KHARKIV, UKRAINE - From the moment the balls were plucked out of the bowls during the official Euro 2012 draw in Kiev last winter, Group B has been known as The Group of Death.
How fitting, then, that all four teams - Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands and Denmark - still don’t know if they will be going to the quarterfinals or going home entering their respective final group games.
Indeed, it will be Euro 2012’s version of Super Sunday when the Germans meet Denmark in Lviv and Portugal takes on the Dutch here in Kharkiv.
This will be D-Day for the Group of Death - as in Decision Day.
Consider that the Dutch, the team with the worst record in the group at 0-2, can still squeeze their way in,
And the Germans, who own the best mark at this stage of play at 2-0, can still be knocked out.
Talk about nail-biting intrigue right down to the end.
Heading into Super Sunday, here is a breakdown of both games and the individual teams involved.
Of note: the games will both start at 2:45 EST instead of having the type of back-to-back matches that we saw at the beginning of the tournament. You have to figure that is being done to avoid having the result of one game influence teams playing in the second one.
Germany 2-0 (Six points) vs. Denmark 1-1 (Three points)
Arena Lviv, Lviv
Germany - Goals For: 3, Goals Against: 1, How They Got Here: Beat Portugal 1-0; Beat Holland 2-1
Demark - Goals For 3, Goals Against 3, How They Got Here: Beat Holland 1-0; Lost To Portugal 3-2
Players To Watch
Germany: Striker Mario Gomez
Hard to believe the rep on this guy not so long ago was that he could score by the dozens in domestic league play, but consistently fired blanks with the national team. That’s not the case anymore. Gomez has publicly thanked manager Joachim Loew for sticking with him through the hard times. To say the young striker has turned things around would be an understatement In fact, he has all three of Germany’s goals in the tournament.
Demark: Defender Daniel Agger
He is soccer’s version of the shutdown defenceman and will have his work cut out for him Sunday. True, the Danes need to find goals in this one, but any pressing on offence is certain to allow the Germans to have effective counter attacks. It will be up to Agger to keep the likes of Gomez and Lukas Podolski outside the prime scoring areas.
Germany wins if: They continue to play disciplined and highly-motivated. True, they’ve taken some deserved heat for not flashing the flair we’ve seen in the past couple of years. But the Italians proved time and time again that grinding your way through the group stage is fine as long as you are improving. Besides, there are no points for artistic merit here.
Denmark wins if: They can continue to find the back of the opposing net with some regularity. Michael Krohn-Delhi’s winner against Holland sent waves throughout the tournament that the Dutch meant business here. It could be a tall task against the Germans, who have yet to allow a goal in the tournament.
Germany says: “The only thing we are missing is a title to crown in our development over the last few years and we want to show here that we can win titles.” - F Lukas Podolski.
Denmark says: “We are facing players from Bayern Munich, Dortmund and Real Madrid. They are Champions League clubs all of them. It’s a totally different level.” - Manager Morten Olsen.
The Bottom Line: Of the many scenarios there are for Germany to advance, the simplest is that if they manage to get a draw and the one point that goes with it, they are in the quarters. If they lose to the Danes by just one goal, the Germans are in the final eight as well. In order not to get in, the Germans must lose, Portugal must win and then both Portugal and Denmark will have to beat the Germans in goal differential for Germany to not advance ... Of the options facing the Danes, they’ll be cheering for Holland to beat Portugal while they try to cop at least one point from the Germans.
Portugal 1-1 (Three Points) Vs. Holland 0-2 (Zero points)
Metalist Stadium Kharkiv
Portugal - Goals For: 3, Goals Against: 3, How They Got Here: Lost to Germany 1-0; Beat Denmark 3-2
Holland - Goals For: 1, Goals Against: 3, How They Got Here: Lost to Denmark 1-0; Lost to Germany 2-1
Players to Watch
Portugal: F Cristiano Ronaldo
Don’t know why, but just have this notion that Ronaldo has something special in store on Sunday. He’s too good a player to be dormant on the international stage as long as he has. He’s a game changer when he’s on. Now it’s time to start changing those games. If the Dutch overcommit to him, he must get his passes to the open man with far better efficiency. Don’t be surprised if the clumps of orange-clad Dutch fans mock him with chants of “Messi Messi” like the Danish spectators did. By whining about it afterwards, Ronaldo showed he has a thin skin. De Oranje nation will be sure to pounce on that vulnerability. The best way for him to combat that? Score.
Holland: F Arjen Robben
Let’s face it. He hasn’t looked right since the Champions League final when his failure to convert a penalty for Bayern Munich allowed Chelsea to stay in the game and eventually win it. He’s had a few chances in Holland’s two losses but rarely has he shown those electric rushes down the wing that remains his forte. Perhaps he’s still bothered by the suggestions from Holland that he is a ball hog who doesn’t pass. At this point in the tournament, he has to get past the criticisms and, well, pass the ball.
Portugal says: “Our opponent is wounded and will want to come back against us.” - F Silvestre Varela
Holland says: “We have shown enough to suggest we can be confident and have belief in a great result.” - manager Bert Van Marwijk
Portugal wins if: They continue to get secondary scoring. Ronaldo has yet to find the back of the net in the tournament, but his two late misses against Denmark were made up for by substitute Silvestre Varela’s winner. There could be plenty of opportunities on the counterattack especially since Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk has said he plans on “going for it.”
Holland wins if: Their big names stop coming up small, especially up front. After being on hand for both their games thus far, the conclusion here is that guys like Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin Van Persie can’t keep missing quality chances like they’ve had. Van Persie scored in the second half versus Germany: maybe that will be enough to help him get his carma back.
The Bottom Line: The Dutch must beat Portugal by two goals and have Germany defeat Denmark if they want to have even a sliver of hope of reaching the final eight ... Assuming Germany does beat or tie Denmark, all Portugal has to do is tie with Netherlands and it will advance as the runner-up from Group B.