Euro 2020: Day 8
Sweden ensured their progress with a hard fought win against Slovakia in Saint Petersburg in the opening game of the day. Slovakia came into the game unbeaten in six, their best run, including their impressive 2-1 victory against Poland in the opening round of Group E fixtures. Sweden, buoyed by a point against Spain despite having just 15% possession, were also confident having never previously lost to Slovakia, also recording a 6-0 win in a previous friendly when a young Isak, now their star player, scored his first goal for the nation. The Swedes also welcomed back winger Dejan Kulusevski to the bench, after he missed the Spain clash through covid. Unlike their previous game, Sweden enjoyed plenty of the ball in the opening encounters of this one, but were unable to find a way through. Kristoffer Olsson then picked up a booking, as much for a procession of fouls as the trip on Kucka, as Slovakia started to find a way into the game themselves, although at the break neither side had really created a chance of note.
On the hour Sweden were denied the opening goal as Larsson picked out Augustinsson, but Newcastle United shot stopper Martin Dubravka produced a wonderful save to tip over the bar. Alexander Isak then showed his brilliance to create a chance with a mazy run straight through the Slovakia defence, only to see Dubravka once again get down to save well. As is so often the case in football, however, you can go from hero to villain in a split second, and the Newcastle keeper did just that as brought down substitute Robin Quaison in the area minutes later. Midfielder Emil Forsberg stepped up and made no mistake with a well hit penalty, despite Dubravka going the right way, to give Sweden a lead they deserved on balance of play. Slovakia seemed to spark into life after the goal, making several changes and pushing for the equaliser, although Sweden also had the opportunity to increase their advantage, although the 1-0 victory means they will progress now after their opening day draw saw them move to the top of the group on 4 points, with Spain not in action until the following day.
A slightly subdued Hampden Park played host for the second game of the day, as Croatia faced the Czech Republic in Glasgow. With most Scottish focus on the final fixture of the day taking place in the capital, Croatia came into this one needing a win to aid their hopes for progression from the group stages, while the Czech Republic already had 3 points on the board with their impressive opening 2-0 win at the same venue. Czech forward Patrik Schick stole all the plaudits in that win, scoring twice including a sensational long range goal, and it was the Bayer Leverkusen forward who again opened the scoring here, converting from the spot after being felled in the area by a stray arm from former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren. In truth, the penalty looked harsh, but the striker made no mistake with the opportunity, sending the keeper the wrong way, the goal also sending him clear in the race for the golden boot.
Croatia, starting defeat again, went close through Rebic but went in at the break a goal behind. It took just 2 minutes after the restart though for them to find themselves level, and it was a goal both made and scored by Ivan Perišić, the Internazionale winger cutting inside from the left before curling an effort beyond Tomas Vaclik in goal. A fine goal, it also saw Perišić become the first Croat to score in four separate tournaments, his strike adding to goals from Euro 2016 and also the last 2 editions of the World Cup. Although both sides had further chances, neither could take advantage, with the game ending all square, just as it had when they met back in 2016.
There was always a danger given the build up that the clash between England and Scotland and Wembley could disappoint, and while the Scots will be delighted with the performance, the game itself lacked goals and hosts England failed to live up to their pre-tournament hype as they failed to create much in the terms of real chances. Scotland were able to welcome back Kieran Tierney, who missed the first game, while England brought in Reece James at right-back and Luke Shaw at left-back as Southgate mixed up his starting XI. Scotland came into this needing something more than England, who won their opening game, but almost found themselves behind early on as John Stones found himself unmarked from a corner, the Manchester City defender seeing his header rebound back off the post.
Far from unnerve the visitors, they grew into the game, and Pickford had to be at his best to push an effort from Stephen O’Donnell wide, the full back driving an effort through a sea of bodies after fine work from Robertson and Tierney on the other wing. England were then grateful to Reece James, making his first start of the tournament, as he was on hand to clear Lyndon Dykes effort off the line, as Scotland had the better of the chances after the break. England seemed to lack any urgency, and struggled to create, a fact highlighted by the poor performance of Harry Kane up front, the England captain eventually being replaced by Marcus Rashford. For their worth, Scotland battled hard for a point against much stronger opposition, and on another night could even have had all 3. They will certainly fancy their chances of getting something against Croatia now in the final game, while England, although likely to qualify at least in 3rd place with the four points already amassed, will be hoping for a much better showing in their final group game at Wembley against the Czech Republic, who now top the group on goal difference after this result.
.Over in the Copa América in Brazil, there was a familiar face on the scoresheet as Ben Brereton scored the only goal as Chile won 1-0 against Bolivia in Cuiabá. The early hours saw Argentina also claim their first win of the tournament, a goal by Guido Rodríguez after 12 minutes sealing the win against Uruguay in the capital, a result which sees them go top of Group B ahead of Chile in second.
Today sees favourites France back in action as they face Hungary in Budapest, and despite the Hungarians once again having the home advantage, I can’t see them breaking down the France back line, so I think a France win to nil is the most likely outcome as the World Champions look to grow into the tournament.
Munich then plays host to a mouthwatering tie as holders Portugal face Germany, and I think this is where the home advantage could play a part. Germany seem to be in a major transition at the moment, looking a shadow of their former selves, while Portugal had a comfortable win against Hungary in their opener even if the scoreline flattered them. Both teams to score looks the safest bet, but I have a sneaky feeling Germany may also get something from this game.
The second round of fixtures concludes as Spain face Poland in Sevilla. The Spanish side enjoyed over 80% of the ball in their opening match against Sweden, but it was the lack of firepower which saw them only claim a point. I expect they will dominate again against a Poland side who offered little against Slovakia even before being reduced to 10 men, star striker Robert Lewandowski largely absent in the defeat. Team selection could have a big bearing on this one, but I expect Gerard Moreno to be preferred to Morata this time, and Spain to win to nil in front of a home crowd. If it clicks and they find their rhythm, there could even be some value in the handicap market here.Share this: