Goals galore, 60 of them, in group phase

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DONETSK, Ukraine: Spectators at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine have been spoilt during the tournament’s group phase, which boasted several memorable matches and not a single goalless draw.

With 60 goals scored in 24 matches at an average rate of 2.5 per game, Euro 2012 has witnessed more goals per game than both Euro 2004 and Euro 2008 (2.48) and is in line to be the most prolific tournament since Euro 2000 (2.74).

The 2000 tournament in Belgium and the Netherlands was widely seen as a high watermark in the recent history of European football, and the current competition could be set to follow suit.

For the most part, teams have sought to play on the front foot, which has produced games such as Portugal’s last-gasp 3-2 defeat of Denmark and England’s stirring 3-2 success over Sweden.

Uefa president Michel Platini sought to claim responsibility for the trend by asserting that the introduction of extra match officials behind each goal-line has helped to eliminate foul play in the penalty area.

“Why are they scoring more goals in this tournament,” he asked.

“I think you know the answer: five-man refereeing teams make things easier.”

The additional assistant referees enjoyed two notable successes, with goals by Portugal’s Pepe (against Germany) and Italy’s Antonio Cassano (against Ireland) correctly awarded despite only narrowly crossing the line.

However, critics of the system were given fresh fuel for their arguments when Marko Devic had a goal ruled out in Ukraine’s final group against England despite the ball appearing to cross the line on television replays.

“There are five referees on the pitch and the ball is 50 centimetres behind the goal-line. Why do we need five officials?” complained Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin.

Rule-makers the International FA Board (IFAB) are due to make a decision on the introduction of goal-line technology after the tournament.

Spain, the holders and reigning world champions, have yet to hit top gear at the Euro, but they boasted the most prolific attack and the meanest defence in the group phase, with six goals scored and only one conceded.

Group B winners Germany were the only team to progress with a perfect record, after wins over Portugal, Holland and Denmark, while Ireland limped out of Group C with a record that read: played three, lost three, scored one, conceded nine.

A notable peculiarity of the first round was that four of the teams who won their opening matches – Russia, Denmark, Croatia and Ukraine – were all eliminated.

Hopes are now high that the competition will continue in a similar goalscoring vein, but the 2006 World Cup provides a cautionary tale.

A relatively high-scoring group phase at the tournament in Germany yielded 117 goals at a rate of 2.44 per game, only for the teams to clam up in the knockout rounds, when the average goals-per-game ratio fell to 1.88. – Sapa-AFP


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