Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Euro 2020 Day 13: Swing States

Spain 5:0 Slovakia

After Croatia caught fire last night, it was time for another giant to wake up. La Roja wore white but it was Slovakia who fired blanks in Seville.

Spain 5:0 Slovakia

5-0 is the biggest win anyone has had in the Euros but was as much down to Spain's reawakening as to another mismatch. The Slovaks only lost 1-0 to group winners Spain and had beaten Poland. 

But Spain's movement and metronomic passing outfoxed them today and they handed Luis Enrique's side a dream start when goalkeeper Martin Dubravka put into his own net. Dubravka had earlier saved a penalty from Alvaro Morata and saved another shot from him but the Spaniards reacted better to those setbacks. 

Aymeric Laporte added a second in first half injury time and Spain cruised to score three more after the break, tap-ins after criss-cross passing moves. They had such a good day losing their markers but with Slovakia so hapless, it is hard to know how much to read into it. The Spanish will have their work cut out against Croatia in the next round.

The Slovaks go home, beaten to the last third-place qualifying spot by four goals.

Sweden 3:2 Poland

A tale of two strikers and a pair of braces: Emil Forsberg netted twice for Sweden, Robert Lewandowski (who else?) twice for Poland but the Swedes added a third through Viktor Claessen at the death.

Sweden 3:2 Poland

Desperate for a win, Poland got off to a dreadful start by letting Forsberg score after 82 seconds via some comedy defending. Incredibly then, Lewandowski headed twice against the crossbar, as if it was not going to be his night.

Almost on the hour mark Dejan Kulusevski surged down the right flank and into the box before centering for Forsberg to sidefoot home. The Poles were not yet axed however and two minutes later their star striker hauled them back with a top-drawer finish from the edge of the area.

His second with six minutes to go was still not enough, and the Polish backline switched off again in the 93rd minute to let Claessen score, but by then they were out and the Swedes were through.

Sweden win the group with two wins and a draw, their prize a very winnable second round match against Ukraine in Glasgow on Tuesday.

France 2:2 Portugal

A bona fide big game in Budapest with the Puskas stadium packed to the rafters again.

A lively start but the noise really erupted in the 12th minute when news filtered through of Hungary scoring in Munich. Simultaneous games always allow this shadow supporting to occur but at this Euros lots of cities are hosting teams other than their own countries. A stadium full of Hungarian fans singing about a match in a far-off country while Cristiano Ronaldo and the world champions played before them felt a tad surreal.

France 2:2 Portugal

In the 16th minute Kylian Mbappé sprang the offside trap to latch onto a Paul Pogba pass and sidefooted Thierry Henry style, but Rui Patricio had his angles covered and punched away. For the next 15 minutes the game lost its bite but if anyone thought it lacked punch, Hugo Lloris put his fist in Danilo's face as he tried to clear a free kick on 28 minutes.

The French connection was deemed dangerous play and a yellow card and penalty ensued. Ronaldo had sent a shot well wide minutes earlier but was back to his best with a cooly dispatched spot kick, which sent him to the top of the Euro 2020 goalscoring charts with four in three games.

France did not react, allowing Portugal to boss the rest of the half. Les Bleus had already qualified of course. But then a gift from the ref as Mbappe ran into Nelson Semedo and awarded France a penalty. It seemed a ridiculous decision but Karim Benzema made no mistake to make it 1-1.

There was plenty of entente cordiale between the goalscorers and former Real Madrid teammates smiling arm in arm as they headed to the changing rooms, until Ronaldo remembered the cameras and covered his mouth La Liga style.

France had looked under-committed and overly dependent on Mbappé's pace on the left, Portugal more fluent, the Spanish referee headstrong.

Two minutes after the break Benzema found the net again from an exquisite Pogba pass, a world class through ball and finish, as if the favourites had merely been sleeping.

Just short of the hour another penalty, this time for Jules Koundé's flailing arms from a Ronaldo cross. Ronaldo rifled it in, 2-2. France had enjoyed the better second half but only went up the gears

With all four group D teams in contention, the flow of goals in Budapest and Munich made the permutations switch every time. As news probably filtered through of Germany's second goal, the two sides eased off in the final minutes, the last of the ebbing and flowing. 

Portugal were lucky to survive a penalty appeal for a Bruno Fernandes arrival on Kingsley Coman deep into injury time.

The Lusitanians had occupied all four spots in the group during the evening.

It was truly a swingers' night.

Germany 2:2 Hungary

Munich was swathed in mist and rain and Germany donned funereal black suitably - was this going to be a sad farewell for Jogi Low?

Germany 2:2 Hungary

The Germany coach looked tired, contemplating the end of a wonderful road. His usual smart casual attire looked like it had been slept in.

A deluge poured down on Bavaria. "Bit wet" tweeted the DFB with a wonderful grasp of English irony. There was a splash of colour when a protestor invaded the pitch to waive a rainbow flag in front of the Hungarians during their anthem. 

It took Hungary 11 minutes to dampen the locals' spirits even further. Adam Szalai met a fantastic cross from Rolland Sallai with a stooping header past Manuel Neuer.

After such a morale boosting win over Portugal, Germany were back to their disjointed norm. Apart from a Mats Hummels header thumped against the crossbar, their first half was a poor one. 

They struggled to adapt to the hellish, swirling rain inside the arena during the first half, perhaps a long overdue payback for the weather which scuppered the Mighty Magyars in the 1954 World Cup final.

The Germans played long but to little effect. Robin Gosens, a hero against the Portuguese, was anonymous; Kai Havertz, quiet hitherto, flashed a shot into the arms of on 51 minutes but equalised in the 66th, bundling the ball in after Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulasci missed the cross completely.

Havertz was substituted but only seconds after the restart it was Neuer's turn to make a hash of things, allowing Andras Schafer to steal in and head past him. 2-1 to Hungary in the most unexpected way.

Euro 2020

Leon Goretzka restored German hopes in the 84th firing through a crowded box to make it 2-2, yet another twist and turn on a night of utter unpredictability.

Hungary looked distraught at the end, so near and yet so far. They had taken points off France and Germany, no mean feat, but were eliminated. The Magyars had 

The Germans had played messily but had enough grit to fight back twice to salvage a point. Low lives to die another day. Now it is England at Wembley, where they last clashed at Euro '96 and Germany snuck through on penalties after a certain Gareth Southgate saw his kick saved.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

No comments: