Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Stoppage Time 2012 Coach of the Year is Vicente del Bosque

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on December 31, 2012

Vicente del Bosque (left) coached Spain to international football history in 2012

Due to the Spanish national team’s historic success at the 2012 UEFA European Championship, Stoppage Time’s Coach of the Year award goes to Vicente del Bosque. Having won the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010, del Bosque led his team to European success this year and has helped, more than anybody, to bury the ghost of past Spanish teams who went into major tournaments as favourites but were unable to justify the hype.

This current generation of Spanish talent had already been helped along by Luis Aragonés when winning the 2008 UEFA European Championship but their place in footballing history has been cemented by del Bosque whose teams have yet to concede a goal in the knockout stages of a major international competition. Vicente del Bosque helped Spain win three consecutive international tournaments and also made personal history by becoming the first coach to have won the UEFA Champions League, which he achieved twice with Real Madrid CF in 2000 and 2002, as well as the two major international titles of UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup. A quite remarkable set of achievements which also tie in with Spain’s position as the number one team in the FIFA World Rankings table, del Bosque certainly deserves all the praise he gets and with Spain in pole position in Group I for 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying there is every possibility that further history could be created in the next eighteen months.

Stoppage Time 2012 Team of the Year goes to Spain

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on December 31, 2012

Spain won their third European title in 2012

Stoppage Time’s Team of the Year award could only really go to one team, namely the Spanish national team following their exploits in Poland and Ukraine in this year’s UEFA European Championships. Having won back-to-back international tournaments, the 2008 European Championship and 2010 FIFA World Cup, Spain were hoping to become the first team ever to win three major tournaments in a row and certainly didn’t disappoint.

Following a 1-1 draw against the Italians in their opening group game, Spain defeated the Republic of Ireland and Croatia to set up a quarter-final against France. A brace from Xabi Alonso helped secure a 2-0 win over the French but Spain, following a tough goalless draw against Portugal in the semi-finals, needed the lottery of a penalty shoot-out to progress to the final. Meeting up against old foes and group opponents Italy again in the final, many expected the game to be a hard slog but Spain had other ideas and went on to win their third European crown in style with goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata securing a 4-0 win and a place in footballing history.

Euro 2012: Spain confirm dominance with historic triumph

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on July 2, 2012
Spain Euro 2012 champions

Spain won its third UEFA European Championship with a 4-0 drubbing of Italy

The Spanish national football team did what so many people expected and won the 2012 UEFA European Championship. Spain defended their European title with a 4-0 hammering of Italy with goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata and helped to create history in the process. The title triumph was Spain’s third in a row, following wins in Euro 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first time that any national team had achieved this feat.

Quite simply it’s been a fantastic four years for coach Vicente Del Bosque who took over from Luis Aragonés following the Euro 2008 triumph in Austria/Switzerland and who has expanded on his country’s playing style whilst maintaining his players’ hunger and desire which is no mean feat when the majority of the squad play for either FC Barcelona or Real Madrid and have already enjoyed such enormous success at club and international level. The FIFA World Cup triumph two years ago in South Africa may have confirmed that they were the best team on the planet but accusations during Euro 2012 of playing boring football were swept under the carpet as Spain took apart the Italian national team in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Right from the beginning Spain took the game to Italy, helping to dismiss any accusations of boring football, and were convincingly 2-0 up at half-time before two of their substitutes, Torres and Mata, helped kill the game off in the last ten minutes of the game and help put some gloss on the achievement which has re-confirmed Spain’s status as favourites for the next FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil in two years’ time.

