Friday, June 18, 2021

European Championships

Tournament favorite France began play with a 1-0 victory over Germany, courtesy of a Mats Hummels own goal for Die Mannschaft. Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba was dominant for France and figured prominently in the build up to the deflected own goal by Hummels. Chelsea’s Kai Havertz was ineffective in attack for the Germans who looked more dangerous after the second half substitution of Havertz’s Chelsea teammate Timo Werner and former Manchester United, and current Bayern Munich, player Leroy Sane.

Portugal was unable to score for 83 minutes against Hungary before a late flurry featuring two goals by Cristiano Ronaldo led to a 3-0 victory for the defending Euro champions. Ronaldo’s goals make him the all-time leading Euro goal scorer with 11 goals, breaking a previous tie with former French player, and suspended UEFA administrator, Michel Platini.

Aaron Ramsey scored off an assist from Gareth Bale and Swansea City’s Connor Roberts clinched matters, after a penalty miss by Bale, in a 2-0 Wales win over Turkey.

Italy was impressive for a second straight game as the Azzurri defeated Switzerland 3-0 as Manuel Locatelli struck for a brace and Ciro Immobile scored his second goal in as many tournament matches. Italy, quickly moving into the discussion for tournament honors, is undefeated in its last 29 matches.

Russia was much improved after a decisive opening loss to Belgium as the Russians defeated Finland 1-0.

Former West Ham player Marko Arnautovic was suspended for Austria’s 2-0 loss to the Netherlands. An opening match goal scorer for Austria, Arnautovic was suspended for vile comments made in that game to North Macedonian and Leeds United player Ezgjan Alioski. Netherlands won for a second straight match as former Manchester United player Memphis Depay opened scoring with a penalty kick before Denzel Dumfries sealed matters with his second goal of the tournament.

West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko scored for a second straight match in Ukraine’s 2-1 win over North Macedonia with Leeds’s Alioski notching the goal for the losing side.

Denmark shocked Belgium with a goal two minutes into their match only to lose 2-1 as Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne made his tournament debut by assisting on Belgium’s opening goal and netting the winner for the Red Devils’ second win of the tournament. The match was emotional for both sides following the misfortune which befell Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen in Denmark’s opening match. Play was stopped at the ten-minute mark of the match to show support for Eriksen, Denmark’s number 10.

Sweden is undefeated after their opening goalless draw with Spain and 1-0 victory over Slovakia on Friday. The Swedes, with little to offer in attack, have played outstanding defense in the tournament and leveraged a penalty by Emil Forsberg in their win.

Czech Republic was looking for a second win on Friday when taking on Croatia, opening match losers to England.

England and Scotland face off later in the day for their first meeting in a major tournament since 1996, a Euro match-up in which current England manager Gareth Southgate participated. Wembley Stadium, the site of Friday’s match, is limited to 25% capacity but there were reports of a significant influx of Scottish supporters in London, with or without tickets. A win by England on Friday will punch their ticket to the next round of this year’s competition. Manchester United’s Harry Maguire is reported to have sufficiently recovered from his ankle injury to be available versus Scotland.

Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson are other England players hoping to push into the starting line-up. Southampton’s Che Adams may get a start for Scotland who benefitted from his energy in a substitute role in an opening tournament loss to Czech Republic.

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