vineri, 18 iunie 2021

Euro 2021 - Graveyard shift

Either the football today hasn't been very exciting, or it's a coming down from two great games yesterday (Italy & Wales). Or just football saturation starting to creep in. Fact is, I got quite bored today.

Denmark - Belgium 1-2

The big question mark was how would Denmark play in the wake of Christian Eriksen's injury. And it does look like their reaction was a great one. Came out flying, scored quickly, completely dominated the first half. They might've stunned Belgium a little bit, hence the lack of reaction. The fact that in the end the Red Devils came back in the game is due to quality and experience. Denmark tried to sustain the fast pace after the break too, but that takes stamina, and there's little doubt about who the fitter team is. Instead, they should've packed the defence, absorb some pressure, frustrate Belgium and wait for some killer counters. Poulsen and Braithwaite have enough pace to resolve a counter-attack between them, and Braithwaite almost did it at the end. 

An interesting moment, Kasper Schmeichel's coming out for the final free-kick. His placement and jump were good, but almost cost him a third goal.

Belgium has done well to get back in the game and it was a show of force bringing De Bruyne, Witsel and Hazard from the bench, a way of saying they do have plenty of match winners in reserve. But overall they're not looking as good as they did at the World Cup in Russia. To be seen how far they go, and winning the group will certainly help for the knock-out stages, but they're not contenders for the tournament. The likelihood is they're gonna beat Finland, which means Denmark still has a shot at the second place if they beat Russia. And if they play like they did in the first half today, should be an easy task.

Netherlands - Austria 2-0

Another one where the winners were convincing on the day, but not convincing as serious contenders for the tournament. This is, I believe, the worst Dutch team I have seen in my lifetime. And they controlled the game and won comfortably, but Austria put in a really poor display tonight. If they've written off this game on account of beating Ukraine, it might blow in their face. And beat Ukraine they'll have to to be sure of finishing second, losing by two tonight means a draw might not be enough.

Back to slagging the Dutch a bit more: the fact the Memphis Depay, free agent, is their star player, is telling. Not much in the way of individual quality, link-up between midfield and attack is suffering, the forwards are afraid to shoot and they're missing a lot of chances. Ukraine almost drew them, and they faced a poor opponent tonight. But come the knock-out stages, things might look grim.

Ukraine - North Macedonia 2-1

Two missed penalties in the game,
but I didn't feel they worth a mention,
that's how much they mattered
I haven't seen the game live, caught up with the first half between the evening games and listening to the second half while writing this. It's funny, probably the lowest billed game at this Euros, but the football was more entertaining than in Netherlands - Austria. Ukraine, it seems, is actually a decent team and there's no accident they scored twice against the Netherlands. At the moment I see them as favourites against Austria. A win against Austrians will win them a meeting with Italy, which spells end of the road, but at least it will be an honorable exit, a result in line with the squad's worth.

Macedonia, it seems, will go back home without points, but already there's plenty of reasons for them to be proud. Add to that a decent display, maybe a goal against Netherlands, and they'll be hailed as heroes in Skopje, for good reason. Small country, young team, small selection pool, barely any international experience, yet they gave a good account of themselves and they've set the scene for further international success in years to come. Which is really the most they could've hoped for in this tournament. I like how they don't stop playing after conceding a goal, both their goals so far have been from losing positions.

Tomorrow's football is much more interesting than today's, unfortunately work trip to Bournemouth for me means I'll miss most of the next 6 matches. But I'm thinking Slovakia double chance against Sweden, Croatia to beat Czech Republic by one goal and England to beat Scotland by at least 2. I might not be able to blog tomorrow, but for the few people that actually read this, there's always Facebook to slag me off.

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