Tag Archives: Euro 2020

The Harrys’ maul Ukraine with much vigour as England cruise to the last 4!

While England in the group stages of the Euro Championship had done well to not concede a single goal, I was honestly a little disturbed with their attacking potential as The Three Lions had barely managed to mount only two goals in three games courtesy Raheem Sterling.

Not the attacking intent one would associate with a forward line boasting the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho.

Having said this, as the tournament moved to the business end, so did England’s confidence with Germany being hammered 2-0 in the pre-quarters thanks to a strike from Sterling and Kane.

Well, as they say when a team is brimming with confidence, the world is at their feet!

Ask Ukraine and they will most definitely agree as they witnessed an English team run riot last night with a 4-0 mauling in the quarters at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

This courtesy a brace from captain Harry Kane along with a solitary strike from Harry Maguire and a bonus from Jordan Henderson.

What made me even happier is how keeper Jordan Pickford managed to keep a clean sheet on the fifth successive occasion equalling a record that was previously held by the Italian side in the 1990 World Cup.

So as The Three Lions marched to the last 4 with much confidence, lets dissect how Ukraine’s determination was all but shattered courtesy a stunning display by the World Cup semi-finalists:

Kane strikes early

Even before this contest began one would have anticipated a comfortable English victory as such is the gap between the two teams in question, with the world no. 4 in England playing a team loitering at 24 in Ukraine.

Well, the contest began exactly to this tune as only in the 4th minute Raheem Sterling orchestrated a fine run through the Ukraine defence sending a mouth-watering pass to Harry Kane who made no mistake in putting England in front.

Credit – Reuters

With this goal, Kane scored his second in the tournament and one could see glimpses of the old Harry, the talismanic match winner for England.

Ukraine, a goal down looked desperate to equalise to keep their dream run relevant in this competition with a 17th minute strike from Yaremchuk as the ball was paired away by an alert Jordan Pickford.

As the game continued, The Three Lions mounted two more opportunities through midfielder Declan Rice and Jadon Sancho albeit the Ukraine keeper stood firm to not concede a second.

England were only 1-0 up despite chances galore as the referee called time on the first 45.

Courtesy the Harry-Henderson show, England mount three in the second 45

As the second half began the 1-0 score line in a matter of moments became 2-0.

Harry Maguire was the destroyer with a fantastic header from a Luke Shaw cross in just the first minute of the second half. Ukraine were rocked early and any ambitions of mounting a comeback looked all but uncertain.

Credit – Reuters

Their comeback in a matter of three further minutes suffered another massive dent as the other Harry, the captain of England scored his brace courtesy a header from another fine cross by Luke Shaw as the English winger indulged in some brilliant interplay with Raheem Sterling to put the Ukraine defence in sixes and sevens.

Credit – Reuters

The East European nation was all but deflated with the third strike of sorrow as their hope of reaching the semi-final was fast fading.

Harry Kane almost made it four for England enroute to a hat-trick, when in the 61st minute he fired a fearsome left-footed strike that was just kept out by the Ukraine keeper, Bushchan.

In a matter of moments, England did get their fourth, through Jordan Henderson who did well with a close-range header from a Mason Mount corner as the Liverpool captain registered his maiden strike on the England goal scoring list.

Credit – Reuters

Ukraine by now were only thinking of the best flight options to fly out of Rome straight to Kyiv as the Wembley dream was all but sealed for England.

As the full 90 ended, the final score read Ukraine 0 – 4 England.

The Danish date awaits England at Wembley

As the tournament now moves to Wembley for the semi-finals and the all-important final hurrah, The Three Lions have had quite a journey this far winning 4 out of the 5 games and not conceding a single goal.

Next up they face a purposeful side in Denmark who are desperate to conquer Europe for their inspirational midfielder, Christian Eriksen.

This contest will surely be one of epic proportions as a determined England with the mantra of ‘lets bring it back’ will lock horns with the most purposeful team of the competition in the Dynamic Danes.

Lots to look forward to as remember my Dear England you’re just two wins way from bringing the cup home. Surely, you can’t falter now!

EURO 2020: La Roja Spared Blushes By Impressive Comeback in Eight Goal Thriller

Despite both Spain and Croatia being lacklustre in their respective groups, both sides advanced to the knockouts of Euro 2020. Spain in particular will have been buoyed by their 5-0 thumping of Slovakia in their final match, while Croatia showed their class to beat Scotland 3-1 in Glasgow.

However, the Blazers won’t have been helped by Ivan Perisic’s recent positive test for COVID-19. The Inter Milan forward is one of Croatia’s most experienced and talented players. With this match taking place at Denmark’s Parken Stadium, this was a truly neutral venue.

What followed was one of the best games in European championship history. But who would book their place to face either France or Switzerland in the quarterfinals? Here are all the highlights!

Spain score at both ends

The opening exchanges were largely cagey, but Spain were the side that had the lion’s share of possession. As has so often been the case for La Roja though, fashioning clear-cut chances was proving difficult.

In the thirteenth minute, Pablo Sarabia had Spain’s first shot in anger. The PSG midfielder’s effort though, only troubled the side netting and not Dominik Livakovic.

Sarabia was causing Croatia a lot of problems down the left. Image: Sport360

The first key chance was a few minutes later, and it came down the left again. A perfectly weighted through ball from Pedri found Koke in the centre of the penalty area, but the Atletico Madrid midfielder couldn’t best Livakovic with his shot.

An even better chance came in the nineteenth minute. Ferran Torres found the time and space on the right to float a perfect cross to Alvaro Morata’s head. However, the Juventus striker failed to get proper contact on the ball and headed it firmly into the ground before Livakovic caught with ease.

READ MORE EURO 2020: THORGAN’S STRIKE CREATES ‘HAZARD’ FOR PORTUGAL AS BELGIUM MARCH ON

If that was bad, what followed next was unbelievable. Spain were producing all of the chances, but found themselves behind in the most bizarre circumstances. Pedri had no pressure on him and passed back to his goalkeeper Unai Simon. The Barcelona midfielder overdid it though, and Simon failed to control the ball, he could only watch it fly into the back of his net. Croatia led 1-0 and had hardly ventured out of their own half.

Croatia were spurred on by their unexpected lead, Nikola Vlasic powering through on the right wing, but couldn’t find the net with his effort. Mateo Kovacic too, had a good effort just go over the net in the 26th minute.

READ MORE EURO 2020: PURPOSEFUL DENMARK CONQUER WALES TO REACH EURO 2020 QUARTER-FINALS

Spain were growing back into the game, and with eight minutes to go before half-time, they deservedly equalised. Another fine move down the left resulted in a scramble in the box. Jose Gaya got a shot off, and despite Livakovic parrying the powerful effort, Sarabia followed up to level the game 1-1.

Both sides would’ve been happy to head into the break level, but for different reasons. The final chance of note was a long shot by Koke, which flew a yard or two wide of Livakovic’s left-hand post.

Croatia capitalise on Spain sitting back

The first substitution of the game was carried out by Croatia at half-time. Bruno Petkovic, who was anonymous in the first 45, was replaced by Andrej Kramaric.

Spain were again the side on top, but were again largely failing to create clear chances. That changed in the 27th minute though, as an overload on the left side of the pitch resulted in Torres crossing to Cesar Azpilicueta, of all people to powerfully head into the goal.

Azpilicueta rose highest to put his side into the lead for the first time this evening. Image: Sportsbet.io

Livakovic was powerless to stop the full-back’s purposeful header as the Spaniard rose above the defender to see Spain lead 2-1.

Simon preserved this lead in the 67th minute thanks to a superb strong save low to his right. Vlasic cut the ball back for Josko Gvardiol and the latter shot at goal from a few yards out, but Simon redeemed himself for the OG earlier on. Kramaric would go through on goal a couple of minutes later, but the offside flag was raised, although Simon didn’t know that and produced another good save.

READ MORE EURO 2020: GERMAN SUB SINKS HUNGARY, BOOKS ENGLAND SHOWDOWN

In the 72nd minute, the ball was in the back of the Croatia net again. A free-kick resulted in chaos in the Croatian box and Torres once more perfectly found Morata. Morata tapped in from little more than a yard out, but it was always going to be called back for offside.

Straight after this, Croatia went down the other end and were calling for a penalty. The referee said no, despite Azpilicueta kicking the ball into Koke’s hands and waved away the protests with a yellow card for Marcelo Brozovic.

After a brief stoppage for an injury, Spain doubled their lead. Ferran Torres latched onto a brilliant pass from the restart from Pau Torres. F. Torres cut inside onto his left foot and slotted calmly into the net, 3-1, a fine goal. Croatia were kicking themselves though, that was schoolboy stuff to switch off like that.

READ MORE EURO 2020: SUPER STERLING POWERS ENGLAND INTO THE ROUND OF 16

Spain consolidated their position with substitutions, while Croatia were making changes to attempt to inject energy and zest into their eleven. In the 84th minute, it was almost deja vu for Croatia as they again switched off from a free-kick. Dani Olmo attempted to float the ball into the net, but Livakovic was there to save.

Croatia then got themselves back into the game in the 85th minute. No sooner had Spain almost gone 4-1 up, they found themselves only 3-2 ahead. Luka Mordric’s skill finally came in use, as Captain Croatia cut back the ball for Ante Budimir to strike at goal. The shot was saved, but another scramble in the box ensued before Mislav Orsic slammed the ball past the line.

Goal-line technology confirmed the goal and despite a VAR check for a potential handball, the goal stood and Croatia were only 2-3 down with five minutes remaining. A nervy five minutes followed, which only got worse for Spain when six minutes of added time was confirmed.

Croatia were rolling the dice and they came up with sixes. Croatia moved down the left with Orsic firing a perfect and dangerous cross into the middle. Mario Pasalic met it perfectly and the ball was in the net, 3-3 and we were heading for extra-time. This surely must be one of the games of the tournament!

Extra-time

The thirty minutes of extra time got underway as the sun began to set in the Danish capital.

The momentum and mentality of the sides had completely flipped. Croatia were now in the ascendancy and Spain were terrified of the counterattack. Not without reason after, as in the sixth minute of ET, Croatia should’ve been ahead again.

Orsic down the left once more and crossed to Kramaric, who let fly from six yards out. Simon again bailed his team out, a combination of hand and knee prevented Croatia from taking the lead. Spain would have a chance of their own straight after, Dani Olmo only being stopped by Duje Caleta-Car.

Spain would go ahead as the clock struck 100 minutes. Olmo was in acres of space on the right and he floated a perfect ball into Morata, who fired an unstoppable shot into the top-right of the goal, Spain lead 4-3!

Alvaro Morata silenced his critics with his second Euro 2020 goal today

Kramaric had a half-chance at the other end, but Spain finally, surely, put the tie to bed in the 104th minute. Another defence-splitting ball from Olmo saw Mikel Oyarzabal free and the Real Sociedad slotted in via a deflection from Livakovic to make it 5-3.

Morata would have another chance before half-time, but Spain looked like they had an insurmountable lead at last.

ET: Second half

Croatia didn’t get the memo again though, as Ante Budimir was inches wide following a move from the kick-off.

Spain then slowed the game down as Croatia began to really physically struggle. Modric departed the pitch with seven minutes remaining in what will likely be his last appearance in a Euro game.

Morata almost doubled his tally for the day with five minutes remaining. The Juve striker was through on goal, but a good save from Livakovic prevented Croatia from being hit for six. Olmo also almost made it 6-3, but the post denied him.

The Croats had given their all, but the 2018 World Cup runners-up fell at the first knockout hurdle again, 5-3 the final score.

Croatia’s dismal run of never winning a Euros knockout game continues, while Spain will face either Switzerland or France in the quarterfinals.

Thorgan’s strike creates ‘Hazard’ for Portugal as Belgium march on

For many last night’s fixture between Belgium and Portugal, the two powerhouses of World Football let alone Europe was the match to look out for in the pre-quarters.

Some would debate this, with the Germany-England showdown yet to come albeit when the number one team in the world battles another team in the top 5, eyeballs in abundance definitely merits the occasion.

And eyeballs are what we got as The Red Devils Fans and The Maroon Brigade stormed the Estadio La Cartuja in Sevilla, Spain amid millions more glued to their television sets as we witnessed Belgium get the better of Portugal albeit only by a solitary goal.

The solitary goal which put Portugal in complete ‘hazard’ as their Euro campaign came to an unexpected end courtesy the younger Hazard, Thorgan.

The 1-0 win also gave Belgium their first hurrah over Portugal since September 1989 when they beat the Southern European Nation 3-0. More than three decades of misery finally ending for The Red Devils amid five matches contested with three losses and two draws.

So, as the tournament for the megastar of Portugal and World Football in CR7, came to a rather disconsolate conclusion last night, lets dissect this small but decisive win for Belgium:

Thorgan Hazard the difference maker in the first 45

Portugal started this contest with much intent as only in the 6th minute, their Liverpool forward Diogo Jotta had a chance albeit dragging it wide as he was fed with a sumptuous offload from Sanches.

About 20 minutes later, Cristiano Ronaldo created their second opportunity through a free kicking drilling the ball into the bottom left corner as keeper Courtois made a crucial intervention to keep the megastar at bay.

Credit – Reuters

Belgium slowly started gaining confidence as Munier had a strike albeit off-target in the 37th minute only for Thorgan Hazard minutes later to capitalize on this confidence with a devastating right foot strike giving keeper Rui Patricio absolutely no chance as the ball swirled in the bottom right corner of the net.

Credit – Reuters

As the Red Devils went 1-0 up, at that point I believed Portugal with their might would definitely mount a comeback and this surely wasn’t the only goal we would see in the full 90.

Well, I was so wrong!

Portugal desperately try for the equaliser albeit no luck

The European Champions began the second half creating opportunities galore as Jotta again fired a shot off-target.

In the 61st minute, Portugal would find their range with a João Félix header from a Sanches corner which was comfortably grasped by Courtois.

As time went on, so did the desperation for the Champions of Europe. An equaliser surely had to come from somewhere.

Credit – Reuters

Well, an opportunity presented itself in the 82nd minute as Rúben Dias swung in a header from a Fernandes cross which was again averted by Courtois as he hit the ball away.

Portugal were denied yet again as The Belgian keeper was doing all he could to keep their lead intact.

A minute later Portugal mounted yet another attack as Guerreiro hit the post. It seemed, luck had befriended Belgium!

Minutes later Courtois again showed his class as he smothered the ball just outside his goal to deny the looming André Silva.

As the referee called time, Belgium amid some luck and much of Courtois’ brilliance had done fantastically well to keep Portugal at bay.

In truth seeing Ronaldo after the match with disappointment all over his face made me shed a tear as the fan in me was rather more animated with one of his favourite footballers coming up second best.

The Azzurri challenge will be as tough as they come

Up next Belgium would be pitted against a confident and rather devastating Italian side who are yet to lose a single contest in this tournament.

They have scored goals aplenty and their attacking threat in Immobile, Insigne and others is surely second to none. In truth haven’t seen an Azzurri side with so much flair in a long time.

This contest will again be one for the ages much like Belgium’s last excursion against Portugal albeit The Red Devils would have to be more decisive and lethal with their performance to get the better of the Azzurris’ enroute to sealing a semi-final berth.

After all, only luck can’t win you all battles, dear numero uno team!

An important Kieffer Moore header, saves Wales’ blushes in Baku!

