Euro 2020: Day 9
The final round of Matchday 2 fixtures began with another full house in Budapest, as Hungary looked to bounce back from their opening round defeat, as they hosted World Champions France. Hungary, the only country currently allowing full stadia, gave a good account of themselves against reigning champions Portugal before eventually succumbing to 3 late goals, and they were hoping they could get more today against the side many consider favourites, having comfortably dispatched Germany in the opening game, on balance of play if not scoreline.
Despite dominating the first half as expected, France wasted several chances, Mbappé as always carrying a real threat. Hungary were also dealt a blow as they lost skipper Adam Szalai, potentially to concussion before his replacement was then also struck from the resulting free kick and stayed down for a brief moment before getting back to his feet. It looked like the first half would end in stalemate before the partisan crowd were sent wild as the hosts took an unlikely lead in first half stoppage time. A one-two with Sallai allowed veteran winger Attila Fiola to beat both Varane and Pavard before having enough to beat Lloris with the finish, sparking great scenes of celebration in the stands. Fiola himself also celebrated with vigour, smashing a table pitch side in his delight.
France rang in the changes second half, unsurprisingly, and were unlucky not to draw level when one of those substitutions Ousmane Dembélé hit the post. Just after the hour mark they found themselves level, Antoine Griezmann applying the finishing touch following a route one attack, Lloris punting the ball forward to Mbappé, who found his colleague in the box with time and space to beat Gulácsi. France then appealed for a penalty at the death, Kimpembe appearing to be fouled from a corner, but Premier League referee Michael Oliver was not convinced, although replays suggest they may have had a case. In the end, Hungary showed enough resolve not to repeat the collapse from days earlier against Portugal, claiming a valuable point, while France, now on 4 points, should have enough to progress as they face holders Portugal themselves in the final match day, a repeat of the final 5 years ago.
Germany were looking to bounce back from their opening game defeat and avoid losing their opening two games in a major tournament as they hosted holders Portugal in Munich. In another much hyped game, this one really lived up to the billing, Germany absolutely dominating the opening exchanges, creating plenty of chances, and Gosens producing a fine finish on the volley only to be denied by the flag, before Portugal then hit them on the break with a classic counter attack. Top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo was the benefactor as Portugal cleared from the back, Bernardo Silva played a superb lofted ball to Jota who controlled and slotted for his colleague to give the visitors an underserved lead.
If there was a touch of look about the opening goal, that was to be repeated as Germany hit back courtesy of an own goal. Robin Gosens, causing problems again down the left hand side, found the space for a cross and with Gnabry lurking the unfortunate Manchester City defender Rúben Dias could only watch on in horror as his interception beat Rui Patrício to bring Germany level. Clearly finding joy down the wings, Joshua Kimmich was the benefactor just 4 minutes later as he repeated the trick down the other flank, this time Raphael Guerreiro, who plays his club football in Germany, putting beyond his own keeper.
After the break, Germany continued to press and dominate the game, and it was no surprise when they grabbed a third 6 minutes after the restart. Gosens was again heavily involved, again given freedom down the wing to pick out a cross, and this time Chelsea forward Kai Havertz springing the Portuguese defence to poke home. The Munich crowd were then delighted to see the hard working Robin Gosens rewarded when he grabbed one himself, cutting in from the left to get on the end of a cross from fellow full back Kimmich to put some gloss on the scoreline.
Portugal did restore some pride when Diogo Jota scored after Ronaldo found himself in space from a lofted free kick to loop the ball back across the area, where Jota was on hand to bundle the ball into the net, much to the annoyance of Neuer in the Germany goal. Substitute Renato Sanches then struck the post with a superbly hit strike at the stadium he once played his club football, but in truth Germany were deserved winners and perhaps could have scored more. The result itself blows the group wide open, with France just leading the way on four points, Germany and Portugal now both on three and Hungary on one, meaning everything is still to play for in the final matchday.
Matchday 2 concluded with Sevilla playing host once more to the Spain national team, who dominated possession but were ineffective in front of goal in their opening fixture. Poland provided the opposition this time, looking to bounce back from their 2-1 defeat against Slovakia in Matchday 1. Eyebrows were raised when Spain boss Luis Enrique opted to persevere with former Chelsea front man Álvaro Morata as striker, despite his recent poor form in front of goal, but his decision was rewarded as Morata scored the only goal of the opening half. Looking lively from the off, Morata fought for every ball and was heavily involved, clearly keen to silence the doubters, and when he found space to get on the end of a scuffed cross from Gerard Moreno to turn home, the delight, and relief, were obvious to see. The joy was initially short lived as the referee’s assistant ruled the goal out for offside, but a subsequent VAR check re-awarded the goal, to hand Spain the advantage.
Poland pressed their opponents, clearly wary of the continual possession they had enjoyed in their previous game, but offered little in the way of threat until the end of the first half, when they had a great chance to pull level. A long range effort from Tymoteusz Puchacz flashes back off the post, but the normally reliable Lewandowski can only fire straight at the grateful Spain keeper, Unai Simón, allowing him to make the save. Moreno then had a great chance to double the lead for the hosts, Jordi Alba picking out the Villarreal front man, who fires into the side netting when he should at very least be hitting the target.
After the break, it felt like a familiar tale for Spain as they were made to regret their wasted chances as Poland pulled level. As the ball was swung into the box, a little nudge from Robert Lewandowski was enough to put Laporte out of position, and the Bayern striker then made no mistake with the header to claim his first goal of the tournament. Minutes later Spain were offered a lifeline after another VAR intervention handed them a penalty, after Jakub Moder was adjudged to have fouled Moreno. Moreno himself stepped up, but as his penalty smashed the woodwork and came back out, goalscorer Morata failed to adjust in time, sending an easy chance to regain the lead wide. Both sides made the changes, and the game became quite scrappy, Spain once again dominating the ball but offering little in the way of chances. Polish keeper Szczesny was under most pressure, at times looking assured, at others quite nervy, smothering the ball from Fabián Ruiz. He then reacts quickest to deny Morata, before Torres then fires the rebound over. Despite 5 minutes stoppage time, Spain were unable to find a second, and now find themselves 3rd in the group behind both Sweden and Slovakia, who they face in the final group game in Sevilla needing a win to ensure qualification.
Today sees the conclusion of Group A as we reach the business end of qualification. As is always the case, this means both games taking place simultaneously to avoid any undue advantage. Wales, currently second and in all likelihood already through, travel to Rome to face the impressive Italy who will look to secure the top spot with a win, and I suspect that Italy, who have yet to concede, will once again be too strong for their opponents and finish the group with a 100% record. The other game sees Switzerland face Turkey in Baku, with a win for Switzerland aiding their hopes of progress, while Turkey, with 2 defeats from 2, look like missing out regardless of the outcome. Turkey have disappointed so far this tournament despite coming in with huge expectations, so I’m tempted to think one last flourish could see them finally pick up something from this game before heading home.Share this: