Germany and Portugal Win to Qualify for Euro 2012 Quarterfinals
Germany beat Denmark 2-1 last night in its final group match to advance to the quarterfinals at soccer’s European Championship, while Portugal defeated the Netherlands by the same score to earn its spot.
Lars Bender got the winner for Germany, the record three- time champion, after 80 minutes in Lviv, Ukraine, to maintain his team’s perfect record in Group B. Portugal has a fifth straight quarterfinal appearance after it rallied against 1988 winner the Netherlands in Kharkiv on two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Apart from my goal it was a great day for me,” Bender said in comments on UEFA’s website. “It was my first appearance at the Euros and I scored the winning goal to help us reach the quarterfinals. I will remember this day for a very long time.”
Germany finishes with nine points, Portugal six and Denmark three. The Netherlands, finalist in the 2010 World Cup, lost all three of its games. Germany will now face Greece, the runnerup from Group A, with Portugal to meet the Czech Republic.
The remaining two quarterfinal places will be decided after the final round of matches in Group C and Group D. Today in Group C, Croatia plays defending champion Spain in Gdansk, Poland, and Italy faces Ireland in Poznan.
Germany, which needed a point to guarantee qualification, pressed right from the start in Lviv. Thomas Mueller fired over the bar, then Sami Khedira was blocked on the left of goal. Mueller should have opened the scoring but saw his close-range effort saved by Stephan Andersen.
Denmark, a surprise winner of the tournament in 1992, appeared to withstand the early pressure, only for Lukas Podolski, making his 100th appearance for Germany, to shoot his team into the lead in the 19th minute. He slammed the ball into the net after Mueller cut the ball back from the right of goal.
Denmark hit back, and Michael Krohn-Dehli made it 1-1 in the 24th minute, heading past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer after Nicklas Bendtner nodded the ball across goal from a corner.
Man of the match Podolski sent a free kick over as Germany stepped up the pressure, and Khedira shot wide from 10 yards, but Denmark held out for 1-1 at halftime.
Denmark’s Jakob Poulsen almost made it 2-1 but shot just past the post as the second half opened.
Germany played a containing game in the second half, happy to maintain at least the point that would see the nation advance. The biggest scare for the Germans came when an appeal for a penalty, for a foul on Bendtner, was turned down.
Bender then ensured Germany all three points and the top place in the group, slotting in from close range.
“It was a special occasion to mark my 100th cap with a goal,” Podolski told reporters. “But the most important thing is that we are through to the knockout stage.”
The Netherlands brought Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar into the starting lineup in Kharkiv in a more attacking formation in search of a win to have any chance of advancing.
The Dutch dominated early possession, Wesley Sneijder having an early shot over the bar before Van der Vaart got the game’s first goal on 11 minutes.
Tottenham’s Van der Vaart collected a pass from Arjen Robben 20 yards from goal and curled a left-foot shot into the corner of the net past goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Portugal started to push forward more and Ronaldo hit the outside of a post five minutes later. Teammate Helder Postiga shot wide moments later when Dutch fullback Gregory van der Wiel gave the ball away.
Ronaldo forced Maarten Stekelenburg into a save from a header on 23 minutes, but gave the goalkeeper no chance five minutes later when he ran onto Joao Pereira’s defense-splitting pass and scored.
The Real Madrid forward then tested Stekelenburg with a powerful 40-yard shot and headed just wide before halftime.
Portugal continued to look the most likely to score again with a series of quick counterattacks. Fabio Coentrao tested Stekelenburg in the 66th minute and Nani had a shot saved by the goalkeeper before Ronaldo put his team ahead, cutting inside and placing a shot into the net on 74 minutes.
Huntelaar and Robin van Persie did miss opportunities late on, but Portugal came closest when Ronaldo struck a post from 25 yards.
“I think we started quite well today,” Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk told reporters. “But you saw that when we concede a goal, the uncertainty remains. If we’d scored a second, we might have been more sure of ourselves, but we didn’t take our chances.”
The Netherlands hadn’t exited in the group stage since 1980. Portugal extended its strong record against the Dutch to seven wins from 11 meetings.