The Spanish, as one would expect, also enjoyed the success in the individual categories. Fernando Torres, one of six players to top score with three goals in Euro 2012, was named the Golden Boot winner as he had been on the pitch for the fewest number of minutes (189) compared to his rivals for the award. Andrés Iniesta won the Man of the Match award in last night’s final and then claimed the Player of the Tournament award whilst also being included in UEFA’S 23-man Team of the Tournament which looks thus:

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Iker Casillas (Spain), Manuel Neuer (Germany)

Defence: Gerard Piqué (Spain), Fábio Coentrão (Portugal), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Pepe (Portugal), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Jordi Alba (Spain)

Midfield: Daniele De Rossi (Italy), Steven Gerrard (England), Xavi (Spain), Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Sami Khedira (Germany), Sergio Busquets (Spain), Mesut Özil (Germany), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Xabi Alonso (Spain)

Attack: Mario Balotelli (Italy), Cesc Fàbregas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden), David Silva (Spain)

UEFA: Signs promising following exciting group phase

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on June 20, 2012
Mario Gomez

Mario Gomez scores for Germany in their 1-0 win over Portugal and help his team to a 100% group stage record

Euro 2012 has been a fantastic tournament so far with 61 goals scored in 24 group matches and with the culmination of the group stages last night comes a quarter-final line-up which promises plenty of action in the knockout stages.

It is sad that neither of the co-host nations, Poland and Ukraine, were able to make it through to the quarter-finals. Both countries had the chance to qualify in their final group matches but they also knew that nothing less than a win would secure their places in the last eight and it subsequently proved to be a mountain to climb. Poland had drawn their opening two matches against Greece and Russia but were ultimately undone by a late Petr Jiráček strike in their final match as the Czech Republic turned their fortunes around following a poor start. Last night saw Ukraine go out at the hands of an England side who, under the management of Roy Hodgson, have failed to excite but are taking a pragmatic approach to the tournament and scraped through 1-0 in Donetsk with Wayne Rooney’s goal taking the spark out of local interest. Ukraine, nonetheless, did win their opening game against Sweden with the double strike from Andriy Shevchenko proving one of the highlights of the competition so far. Following the defeat to England Shevchenko, a European champion at club level with AC Milan in 2003, announced his retirement from international football and went out on a stage befitting his talents.

Amongst the favourites the Germans were the only team to win all three of their group matches (against Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal) and to do so in the so-called “Group of Death” proves that they are the most serious contenders to take the title from Spain. Speaking of Spain, the European champions surprised many by not playing a recognized striker in their 1-1 draw against Italy but went on to claim victories against the Republic of Ireland and Croatia, the former put to the sword in an easy 4-0 stroll but the latter unfortunate to concede very late in a 1-0 defeat. The Italians could be an outsider for the title as they remained unbeaten in the group with one win and two draws  despite having not performed anywhere near their best. If the Azzurri can get a lucky break in their quarter-final match up against England then there’s a possibility that Italy can finally win the second European title they’ve craved since winning their first in 1968.

Portugal are another team capable of causing an upset in the latter stages. Following a 1-0 defeat to Germany the 2004 finalists had to scrap their way to a 3-2 win over Denmark before they sealed their quarter-final spot with a 2-1 win over the tournament’s biggest disappointments Holland. The game against the Dutch signalled a change of form for Cristiano Ronaldo who had struggled in their opening two games but whose input proved the difference in the crucial final group match as he scored both goals in a 2-1 win. It is difficult to tell whether one should read too much into France’s 2-0 defeat to Sweden last night especially as Les Bleus looked the better team in their opening games against England and Ukraine. One player who should be of concern to supporters of the French team is Karim Benzema who has not looked like the player who scored 32 goals for Real Madrid last season. Greece, champions in 2004, are hoping to pull off another such shock but a tough quarter-final against Germany awaits them. The Greeks look to be using the same approach to guide them through this tournament, soaking up lots of pressure whilst hitting teams on the counter attack. This has meant that their performances in the group stage were topsy-turvy but somehow scored goals at crucial times and their 1-0 win over Russia meant that they finished second in the group ahead of the Russians who must be thinking what might have been and whose exit has prompted the departure of coach Dick Advocaat.

