Great games and super goals ... but Euro 2012 has had its share of controversies too
Published 02/07/2012 | 15:22
EURO 2012 has largely succeeded in allaying fears about the fitness of Poland and Ukraine to co-host the tournament, but it has not been without its controversies. Ben Rumsby looks at five of them.
There was nowhere near the amount of problems many feared following Panorama's 'Stadiums of Hate' programme, but Euro 2012 was still marred by several episodes of racism. It began with the abuse of Holland's black players during a training session and continued with monkey chants at Mario Balotelli and Theodore Gebre Selassie, as well as the display of extremist banners during some matches. UEFA ultimately took strong action, although they would have been powerless to punish the tasteless King Kong cartoon depiction of Balotelli in one Italian newspaper or the racist tweets directed at Ashley Young and Ashley Cole following England's penalty shootout exit.
If UEFA came down as hard on racism as they did on Nicklas Bendtner for exposing a branded pair of underwear, they would probably eradicate it overnight. The £80,000 fine and one-match ban Bendtner received for lowering his shorts to reveal his 'Paddy Power' boxer shorts appeared draconian when it was first levied after Denmark's defeat to Portugal. But when the Croatian Football Federation were docked £15,000 less for the behaviour of their fans, which included racism offences, the backlash against 'Pantsgate' grew, with Rio Ferdinand and Vincent Kompany both highly critical on Twitter.
The scheduling of Russia's Group A match against Poland on 'Russia Day' was probably not a very good idea. Russia fans who marched through Warsaw to celebrate their country's national holiday were confronted by Polish hooligans, leading to hundreds of arrests and several injuries, including two police officers. Russia fans did not help themselves when they unfurled a giant 'This is Russia' flag in the stands of the stadium. The Russian Football Union were left counting the cost of their supporters' violent, unsafe and extremist behaviour throughout Euro 2012, which earned them numerous fines and a suspended six-point deduction for their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
THE GOAL THAT NEVER WAS
The incident that really should end any debate about the need for goal-line technology. England were winning their final Group D game against Ukraine 1-0 when John Terry acrobatically prevented Marko Devic's shot hitting the back of the net. Unfortunately, television replays showed the ball had clearly crossed the line, something the referee, his assistants and UEFA president Michel Platini's goal-line official all failed to spot. Ukraine boss Oleg Blokhin was so enraged, he almost got into a fight with a journalist after the game.
Greece managed to reach the quarter-finals despite a series of controversial refereeing decisions in their Group A matches. Having seen Sokratis Papastathopoulos sent off in their opening game against Poland for two soft yellow cards, they then saw a perfectly good Giorgos Fotakis goal chalked off for offside against Czech Republic. But that was nothing compared to the injustice that befell captain Giorgos Karagounis during their final group match against Russia. Having already scored what proved the winner, the midfielder was clearly tripped in the box but found himself booked for diving and suspended for the quarter-finals.