Good afternoon everybody. If only there was some over-used, catchy but not entirely accurate phrase to describe the one group in a major football tournament in which four apparently strong teams with no obvious whipping boys were drawn together, then it could almost certainly be applied to Group B in Euro 2012.
After the first round of games in The Group Of Four Apparently Strong Teams With No Obvious Whipping Boys, Germany and Denmark are c**k-a-hoop with one win each, while Portugal and Holland have been forced to lick their wounds, regroup and set about playing catch-up.
Despite Denamrk being ranked ninth in the world, few gave them a hope of advancing to the quarter-finals or beating the Dutch ... apart from one particularly shrewd and knowledgable football sage who courageously tipped them to do so on both Twitter and the Guardian Euro 2012 Football Daily podcast, prompting much public ridicule in the process.
But beat the Dutch is exactly what Denmark did in Kharkiv, albeit after riding their luck throughout 90 minutes of largely rearguard action in which their opponents demonstrated an breath-taking profligacy in front of goal that cost them dearly.
Later that evening in Lviv, Portugal could consider themselves somewhat unfortunate to have lost by an identical score to Germany, but the upshot is that they go into this evening's encounter is that both the Dutch and Portuguese are already fighting for their lives in this tournament and failure to get at least a draw against the Danes this afternoon would end their chances of advancing to the knockout stages.
Despite Portugal's inferior world ranking (10th to Denmark's ninth), toothlessness in front of goal and inability to finish above the Danes in qualifying for this tournament or World Cup 2010, Portugal are the odds-on favourites to win tonight's match. It seems inexplicable, not least when you consider the anonymity of Cristiano Ronaldo in their opening game, their inability to score goals and the pressure they're under to get a result tonight compared to their opponents. That's not to say Denmark will beat them, of course, just that the 7-2 (4-1 on the exchanges) against a Danish win is decidedly mouthwatering.
Team news: Both managers are dealing from full decks this evening, which means Denmark coach Morten Olsen is likely to name the same starting eleven that did so well against Holland in Kharkiv on Saturday, although he may consider drafting in left-sided midfielder Michael Silberbaur, who has previous in the field of keeping Cristiano Ronaldo in his pocket.
Meanwhile for Portugal, striker Hugo Almeida has recovered from a virus and winger Ricardo Quaresma has been passed fit after recovering from a muscle strain, which means manager Paulo Bento has a full squad to choose from. He may well replace Helder Postiga with Quaresma in attack, as the former was decidedly hapless in his country's opener against Germany.
Diva Watch I Despite Cristiano Ronaldo storming off in a huff after Portugal lost against Germany and despite reports that the preening primadonna since thrown his rattle out of the pram and skipped training yesterday, Portugal manager Bento has denied there are any problems with his star player.
"I can assure you that there were 23 players on the training pitch, and in all our time here, Ronaldo has not missed one session," he said. "Not everyone reacts the same way to disappointment and stressful situations. And, from a certain point of view, I can even understand Cristiano's reaction. But if anyone had a right to be dissatisfied on Saturday, it was the Portuguese people. I apologize for that."
Diva Watch II Despite his well-documented irritation at his failure to learn how to play the grand piano last year, Nicklas Bendtner seems to be in fine fettle and there's no reason why he shouldn't be. The Danish centre forward will win his 50th international cap today. Four of his previous 49 were won against Portugal, a side he has never failed to score against.
"We're building a new team at the moment, but we have great players of our own - as we showed against Holland," he declared. "Portugal may have better players, but which is the greater side - we will have to wait and see."
Denmark (4-3-3): Andersen, Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, Simon Poulsen; Kvist, Zimling; Rommedahl, Eriksen, Krohn-Dehli; Bendtner. Subs: Lindegaard, Christian Poulsen, Bjelland, Okore, Schone, Silberbauer, Pedersen, Wass, Jakob Poulsen, Kahlenberg, Mikkelsen, Schmeichel.
Portugal (4-3-3): Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Meireles, Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo.
Subs: Eduardo, Custodio, Almeida, Quaresma, Nelson Oliveira, Ricardo Costa, Rolando, Ruben Micael, Varela, Miguel Lopes, Hugo Viana, Beto.