If the knockout rounds can maintain the momentum generated by the group stages then we should be in for a treat. After all there were no goalless draws in the group stages and it has been refreshing, for the most part, to see two teams in each game going out to win rather than not to lose. Obviously the stakes will be higher when the first quarter-final kicks off on Thursday night when Czech Republic plays Portugal so the tension of the occasion may incur on the attacking ambition of some teams. However, the signs are positive that the final seven games of Euro 2012 will only add to the legacy of the tournament.


21/06/12 Czech Republic v Portugal

22/06/12 Germany v Greece

23/06/12 Spain v France

24/06/12 England v Italy

Vote: Who will win Euro 2012? (poll)

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 7, 2012

UEFA 2012 logoSo the big kick off is imminent. The 2012 UEFA European Football Championships are upon us just so soon after the domestic seasons in Europe’s major leagues have come to a close. It only seems like yesterday when Fernando Torres scored the winning goal in the final of the 2008 tournament to secure Spain their second Euro triumph with a 1-0 over Germany. Can Spain do it again or will one of the other fifteen nations go on to stop the defending champions in their tracks?

Spain remain the favourites to win back-to-back European Championships but Germany will be hoping to go one better than four years ago whilst the Netherlands, who lost to Spain in the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, will think they have a great chance to go all the way this time around. France have re-emerged as a credible force following a World Cup beset by infighting and rebellion in South Africa two years ago and under Laurent Blanc have found new direction and purpose to their game.

England, under new management under Roy Hodgson, have been downplaying their chances of success in this tournament. The English know only too well what it’s like to play with the heavy burden of expectation upon their shoulders so the understated approach to these finals may help them in the long run. Italy are always a threat in any tournament but they are not as strong as they have been in recent years and the 2006 FIFA World Cup victory already seems like a lifetime ago to followers of the Azzurri. Portugal still haven’t won this competition and having come so close in 2004 will think that anything is possible should they emerge out of the “Group of Death” which also contains Germany, Netherlands and Denmark.

Hosts Poland and Ukraine will be hoping to progress beyond the group stages in their home tournament  whilst the likes of Denmark, Sweden and the Czech Republic are always amongst those teams that people underestimate at their peril. Greece, surprise European champions in 2004, will hope to shock further should they reach the knockout rounds whilst the Republic of Ireland will feature in only their second ever finals and will hope to replicate the spirit of Jack Charlton’s men who caused the odd upset in 1988. Croatia have a great record in major international tournaments since they gained independence in 1992 whilst Russia, semi-finalists last time around, are hoping to hit the ground running en route to hosting their own FIFA World Cup tournament in six years’ time.

So who is your choice to win Euro 2012? Please vote in Stoppage Time‘s very own poll.

UEFA: European Championships – A Brief History

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 7, 2012

The UEFA European Football Championship has enjoyed a rich variety of formats and winning teams since its inauguration in 1960. The very first tournament saw seventeen nations enter at the start of the competition with the semi-finals and final played in Paris over a four day period resulting in the Soviet Union becoming the first ever winners. The tournament in its current guise sees sixteen teams competing in the finals having been whittled down from an initial 51 nations trying their luck in the qualification process. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog takes a look back over the years to see how the competition has grown in stature and has become, in some people’s eyes, “the World Cup without Argentina and Brazil”.

The 1960 tournament, named at this time as the European Nations’ Cup, began with a two-legged qualification match between Czechoslovakia and the Republic of Ireland with the former winning 4-2 on aggregate in order to reach the first round proper. Sixteen countries then fought it out in a straight knockout format with two legs played in each round until the semi-finals. The official 1960 tournament finals were played in France with two former eastern Bloc countries, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, reaching the first ever final after seeing off Czechoslovakia and France respectively in the semis.  In the final Milan Galic gave Yugoslavia the lead just before the break but the Soviets restored parity in the second half with a goal from Slava Metreveli. With no further scoring the game had to go into extra-time and with seven minutes remaining Viktor Ponedelnik went on to score the winning goal which secured the Soviet Union’s one and only trophy at international level.


