Game week 2 is over. Another 12 matches played, 34 more goals scored and 6 nations have bagged themselves a place in the next round with a game to spare. One team’s even won their group already!
I’m Don Collins. Let’s catch you all up.
Russia 0 – 1 Romania
Romania kicked off another game week with another win at the Stadio Olympico as they, one of only three nations yet to concede, secured safe passage through to the Second Round against Russia, one of five nations yet to score. The match failed to find any sort of flow as the Russians resorted to constant fouling, but after 35 long minutes a defence splitting pass from Florin Tanase set Florin Andone through on goal. The Juve man made no mistake, slipping in what proved to be the only goal of the game.
As I alluded to before, the win sees Romania through comfortably and their final Group match against the Netherlands will be something of a damp squib, while Russia need to hammer Northern Ireland in their next match and pray that they can scrape through as one of the 4 best 3rd placed teams.
Russia: 4th -> 3rd
Romania: – 2nd (Qualified for Second Round)
Northern Ireland 0 – 4 Netherlands
It’s not looking good, Northern Ireland fans. In another meeting between a nation yet to concede and one yet to score, The Netherlands tore the Northern Irish asunder at the Stadio San Paolo. The silky Dutch side ran rampant as their opponents failed even to register a shot on target and they were ahead within 8 minutes when Anwar El Ghazi curled in a 20 yard free kick to begin the match in style. The Northern Irish held firm and denied a second goal for a good long while, but after Rodney Brown’s 2nd yellow card for stupidly dragging back Marco Van Ginkel, they capitulated. Van Ginkel himself doubled his side’s advantage with a powerful shot from the edge of the box, then substitute Dutch captain Davy Klaassen bagged a 3rd with a superb clipped shot into the top corner. The cherry on top came in the final knockings when Martin Winchester stomped on Thomas Buitink’s leg, giving away a penalty that another sub Vincent Janssen converted down the middle.
In a way, these two sides are the extremes of their Group mates Romania and Russia. While Romania are comfortably through to the Second Round, the Netherlands are very comfortably through and while Russia will find it very difficult to scrape through, Northern Ireland are absolutely fu… Er… Full of pessimism about their chances.
Netherlands: – 1st (Qualified for Second Round)
Northern Ireland: 3rd -> 4th
Czech Republic 2 – 0 FYR Macedonia
Two sides that lost their opening games of the tournament met at the Stadio San Nicola in the hopes of kick starting their tournaments. It was Czechia who bagged their first points and indeed goals of Euro 24 against a Macedonian side who put up a good fight but were ultimately well beaten. Macedonian centre back Aleksandar Damcevski turned Vaclav Dudl’s cross into his own net just 5 minutes in and although his side came close a few times to equalising, Vladimir Bilek’s looped cross was volleyed in by Vaclav Cerny to put the Czechs’ win beyond doubt, most likely along with Macedonia’s exit from the tournament.
Both sides will end their Group Stages with unenviable ties, with Czechia facing up against Portugal while Macedonia, another side yet to register a goal so far, take on Ukraine.
Czech Republic: 3rd -> 2nd
FYR Macedonia: – 4th
Portugal 0 – 1 Ukraine
You’ve got to hand it to Ukraine. There’s no messing about in that camp: 2 matches, 2 goals, 2 wins. A packed crowd turned out at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi to see the top 2 nations in Group B go head to head and were treated to something of a giant killing, as despite Portugal’s undeniable dominance the Ukrainians came out the victors. An hour into the match, Portugal’s half time substitute centre back Rúben Semedo had a brain fart almost on par with Raphaël Varane’s last week and gifted the ball to Alexey Sukhov on the edge of his box. Sukhov didn’t hesitate, taking the ball and placing it firmly beyond Diogo Costa. The goal proved to be Ukraine’s only shot on target, but it was all they needed.
