Big guns and surprise sharpshooters
The third round of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying matches on Friday saw four teams make it nine points from a possible nine, including big guns Germany (Group A) and Netherlands (Group E). Less predictably, Montenegro (Group G) and Norway (Group H) have also achieved the same target and sit proudly at the top of their respective pools.
Making light of an often hostile atmosphere generated by over 30,000 away fans in the stands, a strong German side proved too good for Turkey. Despite putting in a solid display for large parts of the match, the visitors were eventually undone by their attempts to get back into the game in the final ten minutes. The unstoppable Miroslav Klose opened the scoring just before the break, nodding the ball into an empty net after Thomas Muller’s fine header had come back off the post. The Turks came back strongly and carved out some good chances, but finally committed too many players forward. A swift Philip Lahm-led counter-attack on 79 minutes ended with Mesut Ozil ignoring the jeers of the Turkish support to calmly slot the ball into the net for the home side’s second. The icing on the cake for Die Nationalmannschaft came in the form of their third goal, Klose chesting down a poor clearance from Volkan Demeril, running in on goal and nutmegging the hapless Turkish goalkeeper.
Germany may be flying high at the top of Group A, but things are tight below them. Austria joined Turkey on six points following their 3-0 victory over Azerbaijan, the goals coming from Sebastian Prodl and Marko Arnautovic. Belgium are not yet out of the race either, as they proved by winning 2-0 in Kazakhstan, with Marvin Ogunjimi baggng both goals.
It was a good night for Russia in Group B, as they pulled level with the two teams that sat above them at the start of play. Dick Advocaat’s men pulled off an excellent 3-2 win in Dublin, with Alexander Kerzhakov, Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov all getting on the scoresheet. A fightback from a spirited Irish team came too late in the game. Slovakia, meanwhile, went down 3-1 to an ever-improving Armenia side, a result that is surprising on paper but not given the balance of play. Macedonia made sure there would be no such surprise, doing enough to overcome Andorra 2-0.
A considerable shock in Group C saw Serbia crash 3-1 to Estonia in Belgrade. The visitors were behind with two thirds of the match gone, but dug deep to hit back through Tarmo Kink, Konstantin Vassiljev and Aleksandar Lukovic. In the other games, Slovenia saw off the Faroe Islands 5-1, thanks in part to a hat-trick from their rising star, Tim Matavz, while Italy could only manage a goalless draw in Northern Ireland. This group could well end up being one of the most closely-fought, with five teams currently separated by three points.
In Group D, both teams at the top failed to win. Belarus’ match with Luxembourg ended 0-0, while Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina played out a 1-1 draw. The watching French, who play Romania on Saturday, will not have been displeased by either result.
The biggest win of the night was achieved by Hungary in Group E, as they destroyed ten-man San Marino 8-0. The Netherlands found scoring harder to come by, but in the end Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s goal was all that was required to defeat Moldova 1-0 and go clear at the top of the group.
Group F saw Greece pick up their first three points of the campaign, with Vassilios Torosidis firing the only goal of the game against Latvia. Georgia beat Malta by the same scoreline, but had to wait until injury time to break the deadlock.
Montenegro have emerged as the main obstacles to England topping Group G. The unheralded eastern Europeans registered an impressive third victory in a row in their match against Switzerland, with Roma forward Mirko Vucinic scoring the winner in their 1-0 success. In the group’s other fixture, Bulgaria put their opening two defeats behind them by defeating Wales 1-0 in Cardiff.
Stalwarts John Arne Riise and John Carew provided the goals in Norway’s 2-1 win away to Cyprus, a result that puts them firmly in command in Group H, five points ahead of Portugal, whose 3-1 success over Denmark saw them leapfrog their opponents into second place.
Finally, Group I saw leaders Scotland fall 1-0 to a resurgent Czech Republic side in Prague, with Michal Hubnik grabbing the winner in the second half. A little later in the evening, world champions Spain went a goal up before surprisingly allowing Lithuania to drew level for all of three minutes. More predictably, they then stepped up a gear to emerge victorious by a 3-1 scoreline.
54.80 % - The international scoring ratio of Miroslav Klose, the leading
goalscorer at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, who on Friday notched up his 56th
and 57th goals in 104 appearances for Germany. With five strikes to his names already, the 32-year-old is currently second in the UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying scoring charts behind Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who has so far found the net on six occasions.
A speedy counter-attack from Armenia saw Gevorg Ghazaryan pick up the ball on the left-hand corner of the penalty box. Drawing two Slovak defenders towards him, he provided a simple square pass to his Shakhtar Donetsk team-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was loitering with intent on the edge of the area. The midfielder drew the ball onto his right foot and placed a firm shot into the corner of the opposing net, leaving Slovak keeper Jan Mucha with no chance.
Noteworthy match-ups from the fourth matchday of Euro 2012 qualifiers, all due to be played on Tuesday 12 October, include Italy-Serbia (Group C), Netherlands-Sweden (Group E) and Scotland-Spain (Group I).
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