By JOHN BOSCHINI
Germany is making survival in the Group of Death look rather clinical.
The Germans won their second straight tough match at Euro 2012, dispatching the Netherlands 2-1 behind two goals from Mario Gomez to maintain first place in Group B and all but seal their place in the knockout stage.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, are on the verge of failing to advance out of the group stage two years after advancing to the World Cup Final. The Dutch have yet to earn a single point from their two group games and face a must-win scenario against Portugal on Sunday but are not eliminated just yet.
Gomez scored both of his goals in the first half. The first one was set up by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was afforded too much space in front of the Dutch back four and found Gomez on a run down the center, where the Bayern Munich forward turned and finished clinically past Maarten Stekelenburg in the 24th minute. Gomez doubled Germany's advantage 14 minutes later, finishing off Thomas Muller's pass with a powerful shot into the top-left corner.
Germany could have extended its lead even further, but Holger Badstuber's clear header from six-yards out was directly at Stekelenburg, and the Dutch keeper pulled of another fine save just before halftime, tipping a deflected German cross over the bar.
The Netherlands got themselves back in the game with a superb strike from Robin van Persie. The Arsenal striker fired a right-footed shot past Neuer from the edge of the area in the 70th minute to slice the deficit in half, but the Dutch hardly had a quality chance for the remainder of the game and now need to beat Portugal by at least two goals while having Germany defeat Denmark to advance to the knockout stage as the second team from the group.
In Group B's other game on Wednesday:
PORTUGAL 3, DENMARK 2
Portugal kept their knockout-stage hopes alive, overcoming two shocking Cristiano Ronaldo misses to come up with a thrilling victory over the Danes. Substitute Silvestre Varela's late goal gave Portugal a victory after Denmark stormed back from 2-0 down to level the score. Nicklas Bendtner struck twice for Denmark, bringing his total to six goals in five games against Portugal.
The Portuguese were off to a flying start with two goals in the first half. Pepe's powerful header from a tight angle gave Denmark keeper Stephan Andersen no chance in the 24th minute. The second goal came nine minutes before halftime when a nifty passing sequence ended with a cross from Nani that was finished off by Helder Postiga.
Denmark clawed a goal back quickly, however, as opening-game hero Michael Krohn-Dehli unselfishly headed a ball at the far post back across goal, where a wide open Bendtner nodded in from less than a yard away cut the deficit to 2-1 entering halftime.
Ronaldo should have restored the two-goal edge five minutes into the second half, but he put his shot on a 1-v-1 breakaway right at Andersen instead of attempting to round him or chip over him. Ronaldo had another chance to double the lead in the 78th minute, getting played into open space in the box by Nani only to push his open chance wide of the goal.
Portugal paid the price for those misses temporarily, as Bendtner lost Pepe on another cross and headed the equalizer into the top-right corner 10 minutes from time.
The game looked destined for a draw, but Varela came to the rescue by latching onto Fabio Coentrao's cross in the 87th minute. The Porto substitute completely muffed his first crack at the ball but spun away from his defender and rifled a shot just inside the near post for the game-winner.
What did you think of today's games? Was Portugal vs. Denmark one of the games of the tournament? Do you still think the Netherlands will advance? Is anyone likely to stop Germany?
Share your thoughts below.