Euro 2020: Day 6
With Matchday 1 complete, the beginning of the second round of fixtures offered the teams who had perhaps not started as well as hoped or expected to turn around their fortunes. One team definitely looking to do that were Russia, so disappointing in their opening day fixture against Belgium, where they lost 3-0 against Belgium in the Saint Petersburg Stadium. The same venue played host again as the side, who reached the World Cup semi-finals 3 years ago, played host to a Finland squad who despite winning their opening fixture had the additional trauma of the Christian Eriksen incident still to deal with.
Finland, playing their second game on the road after facing Denmark in Copenhagen on Saturday in that tragic night, thought they had made the perfect start when Joel Pohjanpalo, who scored the winner against the Danes after the controversial restart, broke between the Russian defence to head home, only for VAR to rule the goal marginally offside. At the other end, Russia were creating chances themselves, Magomed Ozdoev guilty of missing a good opportunity, while some superb defending by Jere Uronen stopped the ball reaching Viacheslav Karavaev for the easiest of finishes. In first half stoppage time, however, hosts Russia eventually made the breakthrough they arguably deserved on balance of play, Aleksey Miranchuk producing a wonderful curling finish inside the box despite being heavily marked, Hradecky, the Finnish keeper so impressive in the opening fixture, with no chance.
The second half offered little in the way of chances, Pukki perhaps having the best opportunity for Finalnd, but failing to trouble Safonov, while Golovin and Zhemaletdinov went close for Russia at the other end. The 1-0 victory for the hosts means both them and Finland now sit on 3 points each, with Denmark, who are in action against Belgium today, yet to get off the mark, meaning qualification is still a real possibility for both sides, with Russia travelling to Copenhagen to face the Danes while Saint Petersburg will again play host for Finland in their encounter with Belgium, another side facing all 3 games on the road.
The second game of the afternoon saw Wales produce a fantastic performance to overcome Turkey 2-0 in Azerbaijan. Much had been made prior to the game about the partizan crowd, and how it was likely to be a home game for Turkey as a result, but despite the noise produced by the 30,000 strong crowd in Baku, it was Wales who looked most at home as they took the game to Turkey, looking to build on their opening round point against Switzerland. It is often said that when Bale and Ramsey play well, Wales play well, and this game was no exception, the pair combining in the opening 10 minutes, Juventus midfielder Ramsey seeing his near post shot saved by Uğurcan Çakır. The pair combined again, this time Ramsey firing his effort over the bar, while Kieffer Moore also went close with his head.
It was a case of third time lucky when a few minutes before the break Wales took the deserved lead. A sublime pass from Bale was met by an equally well timed run in behind by Aaron Ramsey, the midfielder showing superb composure to bring the ball down and this time making no mistake with the finish. After the break, Turkey pushed hard to find a way back into the game, veteran striker Burak Yilmaz wasting a good opportunity as he fired over the bar, Wales defending resolutely as they looked to protect their lead.
Wales then had a chance to double their advantage when they were awarded a penalty after full back Zeki Çelik was adjudged to have fouled the impressive Bale on the edge of the area, replays showing although Bale went down easily it was probably the right decision. However, on this occasion there was to be no celebration for the Wales captain, as he fired his penalty way over the bar, giving Turkey hope of still rescuing something from the game. As in the game against Switzerland, Wales then had Danny Ward to thank after he produced a great save to deny Merih Demiral, a colleague of Ramsey at club level. The nerves were settled, however, in stoppage time, when rather than playing to the corners Bale went on a couple of attacking forays, one of which allowed him to pick out Connor Roberts who produced a simple finish to ensure the victory, taking Wales to 2nd spot in Group A and almost ensuring them qualification to the next round.
Rome once again played host as Italy continued their impressive form as they swept aside Switzerland 3-0. The Italians, coming into this tournament on the back of an impressive unbeaten streak, scored 3 goals for the first ever time in the tournament in their opening fixture, and followed that up by repeating the feat against a Switzerland side who looked second best throughout. Italy thought they had taken the lead inside the opening 20 minutes when Giorgio Chiellini fired home from the corner, the ball dropping invitingly for the centre half to poke home, but replays showed his hand was involved and so the goal was correctly disallowed. Chiellini was then withdrawn moments later, suffering with what appeared to be a hamstring problem.
Far from derailing the Italian’s, a few minutes later they were in front, and there was no questioning the goal this time, Manuel Locatelli showing superb awareness to both start an attacking move then find himself in just the right place to slot home after a cutback from Domenico Berardi. It was only the second international goal of his career for the Sassuolo midfielder, but the former Milan youngster didn’t have to wait long for his 3rd, this time a long range effort from outside the box doubling the lead for the hosts 7 minutes into the second half underlining the superiority of the home side.
As with their opening encounter against Turkey, rather than rest on their laurels, Italy continued to press forward with wave after wave of attack in search of more goals, and after wasting several chances Lazio front man Ciro Immobile was awarded at the death with his 2nd goal of the tournament, the 31 year old striker clearly benefitting from playing in familiar surroundings, the Stadio Olimpico also home to Lazio & AS Roma. Italy host Wales in their final game, and a draw will be enough to now see them top the group, meaning a trip to Wembley for the first knock out stage, with a match against the runners-up of Group C the opposition.
The action begins with a group C clash today between Ukraine and North Macedonia, both sides on the end of defeats in the opening round of games, where both also conceded 3 times. Ukraine looked impressive in spells against the Netherlands, however, and I expect them to have too much for North Macedonia, who will once again be relying on veteran striker Goran Pandev to give them hope. Copenhagen then plays host as Denmark are back in action for the first time since the tragic events of the weekend, as they host Belgium. Once again the Red Devils are ridiculously good value for the win, and with the in-form Lukaku leading the line that is the outcome I expect. The day finishes off over in Amsterdam as the Netherlands look to make it 2 wins from 2 against Austria, and again I suspect they will, with Memphis Depay no doubt looking to grab his first goal of the tournament after failing to find the net in the opening round of fixtures despite his side scoring 3 times.Share this: