By Jason York, ESPN Stats & Information
Germany’s domination in the attacking third of the field Friday against Greece sparked the Germans to a 4-2 win in the quarterfinals of EURO 2012.
No other team since group play began in 1980 had more touches in the attacking third of the field (349) and completed more passes into the attacking third (271) in a single game than Germany did against Greece. In contrast, Greece set group-play era lows with 26 passes completed into the attacking third and 43 touches in the attacking third.
Attacking midfielder Mesut Özil directed Germany’s forays forward at an extremely high level. No player, since group play began in 1980, had more touches in the attacking third of the field (90) and completed more passes into the attacking third (72) than Özil did Friday.
Özil also created the second-most scoring chances (passes that led directly to shots) in a single EURO game since 1980, bested only by the 10 each from Gary McAllister for Scotland at EURO ’92 and Holland’s Wesley Sneijder in the group stage earlier this tournament.
Germany created 22 scoring chances overall against Greece, its highest total of the tournament and equal to its combined total in its three group stage games.
Left back Philipp Lahm was also vital for Germany going forward against Greece. Lahm scored Germany’s first goal with 26-yard swerving shot from outside the box and completed 30 of 35 passes into the attacking third, the most by a defender in this tournament and third-best single-game total since 1980. Only fellow defender German Andreas Brehme (83 in EURO ’92) has completed more passes into the attacking third in a single tournament since 1980.
Greece was able to create its only true danger by crossing the ball, especially over its last two games. Greece completed 7 of 25 crosses in its last two games and created six scoring chances from those crosses, including a cross from Dimitris Salpingidis that Georgios Samaras finished off against Germany.
By Zack Singer, ESPN Stats & Information
Germany and Greece clash on the field in Gdansk in the second EURO 2012 Quarterfinal. Germany, three-time European Champions, is making its sixth trip to the knockout stage. Greece returns to the knockout stage for only the second time, and first since The Pirate Ship won the EURO 2004 crown.
Germany won Group B, the tournament’s “Group of Death,” beating Portugal, the Netherlands and Denmark. It’s the first time Germany has ever won all three Group Stage matches. Greece finished Group A runner-up with a draw against Poland, a loss to the Czech Republic, and a win over Russia.
Germany rolled through Group B by dominating possession. The Germans finished group play with 2,009 touches, 539 of which came in the attacking third. Only Spain and France had a higher percentage of their touches come in the attacking third of the field than Germany’s 27 percent.
Mario Gomez has led the efficient German attack. In the group stage, Gomez had just 15 touches in the attacking penalty area, but scored three goals from just four shots on target.
Gomez entered the tournament off of an equally efficient Euro qualifying campaign, scoring six goals in six EURO 2012 Qualifiers. Gomez had just 32 touches in the penalty area in 426 minutes of qualifying.
Bastian Schweinsteiger anchored the German midfield in group play, finishing with 203 passes completed, tied for seventh-most overall. Schweinsteiger completed 88 percent of all passes he attempted, and was one of nine Germans to have a pass completion rate over 80 percent.
Greece is in the knockout stage thanks to a defense that is near the top of EURO 2012 in several key categories. Greece finished group play second in defensive touches (231), interceptions (65) and blocked shots (17).
Greece’s EURO 2012 Group Stage statistics are eerily similar to the numbers they put up in the EURO 2004 Group Stage. In the EURO 2004 Group Stage, Greece had 252 defensive touches, 61 interceptions and 10 shot blocks.
While the Greek defense is solid, they have arguably the worst offense at EURO 2012. In the group stage, Greece had the third-fewest passes completed and fourth-worst pass completion rate. Greece had just 10 passes that led directly to shots in the group stage, the fewest among all countries.
The Greeks will be without Giorgos Karagounis or Jose Holebas due to yellow card accumulation. Karagounis’ goal against Russia punched Greece’s ticket into the knockout stage. Karagounis had 171 touches in the group stage (second-most on team) and Holebas had 133 (fifth-most on team). Germany will not be missing any players due to discipline.
The winner of the match will face the winner of England-Italy in the semifinals on June 28th.