Ukraine are fairly likely to make a clean sweep of the Group Stage as they meet pointless, goalless Macedonia next. Ukraine are yet to concede, so it’d be quite a shock for them to start in that match. Portugal meanwhile will go head to head with the Czech Republic, with the sides now on 3 points each. As the sides have had the exact same results against the other 2 nations, which places Czechia 2nd on alphabetic order, a draw will not be enough to see Portugal into the automatic qualification places. The pressure is suddenly on for José Barros’ men.
Portugal: 1st -> 3rd
Ukraine: 2nd -> 1st (Qualified for Second Round)
Turkey 2 – 1 Norway
The two supposed underdogs of Group C upended the tables last week against Croatia and Germany, turning the spotlight upon themselves in what turned out to be a real battle at Stadio San Paolo. Both sides showed themselves as willing to play dirty to take the top spot in the group and there were fouls aplenty throughout the match, but 2 goals inside more or less the first 10 minutes of the second half gave Turkey the lead and eventually the win. The first came courtesy of Enes Ünal after a whipped cross from Emre Günal and the second was scored by substitute Kerem Demirbay, who received the ball from Hayri Yilmaz on the right hand side of the box and shot straight towards Norwegian goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland, but the stopper’s view was obscured by centre back Markus Hagen and by time he saw the ball, he could only watch as it flew past him into the net. Norway did threaten a comeback just 5 minutes later when 2 of their substitutes combined, with Ronny Rossbach releasing Rafik Zekhnini behind the Turkish defence and the latter sliding the ball under Volkan Babacan, but they couldn’t muster a second goal against what was in fairness a dominant Turkey team.
The win takes Turkey up to the top of Group C on 6 points, which qualifies them for the Second Round but oddly, doesn’t necessarily secure them a place in the top 2. The Turkish take on Germany in their final group game while Norway face Croatia, which means that it’s entirely possible for Turkey, Germany and Norway to finish on 6 points apiece. In this eventuality though, all 3 teams would qualify for the Second Round as whoever occupied the 3rd placed spot would go through as one of the 4 best. Norway and Germany will certainly want to win those matches as anything less could possibly spell the end of their tournament.
Turkey: 2nd -> 1st (Qualified for Second Round)
Norway: 1st -> 2nd
Germany 4 – 2 Croatia
After a disappointing first match against Norway, Joachim Löwe’s Germany have arrived. In front of an 80,000 strong crowd at the San Siro they and Croatia started at breakneck pace, both sides trying to jumpstart their faltering Group Stage campaigns. Josip Brekalo opened the scoring inside 3 minutes with a shimmy and a shot that deflected in off Maurício Badzinski’s outstretched leg, but within a minute of the restart Bayern Munich star Christopher Dieckmann strolled infield from the left wing and drilled low past Lovre Kalinic. Dieckmann then set up the next goal over half an hour later, poking the ball through for Richard Farnbacher to blast into the net and before half time Dieckmann was set up by Wilske Dillman inside the box. He lashed the ball on the turn with his left foot, giving the keeper no chance and compounding Croatian misery after such a promising start. The starlet wasn’t finished there though: On the hour, Stefan Andrich brought Silvio Cvitanovic’s lobbed pass out of the air beautifully, pulled the ball back from the left byline and Dieckmann arrived to slot it home, completing a well deserved hat trick. Marko Pjaca, one of few Croatians to come out of the Group Stage with any credit so far, registered his second assist of the day 10 minutes from the end, finishing off a Croatian counter attack with a drilled cross, which substitute Bruno Petkovic turned into the net.
Germany will feel like they need to turn this result into form now and face a vital game against surprise package Turkey next, while Croatia go up against Norway. It’s entirely possible by the way for Croatia to sneak into the next round, despite not picking up a point so far. If Turkey complete a clean sweep (And bagging a fair few goals wouldn’t hurt) against Germany, while Croatia obliterate Norway, they could swing the goal difference their way and finish 2nd, or at least 3rd, which might be enough. It’s a big ask though from a side that’s so far disappointed.