The 1964 tournament saw a surge of interest in the number of nations hoping to qualify for the tournament. After just two countries took part in qualifying in 1960, the number increased to an impressive twenty four with the likes of England, Italy and the Netherlands entering for the first time. Spain was the host country for the second tournament finals and it was on this occasion that the hosts won the trophy for the first time in its history defeating title holders Soviet Union 2-1 with Marcelino scoring the winning goal with just six minutes remaining on the clock. Four years later saw the tournament change its name to what we all know it is as today and also saw the qualification process change from that of a straight knockout format to a league format with the 31 nations split into eight groups. England reached the finals, played in Italy, for the first time but lost out to Yugoslavia who, in turn, lost to the tournament hosts 2-0 in a replayed final after the first game had finished 1-1. It was the first and so far only time that Italy has had its hands on the Henri Delaunay trophy in what was the only final ever to go to a replay.

The next three tournaments would see the emergence of West Germany as a force in European football winning two of them. The 1972 tournament in Belgium saw the Germans easily see off the challenge of the Soviet Union with Gerd Müller bagging a brace in a 3-0 win and become the first team to hold both the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship at the same time. A shock was on the cards four years later in Yugoslavia when the defending champions, following a 2-2 draw after extra-time, lost out to Czechoslovakia in the first final to be decided by a penalty shoot-out with Antonin Panenka scoring one of the most audacious penalties ever to clinch the cup for Czechoslovakia. Italy was once again the host in the 1980 tournament with the finals format changed to increase the number of participants from four to eight. The eight countries were divided into two groups of four before reverting back to straight knockout from the semi-finals onwards, a format which would remain constant until 1996. West Germany would go on to become the first nation to win the trophy twice in 1980 following a 2-1 win over Belgium with Horst Hrubesch scoring both goals for the victors, the second just two minutes before full time.


France hosted the 1984 tournament and would emerge victorious with one of the most exciting teams ever to play in the competition. With names such as Michel Platini, Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse and Luis Fernandez, Les Bleus were involved in a classic semi-final against Portugal before going on to defeat Spain 2-0 in the final. France captain Michel Platini created history by scoring nine goals in a single tournament which remains a record to this day. The 1988 tournament in West Germany would become synonymous with the finest Netherlands team since the days of Totaal Voetbal in the 1970s. Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard were the central foundation of an exciting Dutch team who would defeat the likes of England and West Germany en route to beating the Soviet Union 2-0 in the final with Van Basten scoring one of, if not the greatest, goal ever scored in the tournament. The 1992 tournament finals would be the last ever to have eight teams and would be won in fairy tale fashion by Denmark. The Danes hadn’t even qualified for the tournament but were given a reprieve when Yugoslavia was banned from playing due to the impending conflict in the Balkans. Denmark saw off the national team of a newly re-unified Germany by two goals to nil with John Jensen and Kim Vilfort writing their names into Danish legend.


Football came home in 1996 with England hoping to carve their name on to the famous Henri Delaunay trophy for the first time. The qualifying process for the “Euros” had become significantly increased by the ever changing face of Europe. With the number of countries participating having increased from 35 up to 47 following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia the tournament finals had subsequently been increased from eight teams to sixteen with the teams divided into four groups of four, a format which remains to this day. England, however, would see Germany prove to be their arch nemesis once more with the Germans knocking the hosts out in the semi-finals before going on to defeat the Czech Republic in the first final to be decided with a “Golden Goal”, Oliver Bierhoff’s strike in the 95th minute proving decisive as the Germans won the trophy for a record third time.