Denmark tactics: A flexible, attacking 4-3-3 that's more of a 4-2-1-3 with wide wingers, with a bogstandard centre forward and ne'er a False 9 in sight. Not the kind of stuff that's going to excite Michael "Zonal Marking" Cox or Jonathan Wilson, so we'll give them 6/10. That said, they do have a trequarista of sorts in Christian Eriksen, so that gets them an extra two points: 8/10.
Portugal tactics: They play with inverted triangles in attack and defence, apparently. Now, unlike many of the pseuds who comment under Jonathan Wilson articles, I'm not even going to pretend to know what this means, but it sounds like the kind of thing that would get the Pyramid-inverter's spine tingling: 9/10.
"I'm in the Pool of Ignorance with respect to this tactics talk (although I did enjoy Jonathan Wilson's book)," writes Lou Roper. "But surely the presence of Postiga in the Portuguese XI puts an automatic end to any spine-tingling sensations?"
"It's a testing evening for the nerves of the two managers, will the tension fray Bento's?" asks Ben Stokes.
"Without wanting to win the day's pedantry award (but putting myself in a fine position to do so) allow me to point out that you describe the Danish side as 4-3-3 but then use semi-colons appropriate to a 4-2-3-1 formation in the team sheet," writes Shamik Dasgupta.
"I'm still hoping 'Group of Dearth' will catch on as a moniker for Group A. Three Apparently Weak Teams and One Half Decent One isn't quite catchy enough," writes Eamonn Maloney.
This just in from my man in Lviv, Søren Sorgenfri Frederiksen: "Looks like a last minute change in the Danish lineup," he says. "Jacob Poulsen is warming up big time here in Lviv and looks like getting ready to play. He is a central midfielder, so it has to be either William Kvist or Niki Zimling who are unable to play."
Cynicism's Justin Kavanagh is here: "Don't you love Uefa's Respect armbands, at a tournament where we've already had a riot, players criticizing the egos of their countrymen, players hoping there are no gays in their dressing room and plenty of racial hoo-haa from spectators, players, and even politicians, not to mention certain coaches with previous in that regard?" he thunders. "Perhaps they can book Kevin Kilbane to revive the old Aretha number for the closing ceremony."
A question: "Will Helder Postiga's pre-match routine involve watching this?" asks Henry Mance.
Here we go ... The teams march out of the tunnel and line up for the national nathems. Portugal's is up first and glories in the imaginative title A Portuguesa. Next up is Denmark's, which is the pick of the pair, it must be said. You probably know it as Der Er Et Yndigt Land (There Is A Lovely Country).
Not long now: It seems like Søren Sorgenfri Frederiksen might have sold me a pup - no word yet of any last-minute changes in the Denmark line-up.
Kick-off: Portugal's players wear white shorts with green and red crosses on the front, white socks and white shirts. Denmark wear red shirts with white across the shoulders, red shorts and red socks. The Danes kick-off and we're off and running in Lviv.
1 min: Denmark win the first free-kick of the evening, with Michael Krohn-Dehli going down under a challenge from Nani, halfway inside his own half.
2 min: Cristiano Ronaldo has lined up on the left flank, where he'll be marked by Denmark right-back Lars Jacobsen. Pepe tries to ping a cross-field ball Ronaldo's way, but overhits his pass and Gerrards the ball into the stand.
4 min: Corner for Denmark, which Krohn-Dehli pulls back to Jacobsen on the edge of the penalty area. He fails to get a shot off, but plays the ball back to Krohn-Delhi, who wins his side another corner.
5 min: From that corner, Christian Eriksen tries a shot, which is deflected wide by Pepe. Another corner for Denmark. This one is played short, but nothing comes of it and the ball ends up back at the feet of Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
6 min: Fabio Coentrao slides and stretches in a futile bid to keep an overhit through-ball in play and appeals for a corner when it appear it might have gone out off a Danish shin. None is forthcoming and Simon Kjaer wags his finger in the Portuguese left-back's face to chastise him for his impertinence.
