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Euro 2012: Greece over Russia and 9 Biggest Euro Shocks Thus Far

Matt MadsenCorrespondent IIOctober 29, 2016

Euro 2012: Greece over Russia and 9 Biggest Euro Shocks Thus Far

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    Did you have Greece going through the group stage in your Euro 2012 bracket?

    Doubtful.

    However, they joined the Czech Republic in sending Poland and Russia home before the quarterfinals.

    The Greeks are hardly the first surprise of the Euros so far. From individual surprises to team shockers, the Euros have had a bit of everything.

    Here are nine of the biggest shocks so far at Euro 2012.

Greece Sends Russia Packing

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    Before the Euros began, Russia was certainly the favorite to rule an extremely underwhelming Group A.

    After Russia blew the Czech Republic away 4-1 on day one, any detractors of Russia would've been effectively silenced.

    Now that Russia has been eliminated for the tournament, there's only one thing to say.

    Didn't see that coming.

    They demolished the Czechs. They certainly played well enough to beat Poland, though they failed to do so. Even a draw with Greece would've seen them into the quarterfinals.

    But an afternoon of poor decisions and worse finishing saw the Russians end up head in hands and walking off the field.

    Despite the only positive goal differential in the group, we won't be seeing Russia again at Euro 2012.

Fernando Torres Scores Twice for Spain

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    The (extremely) casual soccer fan might not think it's surprising at all to see the lone striker on the defending Euro and World Cup champions score a pair of goals.

    But we know better.

    Fernando Torres hadn't scored a competitive goal for Spain since September 2010 against Liechtenstein.

    He was left out of the team twice this spring, even wondering if he was going to be in the team that traveled to Poland and Ukraine.

    To see Torres score two goals was a sight in itself. To see the way that he scored the first one in particular was simply beautiful. The man who has been so maligned by injury and inconsistency for the past couple years seemed to find himself at long last with a brilliant and clinical finish.

    Is he back? Probably still too soon to say.

    But we can hope.

The Group of Death Turns out to Be the Group of Life

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    Despite winning their first two games, Germany hasn't locked up the No. 1 spot in Group B, the Group of Death, just yet.

    On the flip side, the Netherlands has lost their first two games, but remains viable to move on to the quarterfinals.

    Talk about wide open.

    After Denmark managed to down the heavily-favored Dutchmen on the second day of competition, we knew it would be grim going forward for the Oranje. After losing to Germany, too, surely the majority of onlookers counted them completely out.

    Not so.

    With a win over Portugal and a Germany result against Denmark, with a few goals tucked in, the Netherlands will be moving right along.

Spain Isn't Through Yet

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    With their 4-0 execution of Ireland's tournament life, Spain grabbed themselves a valuable three points.

    But they aren't through, yet.

    They sit tied with Croatia, who they meet on Monday in Gdansk to decide the Group C champion.

    Should either team win the game and Italy beat Ireland, Italy will be the second team through. The loser of Spain v. Croatia will be headed home.

England Hasn't Missed Wayne Rooney

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    Without their world-class striker up front, England has looked surprisingly alright.

    Wayne Rooney's presence at the top has been replaced by a bit of good luck and variety of contributions from the English role players.

    Theo Walcott's play after replacing an uninspired James Milner against Sweden was game-changing.

    Joleon Lescott's play in place of the injured Gary Cahill has been (mostly) class, and his goal against France was essential.

    Not to mention a couple of goals between stopgap solutions Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck.

    England hasn't been amazing in Rooney's absence, but they've done more than enough to stay afloat. With the Manchester United talisman rejoining the side against the Ukraine, England could be poised to make a deep run in the Euros.

Mario Balotelli Hasn't Done Anything of Note

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    Mario Balotelli is a man known for many things.

    Namely making headlines for things unrelated to soccer.

    The mercurial Manchester City and Italy front man has really yet to make any impact on this tournament, whatsoever.

    He hasn't scored. He hasn't been suspended. He hasn't made any headlines for off-field issues with media or teammates. The only thing we've really heard from the Balotelli camp is that he tweaked his knee in practice.

    We're waiting for a show, Mario.

Cristiano Ronaldo Is Invisible

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    Cristiano Ronaldo has proven he can do just about anything on the soccer pitch.

    As long as he's wearing a Real Madrid shirt.

    During Euro 2012, he's proven almost exactly the opposite whilst wearing his Portugal shirt.

    With two matches in the books, Ronaldo has had a total of 76 touches. That, in itself, is mind-blowing.

    It gets worse, though.

    Despite his lowly touch count, he's had his chances. Twice he was in on goal against Denmark, and twice he seemed to lose all confidence right before taking the shot.

    On the first instance, it appeared he could've easily taken another dribble toward goal before unleashing a classic Ronaldo strike on goal. Instead, he pulled up short and the keeper stopped him cold.

    The second chance was even more egregious, as there were no defenders in the frame. Alone with the keeper, Ronaldo opted to swing wildly at the ball, pushing it well wide of goal. One has to think that if it was a La Liga game, CR7 would've simply rounded the man in goal and passed the ball into the net.

    Not for Portugal, though.

There Has Been a Ton of Racism

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    There were concerns coming into the Euros that there would be instances of racism. But I don't think most people expected it to be a topic requiring our constant attention.

    From bananas being thrown onto the field to simple monkey chants, is there no end to the prejudice?

    Living in the United States, it is difficult to grasp such blatant and public racism. While certainly it exists here, it's just not accepted on the very public and national level that it seems to be in Poland and Ukraine. At what point do people learn to accept others?

    Welcome to 2012, where racism is alive and, unfortunately, quite well.

The Netherlands Refuses to Start Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

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    I suspect this changes when the Netherlands play Portugal, but it's a bit late now.

    Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored 47 goals in 53 total matches this season. That scoring rate is ridiculous, in itself.

    Add that to the fact that Huntelaar scored 12 goals in Euro qualifiers with Holland to Robin van Persie's six and there's something there.

    It's pretty obvious.

    Not only does Huntelaar provide a more natural striker fit for the Netherlands than RvP, but he also performs better with his national team than the Arsenal forward does.

    Instead of sliding van Persie to the left side of attack and starting Huntelaar up front, the Dutch have to this point opted for Ibrahim Afellay out wide.

    The same Ibrahim Afellay who played about five games for his club this season, compared to Huntelaar's 47 games with Schalke 04.

    As I said, I don't think the Oranje leave Huntelaar out in their confrontation with Portugal, but their backs are already against the wall.

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