To say that there wasn’t any pressure from the Portugal-Netherlands match would be about as gross of an understatement akin to Manny Pacquiao getting royally screwed in his fight against Timothy Bradley.
Many pundits picked the Netherlands to win Euro 2012 and so far, all they’ve had to show for their efforts is big ol’ goose egg on the points tally. On the flip side, Portugal’s superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo has been anything but “super” in the last three international tournaments.
Something had to give, right?
It did – and then some.
Ronaldo reverted back to his Real Madrid form, scoring two goals in Portugal’s 2-1 win over the Netherlands, and lifting the Selecção das Quinas to the quarterfinals. In so doing, Portugal sent the Oranje back to Amsterdam with nothing but shame and embarrassment on their hands.
Ronaldo’s underwhelming performance in Portugal’s 1-0 loss to Germany and 3-2 win against Denmark cast the spotlight on the star striker as one of the tournament’s miserable flops. But it didn’t take long for people to start throwing roses at his feet again.
The Dutch got off to a tremendous start when Rafael van der Vaart blasted a curl past Rui Patricio to give the Oranje a 1-0 lead.
But once Ronaldo and Portugal got warmed up, it became a story of desperate scrambling for the Netherlands, none more so than in the 28th minute when Ronaldo slotted in the equalizer to knot the score at 1-1. From there, the Dutch became unglued, surrendering another goal in the 74th minute when Nani found Ronaldo cutting inside to drill the ball right into the bottom left corner, all but sealing their fate.
With the 2-1 win, Portugal advanced to the quarterfinals where they are now set to go up against a resurgent Czech Republic squad that topped Group A despite getting waxed in their opening match against Russia, 4-1.
As for the Dutch, they become the latest example of an overhyped team that has to answer for three straight losses in the group stages. It’s not the best position to be in, especially for a team that boasts of so much firepower. But that’s the reality they face when they had back home far too early than anybody thought.
In the other Group of Death match, Germany’s Lars Bender scored the go-ahead goal in the 80th minute off of a long pass from Mesut Ozil, lifting Germany to a 2-1 win over Denmark and a perfect 3-0 group stage record.
As expected, the match was frantic from the get-go and it only got more juiced up after Miroslav Klose scored off a loose ball in the 19th minute only for Denmark to answer five minutes later with a beautiful header from Nicklas Bendter that glanced off of teammate Michael Krohn-Dehli and past Manuel Neuer’s fingertips.
With a quarterfinals seat hanging in the balance, Bender answered the call for Germany, sending them to a quarterfinals date against a scrappy Greece team looking to extend their never-say-die tournament.
As the story of Euro 2012’s Group of Death goes, something really had to give. Germany swept their way to the top and Cristiano Ronaldo answered the call for Portugal the same way the Netherlands dropped theirs for their country.