By Scott Regan and Jason York, ESPN Stats & Info
The Czech Republic and Greece each recorded 1-0 wins Saturday in the final day of play in Group A to advance to the knockout round, though they each took a different path to get there.
Greece withstood a high-end attacking effort from Russia to book its place in the knockout round. Russia finished with 193 completed passes into the attacking third and 260 touches in that area though it ultimately could not score a goal.
In contrast, Greece was not nearly as busy and converted one of its few chances. Greece completed as many passes overall (193) as Russia completed into the attacking third alone.
Greece has made the most of its limited scoring opportunities at this tournament. Greece has created a tournament-low 10 scoring chances (passes that lead directly to shots) in three group stage matches, including only four against Russia, but managed to score one goal in each of those games.
Giorgos Karagounis’ game-winning goal continued a scoring trend for Greece. It has scored all three of its goals thus far in the penalty area and, since 1980 at the EUROs, Greece has scored 11 of its 12 goals in the box from an average distance of 9.2 yards.
Poland was unable to generate any offense in the second half against the Czech Republic and star Polish striker Robert Lewandowski disappeared in the final 45 minutes for the third straight game.
Lewandowski had only eight touches in the second half against the Czech Republic, which tied him for the fewest of any starting Polish outfield player, and none of those touches came in the penalty area.
The Czech Republic completed 413 passes against Poland, its most in the group stage. The Czech’s completion percentage of 81.1 percent was also its highest to date in the tournament.
By John Parolin, ESPN Stats & Information
The Czech Republic rebounded from its poor opening performance with a 2-1 win over Greece in Wroclaw. The Greeks couldn’t overcome a historically bad defensive start, and find themselves alone in last place in Group A, needing a win over group leaders Russia to advance.
The Czechs scored two goals in the first six minutes of the match, the fastest pair of goals to start the match by any team in Euro history. Both Petr Jiracek’s 3rd-minute goal and Vaclar Pilar’s 6th-minute goal were assisted by defenders, the first defenders of the tournament to register assists.
Greece cut the deficit to one when Fanis Gekas scored in the 53rd minute, the second Greek goal this tournament (both from substitutes). Gekas scored on his first attacking third touch of the game, and his second touch overall.
Despite the three goals scored, this game was not an offensive showcase. The Czech Republic finished with six touches in the box, the lowest single-game total of the tournament. The teams combined for five shots in the penalty box, by far the fewest in a tournament game (France-England, 10).
Greece has just six shots in the box through its first two matches. Nine teams had more than that in just their opening match. Part of the problem was Greece’s inability to set up those shots.
The Greeks completed only 49.7 percent of passes in the attacking third today, and own the two worst single-game passing percentages in the attacking third this tournament.
Neither team was particularly effective creating offense on the wings. Greece completed only two of 25 crosses in the match (8 percent), while the Czech Republic didn’t connect on any of its 10 crosses, the only team in the tournament that failed to register a single successful cross.
In Warsaw, Russia and Poland drew 1-1 to set up a “win and in” situation for all four teams. When Poland equalized to earn a point, it was the second instance this tournament where a “host nation” came from behind to earn at least a point. Ukraine fell behind Sweden before winning 2-1.
The Russians took the lead in the 37th minute when Alan Dzagoev notched his tournament-best third goal. The 21-year-old Dzagoev headed home an Andrei Arshavin cross to become the second-youngest player with three goals in Euro play (Wayne Rooney, 2004).
Five of Russia’s last seven major tournament goals have been scored or assisted by Arshavin, who created five of Russia’s 11 chances and had 47 touches in the attacking third. Dzagoev finished with three shots on target, the only Russian to record one.
Russia’s ability to string together passes was also key, as it completed 82.3 percent of its passes against Poland, the fourth-highest percentage in a game so far this tournament.
Jakub Blaszczykowski scored the equalizer in the 57th minute for Poland, a 20-yard laser with his left foot. Blaszczykowski’s goal was the third-longest strike of the tournament and the third goal to come from outside the box.
