Greece in but shouldn't be
WITH Germany and Portugal through, four more quarter-final spots remain up for grabs in Euro 2012. There are six sides still hopeful of advancing to join the Czech Republic, Greece, Germany and Portugal in the last eight.
The Republic of Ireland in Group C and Sweden in Group D are the only teams out of the running. One of the most surprising eliminations was of The Netherlands on Sunday. Zero points from three games is all Holland had to show for their campaign. Their defeat to Portugal was their fourth successive competitive loss Òê" unprecedented. It also confined them to their worst showing in a tournament since they re-established themselves as a powerhouse in the mid-1970s.
Portugal is through to the quarter-finals after Cristiano Ronaldo scored a double against The Netherlands. The Netherlands needed to win by two clear goals to stand a chance of progressing.
Elsewhere, Germany defeated Denmark 2-1, knocking the distraught Danes out of the competition and giving boss Joachim L³¶w a brief flicker of pleasure. The conclusion to the Group of Death saw Portugal, Holland and Denmark desperately fighting for their lives while Germany looked on with a mixture of disinterest and disdain.
Germany march on to face Greece in the quarter-finals. Greece are through, a reluctant tournament spokesman has admitted, but organisers are clinging on to the hope that they might forget to claim their place in the last eight.
For many, the scars of Euro 2004, which Greece won without attempting at any stage to put the ball in the opposition's net, are still raw. And there is genuine fear that history could repeat itself despite pre-tournament guarantees that there would be 'no more than 270 minutes of Greece'.
"Greece have finished second, so yes they are technically through to the next round," Euro 2012 organiser Markiyan Lubyivskyi grumbled through gritted teeth.
"But we'd really appreciate it if nobody would mention that to them. With all due respect, Greece are to a football tournament what myxomatosis is to rabbits."
There has been pressure on UEFA to address the problem of the Greeks. A special committee meeting in March led to an abortive attempt to transfer Greece to the Oceania Football Federation and Michel Platini has repeatedly stressed that a Greek victory at Euro 2012 would leave him with no option but to discontinue the competition.