UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Day 19
Yesterday’s games were just something out of a comic book, you really couldn’t make it up. Watching both I was left exhausted by the twists and turns. Oh for a calmer day today! Some chance with England playing!
Croatia (1) 3 – 5 (1) Spain AET (3-3 at FT)
Goalscorers: Croatia – González (20′ og), Orsic (85′), Pasalic (90’+2’). Spain – Sarabia (38′), Azpilicueta (57′), Torres (77′), Morata (100′), Oyarzabal (103′)
No one could have predicated the drama that unfolded in Copenhagen. It all started with a bizarre OG to add to the list for the tournament. On twenty minutes Pedro Gonzalez from just inside his own-half knocked the ball back to ‘keeper Unai Simon, pretty standard stuff, however the Athletic Bilbao No:1 was unable to control it and watched helplessly as it rolled into the corner to give Croatia the lead. Spain responded and were level seven minutes before the break, Livakovic made an excellent save only for Pablo Sarabia to smash home the rebound to send the teams in at the break at 1-1. The Spanish went on to dominate the early part of the second-half with a header from Azpilicueta twelve minutes after the restart and then Torres with a neat finish scored with just thirteen minutes to go to sent Spain 3-1 up and seemingly on their way to the Quarter-Finals. But as England found in the 2018 World Cup, Croatia just keep coming and with five minutes remaining, after some Modric Magic and a goalmouth scramble, Orsic gave the Croats a life-line. Incredibly they found time for the equaliser two minutes into time-added on as Pasalic rose majestically to head in to take the game into extra-time. It looked like Croatia had the initiative, with another driving attack seeing Andrej Kramaric have a chance in the box which seemed destined for the net until Simon made up for his earlier howler with an outstanding save. It’s significance, was that moments later Spain broke up the other end and Morata with a brilliant piece of control made it 4-3 with five minutes of the first period of extra-time left. It was 5-3 just a few minutes later as Oyarzabal collected a cross, did well to hold off the defenders and finish. This time there was no coming back for Croatia and as the game wound down, Dani Olmo had a chance to make it six for Spain, but his effort struck the post. Spain through but what a game. Surely nothing could top that…
France (0) 3 – 3 (1) Switzerland AET (Switzerland won 5-4 on penalties)
Goalscorers: France – Benzema (57′, 59′), Pogba (75′). Switzerland – Seferovic (15’minutes, 81’minutes), Gavranovic (90’minutes)
Arena Na?ionala, Bucharest
…Well, just a few hours later it was another simply startling game of football in Bucharest. The World Champions France were strangely quiet in the first-half and trailed as early as the fifteenth minute. Lenglet lost his bearings at the heart of the French defence as a cross came in leaving Seferovic to head past Lloris. 1-0 Switzerland at the break. Ten minutes into the second-half the game went into its first phase of crazy mode. After a VAR review of an incident in which Zuber was brought down by Benjamin Pavard a penalty was awarded. Up stepped Ricardo Rodriguez. Lloris guessed right and saved. Two minutes later (57’), Benzema squeezed through with a little bit of fortune to level it at 1-1. Then another two minutes passed, and it was 2-1 France, Griezmann having his chip pushed onto the bar by Sommer, leaving Benzema with an easy header virtually on the goal-line. From having the chance to go 2-0, the Swiss founds themselves 2-1 behind within four minutes. Madness. As in the Spain game, France stretched their lead to 3-1 after a sublime curling effort from Pogba from just outside the box with fifteen minutes remaining. The Swiss like Croatia looked down and out as France held a two-goal cushion with just nine minutes remaining. However, the second phase of craziness was upon us, as Seferovic got his and Switzerland’s second to push the door ajar on eight-one minutes. With the Swiss pouring forward they thought they had levelled minutes later but substitute Mario Gavranovic was clearly offside. However, the door was fully kicked open on ninety-minutes. Pogba lost possession in midfield and a through ball saw Gavranovic slip inside his marker and fire low past Lloris. Another seemingly impossible comeback complete. In extra-time Coman produced the two best moments for France, first his shot skimmed the crossbar in the first-period of extra-time and in the second, he set up a chance for Pavard, which Sommer somehow turned over the bar. The final chance before penalties also fell to the French, but Mbappé who has endured a wretched Finals, screwed wildly past the post when well placed. And it was the unfortunate PSG forward who was to be the fall guy for France. With the Swiss converting all five and France four from four, it was down to Mbappé to keep the World Champions in the competition. Sommer though produced a stunning save and it was au revoir for Les Bleus. A stunning, dramatic match, memorable not just for the unfancied Swiss going through, but for their character, the vital saves from Sommer and for Granit Xhaka who was outstanding and not just because of his dyed blonde hair! The Swiss now take on Spain in St Petersburg and maybe on a roll (sorry couldn’t resist it!).
England v Germany (Wembley Stadium, London)
England Expects! Well, amongst all the hype and frenzy, It’s Coming Home etc. etc. We all know the history with the Germans down the years, and this will be the third meeting at the Euro Finals. The first of course was back in 1996 and the Semi-Final defeat 6-5 on penalties at the ‘old’ Wembley – no need to remind Gareth Southgate about that one! The second was a pretty lacklustre affair at the Finals in 2000 where an Alan Shearer goal was enough to earn a 1-0 win in the group stage.
The Three Lions came through their group top, and were functional rather than spectacular, with 1-0 victories against Croatia and the Czech Republic and a 0-0 draw with Scotland. No goals conceded but only two scored – a worry for tonight’s encounter. The Germans in their final group game against Hungary were six minutes from being eliminated, but an equaliser to make it 2-2 ensured progress as runners-up.
England have been criticised for three pretty uninspiring group games, but have done what was required, i.e. they qualified for the last sixteen. Will Gareth Southgate send his team out to play the same way? The Germans feel like a team in transition especially with coach Joachim Löw stepping down at the end of this competition. Germany are undoubtedly dangerous as they showed in the dismantling of Portugal, but then looked vulnerable against Hungary. Of course I’d love to see England go through, but just can’t see it. It’s the hope that kills us.
Sweden v Ukraine (Hampden Park, Glasgow)
These two last met at Euro 2012, when Ukraine won 2-1 with current boss Andriy Shevchenko getting both goals.
Sweden topped their group and were quietly efficient in wins over Slovakia (1-0) Poland (3-2), having opened their group games with a 0-0 against Spain. The Ukraine grabbed the last of the four best third placed finishers, courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Macedonia having lost to Netherlands (3-2) and Austria (1-0).
I’ve liked what I’ve seen of the Swedes, but in a topsy-turvy few days, who knows what will happen. I’ll stick my neck out though and go with Sweden to make it to the last eight.