Euro 2020: Day 16
After a few days break, the action was back underway as we returned to the Netherlands to see Wales face Denmark for the first place in the quarter-finals up for grabs the winner. Wales made 3 changes, bringing back players who had been rested against Italy as Davies, Mepham and Moore all returned to the starting line-up, while Denmark notably named Kasper Dolberg in place of Yusuff Poulsen, who’s absent from the squad altogether, suggesting the striker may be injured.
In a tense opening, Wales created the first opportunity of note 10 minutes in, Dan James creating the space and then skipper Gareth Bale looking to do the damage, cutting in onto his left foot but firing just wide of the post. Denmark then began to grow into the game, Jannik Vestergaard heading over after a succession of corners, before eventually edging in front after 27 minutes. Mikkel Damsgaard fed Kasper Dolberg, back in the side, and the Nice striker cuts inside and curls superbly into the bottom corner beyond Ward in the Wales goal.
Dolberg then went close again, Ward this time getting the better of the pair as he blocked the effort after Damsgaard again caused problems. They then almost doubled the advantage just before the break, Ward again sparing Wales blushes as he saved from Joakim Maehle in the final minute of the first half. The pressure had been mounting before the break, and despite the interval, Denmark came out with the same intentions and found themselves 2 up just 3 minutes into the second half. Moore lost the ball in attack, and a swift counter attacking move was terribly dealt with at the back, culminating in Williams firing the ball straight to goalscorer Kasper Dolberg, who needed no second invite to claim his second of the game.
Both sides began to make the usual wave of changes, Wales looking to create something to find a way back into the game, while Denmark were happy to bring on fresh legs to help keep the momentum going. A cross from Mathias Jensen, which hit the post, almost embarrassed Wales further as they struggled to cope with the Danish attack. Bale tried in vein to wrestle his side back into the game, doing everything from taking throw ins to appearing all over the pitch, but Denmark seemed comfortable with anything Wales had to offer. Substitute David Brooks got booked moments after coming on after he was adjudged to have fouled, and Denmark seemed quite happy to draw the fouls as the game reached its conclusion.
Bale was then guilty of a foul which almost led to a third. The ball was again whipped into the area, and a far post header was pushed by Ward into the path of Braithwaite, who hit the post before the follow up hit the other post from Andersen. The third did come, minutes later, when Joachim Maehle was allowed the freedom of the penalty area in the final minutes, taking a touch, cutting inside onto his favoured left foot and then rifling into the roof of the net from close range, Ward with no time to react.
It was to get worse still as substitute Harry Wilson was then dismissed for a straight red, a lazy tackle from behind to halt another attack being met with dismissal from the referee. Bale then went in the book minutes later for sarcastically applauding the referee as discipline went out of the window. Denmark then had the ball in the net again, Martin Braithwaite controlling superbly and teasing the defence before firing into the bottom corner, the linesman then ruling out the goal with his flag before a VAR check then overturned that decision, giving the Danish side an emphatic and deserved win.
Italy headed to Wembley to face Austria having yet to concede a goal in their three group stage wins, although they did have to make a change at the back as Chiellini had failed to recover, Francesco Acerbi deputising at the heart of the defence. There was more welcome news in midfield, however, with Marco Verratti, just returning from a knee injury, being picked again, although Locatelli had done well in his absence. Austria named a familiar line-up, with former Stoke & West Ham striker Marko Arnautović once again leading the line.
The lively Arnautović picked up a booking inside the opening 2 minutes after an Austria attack led to a poor pass across the box, the striker being a little too over-exuberant in his attempts to win back possession. At the other end, Immobile was let down by his touch for once as Italy looked to counter, as the game swung end to end in the opening exchanges. Left back Spinazzola then went close, firing over from a tight angle, as Italy grew into the game, the first chance of note, before Verratti was then disposed on the edge of the area as Italy continued to press.
Watford keeper Bachmann then had to be at his best to react to keep out a shot from the edge of the area by Nicolò Barella, using his feet to block the effort after Spinazzola had produced a wonderful cutback from the left, the full back starting to enjoy space once more as he had in his previous two appearances in the group stages. Arnautović had another chance to trouble the Italian defence minutes later after he broke free in the middle, his shot flying over to the relief of Donnarumma as Austria looked to hit on the counter, the flashing half volley failing to trouble the Italian keeper.
Italy then went extremely close when Ciro Immobile opted to shoot from distance, his effort striking the woodwork and going wide for a goal kick with Bachmann rooted to his spot, a wonderful effort from a striker full of confidence as Italy continued to threaten, finishing the first half on top despite it being all square at the break. Austria had the best chance in the opening exchanges of the second half, David Alaba firing just over from a direct free kick just outside the area 6 minutes into the second half. Sabitzer then had a shot deflected wide, while at the other end Italy seemed to lack some of their earlier fluidity, overhitting passes and running the ball out of play as they lost the rhythm from the first half.
Austria were rewarded for their effort when they snatched the lead after 65 minutes, a poor pass being crossed into the box, Alaba getting up above everyone to head back across the box where Marko Arnautović rose beyond Donnarumma to head home from close range. However, after a short delay VAR ruled out the goal, the former Stoke man being just offside. Sabitzer went close moments later, with Austria clearly in the ascendancy after their disallowed goal. VAR was then called upon again for a potential penalty to Austria, but an offside in the build up meant no penalty even if a foul had been committed inside the area, Italy looking flustered as the game entered the closing quarter of an hour.
Italy continued to press for a winner, but really struggled to create with Austria defending superbly and rarely looking troubled by their opposition. Into extra time, Italy were first to try their luck, Federico Chiesa drawing a save from Bachmann. Minutes later the Juventus wide man broke the deadlock, a sensational bit of control and skill to bring the ball down and cut back inside before firing across goal, and Bachmann, into the far corner of the net. It was a blow for Austria, who had defended so strongly in normal time.
Italy then doubled their lead, showing some of the attacking threat they had been sorely missing in the opening 90 minutes of the game, Insigne firing into the box, Bellotti involved and Matteo Pessina on hand to smash the ball into the far corner to ensure Italy progress into the quarter finals after a very testing tie. Sabitzer had a chance to rescue something for Austria, first missing a volley then firing over the bar, before they eventually did strike back in the 114th minute of extra time. It was the first goal Italy had conceded in a long time, a corner being met at the near post by Sasa Kalajdzic, the rangy striker heading home. It was the first time the Italian defence had been breached in 1,168 minutes, and also the first goal Austria had ever scored in the knockout stages of the competition, but it proved to be too late as Italy won 2-1, almost adding a third at the death before a goal line clearance, eventually seeing the Azurri progress albeit not in the manner many expected.Share this: