Monday, July 5, 2021

European Championship

England easily sailed by an overmatched Ukraine squad, 4-1, to book a place in the semi-finals against Denmark. A Harry Maguire goal just five minutes into the second half seemed to take the life out of Ukraine as the game began to get out of hand with Harry Kane scoring a second goal and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson becoming the third Premier League team captain to score on the day. Henderson’s score was his first international goal.

Everton’s Jordan Pickford established a Euro record with a fifth consecutive clean sheet as the Three Lions are unscored upon across seven consecutive matches overall, a club record. Luke Shaw continued his outstanding Euro performance, assisting on Manchester United teammate Maguire’s header and on Kane’s second goal. Gareth Southgate becomes the second manager to take England to the semi-final of both a World Cup and a European Championship as the Three Lions return home to Wembley Stadium to face Denmark on Wednesday.

The Danes were 2-1 winners over Czech Republic, continuing their inspiring journey after star Christian Eriksen suffered his medical emergency in their opener and Denmark dropped its first two group stage matches. Protecting a two-goal halftime lead, Demark’s defensive back line of Chelsea’s Andreas Christiansen, Southampton’s Jannick Vestergaard and AC Milan’s Simon Kjaer, in front of Leicester City  goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel, was able to see out the win despite conceding a goal to Czech Republic’s Patrick Schick. Schick’s fifth goal tied him with the previously eliminated Cristiano Ronaldo for leading goal scorer so far in the tournament. Kaspar Dolberg’s third goal of the tournament provided the winning margin for the Danes.

The other side of the Euro bracket will see an Italy versus Spain encounter on Tuesday. Italy received two outstanding first half goals from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne in a 2-1 win over Belgium’s “golden generation”. Former Premier League star Romelu Lukaku scored a penalty kick for the Belgians in first half injury time before the two teams played a scoreless second half which featured unrealized chances by each side. Italy notched a 13th consecutive win during a current 32 match unbeaten run. An aging Belgian squad, meanwhile, were again frustrated in their quest for a first major title with their star-studded line-up. Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne played versus Italy but was clearly limited by his injury issues. Italy star wing back Leonardo Spinazzola sustained an Achilles injury bersus Belgium and will miss the rest of the tournament.

Spain advanced by defeating Switzerland on penalty kicks. After converting all five of their penalty kicks to eliminate France in their previous match, the Swiss were unsuccessful on three of their kicks against the Spanish who missed two of their own kicks in a poor display of marksmanship by both sides. Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri’s 68th minute goal had negated a first half own goal by the Swiss to send the match to extra time and penalties.

Spain once again raised concern as to whether they have sufficient striking power to become Euro Champions as the club failed to score on 28 shots, 10 of which were on target against the Swiss, and would have been eliminated but for the 8th minute own goal by Swiss defender Denis Zakaria, filling in for suspended Arsenal player Granit Xhaka. The 10th own goal of this year’s tournament surpasses the combined total of all previous European Championships.

The Euro final is Sunday July 11th.  

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