8 min: Down by the left touchline, some way out from his own goal, Nicklas Bendtner is penalised for clambering all over the back of Joao Moutinho in a bid to win a header. Moutinho takes the free-kick, but his delivery is poor and he fails to float the ball into the Danish penalty area.
11 min: Nani goes on a darting run into the Denmark penalty area, but is dispossessed by Daniel Agger. The ball breaks to Joao Pereira on the right flank, but his cross back into the box is overhit and way too high for Helder Postiga.
11 min: Here's an in-running Gallery of this evening's match, which our picture desk will be adding to as the game progresses.
12 min: Portugal float two good crosses into the Denmark penalty area in quick succession. Jacobsen clears the first while aware that Ronaldo was lurking with intent behind him. Miguel Velosa curls in the second after receiving the ball from a short corner, forcing Denmark goalkeeper Stephan Andersen to gallop off his line and punch clear.
15 min: Denmark central midfielder Nikki Zimling is down injured and looks like he might have to call it an evening. I suspect this may be a recurrance or an aggravation of the injury Søren Sorgenfri Frederiksen was talking about before the game.
16 min: Denmark substitution: Niki Zimling off, Jakob Poulsen on.
18 min: Portugal embark on a good attack from deep inside their own territory. Raul Meireles tries a shot from distance, which is blocked. The ball breaks to Cristiano Ronaldo, who has a pop, only to drag his shot well wide of the left upright. Ronaldo looks ruefully at the ground before scowling. It wasn't his fault the ball went wide there, see? It was that big invisible divot that made the ball bobble.
21 min: Portugal win a free-kick out on the left flank and Ronaldo decides to shoot for goal, despite the tightness of the angle. He goes through his Jonny Wilkinson routine, whips the ball high and wide of the goal and pouts.
23 min: A quarter-way through and it's been a reasonable absorbing match, without being particularly exciting. Neither team has had a decent chance yet and a goal would certainly liven things up.
GOAL! Denmark 0-1 Portugal (Pepe 24) And now we have one! From a corner, the ball is floated in towards the near post, Pepe makes a run to the corner of the six-yard box and flicks a marvellous near-post heade behind him and past Stephan Andersen in the Denmark goal. Good set-piece, but woeful, woeful defending.
26 min: Denmark's big names need to step up now - Christian Eriksen, Dennis Rommedahl and Nicklas Bendtner have hardly had a kick between them this evening. In fact, I'm not so sure Bendtner has even touched the ball yet. C'mon Niki!
27 min: Helder Postiga runs into the inside left of the Denmark penalty area with the ball at his feet, but has the ball poked off his toe by Daniel Agger. Corner for Portugal, from which nothing comes.
28 min: Denmark embark on a counter-attack which Raul Meireles cynically puts a stop to using his hand. He gets booked for his trouble and Denmark win a free-kick in a promising position, which they proceed to waste when Michael Krohn-Dehli puts too much welly on the ball.
30 min: Portugal attack, with Ronaldo bursting past Denmark centre-half Simon Kjaer to the edge of the penalty area. Instead of going it alone and trying a shot, he plays the ball through to Helder Postiga. He too overhits his pass and Andersen gathers. That was too unselfish of Ronaldo - six words you don't get to type very often.
33 min: Lars Jacobsen brings down Ronaldo and concedes a free-kick, just outside the Danish penalty area, a bit left of centre. Miguel Veloso doesn't so much hand as present the ball to his skipper, who kisses it, before placing it on the ground. He goes through his in-no-way preposterous free-kick routine, boots the ball into the defensive wall, watches as it loops over the crossbar and stares into the heavens looking very hurt indeed.
GOAL! Denmark 0-2 Portugal (Postiga 36 min) Helder Postiga steals a yard on Simon Kjaer on the edge of the six-yard box to divert a Nani cross from the right flank past Stephan Andersen at the near post. That's a sublime finish, but again the Danish defending was hopeless.
38 min: Denmark's non-playmaking playmaker tries a shot on goal from distance, forcing Rui Patricio to make his first save of the night.
39 min: Denmark go forward again, but Dennis Rommedahl is penalised for offside.
GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! NIKI-GOAL! NIK-GOAL! NIKI-GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAL! Denmark 1-2 Portugal That's a sensational goal from Nicklas Bendtner, who gets on the end of a header across the face of goal from Krohn-Delhi to head into the gaping net from approximately one inch out. His Golden Boot campaign is up and running ...
44 min: Nani whips a cross into the Denmark penalty area, where Postiga once again steals half a yard on Kjaer to head gtoalwards at the near post. Andersen the goalkeeper can only block and the ball breaks to Ronaldo, who tries to steer it home, only for Jacobsen to hack the ball clear.
45 min: The Portuguese defending for the goal they conceded was risible. Lars Jacobsen floated the ball across the face of the Portugal goal, Michael Krohn-Dehli timed his run perfectly to beat the offside trap and headed the ball over goalkeeper Patricio, back across the face of goal, allowing Bendtner to nod home his fifth goal in five appearances against Portugal.
Half-time: The teams go in for their half-time brew with Portugal a goal to the good after an excellent second quarter of the game. They're worth their lead, but will be disgusted they conceded such a sloppy goal just before the break.
Second half: Portugal get the ball rolling in a stadium where the atmosphere seems strangely subdued, writes minute-by-minute reporter from Kings Cross bunker.
46 min: Ronaldo sprints down the inside left channel, but allows the ball to over-run into the arms of Stephane Andersen.
48 min: "You've been consistently moaning that the defending for the goals was poor," writes Adithya. "It's getting boring. Do you remember ever typing a goal description where you actually praised the defending? Not being sarcastic, just curious." Eh?
49 min: No, seriously. Eh?
49 min: A little shimmy from Helder Postiga puts Ronaldo through on goal, one-on-one with Stephan Andersen. The goalkeeper charges of his line and Ronadlo shoots straight at him from the edge of the penalty area. Poor effort.
50 min: Just before that Ronaldo chance, Christian Eriksen flickered into life, drilling the ball across the face of the Denmark goal in the direction of Nicklas Bendtner, only for Bruno Alves to head clear.
53 min: Nani takes up possession on the right flank, jinks left and right and then tries to square the ball across the face of goal. His low cross is nearer the goal than the edge of the six-yard box and Stephan Andersen gets down to gather at his near post.
55 min: A loose pass from Christian Eriksen gifts possession to Helder Postiga on the edge of the final third. He sets off towards goal and instead of playing the ball to Cristiano Ronaldo who was screaming for it to his left, the striker decides to go it alone and is robbed of possession by Daniel Agger. Ronaldo is furious with him.
57 min: Portugal win a free-kick between the sideline and the side of the Danish six-yard box. Miguel Velosa whips the ball into the mixer, where Andersen punches clear.
58 min: Jakob Poulsen was booked a couple of minutes ago for a decidedly agricultural tackle on Nani.
59 min: Bad news for Denmark. Demnnis Rommedahl stretches for a loose ball and pulls up with what looks like a pulled or torn hamstring. That's the last part he'll play in this - and probably any other - international tournament. He won his 118th cap tonight.
60 min: Denmark substitution: Dennis Rommedahl off, 25-year-old Nordsjaelland right-winger Tobias Mikkelsen on.
62 min: From four or five yards outside the Portugal penalty area, Denmark central midfielder William Kvist sends a splendid strike fizzing a foot or two wide of the goal. The ball had broken kindly for him, bounced up nicely and he scorched forward to meet it on the fly - that would have been a contender for goal of the tournament if it had gone in.
64 min: Portugal substitution: Helder Postiga off after a decent game. Benfica striker Nelson Oiveira on.
65 min: Excellent defending from Pepe, who is forced to shank the ball over his own crossbar from about six yards while facing his own goal. The vicious, waist-high cross was whipped in from the right by Mikkelsen and Pepe's clearance could easily have ended up in the back of his own net.
67 min: "I'm glad Adithya picked you up on that 'not praising defenders who concede goals' thing," writes Jon Butcher. "I have also noticed that whenever someone misses a sitter you very rarely praise the striker in question. It's getting very boring."
68 min: Mikkelsen's contributed more to Denmark's cause in the couple of minutes since he came on than the man he replaced did in the previous hour. The substitute picks up the ball outside the Portugal penalty area and shimmies left and right to make room for a shot before shooting across the face of goal and well wide.
70 min: Decent work from Fabio Coentrao, who tees up Nelson Oliveira for a shot on goal, which ends up being fairly feeble.
71 min: Nicklas Bendtner picks up the ball on the edge of the Portuguese penalty area, makes room for a shot and attempts to curl the ball around two defenders and inside the foot of the left upright. Wide, by a yard or two. But hey, at least he can nearly play Chopsticks.
73 min: "At the risk of stating the obvious, most goals result from poor defending but poor defending doesn't always result in a goal so I can see the point in commenting on the poor defending," writes Glenn Easton, before mounting what could be described as a flimsy and unsolicited defence of sorts on behalf of Adithya. "However, a combination of good defending and plain bad luck could produce a goal so any MBM commentary about a goal that was 'bad luck or a weird combination of factors' could break the tedium for the poor man. But realistically, Ockham's Razor applies: most times it is down to poor defending. Maybe he expects you to offer something more like a suggestion on correct the poor defending or something like that."
75 min: Ha-ha! When Cristiano Ronaldo was put through on goal for that one-on-one earlier, somebody at Uefa jumped the gun. Spotter's badge: Brynmor Pattison.
78 min: And they might just have done it again. From the right flank, Nani plays a marvellous first-time ball between Danish defenders to put Ronaldo through on goal, one-on-one with Andersen again. He shoots wide!
GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! NIKI-GOOOOOOALL! Denmark 2-2 Portugal (Bendtner 80): Hats off to Portugal defender Pepe there, who did ever so well to completely lose Nicklas Bendtner at the far post, allow the striker to peel off him and head a cross from the right just inside the angle of upright and cross bar. Well done, Pepe! Well done!
82 min: Considering what happened so soon afterwards, that Ronaldo miss looks even more atrocious. He was through on goal, with only the keeper to beat from about 12 yards and, instead of taking the ball around him, appeared to panic and shank a dismal effort well wide.
84 min: Agger and Jacobsen are forced to dive in with last-ditch tackles as Cristiano Ronaldo shapes to pull the trigger with the goal at his mercy once again. Excellent defending.
86 min: Portugal substitution: Raul Meireles off, Silvestre Varela on.
GOAL! Denmark 2-3 Portugal (Varela 86 min)
Bloody hell! That was some strike by the Porto substitute. Coentrao went on a marauding run down the left flank and sent in a looping cross. Varela took a swing at it with his left foot and missed. A quick turn later he has another go with his right, sending the ball screaming past Andersen from 18 yards.
89 min: Portugal substitution: Nani off, Rolando on. Denmark substitution: Krohn-Delhi off, Schone on.
90+1 min: Cristiano Ronaldo gets booked for a foul on Daniel Agger as Denmark try to play the ball out from the back.
90+3 min: Denmark press on, looking for an equaliser. Agger rolls the ball wide into the path of the substitute Schone in a marvellous position but he skies the ball over the bar. That's a dreadful effort.
90+4 min: Peep! Peep! Peeeeeeeeeeep! Portugal left it late, but they've won the three points and remain very much in contention in Group B. They're level on points with Denmark, while Germany and Holland play tonight. Should the Dutch prevail, all four teams will find themselves on three points each with just one round of matches to go.
Last word tonight goes to Daniel F, who despite writing the following missive on behalf of himself and the rest of the football world, for whom he appears to have appointed himself spokesman, seems to think I'm the one with problems. Enjoy:
"You were just praying for a goal so you could sarcastically react to the earlier legitimate criticism weren't you," he types, slowly inflating with pomposity. "It's disappointing that while the rest of the football world was thrilling at the goal itself, and what it means to the group and the tournament, you were focused on your slighted pride. Very Allan Green of you I'm afraid. Come on Baz… you're better than that."
Jesus wept - some people have way too much time on their hands. Anyway, enough from the Fun Police who insist on taking everything about football very, very seriously indeed, enjoy what will hopefully be an epic between Germany and Holland, which you can follow here with Scott Murray.