Everyone has now completed two games at the European Championships, and while the journey for some is almost over, others have booked their places in the last 16. The the next game will decide the fate of most teams.
Turkey appears shot after being overwhelmed by Italy last week, they proceeded to be outplayed by Wales in Baku. Their offside trap was repeatedly sprung in the first half and was eventually punished by Aaron Ramsey. After an exhausting season at Lille, Burak Yilmaz looks exhausted, Hakan Calhanoglu has emerged as the only player, who looked likely to open Wales up. A 2-0 score didn’t flatter Wales, and Turkey now have no points and a -5 goal difference to this point. Turkey requires snookers to make the second round.
23. North Macedonia
The Macedonians became the first country to be eliminated from Euro 2020, but gave Ukraine a run for their money. North Macedonia started well, but struggled to contain Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmalenko, as they fell two goals behind in the first half. Goran Pandev thought he’d pulled one back before halftime, but was just offside. In the second half, it didn’t take North Macedonia long to get back into the game when they earned a penalty. The spot kick of Gjanni Alioski was saved, but he reacted fast enough to put the rebound away, reaching a 1-2 score. The Macedonians continued to fight for a point, but needed a penalty save from Stole Dimitrievski to keep them in the game. It finished 2-1 score, as North Macedonia will depart the tournament in Amsterdam on Monday.
Joel Pohjanpalo thought he’d made it two goals from two shots on target in the tournament with an early header, but it was chalked off for a tight offside decision. The defence of Finland was unlocked by a moment of quality from Alexei Miranchuk, and despite their endeavour, Finland couldn’t force an equalizer. Teemu Pukki is still short of his usual pace, but he looks to be Finland’s best hope of taking what few chances they will be afforded by Belgium on Monday.
Stanislav Cherchesov rang the changes after Russia’s disastrous showing against Belgium. Russia looked to be more comfortable playing on the front foot, but were fortunate not to go behind early. They got their goal from a moment of class from Alexei Miranchuk, whose finish finally broke through Finland’s tight defence. The second half proved scrappy with Finland pushing, but Giorgi Dzhikiya held Russia’s defence together. After two home games, Russia now faces a tough road trip to face the Danes in Copenhagen. A more cohesive performance will be needed if Russia are to pick up a critical point.
A dreadful night in Rome left Switzerland’s campaign hanging in the balance after a 3-0 hiding from Italy. Switzerland was outclassed and outworked across the pitch, with Yann Sommer’s late blunder for the third goal symptomatic of their performance. They now need a win over Turkey to progress, as Vladimir Petkovic will now ponder changes to the team. Xherdan Shaqiri looks short of form, as does Haris Serferovic. Petkovic may replace them with Ruben Vargas and Mario Gavranovic to reenergize the frontline.
For the second time in a single week, over 60,000 fans were packed into the Puskas Arena to cheer on Hungary for what looked like an uphill battle against France. Hungary defended tightly from the start and offered a threat on the counter, despite Adam Szalai leaving early due to injury. On the stroke of halftime, a fine counter attack saw Attila Fiola break into the box and fired Hungary into a shocking lead. France inevitably came back and equalized with 24 minutes to go. Hungary needed another rearguard action to keep it level. Peter Gulasci was excellent in goal, as his side saw out a gutsy draw and kept themselves in contention for the second round.
Austria lost Marko Arnautovic to a suspension ahead of their date with the Dutch. Without him, Austria was toothless for long spells and fell behind early to a penalty. The odd choices of Franco Foda continues to hinder Austria, who wasted Davoid Alaba’s creative talents in a back three. Their high line was exposed for the second Dutch goal, as Austria lost by a 2-0 margin. A point against Ukraine will ensure their place in the knockout phase, but Foda needs to switch his system to get more attacking impetus from star players such as Alaba and Marcel Sabitzer.
Scotland arrived at Wembley in high spirits and left with a valuable point against the Auld Enemy. The return of Kieran Tierney reestablished Scotland’s dangerous left flank, while Billy Gilmour brought control to the midfield position in a 0-0 draw. For all the plaudits they took, Scotland has yet to score in the tournament and must beat Croatia to progress.
Croatia picked up where they left off against England with a lifeless first half performance that saw them go behind to a contentious penalty. Zlatko Dalic wisely brought on Bruno Petkovic to add some punch to the frontline, as Croatia suddenly found a new lease of life. A rasping strike from Ivan Perisic brought them level and Petkovic came close late on to winning it. Dalic will surely go with his team from the second half when Croatia returns to Hampden Park to face Scotland in a must-win situation.
The Slovaks paid the price for playing too early for a draw and now need a point against Spain to ensure their place in the next round. Slovakia showed enterprise early on against Sweden with Robert Mak and Marek Hamsik playing some nice football but Slovakia lacked a cutting edge to trouble Sweden in the final third. They then sat back to get a point and were punished when Martin Dubravka felled Robert Quaison for a penalty to put their second round hopes in jeopardy. Slovakia’s defence is tough to breakdown and they can be inventive on the break, but it will be an uphill battle in Seville.
An emotional night in Copenhagen saw Denmark take the lead over Belgium inside 100 seconds. Kasper Hjulmand changed to a back three to mirror Belgium and the charged up Danes dominated the first half but crucially didn’t add a second goal. In the second half they were undone by the magic of Kevin De Bruyne, however they did rally to produce a string of chances before going down 2-1. Christian Eriksen was able to send his best wishes to his teammates who need to beat Russia in their final game to have a chance of qualifying for the next round.
A much improved Poland got their campaign up and running with a battling point against Spain. From the outset they looked more dangerous going forward than against Slovakia and responded positively to going behind. Main-man Robert Lewandowski missed a glorious first half chance , but made amends with a thumping header to draw Poland level. Jan Bednarek lead a resolute backline whilst Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski were dangerous on the break throughout. They still need to beat Sweden to progress, but Poland kept their campaign alive in Seville.
12. Czech Republic
The Czechs have four points in the bag that will likely seal their place in the second round and they have the tournament’s joint leading goalscorer in Patrik Schick. The Czech’s returned to Hampden Park and again made a positive start against Croatia. They won a debatable penalty for an elbow on Schick, which the predatory forward emphatically stuck away before half time. In the second half they conceded early as Croatia went on the offensive, but the Czech backline held firm. The Czech’s now face England at Wembley knowing a draw will them the group.
The Andriy Yarmalenko comeback show continued in Bucharest. Ukraine’s star player who barely featured for West Ham this season bagged Ukraine’s opener and then laid the second on for Roman Yaremchuk to make it 2-0 against North Macedonia. Ukraine took their foot off the gas and allowed North Macedonia back into the game, but Ukraine held on for their first win at the finals since 2012. A point against Austria will see them make it to the knockout phase for the first time.
The Welsh love affair with the Euros seemed set to carry into the knockout phase again, after a fine win over Turkey. It was the longstanding double act of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale who did the damage, Bale teasing the Turkish backline and three times playing Ramsey clean through, with the midfielder bagging the opener before the break. Bale blasted a penalty over the bar, but Wales held their nerve and when Bale wriggled free in the box he laid it on a plate for Connor Roberts to make sure of the 2-0 win. Wales will now head to Rome to face Italy without pressure and with their main men in form.
For the first time since 1996, Spain have failed to take a win from their opening two games at the Euros. They started well and Alvaro Morata gave them the lead after 25 minutes, but Spain let the game drift. They were punished when Robert Lewandowski beat out Aymeric Laporte to head home the equaliser. Spain won a debatable penalty, which Gerard Moreno slammed against the post and Morata blew the rebound but aside from some late goal mouth scrambles Spain never truly had the upper hand and drew 1-1. Spain lack pace and power in both boxes and a date with Slovakia won’t be an easy win.
After a drab first half against Slovakia, Sweden reaped the benefits of an improved second half performance and almos certainly booked their place in the knockout phase. Janne Andersson was positive, bringing on the pacey Robin Quaison and playmaker Viktor Claesson, it was Quasion who broke the deadlock by drawing a penalty, despatched emphatically by Emil Forsberg. With the pressure off, Andersson will surely start Quaison ahead of Marcus Berg against Poland along with Claesson and possibly winger Dejan Kulusevski.
Portugal knew a win over Germany would take them into top spot and a razor sharp counter attack gave them the first half lead and Ronaldo his third goal of the tournament. There was a swagger to Portugal until Germany equalised and things quickly unravelled. Germany got in behind Portugal’s overlapping fullbacks and Portugal conceded two own goals in four minutes. Germany continued with the same tactic in the second half and Portugal simply couldn’t deal with it as they fell 4-1 behind, before Ronaldo played in Diogo Jota to reduce the arrears. Portugal are in real danger of going out, with key players Bruno Fernandes and Ruben Dias looking out of sorts ahead of a clash with a France team looking to avenge their defeat in the final five years ago.
England couldn’t build on the momentum they established against Croatia and delivered a frustrating 0-0 in their Battle of Britain clash with Scotland. They almost took the lead early on when John Stones smashed a free header onto the Scotland post, but their passing was ponderous and failed to penetrate Scotland’s back line. More worrying for England is the lack of form from star striker Harry Kane who was substituted for the second game in a row. Gareth Southgate will likely rotate his team for the final group game with Jude Bellingham a possible starter in midfield and Harry Maguire restored in defence
After their dishevelled start against France, Germany gave the performance of the round with a stunning 4-2 thrashing of Portugal. It started badly for Germany, going behind to a counter attack that underlined there defensive vulnerabilities. But Germany’s passing was much improved and wingbacks Robin Gosens and Joshua Kimmich over ran Portugal to ping crosses that forced Portugal into two own-goals. In the second half Germany controlled the game and hit a Portugal side who needed to chase the game with Kai Havertz heading in a third and Gosens getting a well earned fourth. Germany did concede to make for a nervy climax, but they held on to claim a 4-2 win. After a poor start Germany have now arrived at the tournament.
A solid display from the Netherlands secured a comfortable win over Austria that guaranteed them top spot in Group C. Memphis Depay tucked away an early penalty but missed a sitter to put the game to bed in the first half. Denzel Dumfries got his second goal of the tournament to make sure of the win whilst Frenkie De Jong controlled the midfield as the Dutch cruised. The return of Matthijs De Ligt is another boost for the Dutch who can afford to rotate the side in their final group game.
France arrived in Budapest as overwhelming favourites to claim a routine win over Hungary, but as we’ve seen before these can be the games where France become complacent. France made a good start and Karim Benzema should have given them the lead, but then they were caught out on the break and got to half time behind. The introduction of Ousmane Dembele quickened the pace and France got the equaliser through Antoine Griezmann. However for all their dominance France couldn’t find a way through and were left with a disappointing draw. France will be at Puskas Arena again next week for a heavyweight clash with Portugal.
Belgium were classy in their respect for Christian Eriksen in Copenhagen, but on the pitch produced a woeful first half performance and were fortunate to go in just 1-0 down at the break. Enter Kevin De Bruyne, the midfield magician turned the game on its head with a smart layoff for Thorgan Hazard to equalise. De Bruyne then rifled in an exquisite left foot drive to win the game and ensure Belgium’s place in the last 16. Despite De Bruyne’s brilliance this was a mixed team performance and concerns over the ageing backline are only deepening
Another majestic performance from Italy made them the first team to qualify for the knockout phase. Manuel Locatelli was outstanding in midfield, a brilliant diagonal pass opening up Switzerland and then bursting into the box to finish it off. Locatelli added a second early in the second half before Ciro Immobile blasted in a late third. An apparent hamstring injury to Georgi Chiellini was the only negative for Roberto Mancini who will likely shuffle the pack against Wales with Andrea Belotti and Federico Chiesa possible alternatives in the frontline.
Team of the Round
Right Back- O’Donnell (Scotland)
Centre Back- Dzhikiya (Russia)
Centre Back- De Ligt (Netherlands)
Left Back- Gosens- (Germany)
Midfield- Locatelli (Italy)
Midfield- Ramsey (Wales)
Midfield- De Bruyne (Belgium)
Forward- Bale (Wales)
Forward- Yarmalenko (Ukraine)
Forward- Lewandowski (Poland)