The story of match-day eight at UEFA Euro 2020 was that a lot of the time, the result is more important than playing attractive soccer.
Three goals total across the three matches played on the day didn’t make for many exciting moments, but the atmosphere remained intense and the results only delayed the drama for a few more days.
We had a handful of teams pick up their first point of this tournament, including one who did so against their historic rivals:
Sweden 1, Slovakia 0
This match took a while to get going as the only shot on target of the first half came in the 3rd minute when Sweden’s Sebastian Larsson’s effort took a deflection on its way towards goal and forced goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka to get down to his left in order to stop it. Slovakia controlled the majority of the possession but were unsuccessful in unlocking Sweden’s defense.
The Swedish attack got going in the second half when Ludwig Augustinsson got his head onto a cross in the box and forced a leaping reaction save from Dúbravka in the 59th minute. However, 21-year-old striker Alexander Isak once again looked like the guy most likely to get Sweden on the board. In the 71st minute, he beat three separate Slovakia players on a run from midfield into the left side of the 18-yard box before seeing his powerful strike saved by a diving Dúbravka at the near post.
Isak’s overall playmaking ability would lead to the opening goal when he played in substitute Robin Quaison, who would be taken out by a charging Dúbravka. Emil Forsberg would step up to take the penalty and he buried it into the right side of the net. Slovakia had a couple of half chances late to tie the match, but Sweden’s defense did well to block off any danger.
Sweden will face Poland in their final Group E match while Slovakia will have to find a way to come up with a result vs. Spain.
Czech Republic 1, Croatia 1
Much like the match that preceded it, there weren’t many chances between the two sides to start, although Czech striker Patrik Schick and Croatia winger Ivan Perišic each had efforts in the box they should’ve done better with. The action kicked off in the 33rd minute when VAR and the referee determined that a stray elbow by Croatia’s Dejan Lovren that connected with Schick’s face on a challenge following a corner was enough to award a penalty. After a brief delay, Schick stepped up bloody nose and all to smash his attempt into the bottom left corner for his third goal of the tournament. Croatia almost equalized moments later when Ante Rebic was through on goal, but he sliced his shot wildly off target.
Croatia came up with the equalizer just a couple minutes into the second half when Perišic collected a quickly taken free kick on the left flank, cut in on his right, and put enough power on his shot to beat Tomáš Vaclík, although the goalkeeper probably should have stopped it. From that point, neither team were able to put an effort on target, thanks in part to both defenses coming up with some solid blocks.
Croatia must beat Scotland in their next match to keep their Euro 2020 hopes alive while the Czech Republic are in a much better place in the table as they prepare to take on England.
England 0, Scotland 0
The atmosphere at the beginning of the 115th meeting between these neighboring countries was nothing short of spectacular and led to a bright start on the pitch for both teams. Scotland’s first chance came in the 4th minute when striker Ché Adams received a cross from Stephen O’Donnell in the box and his effort almost found the far corner if not for center-back John Stones getting in the way. The best chance of the half was England’s first in the 11th minute when Stones was unmarked on a corner kick, but his guided header struck off the right post and was eventually cleared. Scotland came close again in the 30th minute when O’Donnell volleyed a cross first time at the back post from Andrew Robertson, but goalkeeper Jordan Pickford got down and was able to get a palm to it.
England came out the better of the two teams in the second half, with Chelsea’s Mason Mount firing a low shot towards the left corner in the 48th minute that goalkeeper David Marshall had to parry away. Both sides traded half chances for the rest of the half, with the best effort coming from Scotland’s Lyndon Dykes, who forced English right-back Reece James to head away an attempt that was dangerously close to traveling for the top corner. In the end, while both defenses put in good shifts, neither side had the quality on the attacking end on the day to score the decisive goal.
The draw keeps both teams in contention for advancing out of Group D heading into their third and final match in group play.