Posted: Wednesday June 13, 2012 6:51PM ; Updated: Wednesday June 13, 2012 8:11PM
Georgina Turner
Georgina Turner>INSIDE SOCCER

Group B puts on compelling Day 6 show, adds to expansion argument

Story Highlights

Mario Gomez had two first-half goals, and Germany held off the Netherlands 2-1

Portugal beat Denmark 3-2 on Silvestre Varela's first competitive goal for country

Italy gets group leader Croatia on Thursday, and Spain plays overmatched Ireland

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Mario Gomez
Once stuck behind Miroslav Klose, Mario Gomez solidified his role as Germany's top striker against the Netherlands.
Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images
Germany
Germany2
Netherlands
Netherlands1
Final :: Kharkiv, Ukraine
Gomez 24'
Gomez 38'
Van Persie 73'
Denmark
Denmark2
Portugal
Portugal3
Final :: Lviv, Ukraine
Bendtner 41'
Bendtner 80'
Pepe 24'
Postiga 36'
Varela 87'

Of the 12 matches played so far, only two have been won by more than one goal: Croatia's 3-1 win over Ireland, and Russia's 4-1 thumping of the Czech Republic -- and that managed to stay interesting, if not exactly poised, well beyond halftime. Sometimes a goal for one side has stirred the other (think Ukraine versus Sweden on Day 4), others it has come entirely against the run of play (Denmark versus Netherlands on Day 2). Greece had looked hopeless and dejected after conceding two early goals to the Czech Republic, but found enough confidence to push for an equalizer even despite the fortuitous circumstances that brought about Theofanis Gekas' goal.

With these games the tournament is really spoiling us, and Wednesday was no exception. Portugal showed up, carving through Denmark's defense -- Nani, in particular, toying cruelly with Simon Poulsen's sense of direction. Set-piece delivery has been noticeably inconsistent, if not downright dodgy, in a number of matches so far, but midway through the first half Joao Moutinho dispatched a corner that Pepe leapt to turn in with his head at the near post. Helder Postiga scored with an exquisite touch; Paulo Bento's side could, maybe should, have been out of sight by the time Nicklas Bendtner poached a goal just before the half. Certainly by the time he headed his second of the day in with 10 minutes remaining. We were treated to an increasingly urgent finale and Silvestre Varela's first competitive international goal.

HONIGSTEIN: Portugal-Denmark three thoughts

Then came Germany versus Netherlands. Even as Germany demonstrated its superiority, as a team, a unit, over any other outfit here, the game never lost its value as a spectacle. Manuel Neuer had saves to make. One he didn't, and once Robin van Persie's strike reduced the deficit to one with 20 minutes remaining, it seemed possible that this game too could see late goals; it came from an individual moment of perseverance and skill, after all. Arjen Robben's substitution provided a less welcome dramatic element, but still. This is compelling stuff. It is routinely the case that several teams have qualified or been knocked out by this stage of the World Cup. If there is chance for UEFA to think again about the expansion to 24 teams in 2016, days such as Wednesday are the argument.

WILSON: Germany-Netherlands three thoughts

Goal of the day

Germany's Mario Gomez saved us the agony of choosing between two of Portugal's three goals (Postiga's effort and Varela's late winner, since you ask); his first goal against the Netherlands knocked them both out of contention. Like both of his goals it was astonishingly simple -- Bastian Schweinsteiger's pass gliding through a static Dutch defense to play Gomez into the area, but this had a touch of Zauber. Receiving the ball with his back to goal, Gomez rolled it around as he turned and stroked it into the bottom corner via a nick off Maarten Stekelenburg's feet. He was diving the wrong way.

Player of the day

Having come in to the tournament shrugging off injury concerns, Schweinsteiger might have been replaced today, with Germany manager Joachim Lw reportedly minded to nurse him through as the games come thick and fast. "I'm fine," insisted Schweinsteiger. "I've played better, I know that. I will still get to my top form, I'm sure of that. I don't know when it will happen." Wednesday wasn't a bad guess; for 94 minutes he bossed the center of the pitch, despite the Dutch starting the game with Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong on to stop that happening, setting up both Gomez goals.

Unsung player of the day

Varela's late goal, the never-ending Ronaldo-based chatter; even without the day's second game to worry about there's barely space to say a word about Portugal's Miguel Veloso. He struggled to keep his place in the Genoa side as the season wore on and was making only his third start for Portugal in over a year but turned in another quietly impressive performance. Most notably when swinging wicked deliveries into the box but also buzzing around the middle turning possession over.

Stat of the day

$149,000 -- the fine dished out to the Russian FA after repeated crowd trouble. UEFA also set a suspended six-point deduction; if there are further incidents, Russia will begin it's Euro 2016 qualifying campaign on -6 points.

Injury news

Dennis Rommedahl hobbled out of Denmark's defeat to Portugal clutching the back of his thigh, suggesting a hamstring injury threatens the rest of his tournament.

Looking ahead to Day 7

It's Group C again, with Italy (one point) facing top-of-the-group Croatia (three points). Croatian coach Slaven Bilic watched his side have an easy time of it against Ireland at the weekend but feels this match will spin on which of Luka Modric and Andrea Pirlo grabs the game by the scruff of the neck -- and of course, he thinks Modric, who barely misplaced a pass against Ireland, is the better player. Italy only had 34 percent of possession against Spain on the same day, mind you, and Pirlo still managed to pick out the pass that set up Antonio di Natale's goal. Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has called for caution ahead of his team's match with Ireland, but it is a firm favorite to win and thus send the Irish home.

 
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