Ah, knockout football: The point in an international tournament in which the gaps between matches grow longer and the World collectively tries to remember what we did with our time before we had a constant stream of football on which to gorge ourselves. 8 Second Round matches have been played, 30 goals have been scored and the Quarter Final ties have been finalised.
I’m Don Collins. Let’s tuck in.
Germany v Romania
Germany have recovered spectacularly from a faltering start to the tournament and are now seen as favourites by some. They continued their dominant streak at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi by thumping a Romanian side who until now had had a very good and dignified tournament. Wilske Dimmier opened the scoring after just 6 minutes, strolling unchallenged through the centre of the park and placing a shot into Ionut Radu’s bottom corner. 2 more German goals seemed to put the game to bed either side of half time, with Christopher Dieckmann blasting one in from the edge of the box in injury time and Dimmer toe poking in his 2nd from 12 yards within minutes of the restart. The Germans continued to enjoy complete domination and after scoring at the start of the first half, the end of the first half and the start of the second half, it seemed only fitting that substitute Patrick Fulz turned his marker in second half injury time and clipped the 4th goal of the day past Radu.
Romania, the first victims of the Second Round, can still leave Euro 24 with their heads held high, having lost only to extremely good teams in the Netherlands and Germany. Germany now seem unstoppable though and will be confident of further victories whoever they meet in the Quarters.
Turkey v Ukraine
One of the more intriguing ties of the round was at the Stadio Della Vittoria, where Turkey and Ukraine went head to head in a meeting between 2 sides who had so far outperformed their pre-tournament expectations. The match was dominated largely by Ukraine, while Turkey disappointingly resorted to focussing kicking their opponents rather than the ball. It took until the 72nd minute for the deadlock to be broken though when Mykola Sharapenko hoofed the ball upfield to start a Ukrainian counter attack. Substitute Alexey Sukhov then switched play from right to left, Andriy Yarmolenko slipped it down the line and Victor Kovalenko slid Ukraine into the lead. 5 minutes later things went from bad to worse for Turkey and specifically for centre back Selahattin Yildirim, who tried to smash the ball clear of his own half but only succeeded in hitting it against Kovalenko, after which it bounced through for Sukhov, who drilled in Ukraine’s 2nd. Yildirim then got caught flat footed by a long ball over the top and Sukhov sprinted past him to latch on, leaving the defender no option in his mind other than hauling the pacy striker to the floor and receiving a 2nd yellow card and a red for a professional foul. Sukhov then wrapped up the scoring with 5 minutes to go, volleying in Andriy Boryachuk’s cross to send Ukraine hurtling through to the Quarter Finals.
Turkey, who came into the tournament as one of the outsiders in their group, will be disappointed with how their Euro 24 adventure ended given how well it started. They were taken apart by Ukraine, who deservedly progress and who are one of only 3 nations remaining to have won all 4 of their matches.
Belgium v Denmark
Denmark, who went through to the Second Round with the worst record of all the qualifying 3rd placed sides, had a real job on their hands when they took on Group D’s rampant Belgium side. Like in the Danes’ match against France, they were dominated entirely throughout the match but kept it fairly tight, only conceding the first goal of the game at the start of the second half. It was a painful one to watch after seeing such a hearty defensive performance, originating from Youri Tielemans’ lofted pass into the Danish box which Mads Roerslev tried and categorically failed to head back to goalkeeper Frederik Rønnow. He found Divock Origi instead, who was all alone 6 yards from goal and who promptly smashed the ball into the net to break the deadlock. The second goal was superb and again Tielemans was the creator, releasing Origi in space down the right channel. Origi chipped a cross in first time from the right byline and Mo Hamoudan arrived to volley the ball in at the far post. Danish substitute Wessam Abou Ali injected some creativity and drive into his side as they struggled to claw themselves back into the game, picking up the ball on the half way line and surging through the Belgian midfield, before sliding it through for Marco Ramkilde, who hammered past Thibaut Courtois from 8 yards. They failed to find an equaliser though as Belgium picked up another well earned win and progressed to the Quarters.
Belgium, along with Ukraine, have won all 4 matches so far and although the win was their narrowest so far, their domination was clear throughout. They now have their sights firmly set on going all the way to the final, while Denmark exit. The Danes can afford to be fairly proud, despite losing 3 out of their 4 matches and beating only Georgia. They found themselves in a tough group E and fought hard against both France and Belgium, but just lacked the quality to see them any further.
