European glory went the Iberian way once again as the Spaniards stamped their class as the world’s best team clinching the UEFA Euro 2012 demolishing Italy 4-0 in the final. Here is a look at the top ten moments of the tournament.
10. Szczesny’s red card and Tyton’s save
Wojciech Szczesny, the Polish goalkeeper in the opening fixture of Euro 2012 at Warsaw gave away an easy opportunity for substitute Dimitris Salpingidis to equalize for Greece. He then conceded a penalty and was immediately red carded by referee Carlos Velasco Carballo for a deliberate foul on Salpingidis. As he walked off the pitch, a young PSV goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton walked in and saved the penalty taken by Greece captain Giorgios Karagounis. Tyton saved Poland the blushes at home, but that Szczesny moment of madness was the first memorable moment of the Euro.
9. Sheva’s brace
He is a legend, but he became the legend on the prowl scoring two vital goals to give Ukraine a 2-1 win over Sweden. Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko had scored a lot of goals, a hell lot of them, but at the age of 35, he jumped and leaped, he anticipated and predicted and he scored two goals, two classy ones. At the age of 35 he may not have the form, but who will dare take away Sheva’s class? Andriy Shevchenko definitely rolled back a few years with his stupendous headers.
8. Ukraine-France storm
The Group-D match between France and Ukraine was halted for 55 minutes due to a thunderstorm and the image of heavy rain pouring down and the spine chilling lighting above the stadium definitely provided the shutterbugs with breathtaking shots but for the spectators and even for the players, that would have been a fearful sight.
7. Captain Karagounis leads Greece to knockouts
The Russians were sent packing by a Giorgos Karagounis’ first-half stoppage time goal. Greece remained resolute in defence throughout the second half to secure a famous victory which, coupled with the Czech Republic`s win over Poland, meant Russia finished third in Group B and went thrown out of the competition with Greece going into the quarterfinal. Match-winner Karagounis also dedicated the 1-0 victory over Russia to those suffering in his debt-ridden country. He later went on to say that the Greece victory was like winning 2004 title.
6. Oranje squash
The only bright spot in the otherwise disastrous Netherlands Euro 2012 campaign was probably their orange jersey, as the pre-tournament favourites crashed out without registering a win. Cristiano Ronaldo finally found the form he was lacking at the European Championships, scoring twice as he eliminated the ‘Clockwork Orange’ out of the competition. Disappointing loss to Denmark and to Germany had sealed the fate of the 2010 World Cup finalists, but the last nail in the Oranje coffin was put by Portugal who advanced to the knockout stages along with Germany from the ‘Group of Death’.
5. Terry’s on the line heroics
During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa it was England on the receiving end of the lack of goal-line technology as Frank Lampard’s shot against Germany had cannoned down over the line only for the linesman to wave play on. In Euro 2012, Terry saved Devic`s attempt leaping beyond the line as the fourth official failed to see it. England eased into the knockout stages 1-0 as co-hosts Ukraine were dumped out.
4. Pirlo’s ‘Penenka’ penalty
The ‘Penenka Penalty’ was a master-class from the Italian maestro, Andrea Pirlo. That chip during the shoot-out unsettled not only Joe Hart but the rest of the penalty takers from England. The kick took Italy to the semis where Mario Balotelli stole the show.
3. ‘Ashleys’ miss
Ashley Young and Ashley Cole became the part of the English football’s folklore as they missed both of their penalties against Italy. While Young hit the top crossbar, Cole’s attempt was saved by Gigi Buffon and England were yet again eliminated from a major competition in a shoot-out.
2. Super Mario
Mario Balotelli finally came good in the semi-final crashing two stellar goals against the hot favourites Germany to take the Azzurri to the summit clash of Euro 2012 against Spain. The bad boy of Manchester City was once described by Jose Mourinho as ‘one-brain celled’, but the Ghanaian born striker’s class was never in question and at Warsaw he just proved it. After his second goal, which was a thunderous finish, Balotelli celebrated taking his shirt off as he struck a menacing pose.
1. De España Marcha Real
It was La Furia Roja’s Royal Decree three times over as they stamped their class and authority all over the Olympic stadium sinking the ‘Azzurri’ 4-0 en route to the most successful reign of an international team ever in football history. It was the Royal march from the ‘The Spaniards’, De España Marcha Real as they tore apart the Italian wall of defence to leave the ‘Superman’ Buffon a mere mortal.