Euro 2012 Scores: 4 Defenses in Dire Need of Improvement After Crushing Defeats
The European Championships mark the halfway point between the next World Cup in 2014, but, more importantly, they offer European fans the chance to see their country's most talented footballers compete on an international level that is more than just about tuning up with friendlies.
This year's Euro Championships have offered us a look at the commanding German squad, a battle between two of the globe's top national teams in Spain and Italy, as well as the collapse of the Netherlands squad.
While still no team has been eliminated from the tournament, the Dutch—at 0-2—are facing a very different situation than their miraculous run during the 2010 World Cup that eventually ended in a heartbreaking fashion, when they lost the championship match to Spain, 0-1.
With two games down in the opening round of the tournament, we have seen our fair share of surprises; and after the jump I will offer you an inside look at four teams I feel need to tighten up their defenses if they want a shot at progressing further into this year's tournament.
The Swedes suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of legendary Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko, and as a result they are stuck at the bottom of Group D.
With the upcoming match against a depleted English squad, the question being posed is, "How will Sweden rebound?"
The answer lies within how the defense will be able to contain a British attack that has struggled to find consistency on the offensive side of the pitch.
Defensively, the Swedes looked quite shaky taking on a Ukrainian squad that seemed to just beat them to the ball and outplay them at their end of the field.
25-year-old Celtic back Mikael Lustig was the key pawn who allowed Ukraine to strike the game-winning goal when he failed to hold the left post—and ultimately let the slippery Shevchenko sneak by and score on a vicious header.
With the hash tag #holdthepost trending on Twitter in his homeland, Lustig and the Swedish defense need to tighten up and not make some of the same mistakes that cost them an opening round victory.
To the surprise of just about the entire world, the iconic Portuguese captain Christiano Ronaldo was absolutely atrocious in his second European Championship match.
The 3-2 victory against the Denmark squad may look nice on paper, with three points in the standings, but this was far from a well-rounded game for Portugal.
The Portuguese side jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, yet the resilient Danish squad fought back with all they had to tie the game at two goals apiece.
I mean no disrespect to Denmark when I say this, but if the Danish were able to claw their way back from a two goal deficit...how exactly would a elite team such as Germany or Spain fare?
Portugal needed a last-second effort from the fresh legs of substitute Silvestre Varela in the 87th minute to crush the Danish squad's chances at pulling off a stunning draw––all because they were unable to contain the Danish inside the penalty box.
Denmark will need to pull off an even more stunning upset of the top rated German squad in order to secure snubbing Portugal out of the next round.
But, regardless of whether or not the Portuguese do in fact advance, playing stronger and more alert on the defensive end is a must for them as the tournament progresses.
The champions of Euro 2004 have fared a bit worse in their current campaign to regain the glory of winning it all in this year's tournament.
The squad has had to endure the blow suffered when they lost the heart of their defense, playing without two of their first choice centre halves in Syriakos Papasthopoulos (suspension) and Avraam Papadopoulos (injury).
What is most ironic about featuring Greece on this list is that the focus on defense has been of primary importance for Greece during their qualifying matches, as they conceded just five goals in 10 games.
Injuries have played a significant factor, but this is a national team we are talking about here—with the best of the best representing the Greek flag.
Despite having their first-rate lineup out there on defense, the team will need to step up against the Russians if they want to have another shot at making it through to the next round of competition.
Featuring a very similar lineup to the squad that took the Netherlands all the way to the final match of the 2010 World Cup, this is probably the most stunning pick on this list.
The Dutch were supposed to be a powerhouse squad—comparable to that of the Germans and the Spanish—coming into this competition, yet they haven't shown up to play in the first two matches whatsoever.
This is quite surprising, considering it was just two years previously that the Dutch were the talk of the town as they steamrolled the competition on their way to the finals of the 2010 World Cup.
In order for them to stay in contention this time around, they will need to accomplish a nearly impossible feat, with the odds stacked heavily against them.
While the Dutch certainly have the talent to overcome deficits, this time around they will be taking on a very well-balanced squad in Portugal, who will look to put the Dutch away for good this time.
Needing at minimum a two goal victory over the tough Portuguese squad, in addition to a Denmark victory over powerhouse Germany, I believe it's safe to say that the Dutch defense will need to be all over the field to stop the Portuguese attack.
Not only will they have to play hard enough to contest Portugal at every direction, but they will also have to do that without slipping up and having defensive lapses.
It only takes one well-played ball and Portugal could be off to the races on the Dutch side of the field. And with the orange and white needing at least a two goal victory, I think it's safe to say this cannot—and will not—happen.