Group of Death, n, Soccer: over dramatization of the hardest group in a major soccer tournament, usually with the talent involved, the moniker is undeserved.
Today provided two tasty match-ups in Group B, the Group of Death. While sounding like a classic Bruce Lee flick, the Group of Death in soccer sometimes lives up to its billing through some classic battles. On the docket today was Denmark v Portugal and Holland v Germany. While the latter looked to be the more intriguing match between two powerhouses, the prior was fascinating due to Denmark’s upset over the Dutch four days earlier.
Denmark: 2 – Portugal: 3
With a loss against Germany, and Holland looming in on the horizon, Portugal had to make the most out of their match with Denmark. Meanwhile, the Danes were looking to solidify their spot in the next round with a victory over the Portuguese. Additionally, the bad blood, ever present since their 18th century scuffle in the War of Spanish Succession, only added fuel to the flames between these two nations. The result of which was the best game of the tournament, thus far.
The Portuguese were rolling in the first half, up 2-0, when the Danes were able to pull one back on a jumbled mess of a goal. The tension built in the second half, as Portugal held on, until the 78th minute, when superstar Cristiano Ronaldo had a one-on-one with Danish keeper Stephan Anderson. It was a situation that was as simple as cashing a check for a player of Ronaldo’s caliber. Ronaldo proceeded to scuff the shot wide, looking to the heavens afterward for answers from the Engineers. And as if written by a screenwriter, the Danes wasted no time reversing the game and netting an equalizer. It looked like Portugal’s goose was Daned with a swift kick in the proverbial balls. Then, in the 87th minute, defender Silvestre Varela whiffed on a bouncing ball crossed in his area, only to turn a fraction of a second later and rocket a shot within the near post for the game winner. All season, Varela scored three goals for his club team, and yet, this defender spun and executed a perfect strike into the net. It was magical.
Holland: 1 – Germany: 2
What looked on paper to be the match of the group stages turned out to be conundrum of a pickle. The Dutch were in firm control of possession in the first half, yet squandered every opportunity they built. Meanwhile, Germany created few chances, but made the most of them, with Mario Gomez (he is German, I swear) converting two goals. At the half, the Dutch made two substitutions (Huntelaar and Van der Vaart), netting a more offensive approach – an approach that most thought they would have started with after the ugly display they put forth in their first contest. It took a while for the new pieces to get into the flow, but when they did, they looked capable of turning the tide. And in the 73rd minute, Robin Van Perise was given some space and hit a wonderful strike in motion at the top of the box. It seemed as if the Dutch flow was in control… but it simply fizzled as the game closed. Now Holland find themselves with zero points after two matches, and with many circumstances having to go their way when they play their final game against Portugal on Sunday. Erstwhile, ze Germans are vooking very goodt fer ze tournzements, no?