Euro 2020: Day 7
The action began in Group C, as Ukraine, impressive in their opening round 3-2 defeat against the Netherlands, got their first points on the board as they handed North Macedonia, the lowest ranked team in the competition, their second defeat, following a 3-1 loss to Austria in Bucharest. The Romanian capital was again host for this encounter, and Ukraine started on the front foot, keen to turn around their recent poor form in tournament football, with Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk, both on target in Amsterdam, were again the main protagonists.
The breakthrough came just before the half hour mark, when the constant pressure eventually told, North Macedonia failing to deal with a corner, allowing West Ham front man Andriy Yarmolenko to fire Ukraine in front. The striker then turned provider 5 minutes later as he slipped in Roman Yaremchuk, who made no mistake slotting beyond Stole Dimitrievski, who had already been called upon several times to keep the higher ranked side at bay, meaning both strikers had scored for the second successive game, quite a feat under the watchful eye of Ukraine manager Andriy Shevchenko, who was no stranger to goals himself, grabbing their last European Championship goals playing alongside Yarmolenko back in 2012 before the pair struck in Holland.
Pandev thought he had scored in the opening half, only to see his effort ruled out for offside, but after the break North Macedonia were handed a life line when Karavaev was adjudged to have fouled Pandev, although it has to be said the veteran striker used all his nous to draw the foul. Leeds United man Ezgjan Alioski stepped up to take the spot kick, and although his initial attempt was saved by Georgiy Bushchan, who had produced several good saves as North Macedonia grew into the game, he adjusted well to fire home the rebound and give his side hope of claiming their first ever tournament point.
The goal sparked Ukraine back into action, and substitute Viktor Tsygankov had a great chance to put the game to bed but he wasted the opportunity, Shevchenko having made the bold decision to replace both strikers. They were then handed an even better opportunity when they were awarded a penalty after Avramovski was adjudged to have handled Ruslan Malinovskiy’s free kick into the area. Malinovskiy himself stepped up to take the penalty, but Stole Dimitrievski produced a fine save, making it a nervy ending for Ukraine, although they held on to take all 3 points with a 2-1 victory. Qualification can be secured as they face Austria, also in Bucharest, while North Macedonia will once again look for their first points as they face the Netherlands in Amsterdam in the final games of the group stages.
The second game of the day was always going to be about more than football, as the action returned at the Parken Stadium, scene of those dreadful events on Saturday where Denmark faced Belgium. And the Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen, recovering in hospital close to the stadium, was very much in the thoughts of everyone as the action stopped in the 10th minute to give the Internazionale midfielder a minute’s applause. At that stage his compatriots were already one goal to the good, however, after Denmark scored one of the quickest goals in tournament football. A mistake from former Manchester City defender Jason Denayer, back in the side for this one, allowed Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to pick out Yussuf Poulsen, who made no mistake to slot home inside 2 minutes. It was a lead that was well protected and could perhaps have been added to, Denmark looking completely in control and Belgium offering very little, as both sides went off at the break.
The momentum shifted in the second half, however, as Belgium sent on Kevin De Bruyne, the Manchester City midfielder left out of the opening game after recovering from an injury picked up in that Champions’ League final defeat to Chelsea. Any lingering disappointment from that game, however, was not on show here as the world class midfielder made an immediate impact, Belgium attacking with far more purpose and threat, and it was no surprise when he played a heavy role in the equaliser. Picking up the ball from Lukaku, he showed a level of awareness few possess when rather than taking on the shot he drew defenders before picking out Thorgan Hazard for the easiest of finishes.
The result was then turned completely on it’s head when a move started by Lukaku was this time finished by Kevin De Bruyne, goalscoring Thorgan’s brother Eden picking out the substitute, who drilled home from range giving Kasper Schmeichel no chance. Credit to Denmark, they continued to push looking for a way back into the game themselves, with former Middlesbrough striker Martin Braithwaite a constant threat, including one effort that hit the woodwork late on, but Belgium stood firm to become the first side to overturn a deficit and win in this year’s competition, a result which, coupled with their opening round win, means they now progress into the knockout stages.
The final game of the day saw the Netherlands also ensure their progress to the knockout stages as they were once again victorious on home soil. Following on from their 3-2 victory over the Ukraine, it’s fair to say they looked under far less pressure in this game, as Austria once again opted to utilize David Alaba at the back. The Netherlands took the lead 10 minutes in, after they were awarded a penalty when Denzel Dumfries was brought down by Alaba, Memphis Depay firing home from the spot to grab his first goal of the tournament, after failing to find the target against Ukraine despite a tireless display.
Far from spring into life, Austria continued to persevere with a system that offered little in the way of threat, and was easily exposed by the Netherlands time and time again, the only surprise being that they didn’t add to their lead in the opening 45 minutes in Amsterdam. The 12,000 strong crowd at the Johan Cruyff Arena were eventually treated to a second goal in the 67th minute, and it was wing back Denzel Dumfries, one of the most impressive so far this tournament, who was once again on target. Goalscorer Depay began the move as he hooked the ball over for substitute Donyell Malen to use his pace and drive through on goal. Rather than take on the shot himself, the PSV striker squared the ball for the marauding Dumfries to slot home, his 25 year old club colleague grabbing just his second goal for the Oranje, both coming at this tournament. Austria did have one chance to rescue some pride, Alaba going close late on with a long range strike, again as with the first game raising the question as to why he wasn’t pushed forward earlier in the day. Austria now face the Ukraine in Bucharest in a game which could see either side finish runners-up to the Dutch, who face North Macedonia in a dead rubber final game in Amsterdam, where they are likely to give the likes of Malen and Gravenberch a longer run out, while there could also be changes at the back as De Ligt looked to be struggling late on.
Over in Brazil, the hosts were rampant as they thrashed Peru 4-0 in Rio, Alex Sandro opening the scoring just 12 minutes in. The second came just after the hour mark, with Neymar grabbing the goal, before a late flurry saw Everton Ribeiro and Richarlison also add goals at the death. Elsewhere, despite dominating the game Colombia were left frustrated as they drew 0-0 with Ecuador, their disappointment further compounded with the late dismissal of Luis Díaz. Despite having 18 shots in total, 50% on target, they were unable to pick up a win against Ecuador, who managed just 3 attempts of their own, all off target, and enjoyed just 37% possession.
Todays’ action begins in Saint Petersberg, where Sweden, who held Spain to a goalless draw in their opening game, now face Slovakia, who picked up 3 points in an impressive win over Poland. I’m edging towards Sweden picking up the win there, before Hampden Park sees Croatia face off against the Czech Republic, who already have a win under their belt with an impressive 2-0 victory over Scotland. Hard to see who will come out on top there, as Croatia offered little against England, while the Czech Republic showed they can hurt teams, so I’m going for both teams to score. Despite the action taking place in Glasgow, there’s no doubting all eyes will be on events 400 miles away as Scotland take on England, keen to put on a better show after their opening day defeat. Again, despite England clearly being favourites and having the stronger squad, history has shown anything can happen in these games, so again I’m opting for the rather generously priced both teams to score.Share this: