Highs and lows of Euro 2012

Denmark's striker Nicklas Bendtner runs on the pitch displaying the name of Irish bookmaking firm...

Denmark's striker Nicklas Bendtner runs on the pitch displaying the name of Irish bookmaking firm Paddy Power on the waistband of his underpants during their Group B Euro 2012 soccer match against Portugal. (REUTERS)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:55 PM ET

DONETSK, UKRAINE - A Danish player dropped his shorts while the Dutch dropped three games.

And, once again, soccer's power brokers dropped the ball by not having goal-line technology.

When you look back at what has gone on at Euro 2012 now that the group stage is done, there certainly has been no shortage of storylines, not to mention good soccer.

There can be no arguing that the product has been far more exciting than the snoozefest that was the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Unfortunately, fan violence and racism in Poland, coupled with price gouging and logistical nightmares in Ukraine, has given the tournament a black eye.

Now a look at the good, the bad and the "plenty" of ugly that has gone on here.

Best Teams: Spain, Germany, England.

Did they play the best? In England's case, maybe not. But these were the only three sides that got through the group stage without suffering a loss. In the end, that's all that matters, isn't it? Last time we checked, you don't get points for artistic merit in this sport.

Biggest Cinderella Story: Greece

No one gave the Greeks a shot until their upset of Russia on June 16. Remember, they wore Cinderella's glass slipper eight years ago. Maybe it still fits.

Most Exciting Finishes

1. Portugal 3, Denmark 2, June 13

The Portuguese had just blown a two-goal lead when substitute Silvestre Varela scored the winner three minutes from time. It ultimately paved the way for Portugal to play its way into the quarterfinals.

2. England 3, Sweden 2, June 15

After surrendering an early goal, the Swedes scored twice in the first 13 minutes of the second half and appeared to be cruising. But substitute Theo Walcott changed the momentum, coming on to score the equalizer, then setting up Danny Welbeck with the winner in the 78th minute.

Biggest On-Field Controversy: The Goal That Wasn't

With England up 1-0 Tuesday, Ukraine appeared to score the tying goal on a ball that John Terry booted out at the last second. At least, that's the way it looked to the officials. Replays, however, seemed to show the ball crossing the line. No matter. England won 1-0, killing Ukraine's chance to advance. All because there is no replay technology in the sport. Ridiculous.

Biggest Disappointments

1. Netherlands

With thousands of loyal fans having painted the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv orange, de Oranje played like lemons. Sure, many consider this tournament even more difficult than the World Cup because every participant is of high quality, not the Algerias of the world (no offence to those from that fine country, it's just an example). But to go 0-3? These, after all, are many of the same players who took Spain to extra time in the World Cup final in Johannesburg. This team is as talented as any, but stories of in-fighting and huge egos continue to plague the Dutch.

2. Russia

After waxing the Czech Republic 4-1 in the opener, the Russians looked to be locks to advance to the final eight. Not so fast. Indeed, after a tie against Poland and a loss to Greece, they are left wondering what might have been.

Biggest Upsets

1. Greece 1, Russia 0 (June 16)

No one saw this one coming ... other than the Greeks.

2. Denmark 1, Holland 0 (June 9)

The beginning of the end for the Dutch. Rarely has a team with such ridiculous skill botched so many quality chances. Now they can watch the highlights of their missed opportunities on video back home -- that is, if bitter fans haven't egged their homes yet.

Scariest Moments

1. Idiot Factor: Pick any of the brutal moments of fan violence. The personal choice here is the video of the Russian hoods beating a pair of defenceless stewards after Russia's 4-1 win over the Czech Republic in Poland. In doing so, they lowered the term "punks" to a whole new level.

2. Electric Atmosphere: Ten minutes into the France-Ukraine game on June 15, the game had to be stopped when a monsoon blew into Donbass Arena in Donetsk, complete with sheets of rain and bolts of lightning, one which struck the stadium. That did not deter certain attention seekers from staying in the stands and acting like rain-soaked fools in order to get some TV time. We said it then and we'll say it now: If these people want to get on TV so badly, they should go wrap themselves in foil with all the electricity in the air. That'll increase their odds of getting on the six o'clock news.

Most Bizzare Moment

After scoring against Portugal on June 13, Denmark's Nicklas Bendtner slighty lowered his shorts, revealing to the entire stadium in Lviv -- and millions of television viewers -- the name of an Irish betting firm written across the top of his gitch. UEFA responded by fining him $126,000 US and slapped him with a one-game suspension to be served during qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Talk about getting caught with your pants down.

Best Examples of Stepping Up

Wayne Rooney (England), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

In the 2010 World Cup, superstars Rooney and Ronaldo combined for one goal in eight games. But both came up huge in the group stage of Euro 2012. Ronaldo scored twice in a 2-1 win over Holland, putting his team through to the final eight. Rooney, meanwhile, sat out England's first two games due to suspension, but needed just 48 minutes to score in Tuesday's 1-0 win over Ukraine, sending England to a quarterfinal date with Italy.

Coolest Sights

1. The overhead shots showing the tens of thousands of people gathered in downtown Warsaw to watch Poland's final group game against the Czech Republic. The sea of humanity was incredible.

2. Visting Sweden Island, an island on the river that flows through the eastern side of Kiev that had been set up to allow Swedish fans to camp, and watching them sunbathe and play beach volleyball as if they were at a resort. Even a lack of portable toilets could not dissuade them from having a good time.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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