Euro 2012: The 10 Best Goals of the Group Stage
Now that the Group Stage has ended at Euro 2012, it's time to take a look back at some of the highlights of the group stage. For most people, that means goals.
Lots of them.
With 60 goals to choose from, fans certainly weren't lacking in entertainment. No 0-0 draws also helped matters.
This meant that, by the final group game, only three of the 16 nations didn't have a chance to advance to the quarterfinals.
From the fancy to the forceful, there is certainly a goal for everyone to enjoy from this list.
Most of the following goals can be found on ESPNSoccernet.
Goals That Didn't Make the Cut
Martin Rose/Getty Images
Robert Lewandowski (1-0 v Greece, 17')
The opening goal of any tournament is special, especially if the hosts are the beneficiary.
Robert Lewandowski's header sent the National Stadium in Warsaw into raptures, and with good cause. The Polish squad had threatened Greece for several minutes before their frontman delivered on a cross from Jakub Blaszczykowski.
Andriy Shevchenko (2-1 v Sweden, 62')
It wasn't yet bad enough for Sweden when they had to concede to Andriy Shevchenko just minutes after they had taken the lead.
Sweden decided to give co-hosts Ukraine the benefit of the doubt by letting Shevchenko peel away a second time, heading a near-post cross in-between Andreas Granqvist and the post—a window of maybe two feet.
Not that the pro-Ukraine crowd at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev cared one iota.
Jakub Blaszczykowski (1-1 v Russia, 57')
The man they call "Kuba" was at it for the Poles in their second Group A match against Russia.
Down 1-0 at halftime, Blaszczykowski was the man to finish a Polish breakaway, cutting in onto his left foot and hitting a scorching drive past Russian goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev.
Nicklas Bendtner (2-1 v Portugal, 41')
Trailing 2-0 to Portugal in the second match of Group B, Denmark was desperate to find a way to cut the deficit before going into halftime.
Jacob Poulsen put a cross towards the back post that Michael Krohn-Dehli, instead of trying to squeeze his own header between Rui Patricio and the post, popped it over the top of the goalkeeper to Nicklas Bendtner.
Bendtner then buried it home from close range.
Cesc Fabregas (4-0 v Ireland, 83')
Cesc Fabregas, benched after starting the opener, reminded Vicente Del Bosque why he picked him as a starter with a cheeky little corner routine.
It resulted in Fabregas blasting the ball on a tight angle past Shay Given.
Andrea Pirlo (1-0 v Croatia, 39')
Surprisingly, Italy's Andrea Pirlo is the only man to score from a free kick so far in the tournament.
With the scores at 0-0, Mario Balotelli was clattered over by Ivan Ratikic just outside the Croatia penalty box.
Pirlo sent his free kick just barely between the leaping heads of the Croatian wall and left Stipe Pletikosa with no chance to keep it out.
Danny Welbeck (3-2 v Sweeden, 78')
Theo Walcott was running riot amongst the Swedish defense and, in the buildup for England's winner, split two defenders to race towards the end line.
His cross was behind a charging Danny Welbeck, who needed to do something special to turn it on goal.
As you might have guessed, he did.
Rafael Van Der Vaart (1-0 v Portugal, 11')
It may have come in a losing effort, but Rafael Van der Vaart's 11th minute strike against Portugal might have been the most sweetly-struck ball in the group stages.
After Arjen Robben dragged three defenders out of place and laid off to the midfielder, Van der Vaart unleashed a curling effort from 25 yards.
Rui Patricio could get nowhere near it.
Mario Balotelli (2-0 v Ireland, 90'+)
Sometimes, it's not about anyone else but Mario Balotelli.
As Italy was scrambling to secure a victory over Ireland in the final match of Group C, substitute Balotelli rattled off a couple of snap shots before hitting this over-the-shoulder shot as Richard Dunne was trying to pull him back.
Why always him, indeed.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (1-0 v France, 54')
Sweden may have already been heading out of the competition, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic made certain they would leave a lasting impression.
Scoreless after halftime, it would take just 10 minutes before Ibrahimovic decided to put France to the sword with a blistering sideways volley.