Euro 2020: Day 11
Another convincing performance from the Netherlands saw them finish with a 100% record as they brushed aside North Macedonia 3-0 in Amsterdam. The Dutch came into the game having already qualified, while North Macedonia had lost both previous games and were just hoping to restore a little pride in their final game. It was also set to be the final appearance for legendary striker Goran Pandev, the 37 year old having amassed 122 caps for his country, with this set to be his last. Pandev thought he had added an assist on his final bow when he sent through Ivan Trichkovski inside the opening 10 minutes, the finish being ruled out for offside.
The Netherlands took a deserved lead after 24 minutes, a move beginning as they won the ball back on the edge of their own area, and being finished by the in-form Memphis Depay, who got on the end of a cross from Donell Malen, making his first start as I predicted, to claim his 9th goal in the last 10 games. It proved to be the only goal of the first half, despite plenty of chances.
After the break the Netherlands continued to dominate, and it was new PSG signing Georginio Wijnaldum who was to prove the difference, grabbing both the second and third goals for the convincing victory. His first came after some great build up play again from the home side, Depay this time turning provider to give Wijnaldum an easy tap-in, before Depay then saw his saved effort pushed into the path of the midfielder who made no mistake, his 3rd of the tournament. North Macedonia replaced Pandev, who received an emotional guard of honour from his team-mates, and then scored another goal, but again it was ruled out, as they bowed out of the competition with 3 defeats from 3. The Netherlands now face a wait to see who they will face in the next round, with 12 potential opponents still possible in the first knock out round, although they do at least know the destination as they face their first away game in Budapest.
Over in Bucharest, a 1-0 win was enough to see Austria leapfrog Ukraine into 2nd spot to progress to the knock-out stages for the first time. Marko Arnautovic returned to the starting line-up after sitting out a one game suspension for his goal celebrations in the opening fixture, and the former Stoke man should have had at least a goal to his name in a first half in which Austria created plenty. The only goal of the game came after just 21 minutes, Christoph Baumgartner poking home from close range to break the deadlock in a half from which Austria should have been further in front, with Ukraine reduced to half chances and speculative efforts. After the break it was a similar story, as Austria controlled the game and limited the chances for their opposition, who finish the group stages on 3 points, which mean they now face a wait to see if it’s enough to progress as one of the better 3rd placed teams. Austria, meanwhile, know their fate as they will now face the impressive Italy on Saturday in England.
Saint Petersburg played host as Belgium, having already qualified, showed their strength handing starts for both Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, as they faced Finland, who knew a draw could potentially see them through after their opening round win. Belgium controlled the first half but were unable to go into the break in front, Lukaku having several opportunities while Doku forced a great save from the Hrádecky, who has definitely grown in reputation this tournament. Hazard also had a half-hearted appeal for a penalty as the half drew to a close, but replays show he was perhaps looking for the contact and the referee rightly ignored the protests.
The second half was once again dominated by the Red Devils, Hazard going close and Hrádecky once again being the saviour for Finland. Belgium looked to have broken the deadlock after 66 minutes, a stunning through ball from Kevin De Bruyne once again finding Romelu Lukaku, who didn’t disappoint with the finish. Despite initially being allowed to stand, a very late VAR check then ruled out the goal for offside, although most angles appear to show Lukaku timing his run to perfection, sending the Finnish fans from disappointment to delight in moments. The breakthrough eventually came from a corner, and it was the unfortunate Hrádecky who saw the ball rebound off the post and off him before going just over the line before being clawed away, Thomas Vermaelen creating the damage with a bullet header from the set piece, a goal which sent Finland bottom of the group while Denmark, who were leading at the time of the goal, jumped up to second. With Denmark grabbing a third in Copenhagen, their delight was confirmed when Belgium grabbed a second, Romelu Lukaku this time seeing his goal stand after a swivel in the area before slotting home. The result saw Belgium finish the group as winners, the 3rd team to post a 100% record in the group stages after Italy and the Netherlands.
While several Russians would have been among the crowd at Saint Petersburg, Russia found themselves on the road as Denmark once again had home advantage, again both sides knowing they had the potential to progress dependent on varying permutations despite Denmark having yet to register a single point. Denmark went with the same starting XI who lost to Belgium, hoping the home crowd at the Parken Stadium would be enough to help them through in their 3rd fixture in Copenhagen. Russia had a chance to give their own qualification hopes a boost as Golovin went on a mazy run into the area, his final effort cannoning back off the feet of Kasper Schmeichel, in the Danish goal. At the other end, Denmark produced a moment of magic 7 minutes before half-time to take the lead into the break. Sampdoria youngster Mikkel Damsgaard showed great composure to work the ball onto his right foot and curl one in from 25 yards out, a spectacular goal from the 20 year old, his 3rd in 5 appearances.
Denmark were gifted a second goal just before the hour mark, when an awful back pass from Zobnin fell directly into the path of Yussuf Poulsen, who finished from close range before being replaced just minutes later, the goal meaning Denmark had every chance to progress if Belgium were victorious in Saint Petersburg. Russia were then handed a lifeline after being awarded a penalty when Jannik Vestergaard fouled Alexander Sobolev in the area. Zenit striker Artem Dzyuba stepped up to smash the ball home, opting for power down the middle while Schmeichel chose to dive. Denmark restored their 2 goal lead with another fantastic strike, this time after a scramble in the box, the ball eventually breaking to Andreas Christensen who absolutely thundered home from 25 yards out. Minutes later they grabbed a fourth on the break, this time Joakim Maehle being played in down the left hand side, cutting inside and providing the finish to send the home crowd wild and ensure they would finish the group stages as runner-up, a much needed lifted for both the team and country after the events of the last few weeks.
Over in Brazil, Uruguay and Chile had to settle for a point each as they played out a 1-1 draw in Cuiabá. Stoke born Ben Brereton was once again involved after his goal in the previous game, playing a return pass to Eduardo Vargas who fired beyond Fernando Muslera to give Chile the lead. There was a spot of fortune around the equaliser for Uruguay, with Luis Suárez and Arturo Vidal tangling in the areas from a corner, the ball being knocked into his own goal by Vidal as a result. Argentina, meanwhile secured a 1-0 win as they ensured their progress to the quarter finals, a Papu Gómez goal after just 10 minutes enough to secure victory over Paraguay, Lionel Messi earning his 147th cap to equal the record set by former team-mate Javier Mascherano in the victory in Brasilia.Share this: