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EM: Spain, Sweden, Greece and Russia


<h>Spain 2 -- Sweden 1</h> Spain and Sweden were relatively evenly-matched, with Spain going into the lead early on a corner kick. Ibrahimovich evened it up for Sweden in the 35th minute and, from then on, all was pretty much quiet with no real chances for either side. The only events of note were a pretty obvious bodycheck by Sweden in the penalty box that didn't impress the referee at all<fn> and a relatively obvious handball---again by Sweden and again in the penalty box---that also didn't get called. Luckily, the Spanish would not be left to to smolder about the missed calls as David Villa, the hat-trick hero from the match against Russia picked the pocket of the Swedish defense and put in the game-winner three minutes into extra time at the end of the second half. A brilliant goal by the natural goal-scorer and a well-deserved win for Spain. <h>Russia 1 -- Greece 0</h> Things started off as expected, with Greece playing turtle as usual and the Russians putting on a flair-filled offense that generated a lot of chances early. The Greeks were equal to the challenge and, in the 20th minute decided to see what the other half of the field looked like and put on some decent offensive pressure of their own. Soon enough, the well-organized Russian side had action back in the other end again. The Russians were in their red kit, which looked pretty snappy and the announcer here offered some interesting tidbits: all the players play in the Russian league and nine of them play for the same team in Moscow; they also look pretty young. Their focus on offense paid off in the 34th minute, when a Russian chased down an errant cross and re-centered it with a bicycle kick, which luckily went to a Russian foot and in for a goal. One minute later, they were knocking on the door again and the much-vaunted Greek defense was looking creakier and creakier. It almost looked like the Russians had a bit too much in the speed department for the Greeks to handle. The Greeks came out with goals on their mind in the second half, but couldn't put anything convincing together. The Russians played their speedy counterattacking game<fn> but couldn't extend their lead. It's not like there weren't any quality chances on both sides; it's just that both keepers played very well. Near the end of the match, the Greeks put one in, but it was called back on a squeaker of an offsides call. In extra time, both teams had good chances, but Greece was offsides three times and Russia couldn't shoot straight. So, for all the action, the match ended with only one goal. The defending champions are mathematically eliminated with their second loss. <hr> <ft>Most likely because, good or not, the Spanish have developed a somewhat "divey" reputation for themselves over the years---and this tournament has been no different. The boy that cried wolf and all that.</ft> <ft>Even deep into the second half, it looked like a field full of Pavel Bures out there. Truly impressive end-to-end stuff by the Russians.</ft>