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Euro 2012: Breaking Down the Biggest Storylines

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 21:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores the opening goal with a header past Petr Cech of Czech Republic during the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter final match between Czech Republic and Portugal at The National Stadium on June 21, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images
Scott CournoyerContributor IIIJune 22, 2012

What a week it’s been for the world of soccer!

Cristiano Ronaldo pushed Portugal to new heights. Headers continued to be an exciting factor and the Germany/Spain rivalry may see another chapter unfold before everything’s said and done.

These are just three of the many intriguing storylines remaining as Euro 2012 marches on, so let’s take a look.

 

Ronaldo continues to shine

A week can do wonders for a player’s reputation.

For Cristiano Ronaldo, this week couldn’t come at a better time.

Ronaldo lifted Portugal passed the Czech Republic Thursday in a compelling 1-0 win, sealing a trip to the semifinals in the process. Ronaldo missed two opportunities to strike earlier in the contest when he was denied by the post, but he made the third time count when he pushed up his marker, took control of the ball and scored a header for the game’s only goal in the 79th minute.

Ronaldo now has three goals in his last two matches. He netted a pair against Holland the contest before and is starting to find his groove on the pitch.

Ronaldo isn’t just the most expensive player in the world, but one of the fastest and talented game-changers soccer has ever seen. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep up his offensive pace as the competition gets tougher.

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 21: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal controls the ball during the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter final match between Czech Republic and Portugal at The National Stadium on June 21, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Ronaldo and crew will either face Spain or France in the semifinals next Wednesday, creating a compelling showcase for one of the world’s best players as he continues his hot hand.

 

Headers are in abundance

The streak of headed goals has slowed down a bit recently, but there were more in the first week of Euro 2012 than any other major tournament, ever.

Eight of the first 20 goals came off headers (40 percent), and in total, 17 out of 60 goals have come by way of a header.

The numbers help put what’s happening into context, but if you look at some of the headers that have been scored during the tournament, the angle becomes even more compelling.

Some of the best goals of Euro 2012 have been provided off headers, such as Robert Lewandowski against Greece, Antonio Cassano against Ireland, and Ronaldo against the Czech Republic. Nicklas Bendtner, Mario Mandzukic and Andrei Shevchenko all scored two headers in a single game.

Headers have clearly evolved into a trend throughout these games, but it’ll be even more intriguing to watch if they continue to occur as the matches become more important.

 

DONETSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 19: John Terry of England wins the header  during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between England and Ukraine at Donbass Arena on June 19, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

The Germany/Spain rivalry could see another chapter

Of the seven teams remaining in Euro 2012, the case could be made that five of them are just happy to have come this far.

Portugal has done a superb job up to this point, but it's still a question if they can go farther than the next round. No one expected Greece to advance this far, considering the lack of weapons on the roster. Italy and France are still both licking their wounds after what happened during the 2010 World Cup. England arrived with lower expectation after replacing its coach three months before heading into Euro 2012 and losing its best player to suspension.

There is a clear gap between the two favorites, Germany and Spain, and the rest of the remaining field.

According to FIFA's rankings, both Germany and Spain are in the top three (Uruguay is ranked No. 2).

It would be a fitting end to see both of them duke it out in the finals. Both have the talent, experience and leadership to make it there. We’ll just have to see how everything plays out. 

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