The year 2000 saw joint hosts for the first time in the competition’s history with neighbouring Belgium and the Netherlands holding the tournament. Following their FIFA World Cup win two years earlier, France would make it a fine double when David Trezeguet scored a Golden Goal to give the French a 2-1 win over Italy. Portugal hosted the 2004 tournament and were hoping to win the trophy for the first time but whose dreams were shattered after Greece, who had defeated the hosts in the opening game of the tournament, would go on to beat Portugal in the final too. Angelos Charisteas’ strike in the 57th minute would prove decisive as the unfancied Greeks won the trophy for the first time and became the ninth different nation whose name would grace the famous trophy. In the most recent tournament in 2008 Austria and Switzerland were granted the distinction of playing joint hosts but neither was able to make their mark on the competition beyond the group stage. Spain would emerge victorious following a narrow 1-0 win over Germany, Fernando Torres’ strike in the 33rd minute would prove to be enough for Spain to become the third nation to hold both world and European titles simultaneously.


Euro 2012, which sees more joint hosts in the form of Poland and Ukraine, will be the last tournament in which sixteen teams will feature in the finals. The next tournament, to be held in France in 2016, will see 24 countries take part for the first time. Whether this is a move which will complement the tournament in a sporting as well as a financial manner remains to be seen. For now, though, let’s look forward to a month long feast which will showcase the best that European football has to offer. Though if you really are missing Argentina and Brazil it just so happens that they’re also playing against each other this weekend in a friendly match!

Euro 2012 Preview – Group D

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012

Euro 2012 logoIn the final blog looking ahead to the 2012 UEFA European Championship, which begins on Friday June 8th, we preview Group D which contains co-hosts Ukraine as well as two-time winners France, England and Sweden.

ENGLAND: Best Performance = Semi-Finals 1968, 1996

Despite their status in the international game England still remains one of football’s great underachievers. It is perhaps for this reason, along with the fact that there are so many strong teams in this tournament, why the Three Lions go into Euro 2012 with dampened enthusiasm. Perhaps a downgrade in expectations could actually do the English some good as the pressure to perform in this year’s championship isn’t anywhere near as great as it has been in the last ten years or so. After all England have only ever reached the semi-finals of the European Championships on two occasions and even failed to qualify as recently as 2008. England qualified comfortably from qualifying Group G finishing unbeaten in eight games and topping the table six points ahead of Montenegro. It was against Montenegro, however, that Wayne Rooney picked up his three match ban, which was reduced to two on appeal, which will see him miss the first couple of matches in the tournament. In his absence the likes of Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll will be expected to step up whilst Theo Walcott will also be required to show that he has finally matured into a top class international.

COACH: Roy Hodgson


FRANCE: Best Performance = Winners 1984, 2000

It now seems like so long ago that the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry et al were setting the world alight with their free-flowing football and winning silverware. Twelve years since they won their second European Championship the French seem to be getting back on track following a turbulent couple of years in which internal strife and splits within the camp took centre stage rather than the action on the pitch. Under Laurent Blanc many fans of les Bleus will hope that they will show hunger and desire as well as purpose. Despite a shock 1-0 defeat the beginning of the campaign the French finished top of qualifying Group D by just a single point over Bosnia & Herzegovina. Franck Ribéry is the centre figure of the French team and with players of the quality of Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri around him they will be strong in attack and could score plenty of goals.

COACH: Laurent Blanc


SWEDEN: Best Performance = Semi-Finals 1992

The Swedes will be making their fifth appearance at a tournament finals since they made their debut in 1992. In that year Sweden, in front of their home supporters, reached the semi-finals but were unable to seize the initiative against Germany and went out 3-2. Since then the Swedes have failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals and not many expect to see them do so this time. Sweden, it must be mentioned, are a very capable side who are physically strong and resilient at the back. They qualified from Group E just three points behind the Netherlands and didn’t have to take part in the play-offs as they went straight through to the finals on the back of having the best record amongst runners up. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the undoubted major star of the team but much is also expected from 24 year old Rasmus Elm who is attracting some other Europe’s biggest clubs.

COACH: Erik Hamren


UKRAINE: Best Performance = Winners 1960 (as part of the Soviet Union)

Like their near neighbours Russia, Ukraine was a major contributor to the great Soviet Union sides of yesteryear. Since independence, however, Ukraine has failed to match the expectations of its public having only qualified for one major tournament in the last 16 years (i.e. 2006 FIFA World Cup). As joint hosts Ukraine will, therefore, enjoy its first experience in the European Championships and will fancy their chances of upsetting the big boys in their group. Veteran Andriy Shevchenko is hoping for one last swansong in front of his adoring fans but, whatever happens, it is a fitting stage for the legendary Dynamo Kyiv star to bid farewell to international football. Young stars Yaroslav Rakytyski and Andriy Yarmolenko have the ability to excite and to provide the firepower for Shevchenko and his striking partner Artem Milevskiy.

COACH: Oleg Blokhin



11/06/12 France v England

11/06/12 Ukraine v Sweden

15/06/12 Ukraine v France

15/06/12 Sweden v England

19/06/12 Ukraine v England

19/06/12 France v Sweden

Euro 2012 Preview – Group C

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012

Euro 2012 logoIn the third installment of our Euro 2012 build-up, Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews Group C which contains the defending European champions Spain as well as Italy, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland.


CROATIA: Best Performance = Runner Up 1960, 1968 (as Yugoslavia); Quarter-Finals 1996, 2008 (as Croatia)

Following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991 the Croatian national team has performed by far the best out of the newly created independent states. As part of the former Yugoslavia, Croats played a part in the Yugoslavia teams who finished runner up on two occasions in the 1960s. Since independence Croatia has only failed to qualify for a major tournament on two out of nine occasions showing that the national team is still one for many teams to fear. In Group F of Euro 2012 qualifying the Croats finished two behind Greece in the standings before a convincing 3-0 aggregate win over Turkey in the play-offs gained them their place in the finals. Croatia’s main focus in the tournament will be Luka Modrić who has been in fine form for his club Tottenham Hotspur and whose distributive and creative qualities will be needed for attacking players such as Ivica Olić and Nikica Jelavić the opportunities to flourish.

COACH: Slaven Bilić


ITALY: Best Performance = Winners 1968

Even hard core fans of the Azzurri would begrudgingly admit that this is far from the most vintage Italian team that has ever graced an international tournament. For a nation which has been world champions on four occasions it is surprising that Italy has only one European Championship title to its name and not many would expect a second title to be winging its way into the trophy cabinet this time around. Despite the pessimism the Italians still have plenty of individual quality and it would be a fool who would completely write off their chances of performing well in this tournament. Italy qualified from qualifying Group C with an unbeaten record of eight wins and two draws and with experienced players such as Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo still playing an active role in the side anything is still possible if the team gets its tactics right during the tournament.

COACH: Cesare Prandelli


REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Best Performance = Group Stage 1988

They may be underdogs but the Irish wouldn’t have it any other way. Playing in only their second European Championship finals, the other being when Jack Charlton took them to West Germany in 1988, the Republic of Ireland will be something of an unknown quantity for their group opponents and, thus, they might be able to spring a surprise. Under the guidance of Italian legend Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic of Ireland finished second behind Russia in qualifying Group B before sweeping aside Estonia 5-1 on aggregate in the play-offs. The Republic’s record goal scorer Robbie Keane will be spearheading the attack and if the likes of Damian Duff and Aiden McGeady can provide him with quality service from the flanks then there’s no reason why the Irish cannot upset some of the favourites.

COACH: Giovanni Trapattoni


SPAIN: Best Performance = Winners 2008

Victorious over Germany four years ago in this competition, the Spanish national team created history when winning the FIFA World Cup in 2010 to become only the third nation, along with Germany and France, to hold both the world and European titles simultaneously. Many superlatives have been used over the last few years to describe the current crop of talent at Spain’s disposal and they will be hoping to make further history by becoming the first country to win three consecutive major tournaments. The qualifying campaign was a breeze for Spain who finished with a 100% record in Group I and finished eleven points ahead of nearest challengers Czech Republic. Despite the absence of top scorer David Villa there are plenty of names who could win a game at any time for Spain. Names such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva have been there and done that but there are also the likes of Álvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente who are hungry and keen to show what they can do at the highest level.

