With the group stages done and dusted, the wheat has well and truly been sorted from the chaff, however as with any major sporting event there is always some collateral damage in the shakedown. The big surprise is the loss of Holland, beaten finalists at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Following a shock defeat at the hands of Denmark in the opening round, Holland always had their backs to the wall and with Germany and Portugal playing well in their group, the writing was, quite honestly on the wall long before the final whistle of their pointless trip to Poland
So where do we stand? Group A saw surprise package Greece and Czech Republic progress with Russia the unlikely fall guys to the shock of many. Group B gave safe passage for Germany and Portugal with the Germans facing Greece in the quarter finals which could pose a bridge too far for the Greeks. I very much doubt that the German football team will be as generous to the Greeks as the German economy has been over recent months. That leaves Portugal taking on the Czech republic. My prediction is for a Germany and Portugal to take the first 2 semi final spots on offer.
Group C was less troublesome for pre-tournament favourites Spain with a group winning performance, albeit far from their best. Italy grabbed the second qualifying spot leaving Croatia crushed and the Republic of Ireland humbled, but what a learning experience for the tournament outsiders, 3 defeats from 3 and some heavy score lines to boot, but that didn't deter the Irish supporters from having a great time and the tournament has been made all the richer for their participation!
The final group, D, saw a nervy second half for England, who, despite being on the fortunate end of a poor goal line decision for once (perhaps justice has been done for the error against Germany in South Africa 2010), they progressed as group winners and sent the co-hosts Ukraine packing. Sweden chalked up an unexpected win to spare their blushes and condemn the French to a second place finish, but still enough to progress. Quite how far they progress however is another matter as finishing second see's them take on Spain on the quarter finals, whilst England face Italy. My prediction is for Spain and England to fill the last 2 semi final places.
The other major talk of the tournament is frankly a load of pants. Nicholas Bendtner was slapped with a 100,000 Euro fine for showing his pants whilst lesser fines have been dished out for reports of racist incidents from the German and Croatia supporters. Of course there is a little more to the pants issue with unofficial advertising concerns from UEFA, however it does throw doubt on how seriously they take racism in football as the fines for both events seem rather misaligned given the seriousness of the incidents.