Up until now I have not been able to get too excited by Euro 2012. Only three teams have been convincing for me: the Germans, the Portuguese and the Croatians. Croatia have unfortunately been eliminated and I will be extremely surprised if Portugal and Germany do not reach the semifinals.
Everyone was thrilled by Russia's 4-1 win over the Czech Republic in their opening group A game, and yet the Czechs ended up winning the group while Russia went out. Even as a player I experienced the Russians beginning at high speed and tailing off. But their 1-0 defeat to the outsiders Greece is nevertheless hard to believe.
Many people believe it to be absurd that Russia have gone out with a goal difference of 5-3 but that Greece, with the equal number of points, advance with a 3-3 goal difference. But unlike a World Cup it is the head-to-head that counts - and Russia lost to Greece. I prefer the head-to-head system. It was introduced because teams that knew they could not progress did not put any more effort in, which led to an unfair advantage for their opponents.The failure of co-hosts Poland to advance was a pity, When you have European Championship at home with the crowd behind you, you really try to pull out all the stops.
From a German point of view I am pleased that we can't now meet Spain before the final, that being, of course, if both teams get that far.
Germany now meets Greece and I am sure it will be just as difficult in this game as it was in the 2-1 defeat of Denmark. The Greeks will be going all out to cause a sensation, similar to Euro 2004 when they won.
German coach Joachim Loew has always had a good feel of when he can play a young player. Because right-back Jerome Boateng was suspended he selected Leverkusen's Lars Bender in the game against Denmark. The 23-year-old shrugged off his early reticence and at the end he made an 80-metre sprint to score the winning goal.
For the Netherlands to go home without a point is a fiasco for them and so Portugal profited with Cristiano Ronaldo proving his critics wrong. They are now for me a sort of dark horse, at least a candidate to reach the final.
Spain not the same
In group C, the thing I most noticed was the celebrations and songs of the Irish fans. I would have welcomed a couple of wins out for this sympathetic team under veteran Giovanne Trapattoni.
In the last few years Spain have deservedly won their matches, but this time against Croatia it was undeserved. It could easily have gone the other way. If Ivan Rakitic, a skilful player on the ball, had not headed the ball straight at keeper Iker Casillas, Spain would have been going home.
The surprise in group C was second place for Italy after all the trouble back home.
Group D was a sad one for football, with England and France progressing, the teams who played the poorest game of the tournament in their 1-1 draw.
England's 1-0 win over Ukraine with a goal from Wayne Rooney was sour. Ukraine will leave feeling cheated after Marko Devic's goal was not given although the ball crossed the line. The refereeing official on the goalline had a good view of it, but did not see that the ball had crossed the line. That's a blow for our endeavours for more fairness and justice in football. The official behind the goal seemed to be a good solution, but perhaps it's not after all.
The writer was Germany’s world cup winning captain & coach