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Ozil, Gomez and Schweinsteiger, the German side in the Group Stage
The group stage of the 2012 European Cup is over, the top two teams from each of the groups has moved on, and the knockout phase of the tournament begins today. The group stage was once again full of drama and excitement, particularly this past week, when every team was making the final effort to make it through or, at least, to go out with a bang.Group A was won by the Czech Republic, who came back from a first game blow-out loss to Russia, to win their final two (against Poland and Greece) and the group. The runner-up in Group A is Greece, who surprised Russia in their final game to pass them and eliminate them from the competition.Group B was slightly less dramatic, since Germany won all three of their games, seemingly without breaking a sweat. Portugal is the runner-up, coming back from a loss to Germany to beat the Netherlands and Denmark. The results were still a huge surprise, though, since the Netherlands, highly favored in the competition, were left with no points after losing all three of their games.Tournament favorites Spain won Group C, while the runner up was Italy, coming through in a must-win victory over Ireland, leaving Croatia, who tied the Italians and beat Ireland, disappointed. Spain and Italy also tied the game they played.The winner of Group D is England, after a final loss by France relegated them to the position of runner-up. England and France tied in their game against each other, and then England went on to win their final two, while France seemed to easily been Ukraine before falling to the already-eliminated Swedes.The first game of the knockout phase is between Portugal and the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic won their group, but it was definitely the weakest group in the tournament, and Portugal has been gaining confidence from their dramatic and decisive victories in their last two games.Greece, instead, will have to contend with Germany. At the outset, it seems like an easy win for the formidable German side, fresh off of their victories in the group stage, but do the Greeks have one more surprise up their sleeves?The third knockout game will be between Spain and France. The Spaniards have the advantage, but both teams have yet to live up to expectations in this tournament, particularly in terms of their offense, and the French team seems to have been shaken up by their loss to Sweden. Spain’s famed midfield could make the difference, but they have to find a way to put the ball in the net.The last game before the semifinals will be England against Italy. Once again, these are two teams that have not lived up to expectations, particularly Italy, which only just made it out of their group. It looks to be an extremely hard-fought, close game, that could depend on individual performances to pull one of the two through.Who will finally lift the trophy in Kiev on July 1st remains to be seen. Watch the video of the goals of the group stage on the next page.
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