— UEFA EURO (@UEFAEURO) June 22, 2016
Match day 12 consisted of 4 games, featuring teams from both Group C and Group D.
The first of the two Group C games was played between Germany and Northern Ireland, which the Germans won 1-0, thanks to a Mario Gomez goal in the 29th minute.
Bastian Schweinsteiger broke a record by making his 15th appearance for Germany at the European Championships – more than any other German player.
However, it was Northern Ireland goal keeper Michael McGovern who was named the man of the match for making 8 saves and conceding just one goal from the 28 shots fired on his goal by the German players.
He had the following to say in his post-match interview: “I was busy but it was mentally very hard – I’m immensely proud. We knew every goal was crucial so wanted to keep keep it at one and maybe nick a goal of our own. Germany had a slow start but they were excellent today, we could not get out. I’ve never had such a busy night and I’ve never played against such quality opposition.”
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill also expressed his pride by stating: “Nobody sets up their team to just defend but you look at the Germany team and you see Bayern, Real Madrid and so on… it’s not in my nature to set the team up to lose 7-0. But we earned the right to be here. I’m immensely proud that we are even playing here against the world champions in Paris.”
Thanks to their win, Germany have finished the Group C as toppers due to their superior goal difference, and will next face either Albania, Slovakia, or the third-place team from Group F.
And despite losing on the night, Northern Ireland have progressed through to the round of 16, as they are one of the four best teams to have secured a third-place finish. They will now face either Wales, or France, in the knockout stages.
The other Group C encounter was between Poland and Ukraine, and it also finished 1-0, in favour of the Polish.
Jakub Blaszczykowski became the first Polish player to score in two European finals after scoring the only goal of the game – a wonderful curler using his left foot – in the 54th minute.
Poland center back Kamil Glik was named the man of the match, as he performed impressively in the heart of Polish defence, making more clearances than any other player of the pitch (10), along with 3 interceptions.
However, Robert Lewandowski remained absent from the score sheet yet again. In fact, the Bayern Munich striker has failed to make even one single shot on target in the three games he has played in the Euro 2016 finals so far.
And yet, Poland coach Adam Nawalka had nothing but positive things to say about his star man in the post-match interview: “That Lewandowski hasn’t scored yet is not a problem whatsoever. He is doing a lot of hard work and has had a big influence on our wins and how we have played. He’s incredibly important for us. He’s a player who can help us. He plays in a supportive way throughout. It’s just a matter of time for him, he’s creating a lot of chances, and I think he’ll score in the next match.”
Ukraine captain Ruslan Rotan also talked to the press following the game: “The result was negative. There are a bunch of reasons for this. We could talk about the atmosphere in the team, but I can only say that it was positive – the players found common ground and had a good time together. The biggest thing, that we need to work on is our psychological level. Maybe we don’t have the right mentality.”
Ukraine have exited the competition, while Poland go through to the knockout stages after finishing 2nd in Group C on goal difference. They will next face Switzerland on Saturday.
The first of the two matches featuring Group D teams was played between Czech Republic and Turkey, which the latter team won 2-0.
Burak Yilmaz scored the first goal of the game, and also Turkey’s first goal of the Euro 2016 finals, in the 10th minute with a clean finish. Midfielder Ozan Tufan doubled the lead in the 65th minute with a powerful hit from just 10 yards out.
Mehmet Topal provided the assist for the second goal, and also performed well defensively by making 15 clearances, and was therefore named the man of the match.
Burak Yilmaz, scorer of Turkey’s first goal, had his say in the post-match interview: “Many things were written and said about us. We’re the players, but we are not asked about our thoughts and feelings. People comment on us without knowing what’s going on in the squad. But our thoughts and feelings went into the game today.”
Turkey boss Fatih Terim stated: “If we advance, we can do what we did in Euro 2008, because our confidence is growing now. We still have some problems but now it’s easier to find some solutions. We have a good side and now we have our team spirit back. Everybody was involved. If we advance, I think we will have a long way to go.”
Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba rued on the chances missed by his team: “We didn’t use the ball very well. We couldn’t break up play in midfield, then the opposition counter-attacked and scored. We had chances in the first half, but we couldn’t take them.”
Czech Republic have been knocked out of the competition after finishing at the bottom of Group D. Turkey, who finished third, will have to wait until Wednesday to find out if they have progressed through to the knockout stages.
Croatia and Spain contested in the final game of match day 12, which the Spaniards lost 1-2.
Spain took the lead early in the game when Alvaro Morata tapped in a Cesc Fabregas pass into goal in the 7th minute, but Nikola Kalinic equalized for Croatia just before half-time. Croatian goal keeper Danijel Subasic became a national hero by saving Sergio Ramos’ penalty in the 71st minute, and Ivan Perisic won it for his country by scoring a late but crucial goal in the 87th minute.
Croatia manager Ante Cacic was delighted with the win, and said: “This team is like our nation. The players have shown how to represent your country and how to behave. I wanted to play the next match with really fresh players. It’s a huge achievement, and now we can be even more self-confident.”
Spain boss Vicente del Bosque, on the other hand, revealed that his team hadn’t quite recovered with the loss: “The players were sat in silence. They don’t enjoy losing.”
He further added: “We had the game under control, I’m not going to defend our performance excessively but I think we played quite well. We didn’t hold on to the ball as well as we should have [before the winning goal] and weren’t ready for the counter attack. But we’re still in the competition, we are not on the path we wanted to be but we have to rise to the situation.”
Thanks to man of the match Ivan Perisic’s late goal, Croatia have finished the group stage as winners of Group D with 7 points, and the reigning European champions lie second with 6 points.
Croatia’s upcoming game will be played in Lens on Saturday, against the third-place team of Group B, E or F. But the mouth watering clash in the round of 16 will be a replay of the Euro 2012 final, as Spain will lock horns with Italy in Paris on Monday.