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Wednesday, Oct 18th

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European Championships

International Friendly: Brazil ease past surprisngly poor Danes

Denmark’s Euro 2012 preparations received a strong setback as the Scandinavians were thrashed 3-1 by Brazil in an International Friendly at Hamburg. The Samba Boys, led by Hulk brushed aside their European opponents as they went into the half-time break three goals to the good. The Porto star opened the scoring on 8 minutes before adding a 2nd five minutes before the break. Sandwiched between the two was on own goal from Niki Zimling on 13 minutes, with Hulk unsurprisingly involved in the build-up. Nicklas Bendtner did get a goal back for the Danes, but his 71st minute strike was scant consolation in an otherwise poor performance.

The Danish defence didn’t cover themselves in glory throughout the 90 minutes and the blunders began early as keeper Thomas Sorenson was at fault for the opener. Hulk picked up the ball close to 25 yards away from goal and let it rip with a stinging low shot. Sorenson had time to gauge the direction of the ball but he misjudged its flight as he let it fly past him and into the left corner of the goal.

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Surprises galore in England squad for Euro 2012 as Ruddy, Chamberlain get call-ups

roy_hodgsonNew England manager Roy Hodgson has sprung the odd surprise or two in his 23-man squad for the European Championships in Poland & Ukraine, by picking young Arsenal midfielder Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Norwich goalkeeeper John Ruddy. The rest of the squad is largely on expected lines with veteran England center-back Rio Ferdinand missing out as expected in favour of Chelsea skipper John Terry.

The two leading goalkeepers were always expected to be Manchester City's Joe Hart and West Ham United shot stopper Robert Green with third spot up for grabs. That spot has gone to Norwich man John Ruddy, who put on an exceptional performance in goal against Arsenal a couple of week's ago in a thrilling 3-3 draw. The only concern about the 25-year old is that he is completely untested at the highest level, not having played for England at any youth level, and having had just one full season in the Barclays Premier League under his belt. As a standby, Hodgson has picked Birmingham reserve keeper Jack Butland, a 19-year old who has plenty of junior outings for England, but has had just 1 full season of league football, that too down in Division 2!

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Euro 2012 Draw: Germany & Holland paired, England to face France

euro_2012_logoThe draw for the 2012 European Championships took place in Kiev today as sixteen teams tuned in to find out their fate at next summer's competition in Ukraine/Poland. After an initial dose of Ukrainian culture and a recap of previous Euro editions, the draw finally got under way. The proverbial 'Group of Death' turned out to be Group B where three-time Champions Germany, Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark where drawn together. The mouth-watering prospect of old foes Germany and Holland clashing must have pulses racing already. Group C looks tight at least on paper, with Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland and Croatia grouped together.

Tournament favourites Spain will be confident of making it through the group, but the presence of a rejuvenated Ireland and Croatia is bound to make things interesting. England were pooled with France in Group D, with hosts Ukraine and Sweden completing the group. Finally, Group A might lack star power but Poland, Russia, Greece and the Czech Republic should offer a competitive group nonetheless.

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Ireland, Portugal, Czech Republic and Croatia headed to Euro 2012

There were no surprises in the second leg of the Euro 2012 Qualifiers as the three teams which took an advantage in the first leg on Friday made sure they got the job done. However, there was the not so small matter of Portugal vs Bosnia, a match which had ended goal-less in the first leg. Cristiano Ronaldo though ensured that his side was to make the most of their home field advantage as they routed the Balkan nation 6-2 to book their passage for next year's European Championships.

Portugal 6-2 Bosnia

cristiano_ronaldo2Two goals each for Cristiano Ronaldo and Helder Postiga saw Portugal ease into the European Championships at the expense of 10-man Bosnia, who fought bravely, but just couldn't make up the deficit in class between the two sides. Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 8th minute from a free kick, with his former Manchester United teammate Nani making it 2-0 with a fabulous effort from range. A late first half penalty briefly reduced the deficit, only for Ronaldo to make 3-1 early in the second half. Ronaldo's goal was immediately followed by a sending off for Senad Lucic, seemingly for arguing with the referee, and though Bosnia were to reduce the deficit once again to a solitary goal, a brace from Postiga and a Miguel Veloso free-kick secured the win.

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Euro 2012 Play-offs Review: Croatia and Ireland win big, Portugal held to draw

The first leg of the Euro 2012 playoffs were played out on Friday, with teams looking to earn an early advantage prior to the reverse fixture on Tuesday. Croatia and Republic of Ireland certainly ended the night with that advantage, picking up crucial away wins against Turkey and Estonia, while Czech Republic overcame Montenegro 2-0 at home. Portugal's game against Bosnia however ended a goalless stalemate, leaving the tie hanging in the balance with Bosnia travelling to Lisbon next.

Estonia 0 - 4 Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland scored four goals past a hapless Estonia side in Talinn to all but confirm their passage to the Euro 2012, along with it all but burying their playoff nightmares and coming one step closer to making their first major tournament since the 2002 World Cup. The hosts' start in Friday's encounter was encouraging, as they had a couple of chances to score on either side of Keith Andrews' opening goal, who beat his marker to Aiden McGeady's cross, heading past Sergei Pareiko in goal. Disaster befell the Estonians on 35 minutes when Andrei Stepanov was sent off for bringing down Robbie Keane, but the 10-man side held strong till the 67th minute, when Jonathan Walters got his name on the scoresheet, heading in Keane's pass to double the visitors' advantage. The night went from bad to worse thereafter for the hosts, as Keane pounced on the rebound from a Pareiko save four minutes later to score his 53rd international goal, adding his second and Ireland's fourth two minutes from time from the penalty spot after Ats Purje clearly impeded Stephen Hunt. There was also time at the death for Raio Piiroja to be sent off, capping a disastrous night for the underdogs who have it all to do in the reverse fixture.

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