By Analie Dutta Choudhury and Rohan Agarwal, UG23
The Edict is back with it’s weekly roundups and this time, we’ve got not one, but two match weeks for you to rewind back to!
After an exciting fifteen days of football, we have now entered the knockout stages of the Euros. The round of the last sixteen brings us some tasty match-ups. The prospect of Belgium and Portugal facing each other is highly mouth watering, while the old rivalry between Germany and England could very well spark again. Spain are up against Croatia in what promises to be a supreme battle in the midfield.
There is lots to play for in the next few days as the best of Europe go up against each other in gruelling ties.
But before that, the writers from our very own Euro team have come up with some of the best moments from the group stages. Make sure you relive them as you make your way into the Round of 16!
Analie: As we moved into the second week of the EURO 2021, the excitement of the opening week carried well into it.
The second round of group stage games saw impressive performances from the less favoured teams – the likes of Hungary, Scotland and Denmark (in spite of the noticeable absence of their talisman Christian Eriksen). According to recent medical reports, Eriksen’s heart was successfully fitted with an implantable cardioverter- defibrillator device (ICD) which essentially acts as a pacemaker preventing a fatal cardiac attack. Unfortunately for the Danish fans, the next time Eriksen enters a stadium, it’ll most probably be as a spectator not a star midfielder.
Danish valiance dashed by De Bruyne
Denmark, who have all the makings and cohesiveness of club football, put up a strong front against favourites Belgium. Just ninety-nine seconds in with a lead in the first half via a Youssef Poulsen goal, they made it almost impossible for Belgium to break through their solid defence.
However, minutes after the arrival of Kevin de Bruyne in the second half, the game completely turned on its head. The Danes just did not stand a chance. Skilfully setting up Thorgan Hazard for the equalising goal, De Bruyne also fired home a beautiful winner in the 70th minute; taking Belgium to the top spot in the table.
Italy shine again, even brighter this time!
Italy, who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, had started strong with a three-nil win over Turkey and showed no signs of slowing down. The only team to score three goals in two consecutive matches, they all but booked their place in the round of 16. A nightmare to play against, Italy’s current pressing worry is Captain Giorgio Chiellini’s muscle injury that he endured against Switzerland which may lead him to sit out in future games.
Former Manchester City manager and now head coach Roberto Mancini has built a solid team who are capable of beating just about any team they come against. The poise and balance of this Italian side has also been increased by the returning Marco Verratti, one of the most graceful midfielders to have graced the sport.
Game of the tournament, definitely?!
Wait a minute, we had a contender for this award last Match Week, right? Well, let’s add another one to that list!
Match Week 2 ended with an explosive game that, in my opinion, is a definite contender for the ‘game of the tournament’.
Germany, still smarting from their defeat to France, courtesy of a Matts Hummels own goal, dealt Portugal a stunning blow on Saturday. Starting off on the offensive, after a disallowed goal, Joachim Low’s men did not let Ronaldo’s goal on the swift counter attack dissuade them, with full backs Robin Gosens and Joshua Kimmich continuing to pose a deadly threat in the Portugese half. With two own goals from Ruben Dias and Raphael Geurreiro, this game saw the fourth own goal (worry not, there were more in the third game week) of the tournament, and this team, the third. Gosens and Kai Havertz tucked away one each, the final score being 4-2, ironically with Portugal netting more goals in the game than the winners, their fired up German opponents. Phew, that was one hell of a ride!
Rohan: The Euros have finally entered their most exciting phases and it is safe to say that they have not disappointed at all. The Group stage has now ended and we have narrowed it down to the last sixteen. Naturally, there was loads of drama in reaching the knockout stages. Match Week 3, was a culmination of it all.
Denmark: From Anguish to Elation
Fancy having Denmark here again!
The Euros have been an emotional rollercoaster for the Danish National Team, to say the least. From the devastation of the Christian Eriksen incident in their first game of the tournament to the relief of seeing him recover and out of the chambers of the hospital. To then produce an inspiring performance versus Belgium to ultimately not reap any rewards, the final day had a lot at stake for the Danes. Three points and a favour from Belgium was what was needed. And what did they get? Exactly that.
The match at Parken, Copenhagen did not disappoint, rather, it was simply stunning. The Danish team pushed aside the Russians in admirable fashion. It was truly a performance that showed how much this meant to them. Wonder-strikes from Mikkel Damsgaard and Andreas Christensen set off befitting celebrations amongst the entire camp and the fans in the stadium. These are the moments that make this game so special and the Euros definitely did not let us down in this specific instance.
The stadium also witnessed an enormous red shirt printed with the word Helte, meaning Heroes. It was an appropriate gesture from the fans, who, like the team, deserve it all. This Denmark team, with immense mentality and spirit, seem to have taken inspiration from their hardships and have the potential to go far in this tournament. Could this be the deserved fairytale we all want to see?
(Spoiler Alert: They have already made their way into the Quarter Finals after hammering Wales 4-0!)
Italy and Netherlands in ‘perfect’ tandem
There is always the obvious talk about the favourites before heading into any tournament. Before the Euros, teams like World Cup winners France, the ever-brilliant Belgium, holders Portugal and even a new-look England resided on everyone’s lips. However, it has been Italy and Netherlands that have particularly impressed after the group stages. These are two of the only three teams to still have a perfect record but they have been extremely formidable about their business.
Gli Azzurri and De Oranje boast the highest goal difference in the tournament with seven and six respectively. The two teams lie in different halves of the bracket and a final between the two should not be beyond imagination.
Italy have broken several records in the tournament already and their performance against Wales was a testament to the depth of their squad. As for the Netherlands, manager De Boer has exceeded a lot of expectations and has his team arguably playing the most pleasing football in the tournament. Their 5-3-2 formation is a lot more attacking than it seems, further justifying why they are the highest-scoring team in the tournament.
Enrique’s men produce a long-awaited performance
After just one goal in their three previous international matches, Spain needed a performance that made all their dominance count. And the performance against Slovakia was exactly that. La Roja began their campaign in the Euros with two consecutive draws and found themselves in a difficult ordeal. Not only did Spain need a win but also a favour from Poland in order to finish top of Group E. While Poland failed to overcome Sweden, Spain won their fixture in style.
Luis Enrique made several changes to the Spanish starting lineup, with Pablo Sarabia particularly impressing – with a goal and two assists to his name. Sergio Busquets’ return to action also proved crucial, while Champions League winner Cesar Azpilicueta also shone. However, it was Barcelona youngster Pedri, who remains the star of the Spanish show and it will be his performances that remain key for Spain’s success.
A 5-0 thumping of Slovakia came at a good time for Spain, who will look to head into the knockouts with newfound confidence against a Croatia team that is yet to keep a clean sheet in the tournament.
Group F: The Group of
Without a doubt, the group that was most looked forward to, Group F, made sure to live up to all its expectations if not exceed them. The final day of the group stage was simply exhilarating for all the drama brought by Group F.
Hungary, supposedly the “minnows” of this group made sure that they were no pushovers with yet another impressive performance versus Germany, holding them to an exhilarating 2-2 draw. Portugal were in a fix as they faced France at the Puskas Arena. Two penalties from Cristiano Ronaldo and an imposing midfield performance from Renato Sanches was enough to see them seal a 2-2 draw and qualify for the knockout stages.
For all of Hungary’s good work, there were ultimately no upsets in the so-called group of “death” as all three of the major teams qualified into the next round. However, the final round of Group F was a lot more topsy-turvy than anyone would’ve imagined. With 8 goals on the final day, the group standings altered with every single goal, and almost every time, a different team was potentially missing out on the knockouts. In fact, amongst Hungary, Portugal and Germany, Hungary surprisingly spent the least amount of time in 4th place – 12 minutes, but were still the team to drop out. Yes, football can be a funny yet cruel sport sometimes.