Ukraine 2-1 Sweden: the Shevchenko show

June 11, 2012
Ukraine 2-1 Sweden: the Shevchenko show

The story of the tournament so far – Andriy Shevchenko rolled back the years to complete a surprise turnaround in Kiev.

Shevchenko was named from the start, despite speculation Oleg Blokhin would use him as a substitute. The rest of the side was as expected.

Erik Hamren made a surprise choice in the centre of midfield, playing Rasmus Elm alongside Kim Kallstrom. This meant Ola Toivonen started on the left, and Markus Rosenberg played upfront.

This was a peculiar game, where all the interesting tactical features were completely divorced from the goalscoring action. The goals were simply three smart finishes from clever strikers, and their nature wasn’t representative of the football played over the course of 90 minutes.

Shevchenko’s double was so special because he won the game on his own – it was Shevchenko’s superb runs and smart finishes that were the difference between the sides – he didn’t simply put the finishing touches to a dominant performance, he was the reason Ukraine were victorious. Read more »

Spain 1-1 Italy: Spain start with no striker, Italy use a 3-5-2

June 10, 2012
Spain 1-1 Italy: Spain start with no striker, Italy use a 3-5-2

A fascinating tactical battle between two systems rarely seen at international level.

Vicente del Bosque supposedly had a three-way choice between Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente and Fernando Torres upfront – but instead chose to play with a false nine, with David Silva and Cesc Fabregas both becoming the highest player up the pitch at different points.

Cesare Prandelli went with the 3-5-2 system he’s been using in training over the past two weeks, which meant Daniele De Rossi dropping into the defence, and Emanuele¬†Giaccherini making his international debut as a left wing-back.

Spain inevitably had more of the ball, and probably created more too. But Prandelli’s system frustrated the reigning champions for long periods of the game (as Spain’s own narrowness and lack of depth) and of the two unusual systems, it was Prandelli’s that was more impressive. Read more »

Croatia 3-1 Ireland: Ireland invite pressure, but deal with it poorly

June 10, 2012
Croatia 3-1 Ireland: Ireland invite pressure, but deal with it poorly

Croatia recorded a comfortable victory over Ireland and go top of Group C.

Slaven Bilic used Vedran Corluka in the centre of defence and played Darijo Srna in his traditional position of right-back in order to play Ivan Rakitic on the right of midfield, and used Ognjen Vukojevic as his holding midfielder.

Giovanni Trapattoni announced his XI days ago, and they started as expected (with 1-11 on their backs).

Set-pieces played a large part here, but Croatia were the better side – more inventive with their passing, cleverer with their movement, more ruthless in the penalty box. Read more »

Germany 1-0 Portugal: Gomez gets the nod upfront, and nods in the only goal

June 10, 2012
Germany 1-0 Portugal: Gomez gets the nod upfront, and nods in the only goal

The quietest of Euro 2012’s four games so far ended with a narrow German victory.

Jogi Löw had a few decisions to make РMario Gomez, rather than Miroslav Klose, started upfront and Mats Hummels was picked over Per Mertesacker in the centre of defence. At right-back, Jerome Boateng played up against Cristiano Ronaldo, despite rumours that Lars Bender would be played out of position there.

There were no surprises in Paulo Bento’s team selection. Miguel Veloso played deep in midfield contrary to reports that Custodio would get a game, and Helder Postiga was the centre-forward.

This was a low-key, cagey match that never seemed likely to produce many goals. Read more »