UEFA Euro 2020 Recap: Matchday 3

I think Stefon from “Saturday Night Live” would describe match-day three at UEFA Euro 2020 the best because it truly had everything.

A rematch of half of the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-finals? Check.  A country’s first ever goal at a major tournament? Check.  The best match so far that also included the best goal of the tournament? Check.

While the results may have been predictable, how we got there was anything but that.  So, allow me to recap all the craziness that went down on day three of the Euros.

 

Group D

England 1, Croatia 0

England manager Gareth Southgate made some interesting choices for his starting 11, opting to play right-back Kieran Trippier at left-back, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips as holding midfielders, while also not including Jadon Sancho among the substitutes.  The Three Lions came flying out of the gate regardless, punctuated by Manchester City’s Phil Foden striking the post with a curling effort in the fifth minute.  Phillips followed up with a shot from outside the box that Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was able to track through a handful of bodies to make the save.  Croatia would eventually grow into the match and keep it 0-0 till halftime.

After a Luka Modric shot was saved by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, the breakthrough happened in the 57th minute when Phillips played Raheem Sterling into the box and he was able to get enough on his shot to hit it past Livakovic for his first goal at a major tournament for England.  Harry Kane almost made it 2-0 minutes later as he attacked a ball at the back post but sent his effort wide before colliding with the woodwork.  Croatia would push for an equalizer but were never able to get any of their efforts on target.  England would hold on to win the match, which also saw Jude Bellingham became the youngest player ever at age 17 to appear at the Euros.

England will next face their rivals Scotland while Croatia will look to bounce back vs. the Czech Republic.

 

Group C

Austria 3, North Macedonia 1

Playing in their first-ever match at a major tournament, North Macedonia were able to survive the first 15 minutes vs. Austria before eventually conceding the first goal a few moments later.  RB Leipzig’s Marcel Sabitzer played a beautiful ball on a line to the back post from the left flank and Stefan Lainer was there to get a foot to it to give Austria the lead.  The equalizer came against the run of play for North Macedonia in the 28th minute when a clearance attempt by Austria bounced off a player and into the box.  Goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann dove to collect the loose ball but ended up spilling it for 37-year-old striker Goran Pandev to place into the back of the net.  Both teams failed to do much else before the halftime whistle.

Neither side was able to put something together in the opening 15 minutes of the second half.  However, the introduction of forwards Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic would end up swinging the match in Austria’s favor.  After a couple of half chances, Gregoritsch broke the deadlock in the 78th minute, tapping in a picture-perfect cross from the left flank by David Alaba.  Arnautovic would seal the win in the 89th minute, collecting a weak back pass and rounding goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski before smashing home his shot to earn Austria’s first-ever win at the European Championships.

Austria will have the tall task of facing the Netherlands in Amsterdam while North Macedonia’s next match is vs. Ukraine.

Netherlands 3, Ukraine 2

When Memphis Depay collected a ball in his own half and went on a nearly 60-yard run, only to see his shot stopped by Ukraine goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan in just the second minute of the match, you knew we were in for a barn burner.  The Dutch nearly scored in the fifth minute when Denzel Dumfries was wide open just outside the six-yard box, but Bushchan stuck out a leg to make the save.  While Ukraine did put pressure on Holland in the first half, they had to rely on more heroics from their keeper in the 39th minute when Bushchan was able to stick out a palm, despite moving in the opposite direction, to stop a blistering shot from Georginio Wijnaldum.

A goal finally came seven minutes into the second half when Bushchan dove to get a hand on a cross from Dumfries, but he parried it into the path of Wijnaldum, who was able to place his shot in the top left side of the net.  The Netherlands made it 2-0 in a matter of minutes after striker Wout Weghorst was first to a loose ball in the box as a result of another Dumfries run, smashing his shot off of Bushchan and in.

However, the Dutch began conceding too much space to Ukraine and it cost them in the 75th minute when Andriy Yarmolenko unleashed a ferocious left-footed shot from 25 yards or so out that curled beautifully past goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg into the top left corner of the net.  Much like the Netherlands did earlier, Ukraine scored their second goal within five minutes or so when striker Roman Yaremchuk directed his header from a free kick into the right corner of the net, completely turning the match on its head.

In the end, the Netherlands would find a way to win in the 85th minute when they recovered a poor pass from Bushchan in the corner, where center-back Nathan Aké whipped in a great cross that Dumfries got just enough of a piece of with his head to sneak it into the bottom right corner of the net.

The Dutch played without star center-back Matthijs de Ligt, who they hope to have back for their next match vs. Austria.

 

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