Friday, June 18, 2021

Euro 2020 Day Eight: Slips, Wobbles and Slides

Sweden 1:0 Slovakia St Petersburg

Euro 2020 Day Eight: Slips Wobbles and Slides.

The two sides seemed well matched from their first games - both had strong defences, were well organised and kept their shape, so a 0-0 draw seemed on the cards. The first half seemed to fulfill that prophecy as if both were happy with a draw, but as the game progressed it was clear the Swedes were showing more hunger and endeavour.

They had not scored at the Euros since the opening game of 2016 but broke that duck with Emil Forsberg's 77th minute penalty. Whilst the letter of the law demanded a spot kick, one felt for Slovakian goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who did not move as the raiding Robin Quaison tapped the ball wide of him before colliding.

Dubravka made a handful of saves to keep out the Swedes, for whom Alexander Isak looked a cool customer once more. Slovakia regressed from their win over Poland and must look to take points from Spain in their final match.

Czech Republic 1:1 Croatia Glasgow

A little sprinkling of fans in the cavernous Hampden Park sat in stark contrast to the overflowing venues in Budapest and Copenhagen but the absentees missed an eventful central European clash.

Euro 2020 Day Eight

For the first 45 there was only one winner as the Czechs' expansive game and mass pressing kept the Croats far from their goal, smothering Luka Modric in the process. The Czechs sprayed passes around the Hampden turf in contrast to Croatia's short build-up down the middle, which was not working.

The Czech goal was VAR-enabled as the unseen team spotted a Dejan Lovren elbow on Patrik Schik nobody on the field did. From the spot, Schik notched his third of the tournament.

With the World Cup finalists staring elimination in the face, they came out roaring after the break and were level within two minutes courtesy of a typical Ivan Perisic strike, the Inter man making use of his power to cut in from the left before firing a rocket into the net. Croatia looked to grown a few inches and were passing faster too. Game on.

The introduction of Bruno Petkovic on the right gave the Croats a balance to Perisic and by the hour mark, the match was a high-octane encounter. Yet the eruption was brief. The Croats dominated but they failed to maintain the pace of the start of the second half and the match petered out into a mutually satisfying point. 

With four points from two games, the Czechs left the field happier, but Croatia will be confident of beating Scotland and qualifying too.

England and Scotland take the knee
England and Scotland take the knee

England 0:0 Scotland London

The UK media had built this up to be the biggest game in history; summer is the silly season after all. Unlike the nations' last clash in a finals, a burning hot day at Euro '96, today in London was a monsoon and Wembley was only 25% full.

The Tartan Army were in town in their thousands, reminding us of the carnival we have been missing with Scotland not qualifying for tournaments.

It rained heavily all day and night in Wembley, which does not help with the cultured passing game Gareth Southgate desires, but question marks against the otherwise teflon manager should still be raised. England did not dirty David Marshall's gloves beyond a Mason Mount effort and found it impossible to breach the Scots' rugged defence. 

Perhaps the hype got to England's young guns, who began without gusto and rarely upped the ante, unlike their visitors, who rose to the occasion and played with intensity. Scotland came away the happier having won their first point and stopped the Auld Enemy, but had a let-off in the first half when they let John Stones soar unmarked to meet a corner and hit the post. 

England need to raise their spirits. Harry Kane, the 2018 World Cup golden boot winner, looked jaded and lost while Marcus Rashford was anonymous after coming on. Jack Grealish did better on his belated debut in tournament football but Scotland's near misses from Stephen O'Donnell and Lyndon Dykes were the best scoring attempts of the night, along with Stones' header.

England v Scotland

The world's oldest international fixture dates from 1872, but the injury time melee in the box was more like the medieval village game from which football sprang. British Isles sides tend not to serve up haute cuisine when they meet each other in competition.

Scotland go north happy with their work but have still to score and must now win against Croatia, while England should ease into the next round, where sterner tests await.

Scotland line up
Scotland line up © Ross Clegg

England line up
England line up © Ross Clegg

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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