Portugal 2-1 Holland: van Marwijk makes changes, but Holland crash out with zero points

June 18, 2012
Portugal 2-1 Holland: van Marwijk makes changes, but Holland crash out with zero points

Portugal suffered an early setback, but played better football and fully deserved their win.

Paulo Bento kept the same starting XI for the third game in a row.

Bert van Marwijk made three changes. In defence, Ron Vlaar replaced Johnny Heitinga in a straight swap. It was further forward where he made significant alterations – Rafael van der Vaart came in for Mark van Bommel in order to add some creativity to the midfield, while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar started upfront, meaning Robin van Persie played just behind a and Wesley Sneijder went to the left, the system Holland used at the end of the Germany match.

There was a huge contrast in styles here – Holland were a bunch of individuals without any cohesive structure, while Portugal were disciplined, organised and clear with their attacking intentions. Read more »

England 3-2 Sweden: long balls, set-pieces and terrible defending

June 16, 2012
England 3-2 Sweden: long balls, set-pieces and terrible defending

A scrappy game low on quality, but high on entertainment.

Roy Hodgson made one change. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was dropped with Ashley Young moving to the left, and Andy Carroll coming upfront as a target man.

Erik Hamren brought in three players – Johan Elmander upfront, Anders Svensson in the middle, and Jonas Olsson at the back, though Sweden played pretty much the same formation as against Ukraine.

This was a crazy, open match that could have gone either way – both sides had spells when they were on top. Read more »

France 2-0 Ukraine: Ribery v Husiev battle decides the game

June 16, 2012
France 2-0 Ukraine: Ribery v Husiev battle decides the game

After a long rain delay, France took the initiative and went onto win the game comfortably.

Laurent Blanc made two changes. One was a straight swap, with Patrice Evra dropping out and Gael Clichy starting at left-back. Higher up, the introduction of Jeremy Menez at the expense of Florent Malouda meant Samir Nasri moved into a permanent central position, and France switched to a 4-2-3-1.

Oleg Blokhin had said before the tournament that he didn’t have a set first choice XI, and would switch from game to game, but after Ukraine’s famous 2-1 victory over Sweden on Monday, he stuck with the same side.

The first half was heavily affected by the rain delay – the teams returned to the pitch and played very slow football that lacked ambition. In the second half, the game was much more open and interesting. Read more »

Italy 1-1 Croatia: Pirlo dictates first half, Croatia dominate the second after half-time switch

June 15, 2012
Italy 1-1 Croatia: Pirlo dictates first half, Croatia dominate the second after half-time switch

Croatia initially had problems with Italy’s 3-5-2, but a clever half-time switch by Slaven Bilic got them back into the game.

Cesare Prandelli kept the same formation and starting XI, so Mario Balotelli remained upfront despite Antonio Di Natale’s impact as a substitute in the 1-1 draw against Spain.

Bilic rewarded the eleven players that played in the 3-1 win over Ireland with a second start.

A game of two halves. In the first, Italy recorded 11 shots compared to Croatia’s three. In the second, Croatia ‘won’ this statistic 7-3, summing up the change in the balance of play. Read more »