. Willem, the Dutch left back, was as inept as I’ve ever seen a defender at this level; at one point, when one commentator mentioned that he had been caught out of position, the other commentator replied that he hadn’t been in position all night. Mario Gomez, on the other hand, was brilliant, showing an amazingly deft touch for such a big man on the little spin-and-shoot on his first goal, then running right past the hapless Willem onto a perfect Bastian Schweinsteiger pass to score the eventual winner. Germany looked much better than they did against Portugal and at this point, it’s readily apparent that the two best teams are Germany and Spain, with Italy a distant third.
Italy 1 Croatia 1
A wasted game for the Azzurri. It began on a bad note, with Balotelli up front despite his uselessness in the first game and that was the case again here, as Italy got its only goal from a very precise Pirlo free kick. Italy dominated the game in the first half, but seemed content to sit back and defend in the second, which was a mistake because the defense was caught sitting very deep in the box and failed to jump on a cross to Mandzukic that he had time to trap and shoot from about five yards out. Croatia didn’t earn the draw so much as Italy didn’t merit the win. Italy is in trouble with only two points to Croatia’s four, but should still qualify, as I can’t see them failing to take the three points against Ireland or Spain failing to beat Croatia.
Spain 4 Ireland 0
This game was a classic example of the way that certain strikers are very dangerous against mediocre defenses while being ineffective against good ones. Fernando Torres scored twice and looked like he was playing against boys as he powered through the Irish defense, while watching the Irish midfield try to deal with the Spanish midfield was like watching headless chickens try to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Spain looked like the reigning European and world champions, and only the Germans look as if they’re capable of denying them a successful defense of their title.