UEFA Euro 2020: Matchday 13

The group stage of UEFA Euro 2020 wrapped up on Wednesday with the final matches in Group E and F.  Much like the rest of the tournament, while the teams that qualified may not have been a total surprise, how we go there was utter madness.

The highest scoring match-day at this tournament featured 18 goals across four matches with each one tipping the scales each time as to who would advance to the next round and who their potential opponent could be.

The day also featured a handful of some of the best teams not just in Europe but in the world struggling for survival.  Here’s how the final pieces of the knockout round puzzle fell into place:


Group E

Spain 5, Slovakia 0

Having only scored once in their first two matches, Spain were presented a scoring opportunity in the 10th minute when VAR awarded them a penalty after Koke was kicked in the box.  The out-of-form Álvaro Morata stepped up to take it, but goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka guessed correctly and stopped the attempt going to his right.  However, Slovakia’s number one in net would go from hero to scapegoat in the blink of an eye in the 30th minute.

A bad pass at the top of the box was intercepted by Spain’s Pablo Sarabia, who’s cracking effort would strike the crossbar and go straight up.  Dúbravka attempted to push the ball over the bar but instead he ended up swatting it into his own net.  He’d commit another mistake just before halftime when he came off his line to confront a streaking Gerard Moreno at the back post, but he didn’t get the ball.  Moreno would chip a ball back towards the middle where center-back Aymeric Laporte was waiting to head it home.

Sarabia would get his goal in the 56th minute when he was able to sweep a cross into the box from Jordi Alba with his left foot into the bottom right corner.  The winger would go on to set up Spain’s fourth goal of the match, combining with his teammates on a short corner before sending a low cross into the six-yard box that was redirected in by substitute Ferran Torres.

Slovakia were the masterminds of their own downfall again on the fifth goal when they were unable to clear a corner and allowed center-back Pau Torres to get loose at the back post.  His initial header was saved by Dúbravka, but Juraj Kucka would unfortunately knock the rebound into his own net.

Despite their margin of victory, Spain finished second in Group E, which has earned them a match vs. Croatia in the Round of 16.  With the loss, Slovakia were eliminated from Euro 2020.


Sweden 3, Poland 2

The tone of this match was set in just the 2nd minute when Sweden’s Emil Forsberg latched onto a bouncing ball in the box and a fired a low drive into the bottom right corner for the opening goal.  Poland nearly responded in the 17th minute through striker Robert Lewandowski, but his initial header from a corner struck the crossbar before his follow-up header from point-blank range on an open net also hit the same exact place.

The rest of the half became bogged down by fouls as both teams fought for the next goal.  Just before halftime, Poland’s Piotr Zielinski tried his luck from range, but goalkeeper Robin Olsen was able to make a leaping stop.

The second half started lively with Poland forcing Olsen to make a few saves on shots from long distance.  However, Sweden would hit on the counterattack in the 59th minute when Dejan Kulusevski enter the box on the right side before laying the ball off for Forsberg, who hit it first time into the bottom right corner for his second goal of the match.

Poland responded to going down 2-0 quickly when Zielinski sent a long ball for Lewandowski to chase into the left side of the box and the striker was able to split two defenders with a powerful, curling effort that sailed into the top right corner.  Lewandowski would score his second goal of the match a little later in the 84th minute when a ball into the box landed at his feet after missing two Sweden defenders and he was able to turn and slot it home.

However, Sweden were able to cut off Poland’s comeback in stoppage time through Viktor Claesson, who was played in by a tap pass from Kulusevski and lifted his shot over goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.  The loss eliminated Poland from the tournament while Sweden took the top spot in Group E, which matches them up with Ukraine in the next round.


Group F

France 2, Portugal 2

 A rematch of the Euro 2016 final, Portugal started with a couple of half chances on goal, but the match really began in the 16th minute when France’s Kylian Mbappé latched onto a through ball from Paul Pogba just outside the box, but the winger’s curling shot was saved by goalkeeper Rui Patrício.

Things boiled to a head in the 27th minute when the referee awarded a penalty to Portugal after France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris caught Portugal’s Danilo flush in the face with a fist as he went to clear a free kick.  Cristiano Ronaldo would step up to convert the penalty for his first-ever goal vs. France.

France were given a penalty themselves just before halftime when the referee judged that Nélson Semedo had illegally blocked off Mbappé as he ran into the box.  Karim Benzema would be the one trusted to take the shot and he smashed it into the left side of the net for his first goal for his country since October 8, 2015.

France started the second half brilliantly when Pogba once again picked out a peach of a pass into the box on the right side, which curled perfectly into the path of Benzema who’s shot hit off the inside of the left post and in.  However, Portugal would equalize in the 62nd minute as Ronaldo drew level with Iran’s Ali Daei at the top of the all-time international goals leader-board after he converted his second penalty of the match following a handball by France’s Jules Koundé.

The French came close to taking the lead again in the 67th minute when Pogba’s long-range effort was tipped onto the post by a diving Patrício, who also reacted quickly to stop the follow-up from Antoine Griezmann.  Neither side a put a shot on target after that as both were content knowing a draw was good enough to advance.

France make it out of the “Group of Death” as the top team and will face Switzerland in the next round.  Portugal qualify as one of the top third place teams but will play number one ranked Belgium in their next match.


Germany 2, Hungary 2

Playing in front of their home crowd in Munich, things looked set up for a German victory, and they started well in the 4th minute when Joshua Kimmich forced goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi into a save at his near post.  However, Hungary would shockingly take the lead in the 11th minute when Roland Sallai’s ball from the right flank was met by a diving Ádám Szalai in the box, who’s header beat Manuel Neuer down at his near post.

Germany came close to tying the match in the 21st minute off a corner kick, but Mats Hummels’ header was denied by the crossbar and Matthias Ginter’s point-blank effort a few seconds later was stopped by Gulácsi.  Hungary were able to hold on to their 1-0 lead into halftime.

Despite a solid start to the second half from Germany, Hungary almost went two goals up in the 62nd minute, but Sallai’s free kick from the left flank hit the top of the near post and out.  Germany finally broke through a few minutes later when Gulácsi failed to get to a free kick from Kimmich, which was headed straight up into the air by Hummels.  Kai Havertz was the first to react and was able to head home from right on the doorstep of the open goal.

The celebrations of German fans were short lived as Hungary would score right off the kickoff as András Schäfer was played into the box by Szalai and the ball bounced up for him to drive a header past a charging Neuer.

In the end, Germany’s push for a second equalizer succeeded in the 84th minute when the ball deflected off of some Hungary defenders in the box and fell to Leon Goretzka, who was able to direct his effort into the bottom left corner to secure the point Germany needed in order to advance.

Germany’s second place finish in Group F sets them up with a match vs. old rivals England at Wembley Stadium next week.  Hungary fared better than expected in this group, but the draw eliminated them from Euro 2020.


For more of my soccer coverage, check out “Atletico TV” on Facebook and the “Gateway to Soccer Show” on YouTube, as well my previous recaps here.