Germany: 4th -> 3rd
Croatia: 3rd -> 4th
Belgium 3 – 1 Italy
What started as a jubilant crowd at the Juventus Stadium became silenced incredibly quickly as the host nation fell to their first defeat of the tournament. Hopes were high in Italy after comfortably seeing off Poland in their first match, but it took Belgium’s Mohamed Hamoudan just 20 seconds to nod his team into the lead after Divock Origi’s fantastic dribble and floated cross handed him the chance on a plate. Hamoudan then set up Andreas Pereira in the 34th minute, laying the ball off so that his team mate could wallop a phenomenal postage stamp shot beyond Gianluigi Donnarumma from 30 yards. The Italians went into half time with some hope when a 41st minute cross from Federico Chiesa bounced off Wout Faes’ foot, rebounded off the post, off Thibaut Courtois and then wriggled into the net, but the match was beyond them almost immediately after coming out for the second half when Luca Cesena sent Leander Dendocker tumbling in the box and Youri Tielemans drove the Belgians’ third goal straight down the centre from the penalty spot.
Belgium will join Romania, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Turkey in the Second Round with what seems will be their easiest match against struggling Poland still to play, so a clean sweep could be on the cards. Italy meanwhile now have to endure an absolutely crucial match against Sweden, who like them sit on 3 points but have superior goal difference, in a battle for 2nd place. Going out in the Group Stages of their own tournament would be seen as unacceptable, so the Italians had better up their game for that one.
Belgium: – 1st (Qualified for Second Round)
Italy: 2nd -> 3rd
Poland 0 – 3 Sweden
Both Poland and Sweden were disappointing in their first matches but at least had the excuse of playing superior teams. Losing this match however would prove to be catastrophic for either side’s hopes of progression. The match, held at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, started slowly and seemed to be heading for half time goalless until the pressure upon the Polish box began to build. After a period of immense defensive resilience where Poland’s defence were forced to clear cross after cross after cross, they were eventually broken when Alexander Isak received the ball from wide and squared for Robin Holmgren, who slotted in the game’s opening goal. Poland certainly came out for the second half with a renewed sense of fight about them, but it manifested itself in an unhelpful manner when Karol Linetty shoved Mattias Svanberg to the ground following a Swedish corner. The referee pointed to the spot and Sead Haksabanovic stepped up to take the kick. Bartlomiej Dragowski dived the right way but the City man’s effort was too powerful and the Swedes doubled their lead. Polish heads dropped from that point and just 7 minutes later, Holmgren teed up Simon Tibbling, who toe poked the ball powerfully into the top corner from 20 yards, securing a glossy win.
Sweden will go into their next match hoping for similar joy against the Italians, but they’ll know the scorned hosts will put up more of a fight. Poland meanwhile are all but mathematically eliminated. To survive they’d need to beat tournament dark horses Belgium pretty handily and they’d also need the Sweden v Italy match not to end in a draw. In that scenario they could in theory sneak through as the 3rd place team, rising above the loser of that match on goal difference. It’s too tall an order though, surely.
Poland: 3rd -> 4th
Sweden: 4th -> 2nd
England 3 – 0 Denmark
Denmark will have been over the moon to have held first place in Group E above England and France, but they were brought back down to Earth and then some by a superb England performance. The Danes dominated parts of the meeting at the Stadio San Filippo and set up in what looked like an extremely defensively solid 4-4-2, but Eddie Howe’s men took them apart with their methodical possession football, a far cry from the quick counter attacking style they employed against France. Dele Alli opened the scoring in a not so methodical fashion though, driving forwards into a congested Denmark half and letting fly from 25 yards 9 minutes in to give the English the lead. Any Danish hopes of regrouping at half time were ended in the 42nd minute too when a lovely short passing move ended with Ross Barkley tapping the ball through for Harry Kane, who drilled a second past Frederik Rønnow. The game was put to bed 15 minutes from time when Oliver Webb, who was employed as a right winger and impressed throughout, sent a cross into the box and Southampton’s Ed Lynes popped up at the far side to head in his country’s third.
