Wednesday was the start of the second round of group stage fixtures at UEFA Euro 2020 and an opportunity to learn more about a few of the teams at this year’s tournament.
Could Finland recover from the circumstances of their surprise win vs. Denmark? Could Italy repeat their performance from their first match? Who would step up as the second team in Group A?
While there may still be questions left to answer, the picture has become clearer. Here’s a recap of all the action:
Russia 1, Finland 0
The action in this match began straight away when Finland were able to strip the ball away on the right flank near Russia’s 18-yard box in the 3rd minute. Minnesota United FC’s Jukka Raitala played a great ball into the box that was headed in by Joel Pohjanpalo, but VAR discovered that the striker was offside. Russia’s first chance of the match came in the 10th minute when a ball into the box was squared to Magomed Ozdoev at the back post, but he sent his attempt way over the bar. Neither side were able to put anything on net for almost the rest of the half thanks to some great blocks by both defenses. However, Russia broke through two minutes into stoppage time when Artem Dzyuba and Aleksei Miranchuk played a beautiful one-two in the box that would end with Miranchuk curling his shot perfectly into the top left corner.
Finland’s star striker Teemu Pukki finally saw a shot go through on goal in the 53rd minute, but it was comfortably saved by goalkeeper Matvei Safonov, who was chosen over the previous starter Anton Shunin for this match. Russia’s best chance to extend their lead happened in the 72nd minute when Dzyuba collected the ball off of a turnover and crossed it to Daler Kuzyaev. His shot would take a wicked deflection goal-ward, but Finnish goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky still managed to make the save. Late substitutions weren’t enough for Finland to penetrate the Russian defense as they held on for the win.
Russia will face Denmark in their final Group B match while Finland will have to find a way to come up with a result vs. Belgium.
Wales 2, Turkey 0
Wales started this match much livelier than their previous one vs. Switzerland, starting in the 6th minute when Aaron Ramsey forced a kick save by Turkey goalkeeper Ugucan Çakir at his near post after the midfielder was played in by Gareth Bale. The same two Welsh players connected again in the 24th minute when Ramsey beat the offside trap and was in on goal, but he missed high with his shot. Third time was the charm in the 42nd minute when Bale looped a long ball from the right flank over the top to a streaking Ramsey, who chested it down and hit the net with his shot in one fluid motion.
Ramsey was at it again in the second half, squeezing off a shot through multiple bodies that Çakir had to react quickly to in order to make the save. It sure seemed Wales were set to go up 2-0 when Bale was tripped up in the box after some nifty dribbling, but the Welsh captain absolutely blazed his penalty shot over the net. Turkey’s closest opportunity to taking advantage of Bale’s miss came in the 87th minute when center-back Merih Demiral produced a fine header on goal from a corner, but Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward got over to his left to make the save. Wales wrapped up the win deep into stoppage time when Bale was allowed to tightrope down the endline following a corner and square the ball to an open Connor Roberts for a tap-in.
Wales will face their toughest test in their final Group A match vs. Italy while Turkey will look to stay alive somehow vs. Switzerland.
Italy 3, Switzerland 0
While the match started out even between the two sides, the Italians would eventually take control. They thought they had scored the opener in the 19th minute when captain Giorgio Chiellini got his foot to a loose ball in the box following a corner, but VAR showed that the ball hit part of his hand as he went up for the initial challenge. Chiellini was replaced a few minutes later by Francesco Acerbi due to injury. Much like he did in their opener vs. Turkey, Italy’s Domenico Berardi helped set up the opener by breaking into the box on the right side in the 26th minute and finding a wide-open Manuel Locatelli in the six-yard box for an easy tap-in. Left-back Leonardo Spinazzola probably should’ve made it 2-0 when he broke into the box on a counterattack in the 37th minute, but he pushed his shot wide.
Switzerland continued to have very little success going forward in the second half while Italy were able to find another gear. In the 52nd minute, Locatelli had time and space outside the top of the box to tee up a shot and the end product was a scorching effort that went straight for the bottom right corner for his second goal of the match. The only time the Swiss truly troubled Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was in the 64th minute when he had to make a kick save at the near post on an attempt from Steven Zuber. Italy finished the match in style in the 89th minute when after dispossessing Switzerland outside their box, striker Ciro Immobile let loose a rocket towards the bottom left corner that goalkeeper Yann Sommer could only get a piece of before it hit the net. With the win, Italy have officially clinched a spot in the Round of 16 and only need a draw vs. Wales in their next match to top Group A.