Netherlands v Sweden
In yet another 1st v 3rd tie between Group A’s Netherlands and Group D’s Sweden, the odds were stacked firmly against the Scandinavians as the Dutch looked to continue their scintillating Group Stage form. The tournament’s joint top scorer Thomas Buitink opened the scoring for the Netherlands just 8 minutes in, curling past Jim Lindau after a clever reverse pass from Tom Watson set him in on goal. Robin Holmgren rose to meet Mattias Svanberg’s cross after 20 minutes and sent a looping header past Jeroen Zoet to equalise for the Swedes, but just 10 minutes later they were behind again, this time with Buitink crossing low into the box for Watson, who poked his side back into the lead from close range. Sweden were fortunate to be just a single goal behind at half time against the dominant Dutch, but that was soon corrected after the restart when Thomas Buitink laid the ball off for who else but Wesley Hoedt on the edge of the Swedish box. The centre back hammered a shot past Lindau, eventually sealing his side’s progression to the next round.
Like their fellow Scandinavians Denmark, Sweden can be proud to have reached the Second Round in the first place, coming through a tough Group D and giving their fans some memorable moments to take home with them, but it’s the Netherlands who’ll march on, having won 4 matches out of 4 and looking as likely as anyone to go all the way.
Scotland v Norway
And fare thee weel, my only Luve and fare thee weel, a while,
And I will come again, my Luve, tho’ it were ten thousand mile.
Aye right… I cannae dae it. If wan bastart has the same steel in his een as Angus, it’s Ørjan Nyland. Twice denied Gauld, 2 penalties saved. We stuid agin him, proud Nyland’s airmie, but we cudnae send him hamewart tae think again. Get yesel tae fuck, Ørjan, ya wee fanny. Ya daft wee bastart, ye killed the dream! I cannae dae it, John! I CANNAE FUCKIN’ DAE IT! SQUARE GO, NYLAND! I’LL TAK THAE NORWEGIANS AW ON, THE WEE CU…
Editor’s Note: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen! Due to an incredibly sudden bout of flu, Don Collins has been escorted from the premises by armed security personnel and is unable to continue writing this article, so you’re stuck with me, John Hutchison, for the remainder.
Scotland gave as good as they got really against Group C’s winners Norway at the Stadio San Paolo, but in the end neither side was able to find a goal in 120 minutes of football. Ørjan Nyland did indeed pull off a couple of spectacular saves to deny Ryan Gauld in extra time and then went on to secure his place in the hearts of the Norwegian public by saving penalties from Aitchison and McGinn in the shootout, allowing Fredrik Midtsjø to score the decisive penalty and send his nation through at the Scots’ expense. Norway will be quietly confident after outperforming expectations so far, winning 3 out of their 4 Euro 24 matches.
Spain v France
Well look who’s decided to turn up! France have arrived, ladies and gentleman and good guests that they are, they’ve brought over a vintage 2024 bottle of Spanish tears for us to enjoy throughout the remainder of the tournament. The majority of the first half at the San Siro was dominated by the French and they almost went into the break with a 2 goal cushion to show for it after an Antoine Griezmann header and a close range finish from Kingsley Coman put them in the driving seat. Asier Villalibre clawed back some hope for Spain on the stroke of half time with a driven finish, but it didn’t take long for France to reopen the gap between the sides after the restart. Griezmann and Coman both secured braces as France played some really silky football, with the former curling past De Gea and the latter poking home a 4th goal from close range, but then the Spanish tragedy turned into something of a comedy when David De Gea nonchalantly dropped the ball at his feet and gifted it to Paul Pogba, who tapped in France’s 5th. Villalibre scored a consolation goal soon after courtesy of some dubious French defending, but then Nabil Fekir blasted the ball in with mere minutes to go to complete the scoring in a resounding victory.
Franjo’s France will go through to the Quarter Finals with some confidence, having finally started to show some of the quality that we’d expected before the tournament began. Marcelino’s Spain however are on their way home. Their opening day victory over Switzerland promised much, but their subsequent narrow victory over Scotland, toothless defeat against Serbia and absolute gubbing at the hands of the French mean that some serious questions will be asked about the future of the National side.