After an unprecedented 15 months of the pandemic running or should I say ruining our lives, a four-letter word has brought the much-needed ointment on our long-hurting wound.

This four-letter word is Euro.

Yes, the first international football tournament amid the pandemic has finally set sail, albeit delayed by a year.

On Friday night, The Euro 2020 or should I say 2021, got underway in Rome with Italy hammering Turkey, 3-0 amid a sea of ecstatic Azzurri supporters.

Contrasting emotions of relief and excitement engulfed me to finally see the top nations in Europe battle it out to become the undisputed kings of this continent. This was a delight for every fan who loves international football.

When we talk about international football, we all have our favourites and a second nation too that we support despite being located in any corner of the globe. That’s precisely the reason they say football has the power to bring people together, regardless of their age, race, gender, culture, or nationality.

Well for me being an Indian, I am a die-hard fan of England, followed by a strong sense of liking for their neighbours, Wales.

Yes, Wales is my second favourite team as I tuned in yesterday with much expectation to see The Dragons lock horns with Switzerland in their opening contest amid 10,000 fans at the Baku Olympic Stadium.

In truth, I was much relieved with the final 1-1 result as despite the Swiss domination, The Welsh had managed to secure the vital point. Needless to say, I would have expected nothing less than a Wales victory with a team boasting the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and others. After all, they were the semi-finalists in 2016.

So, without further ado, lets dissect this contest, as the two West European nations battled it out in the second game of Group A:

Swiss dominate the first 45

The Dragons, under caretaker Manager Rob Page in the absence of the regular coach Ryan Giggs, started the contest brightly. In just the 15th minute, Kieffer Moore’s header was punched merely inches above the post by the Swiss goalkeeper, Yan Sommer who leaped at the right time to make the crucial save.

Credit – Reuters

That was the only chance of any prominence the Welsh would conjure in the first half, as Switzerland took control of the game. This Swiss created eighteen chances, with four being clear opportunities to score.

Fabian Schar almost put the Swiss in front in the 20th minute with a terrific backheel that was saved in the nick of time by keeper, Danny Ward. Switzerland’s second opportunity came just before halftime, as their number 9, Seferovic, hit the ball marginally high.

As the referee called time on the first 45, Wales were lucky not to be a goal down.

Moore more than saves the day for Wales

Luck would finally run out for Wales as the second half got underway, when in just the 49th minute, Swiss number 7, Breel Embolo made no mistake slotting a header into the left corner of the Welsh goal from a Xherdan Shaqiri corner.

Credit – Reuters

Switzerland all but deserved this lead for the relentless attacking brand of football they displayed.

The equaliser for The Dragons would come in the 74th minute, as Kieffer Moore guided a Joe Morell shot towards the Swiss goal with an adept header. The Cardiff City striker did well to overpower the Swiss defence to convert this opportunity.

Credit – Getty

Switzerland continued their offensive onslaught for the rest of the half, managing a second goal albeit VAR ruled it otherwise as Gavranovic was adjudged offside.

As the 90 ended, I like many Welsh supporters was more than relieved as The Dragons salvaged a point in a game that was all of Switzerland’s to win.

Wales have to feast on Turkey in their next game

If Wales harbour any ambitions of proceeding to the next round, draws surely are not the need of the hour.

The Dragons need to put wins under their belt to showcase the steel that got them to the semi-finals of the 2016 edition. Inspirational leader Gareth Bale surely needs to do more to have a nice Turkish feast in their next game as the Welsh lock horns with this East European nation.

Nothing less than a victory will suffice for The Men in Red against Turkey as their last group game against Italy in their own backyard would be a big mountain to climb.

So, go on Men in Red, show us an inspirational performance in your next outing. Soar to heights unparalleled as has another Reds outfit in achieving a Champions League spot despite being in the pits of adversity in the last edition of The Premier League.

Yes Wales, you need to do a Liverpool!

Everybody at Sportlight would like to wish Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen all the best with his recovery following his collapse on the pitch against Finland yesterday.