England move up to take Denmark’s throne at the top of Group E, with the Danes plummeting to 3rd below France. England are now very much in the driving seat with a game against the pointless but fairly resilient Georgia in the offing, while Denmark can look forward to a match against WT Franjo’s unconvincing France side. They’ll need a win to climb above the French but a draw could well see them through as one of the qualifying third placed sides.
England: 2nd -> 1st
Denmark: 1st -> 3rd
Georgia 1 – 3 France
In what for a while looked set to be one of the round’s shock results, a spirited Georgia side nearly managed to nick a result at the Stadio Artemio Franchi against France, a side that had thumped them twice in qualification. Things looked bleak for the Georgians when star man Giorgi Arabidze was taken off with an injury in the 12th minute, but only a few minutes later Giorgi Kvilitaia sent a shot soaring over Lionel Gauthier to open the scoring. As much as the French then huffed and puffed, they couldn’t manage to blow Georgia’s house down and went into half time trailing for the second match in a row. After what I’m sure were a few choice words from their manager, France responded almost immediately after the restart through Paul Pogba’s questionably onside placed shot and from then on things got a little more comfortable for the World Champions. Kylian Mbappé tapped in a cross from Lucas Digne 10 minutes later and Paul Pogba again had the last word with a powerful close range shot to the roof of the net.
Georgia, like a few other sides in this tournament, need a miracle to stay in with a chance of progression. They need to beat England in their final match and to hope that France beat Denmark by enough goals that they can slide into 3rd place, after which they’d have to hope that there are 2 worse 3rd placed teams in the tournament. France on the other hand are playing mainly for pride at this point. They’ve not lived up to their billing so far and rumours are circulating that Franjo may well pay with his job if his side don’t up their game. Although a point will see them through to the Second Round, their match against Denmark is must win as far as the fans are concerned. France also trail 1st placed England by a single goal’s difference, so the more comfortably they beat the Danes, the better.
Georgia: – 4th
France: 3rd -> 2nd
Switzerland 1 – 1 Serbia
“Ill tempered” doesn’t quite do this one justice. Switzerland’s meeting with Serbia was halted by the referee so often that it quite resembled the more rugby-inspired brand of football they play across the pond. Inevitably the match’s first big moment resulted from Denis Zakaria wrestling Marko Grujic to the ground inside the Swiss penalty box on the stroke of half time, resulting in a spot kick that Jovan Nisic converted confidently, sending Roman Bürki the wrong way to give the Serbians the lead. A late equaliser was found by Real Madrid’s Noah Okafor, who blasted the ball in from 8 yards after Arnel Kalac’s low pass somehow found it’s way through a packed Serbian penalty area. Less than a minute after the game was restarted though, half time Swiss substitute hacked Nemanja Maksimovic down with two feet and received his marching orders. It just felt right that this one finished with a red card, to be honest.
Serbia are probably the worst placed of all the 2nd placed sides at the tournament, currently sitting on 2 points with a difficult match against Spain still to come. Switzerland on the other hand are probably the best placed of all the 4th placed sides and with my neutral hat on, still have every chance of qualifying for the Second Round. They’re equal on points with the michty Scottish, but aye, we’ll no mak it easy fae them.
Switzerland: – 4th
Serbia: 3rd -> 2nd
Scotland 0 – 1 Spain
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, so deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear, till a’ the seas gang dry.
Aye right, thae Spaniards can get tae fuck. Aye they scored but if thon galoot Alcácer’d keeked up and saw the steel in Gunn’s een, he widae shat whaur he stauned, man. Strachan’s michty tartan army cudae scored but the haill game we cudnae hit the goal even though De Gea’s a wee fanny wha disnae hae the same steel. Aye right, Angus Gunn cud batter the manky ersehole wi wan haun, square go.
Thae Spanish wan the Group, but thon baw wull drap.
Scotland: 2nd -> 3rd
Spain: – 1st (Group F Winners)
I’ll be back at the end of the Group Stage as we find out who joins Romania, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Turkey, Belgium and Spain in the Second Round, as well as which 8 nations will be leaving after the groups. I’ll see you then.