Sunday had perhaps the most underwhelming product of the tournament thus far from a neutral perspective, which is maybe better put as a neutral who despises most of the Portuguese squad and wanted nothing less than their total annihilation. There was a brief period when plenty of intrigue was promised, but the wrap-up didn't really deliver on the drama front, and now we've got only two days left of group play.
Portugal 2, Netherlands 1
POR: Ronaldo 28' 74'
HOL: van der Vaart 11'
Cristiano Ronaldo is a despicable combination of self-obsession and oil, and he scored two goals to see Portugal through as the second team in Group B. He smirked and shouted his way through the opening twenty minutes, which was marked by a small blip on the Dutch EKG screen as Rafael van der Vaart curled a left-footed shot past Rui Patricio. In the end it proved to be a blip and nothing more, as the Netherlands defense was more of a fever dream than reality. They slunk back into the corner and surrendered, first after Ronaldo's leveler and then after they came out at half-time, when it was immediately clear they had little fight in them. Very, very disappointing stuff from the Dutch, who likely have some major changes on the horizon.
Denmark 1, Germany 2
DEN: Krohn-Deli 24'
GER: Podolksi 19', L.Bender 80'
This one was at least a little more fun, even if it meant that Daniel Agger and the Danes were eliminated. Morten Olssen's squad couldn't create much past Michael Krohn-Dehli's opener and, while they had a clear shout for a penalty after Holder Badstuber dragged down Nicklas Bendtner in the box, Germany was too much. Aside from Agger the Danish defense was a bit all over the place, with Lukas Podolski free to lash home a rebound for the opener and Lars Bender freed by a Andre Schurrle pass to kill off the tie. In a some alternate, less punishing reality Denmark goes through and Portugal disbands its national team, but since my budget and brain are ill equipped to make that happen, we'll have to settle for Daniel Agger as one of (if not the) players of the tournament in defense. Now he just needs to spend the rest of the summer in a bubble.
For today’s matches:
Croatia v. Spain
7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST
With these two sides level on points atop Group C, it'd be perfectly normal to expect a fairly lifeless performance in the final round of group play. But with Italy playing in a more urgent manner over the past two and finishing off against Ireland, there'll be some urgency for both Croatia and Spain to get the maximum points. The biggest question for Spain is whether or not Vicente del Bosque opts to stick with Fernando Torres in attack or go back to the way they lined up against Italy with no true striker. If Torres does start, he'll be tasked with matching or bettering the output of Mario Mandžukić and Nikica Jelavic, who've accounted for every Croatian goal in the tournament, with Mandžukić hitting Ireland for a brace and Italy for one.
Italy v. Ireland
7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST
The long Irish party ends today, but on the way out they've at least got a chance to take Italy with them. I'm doubtful they'll be able to, and it'll mostly be a matter of damage control as the Italians try to do their part to move on. As mentioned above, Italy's shown more promise over the past two matches moving forward, which will probably again be the case as they try to find a way through. UEFA's official website has a breakdown of the scenarios that will see Italy through to the knockout stages, with the conclusion that Italy need a win and a low-scoring draw to continue. Ireland, on the other hand, will need a mass fugue state for two of the other three teams in the group.
We'll be back after today's matches with the fixture list, and early tomorrow with a look at how today panned out in Group C, as well as an extended preview of England's final match in group play against the Ukraine.