Enter the realms of science fiction with me and ponder this: What would happen if the U.S. men's national team ditched the cozy confines of CONCACAF and the lackluster challenge provided by Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, or Guadeloupe and headed for the sterner edge of UEFA?
A far-fetched notion for sure, but in 2005, after 30 years of lobbying, Australia was able to leave the lukewarm water of the Oceania group (and its qualifying cycle with the likes of Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) and join the competitive arena of the Asian Football Confederation. As then-coach Frank Farina explained it, the goal behind the move was to make his team better through battle. "Finally we'll get a level playing field, and if we're not good enough to qualify this way, then we don't deserve to be there," he said. "It's so much better than having your whole four-year cycle hinging on everything falling into place over seven days."
So enter the realm of Isaac Asimov and consider this: If the USMNT somehow parlayed Jurgen Klinsmann's European connections and landed in UEFA, how would it compete? More precisely, if Clint Dempsey & Co. had qualified for Euro 2012 in a five-team Group A against co-host Poland, Greece, Czech Republic and Russia, how would they fare?
If this question had been posed before the current cycle of games, your answers would probably have been more positive. But the luster of a 5-1 victory against an unmotivated Scotland has worn off after tactically unimpressive performances against Brazil, Canada and Antigua & Barbuda.
A lack of chemistry between the squad's two stars, Dempsey and Landon Donovan, a lack of clarity surrounding the best position to insert the bald-headed menace of Michael Bradley, and an unsettled defensive line mean the team continues to be a work in progress.
On the evidence of Euro 2012's first match day, I would predict that if the U.S. could demonstrate the concentration, focus and motivation that have been all too lacking over the past two weeks, it should dispatch the Czech Republic with Bradley smothering Tomas Rosicky. The Poland game would be an open affair that would be won by the team that is able to best summon a facsimile of defensive steel.
The Russians would cut the U.S. apart with Andrei Arshavin, Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Alan Dzagoev running rampant.
The crucial matchup would come against the Greeks, who would delight in dragging the U.S. into a grinding battle. Do the Americans have the courage and the confidence to match them? Not with this current squad. But to dip further into the realm of fantasy, I would suggest if the iced-blond highlights of Stuart Holden were rehabbed and ready to go, Klinsmann’s team should have the quality to nick the game.
My conclusion: Project Klinsmann has developed to a point where the differing tactical styles of Group A would provide the sternest of challenges, but a failure to emerge into the elimination round would register as a real disappointment.
By Jason York, ESPN Stats & Information
A four-goal explosion, two red cards, a saved penalty kick, and that was just the opening two matches as UEFA Euro 2012 kicked off with Group A play Friday.
Co-host Poland and Greece drew 1-1 in the tournament’s opening match as both sides finished with 10 players. It was just the third Euro game ever in which both teams had players sent off, and the first since 1996.
Robert Lewandowksi scored in the 17th minute for Poland and Greece’s Dimitris Salpingidis equalized in the 51st minute.
Lewandowski’s play waned after the goal, especially in terms of his touches. Lewandowski finished with 33 touches overall, but 11 came in the first 17 minutes of play as did his only shot on goal. As Lewandowksi went, so went Poland. Poland had nine touches in the penalty area in the first 17 minutes and Greece just one. Each team had six the rest of the match.
Salpingidis entered the game at halftime, and though he was not as industrious as Lewandowski, he added an element of attacking danger for Greece. Salpingidis had 12 touches in the game, but he scored his only shot on goal, drew a penalty kick that Greece ultimately missed and completed all seven passes.
Alan Dzagoev scored twice for Russia, which defeated Czech Republic 4-1, marking the first four-goal game ever for the Russians at Euros. The 21-year-old Dzagoev became the second-youngest player with two goals in a Euro game. Only Wayne Rooney was younger, when he had two such games at age 18 in 2004.
Russia was able to get behind the Czech defense with regularity, as 14 of 17 shots came within 20 yards of goal. Russia’s goals were scored from an average distance of 14.7 yards. Russia created 14 scoring chances, including 10 in the second half.
Jaroslav Plasil was the most dangerous player for the Czech Republic as he created seven scoring chances and assisted on its only goal.