Italy v England
The hosts were given a tough Second Round draw against Group E winners England after only managing a 2nd place finish in their group, but expectations on the exciting young Italian side were high nonetheless. The English continued their stellar group form against the dominant Italians, opening the scoring through Dele Alli, who strolled through the centre of the park and blasted the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma just before the half hour. Harry Kane secured the win on the hour when he converted a penalty that he himself had won when Riccardo Mansueto tripped him in the box.
Hype is suddenly building around Eddie Howe’s side as apart from the last half hour against France in their Group E opening game, they’re yet to concede a goal and have won their last 3 matches in a row. Italy though exit their own tournament at the Second Round and will be sickeningly disappointed with their overall performance. Wins against Poland and Sweden will take a backseat in the post-exit analysis by media and fans, while their failure to compete against Belgium and England will be the focus of the discussion. With the exciting young generation of players that they have, Italy could and should have gone farther.
Serbia v Portugal
The final match of the Second Round was played at the Juventus Stadium, where Group F runners up Serbia took on Group B runners up Portugal. The Serbians came into the match after not exactly setting their group alight, but had remained unbeaten all the same with a win against Spain the standout performance. Portugal were huge favourites after qualifying comfortably from their group and showed early signs that the scoreline would be suitably comfortable when Gelson Martins opened the scoring 5 minutes in, intercepting a poor backpass by Milorad Stevanovic and drilling the ball low past Predrag Rajkovic. Only a few minutes later though, Serbia equalised when Save Petrov burst down the right wing and whipped in a cross that Dejan Lukic half volleyed past Diogo Costa, but then with a quarter of an hour gone the Portuguese retook their advantage: Bruma raced away on the counter after a Serbian corner was cleared and ran almost the entire length of the pitch with the ball at his feet before chipping it across for Gelson Martins, who tucked in his 2nd. Gelson turned provider before half time when he tore down the right and floated a cross straight onto the head of Gonçalo Guedes at the near post, who nodded in his side’s 3rd, but Serbia turned the pressure on again in the second half when Lukic’s corner was flapped at by Costa and the loose ball fell to substitute Mihajlo Pantovic, who smashed in his first international goal to make it 3-2. The scoreline was precarious until the 89th minute, when Gelson crossed for Guedes once more and the striker was hauled to the ground by Milos Stojanovic. The referee pointed to the spot and booked the defender and the honour of wrapping up Portugal’s place in the Quarter Final fell to João Mario, who blasted the ball into the bottom left from 12 yards.
Serbia will be happy with their tournament, having stayed in with a chance right up until the final minute and eventually losing to a Portuguese side with a lot of quality. Like so many others in the final 8, Portugal will have their sights set on winning it all after a strong showing so far.
The time for slip ups is very much over! We’ve said goodbye to some good teams in the last few days: Condolences to Romania, Denmark, Turkey, Sweden, Scotland, Spain, Italy and Serbia as our pool of potential Euro 24 winners is whittled down from 16 to 8.
We’ve just got time for a peek at the Quarter Final draw.
Germany v Belgium
Potentially one of the matches of the tournament? 2 juggernauts that have been talked up more than most as potential winners will meet in the first Quarter Final match. Germany and Belgium have both been free-scoring so far and this one could go either way.
Ukraine v France
This could be interesting. Uncharitably labelled as the easiest draw that World Champions and pre-tournament favourites France could have been handed, we are well past the point now of thinking that Ukraine are a soft touch. The Ukrainians have conceded just 1 goal in 4 matches and that defensive resolve will surely be tested by a French team that have just remembered where the net is. France have shown that they absolutely have defensive frailties for Ukraine to exploit though.
Norway v England
England are in superb form, but they should not underestimate a Norway side that have been going about their business quietly but effectively. The Scandinavians will be looking to complete a United Kingdom double after sending Scotland packing but will be definite underdogs for this one.
Netherlands v Portugal
The final Quarter Final match is between the seemingly unstoppable Netherlands and the virtually unstoppable Portuguese. Another 2 sides that have ambitions of winning the Euros; This one should be a doozy.
16 teams have become 8, now 8 will become 4. I might see you afterwards to pick through the bones of what could be 4 extremely entertaining matches, or I might not. It depends whether Don gets his……… Flu……… Under control. Bye for now.