COACH: Vicente del Bosque



10/06/12 Spain v Italy

10/06/12 Croatia v Rep. of Ireland

14/06/12 Italy v Croatia

14/06/12 Spain v Rep. of Ireland

18/06/12 Croatia v Spain

18/06/12 Italy v Rep. of Ireland

Euro 2012 Preview – Group B

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012

Euro 2012 logoStoppage Time – International Football Blog continues its preview of the oncoming UEFA European Championships which begin on Friday. In this blog we look at Group B which contains Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark.


DENMARK: Best Performance = Winners 1992

Most football fans will know of the legend that has built around the 1992 European Championship winning team. The country hadn’t even qualified for the tournament but an oncoming civil war in Yugoslavia meant that Denmark would enter the tournament in their place and with a team including Brian Laudrup and Peter Schmeichel the nation would go on to enjoy a 2-0 final success over favourites Germany. A repeat of that performance looks beyond the current crop as a tough draw has handed them three of the favourites in the form of Germany, Netherlands and Portugal. There is still hope for Denmark, however, who reached Euro 2012 by topping qualifying Group H over Portugal who, in turn, needed a play-off to reach the tournament. Many observers are expecting 20 year old Christian Eriksen to make his name in this tournament whilst Niklas Bendtner will hope to put a poor season firmly behind him and help Denmark progress.

COACH: Morten Olsen


GERMANY: Best Performance = Winners 1972, 1980 (as West Germany), 1996 (as Germany)

Footballing aristocracy at its finest, the Germans always expect to, and usually do, perform at the major international tournaments. West Germany became the first nation in 1972 to hold both the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship titles, a fate only matched subsequently by France (2000) and Spain (2010). Further successes in 1980 and in 1996, under the guise of Germany, have helped ensure that the Nationalmannschaft maintain their position as the most successful European national team. A faultless qualifying campaign saw Germany top Group A with ten wins from ten, a massive thirteen points ahead of Turkey, and become the first team outside of joint hosts Poland and Ukraine to qualify for Euro 2012. In a side containing a quality blend of youth and experience there are lots of potential match winners including Miroslav Klose, Mario Gomez, Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski whilst the further development of players such as Mario Götze and Mesut Özil will be paramount to Germany’s chances in the competition.

COACH: Joachim Löw


NETHERLANDS: Best Performance = Winners 1988

The Dutch are always amongst the favourites in any international tournament despite only ever having been victorious in one major finals. The fabulous team of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard swept all before them in the 1988 tournament in West Germany as the Oranje won their only major trophy so far when defeating the Soviet Union 2-0 in the final in Munich. The Netherlands kept up their marvellous record in qualifying by topping Group E with nine wins and one defeat in ten matches and heading the table over Sweden. Just like Germany, the Dutch are an exciting team with lots of potential match winners. Most eyes will be looking at Robin van Persie, who has been in exceptional form for Arsenal FC this season, but there are lots of other stars in the squad including Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder to name but three.

COACH: Bert van Marwijk


PORTUGAL: Best Performance = Runner Up 2004

Portugal is arguably the most talented footballing nation never to have won a major international tournament. Their disappointing defeat on home soil in the 2004 European Championship final was the nation’s best chance to win a maiden title but a shock defeat to Greece has set the Portuguese team back. The most recent European Championship in 2008 saw Portugal lose to eventual finalists Germany in the quarter-final stages and with the Germans in their group this time around as well as the Netherlands there is a chance that Portugal will struggle to progress beyond the group stage. Even in qualifying the Portuguese finished second in Group H behind Denmark, the third team in their group in the 2012 finals, so the omens aren’t looking favourable. This will mean more pressure heaped upon the shoulders of star player Cristiano Ronaldo whose personal levels of performance have grown to exceptional levels playing for Real Madrid over the last few years. He will, however, need to be supported by an able cast including the likes of Nani, João Moutinho and Hélder Postiga if Portugal are to defy the odds.

