In 2008 there were 16 teams playing in the competition – 4 in each of the 4 groups with 8 advancing to the knock-out phase. More about the knockout stage you can read in the Competition 2008.
All you could say about Group A was the fact that it was a tight race between each of the teams. On paper, Portugal and Czech Republic, both 2004 semi-finalists, were the most experienced teams while Turkey and Switzerland both had two competitions each prior this one.
A predictable, but still a very interesting group from the European Football perspective. We have got two debut teams of Poland and Austria, Croatia has had some experience in European football (1996 and 2004) while Germany has been the dominating force for decades.
I don’t know how that happened exactly but when you put Netherlands, Romania and 2006 World Cup finalists France and Italy into the same group, be ready for anything tom happen. Especially, when you have in mind the infamous Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi incident. And when you expect that anything can happen, nothing should surprise you. Yet, it still did. France struggled during every game and finished last. Romania did a little better and ended 3rd with 2 draws and one loss. Netherlands once again proved to be a force in European football by winning all three matches of the group. Italy snatched a win against France and a draw against Romania that helped them finish 2nd in the groups.
On one hand, Group D was the most straightforward one. You knew that if Spain is going to play the way they can, they are guaranteed to take the first place in the group. However, the rest of the teams all had the surprise factor, their performances before the championship was extremely hard to predict. Greece were the defending champions but their Euro 2004 win was arguably more luck than skill, Russia and Sweden always have something up their sleeves.
The quarter-finals saw Portugal, Germany, Croatia, Turkey, Netherlands, Russia, Spain and Italy start the knock-out phase of the championship. First up, there was a match between Portugal and Germany. Germany was the clear favorite and they have dully delivered. After two goals within 4 minutes they took a string lead in the match that eventually ended 2-3 with Ballack scoring the winner for Germany.
Then, on 20 June Croatia met Turkey. For the most part, it was not a very interesting match but as no one has scored, the tensions rose. You knew that one goal will probably be enough to see away either of the teams. So, imagine the ecstasy in Croatian fans’ eyes when Klasnic scored on the last minute of the game time. But it was not yet over. Turkey (Semih, 120+2) managed to score one as well during the extra time and the game was decided by the penalties. Turkey goes through.
Arguably, the most intriguing match of the quarter-finals was between Netherlands and Russia. The former are naturally the stronger team but Russia has shown a very good form in this competition. Goals from Pavlyuchenko and Van Nistelrooy took the game to the extra time. Russians managed to score two goals and advance to the semi-finals.
The team to meet Russia in the second semi-final had to go through on 22 June in Vienna. A highly anticipated match between Italy and Spain proved to be quite boring. However, Spaniards were a little luckier in scoring their penalties and eventually went to the semi-finals.
In the first semi-final Germany played Turkey while Russia met with Spain. The former was incredibly intriguing with 2 goals in the last 5 minutes, 5 goals overall finishing 3-2 and taking Germany to the Finals. The second semi-final was a complete opposite. In 90 minutes of total domination Spain blew away Russia 3-0.
In the final Germany lost to Spain after Fernando Torres goal in the 33 minute. This year has started the Spanish domination of European Football.
Question is, when will it end?