Portugal come up short as Spain edge semi-final clash

With many touting Spain as favourites to retain their European crown this summer prior to the tournament, it was perhaps no surprise when they confirmed their place in the semi-finals. Their opponents, Iberian neighbours and ever-unpredictable Portugal, were in no mood to roll over, though. On the back of their successful group stage campaign, progressing at the expense of the refreshingly positive Danes and a disappointing Netherlands side, the Spaniards had a game on their hands.

Cristiano Ronaldo, previously criticised for his lack of performances on the international stage, went in to the game brimming with confidence, having scored three goals and struck the woodwork four times already. Add to that the growing stature of the midfield trio of Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso, with Nani an outlet on the flanks, Portugal had grounds for optimism.

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Greece tear up form book as Russia are sent crashing out

With Group A the first to be settled at this year’s tournament, one would be forgiven for falling foul of an assumption or two regarding the outcome of at least one of the ties tonight had in store. On the back of their respective opening two fixtures, Russia and Greece appeared binary opposites as they took to the field for their third and final group game tonight in Warsaw.

With Russia adopting a flowing, passing game, serving them well in their early 4-1 dismissal of a plucky Czech Republic outfit, and their admittedly less-glamorous, yet equally as useful in a tournament format point against co-hosts Poland on June 12, Greece didn’t appear to stand much of a chance. Propping up the group after a dull and uninspiring brand of football brought them a solitary point on the opening night, followed by defeat to the Czechs, Fernando Santos’ men had it all to do.

Russian fans had reason for optimism ahead of their clash with Greece

And they did just that. Sokratis Papastathopoulos returned to the starting line-up following his harsh dismissal against the Poles, and was put through his paces as the Russian attackers, supported by the dangerously attack-minded Yuri Zhirkov, subjected he and his defensive colleagues to a barrage of early pressure. Ironically however, it was Zhirkov’s habit of wandering forward that proved pivotal. With the full-back turned winger caught up-field, Giorgos Karagounis made no mistake in arrowing the ball beyond the hapless Vyacheslav Malafeev, the Zenit stopper beaten right on the stroke of half-time after some lapse Russian rearguard action.

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Group phases enter climactic period with the culmination of Group A

With only the Republic of Ireland and Sweden mathematically eliminated as we enter the final round of group stage fixtures, Groups A and B remain entirely open to a whole host of dramatic last-minute modifications, despite the likes of Greece failing to impress in either of their opening two ties.

Tonight’s Group A climax calls for a slight alteration of scheduling on UEFA’s part, with both games pencilled in to begin at the later time of 19:45 BST, instilling a greater sense of intertwined tension and meaning to a round of fixtures reliant on one another’s outcome, something UEFA would have been pining for in the event of such an open group.

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Hodgson’s patched-up England pass first test with grounds for optimism

With injuries to a whole host of key players and the infamous case of Wayne Rooney’s untimely banishment to the stands for the start of Euro 2012, England’s national side have enjoyed a spell of relative calm and relaxation in this their first appearance in the European Championships for eight years.

As seems always the case with England, preparation was far from ideal in the weeks and months leading up to their opening game against a re-modelled French side under the guidance of Laurent Blanc. The protracted search and eventual appointment of Fabio Capello’s successor, and the largely disgruntled reception when Roy Hodgson got the nod over the endearing Harry Redknapp set an all too familiar precedent for the ensuing preparatory work.

Injuries to Gary Cahill, Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard and John Ruddy to name but a few was met with groans of well-rehearsed scepticism from a nation used to disappointment. Yet, these potentially damaging omissions from the 23-man party have in fact led to a refreshing, albeit forced change of personnel. 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the stand-out example of a bold, exciting selection by Hodgson, and with the forced delving deeper in to the English talent pool, the likes of Liverpool’s Martin Kelly and Jordan Henderson have also been given an invaluable chance to impress.

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Germany v Portugal line-ups confirmed

Germany: Neuer, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Boateng, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Özil, Müller, Podolski, Gomez SUBS: Wiese, Zieler, Schmelzer, Höwedes, Mertesacker, Gündoğan, Schürrle, Bender, Kroos, Götze, Reus, Klose.

Portugal: Patrício, Alves, Pepe, Coentrão, Pereira, Veloso, Moutinho, Meireles, Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga SUBS: Eduardo, Beto, Costa, Rolando, Lopes, Custódio, Quaresma, Micael, Viana, Almeida, Oliveira, Varela.

Russia 4-1 Czech Republic: Arshavin and Dzagoev sparkle as the Czechs are brushed aside

Any pre-conceived assumptions that opening rounds of fixtures at major competitions are inherently drab and mundane affairs were dashed last night, as the first pair of games threw up two red cards, seven goals and an early contender for the imperative ‘dark horses’ moniker.

Russia’s game with the Czechs always offered far greater grounds for optimism after what many would have deemed, on paper at least, a Poland versus Greece tie bereft of players capable of really sparkling and setting the tie alight. Imperiously dominant both in performance and the scoreline, the ‘Sbornaya’ certainly didn’t disappoint.

Spearheaded by a rejuvenated Andrei Arshavin and the much-heralded future of Russian football Alan Dzagoev of CSKA Moscow, the 4-1 final scoreline was somewhat tame when considering Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s profligacy in front of goal for the most part.

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Poland v Greece line-ups confirmed

Poland: Szczęsny, Boenisch, Wasilewski, Perquis, Piszczek, Polanski, Rybus, Obraniak, Murawski, Błaszczykowski, Lewandowski SUBS: Sandomierski, Tytoń, Wojtkowiak, Kamiński, Wawrzyniak, Dudka, Matuszczyk, Mierzejewski, Wolski, Grosicki, Sobiech, Brożek.

Greece: Chalkias, Maniatis, A Papadopoulos, Torossidis, Papastathopoulos, Holebas, Karagounis, Ninis, Katsouranis, Samaras, Gekas SUBS: Tzorvas, Sifakis, Tzavellas, Malezas, K Papadopoulos, Makos, Fotakis, Fortounis, Fetfatzidis, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou, Salpingidis.