COACH: Paulo Bento



09/06/12 Netherlands v Denmark

09/06/12 Germany v Portugal

13/06/12 Denmark v Portugal

13/06/12 Germany v Netherlands

17/06/12 Denmark v Germany

17/06/12 Netherlands v Portugal

Euro 2012 Preview – Group A

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012

Euro 2012 logoWith the 2012 UEFA European Championships due to begin this coming Friday, Stoppage Time takes a look at all four groups going into the tournament. First up is Group A which includes tournament co-hosts Poland as well as the Czech Republic, Russia and Euro 2004 winners Greece.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Best Performance = Winners 1976 (as Czechoslovakia); Runner Up 1996 (as Czech Republic)

The Czechs have a distinguished record in the European Championships. In 1976, as part of Czechoslovakia, they won the trophy following a penalty shoot-out victory over West Germany. In the post-independence period, the Czechs reached the final of Euro ’96 but were thwarted by Oliver Bierhoff’s Golden Goal winner in extra-time. They are far from fancied to get anywhere near the final this time around but have a reasonable chance of reaching the quarter-finals. The Czech Republic qualified for this tournament finishing in second place in Group I behind runaway leaders Spain and then negotiating their way through a play-off against Montenegro. If the Czechs are to progress far in the tournament much will rest on the shoulders of Euro 2004 top scorer Milan Baroš in what is expected to be his last international tournament. At the back UEFA Champions League winner Petr Čech will be instrumental in keeping what could be a potentially brittle defensive line in check.

COACH: Michal Bílek


GREECE: Best Performance = Winners 2004

The Greeks stunned Europe when winning this competition in 2004, defeating hosts Portugal 1-0 in the final in Lisbon. They had seldom qualified for the tournament before their unexpected victory and failed to get beyond the group stage in 2008. Nevertheless the Greeks will fancy their chances of progressing this time in what is arguably the weakest group of the competition. Greece came top of Euro 2012 qualifying Group F with an unbeaten record and clinched the group with a two point margin ahead of Croatia. If Greece are to reach the group stages then the experience of Euro 2004 winner and captain Giorgos Karagounis will prove to be crucial whilst striker Theofanis Gekas will hope to keep up his impressive goal scoring record for his country.

COACH: Fernando Santos


POLAND: Best Performance = Group Stage 2008

It is something of a mystery that a country which has finished in third place on two occasions in the FIFA World Cup has only ever been able to qualify for the European Championship just once. The Poles made their debut in this competition four years ago and finished bottom of a group containing Germany, Croatia and co-hosts Austria. This year’s tournament co-hosts expect to do better this time around with the trio of players from Borussia Dortmund – Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Błaszczykowski and Łukasz Piszczek – hoping to transfer their fantastic form at club level into success at international level.

COACH: Franciszek Smuda


RUSSIA: Best Performance = Winners 1960 (as Soviet Union); Semi-Finals 2008 (as Russia)

As a member of the former Soviet Union, the Russians were part of the country to be crowned inaugural European champions when they defeated Yugoslavia 2-1 in the 1960 final played in Paris. Three further finals were played in 1964, 1972 and 1988 as part of the Soviet Union but they all ended in defeat. Since independence the Russian national team has qualified for all but one of the European Championships since 1992 but only got beyond the group stage on one occasion in 2008. The Russians lost out to eventual winners Spain and any repetition of four years would represent a good tournament this time. Russia qualified for the tournament after finishing top of qualifying Group B two points ahead of the Republic of Ireland. Forward Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who has won back-to-back domestic league titles with Zenit Saint Petersburg, looks set to be Russia’s most influential player.

COACH: Dick Advocaat



08/06/12 Poland v Greece

08/06/12 Russia v Czech Republic

12/06/12 Greece v Czech Republic

12/06/12 Poland v Russia

16/06/12 Poland v Czech Republic

16/06/12 Greece v Russia