Tuesday, June 15, 2021

European Championships

A shadow was cast over the opening weekend of the Euros when former Tottenham Hotspur and current Inter Milan midfielder Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac event Saturday while playing for Denmark in his country’s game against Finland. After frightening moments where CPR and a defibrillator were employed on the field, Eriksen was revived and later was awake and communicating with teammates after transport to a local hospital.

The suspended match was restarted later in the evening with Denmark falling 1-0 to the Finns as an uncharacteristic mistake was made by Leicester goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel who would have been understandably distracted by the day’s events.

The Euros had debuted Friday with an impressive 3-0 victory by Italy over Turkey. Dominating midfield play for Italy was Chelsea’s Jorginho, one of 17 Chelsea players represented on national teams competing in the Euros, the most of any club team.

Early Saturday action saw Wales, with six Premier League players in its starting line-up, salvage a point with a second half goal to tie matters in a 1-1 draw with Switzerland. Belgium then cruised to an easy 3-0 win over Russia as former Premier League star Romelu Lukaku scored twice for the Red Devils and dedicated his first goal to Eriksen, his current Inter Milan teammate.

On Sunday, Raheem Sterling justified his presence in Gareth Southgate’s starting line-up after a difficult domestic season in the Premier League. The Manchester City forward scored the match’s lone goal in England’s 1-0 defeat of Croatia, receiving a surgical pass from Leeds’s Kalvin Philips. England’s defense was little troubled by a Croatian attack unable to mount any form of threat. Austria’s third goal in a 3-1 win over North Macedonia on Sunday was scored by former West Ham player Marko Arnautovic, a second half substitute.

The game of the weekend was perhaps Netherlands versus Ukraine. Embattled Netherlands coach Frank de Boer was being criticized pre-match for his refusal to employ the Dutch team’s traditional 4-3-3 formation. Temporary redemption seemed at hand when the Netherlands jumped out to a 2-0 lead, the first of which was scored by now former Liverpool midfield Georginio Wijnaldum who has just signed with PSG. The Ukraine then halved the lead on a goal by Andriy Yarmolenko, barely used at West Ham this past season, at the 75-minute mark and knotted matters four minutes later. Just when it appeared that Frank de Boer must be cursed, Manchester City’s Nathan Ake delivered a perfect cross like clockwork for the Orange as Denzel Dumfries headed in the 85th minute winner.

The goal of the tournament to date, however, was Patrik Schick’s second goal for Czech Republic in a 2-0 defeat of Scotland. Schick launched his shot from the halfway mark with the ball sailing past an out of position Scottish goalkeeper for the longest goal to be scored in the Euros since 1980.

Scotland featured four Premier League starters in the match, including left back Andy Roberson of Liverpool, while West Ham teammates Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal were in the Czech line-up.

Slovakia was a 2-1 winner over a Polish side which yielded the winner after being reduced to 10 men by a second half red card.

Spain found it difficult to convert its opportunities into goals in a scoreless draw versus Sweden. Former Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata was among the Spaniards missing chances. Spain controlled 85% of possession but was unable to find joy against a Sweden defense featuring Manchester United’s Victor Lindelof at center back and Everton back up Robin Olsen in goal.

Tuesday’s action features an attractive matchup between top ranked France and a Germany squad playing its final tournament under long-time national team manager Joachim Low. Chelsea will be well represented in the match with Germany players Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Antonio Rudiger facing club teammates Olivier Giroud and N’Golo Kante of France. Giroud has been involved in some internal discord with the French team, the Chelsea striker’s public complaints of lack of service in matches leading up to the Euros being ill received by PSG star Kylian Mbappe. Manchester City leading scorer Ilkay Gundogan starts in midfield for Germany. Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris are starters for France, the 2018 World Cup winners. 

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