Portugal, Germany advance with wins

WARSAW, Poland — Portugal and Germany advanced to the European Championship quarterfinals Sunday, with the tournament’s star attraction finally coming alive.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo prepares to score during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group B match between Portugal and the Netherlands in Kharkiv

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo prepares to score during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group B match between Portugal and the Netherlands in Kharkiv

WARSAW, Poland — Portugal and Germany advanced to the European Championship quarterfinals Sunday, with the tournament’s star attraction finally coming alive.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice, and saw two shots strike the post, in an outstanding display as Portugal came from behind to win 2-1 against the Netherlands. The 2010 World Cup finalist exited Euro 2012 after three straight losses.

Germany also progressed as Group B winner, beating Denmark 2-1 to complete a perfect three-win record.

Portugal will play the Czech Republic in the first quarterfinal in Warsaw on Thursday.

“Now, everything is possible,” Ronaldo said.

Germany faces Greece in Gdansk on Friday for a match with political overtones as Euro 2012 plays out amid a financial crisis in the eurozone.

Ronaldo arrived at Euro 2012 amid doubts over his record at major tournaments, and despite a prolific scoring season with Spanish champion Real Madrid.

The Portugal captain disappointed in his first two matches in Ukraine — and gave an emphatic response Sunday.

“Ronaldo got so much criticism in the last game and he is back now,” Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said.

“That is how fast things can change.”

The Dutch took an 11th-minute lead, chasing the two-goal victory they needed to have any chance of advancing. Captain Rafael van der Vaart scored with a curling left-foot shot.

When Ronaldo’s shot five minutes later brushed the outside of a post, his rueful expression suggested he still lacked confidence.

His defiant swagger returned after scoring in the 28th, timing his run perfectly before slotting the ball past Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

Portugal then dominated against a lineup set up to attack and struggling to defend.

Ronaldo scored the winner in the 74th, calmly finishing off a rapid counterattack. He was denied a hat-trick when a 25-yard (meter) shot rebounded back off a post.

Germany was always favoured to progress from the toughest Euro 2012 group, yet endured a nervous spell in the second half before securing its place in the last eight.

Lukas Podolski, playing his 100th international for Germany, scored in the 19th minute in Lviv, finishing a chance created by Thomas Mueller and Mario Gomez.

Denmark equalized within five minutes, as Michael Krohn-Dehli rose in a crowded goalmouth to nod in Nicklas Bendtner’s headed pass.

The Danes almost took a shock lead when a shot by Jakob Poulsen clipped the outside of German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s right post.

When Portugal led 2-1 in Kharkiv, a second Danish goal would have been enough to knock out heavily fancied Germany.

“We could have been eliminated,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said, “and that was on our minds. We had a lot of possession and I was sure that we would score and advance.”

The second-ranked Germans restored order in the 80th minute when stand-in defender Lars Bender scored from a pass by Mesut Oezil into the heart of the Danish penalty area.

Also Sunday, UEFA fined the Russian football association C30,000 ($37,800) for “improper conduct” by its fans who displayed nationalist flags and threw fireworks on the pitch against Poland last Tuesday.

One man also ran across the pitch carrying a Russian flag after the final whistle.

The punishment adds to Russia’s C120,000 ($150,000) fine imposed after fans attacked stadium staff in Wroclaw at its match against the Czech Republic.

The new sanction did not activate a 6-point penalty UEFA threatened Russia with for a repeat of crowd violence before Euro 2016 qualifying ends.

UEFA has also been investigating claims that Russian fans racially abused Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie, who is black.

With Croatia facing a charge over its fans’ racist abuse, coach Slaven Bilic on Sunday urged UEFA to be tough.

“We are not a racist country and that’s why we are so angry with these couple of crazy supporters,” Bilic said

Anti-discrimination monitors told UEFA that around 300 Croatia fans directed monkey chants at Italy forward Mario Balotelli during the teams’ 1-1 draw in Poznan last Thursday.

On Monday, Croatia plays against Group C leader Spain in Gdansk, and Italy faces Ireland in Poznan at the same time.

Italy must win to have any hope of advancing to the quarterfinals, but will be eliminated if Spain and Croatia draw 2-2.

“We are sportsmen and the Croats and us will both go out to win,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. “There is no question about such a result. Nothing has been calculated.”

Del Bosque revealed he signed a two-year contract extension through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil to lead the champion in its title defence.

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