Euros’ Expressway

Welcome to the home of Unbenched’s coverage on the UEFA 2020 European Championship. Check back daily as we update it as the action goes down.

Group Stage

Day 1

Italy 3- Turkey 0

The moment everyone has been waiting for: the 2020 Euros kicked off on June 11, 2021 exactly as scripted. Going by the same script, Turkey scored the first goal of the tournament en route to being shut out. Yes, the first goal of the Euros was an own goal. Pretty on brand for the state of the world if you ask me. The Azzuri continued to see red (beyond the obvious opposing jerseys) as they strung together play after play, finding the back of the net twice more.

Day 2

Switzerland 1- Wales 1

It’s a rare day when a draw signifies two completely different things for the teams involved, but such was the case Saturday morning for Switzerland and Wales. The Welsh, led by King of the Man Bun Gareth Bale, with treasure their stolen point like Gollum with the ring while Switzerland can’t see this as anything other than two points lost. With the Nati having their sights set on challenging the Azzuri for top spot, these missing two points could force them into a harder second round draw.

Finland 1- Denmark 0

All joking aside, this game was a stunning example of how beautiful the football family could be; when Christian Eriksen suffered a medical emergency that caused the game to be suspended the crowd chanted his name, his teammates shielded him for privacy, and the Finnish players and match officials returned to their dressing rooms. The outpouring of support from clubs and countries alike was heartwarming, no moment more indicative of the collective family of the sport than Belgian star Romelo Lukaku telling the TV camera “Chris, Chris, I love you” as his celebration of one of his goals. The match resumed a few hours later with Finland getting the three points. Despite the importance of their win, the Finns encouraged their fans to tone down the celebrations to respect Eriksen and the Dannish team’s emotional experience. Eriksen is awake and stable in hospital, reportedly even having FaceTimed his teammates before they retook the pitch.

Belgium 3- Russia 0

Belgium’s Golden Generation is back for another attempt to return home with some hardware, before the Golden Generation enters their Sunset Years. If today was any indication, this iteration of the squad stands a very good chance and being crowned kings of Europe. The strength of their opposition may not have been the most testing but the ease with which they sliced through the Russian team was enough to make any future opponent shake in their boots. Time will tell if this really will be their year, but time is certainly running out for the group the country believes will be the One.

Day 3

England 1- Croatia 0

English fans everywhere are always subliminally ready for the continuation of the tradition of Three Lions football: invent the beautiful game and then lose to everyone you teach it to. They have a proud history of doing that ever since lifting the World Cup in 1966. Nevertheless, the beginning of major tournaments is always marked with a sprinkling of hope that maybe this group will finally be the one. The campaign got off to as good of a start as possible as they defeated the reigning World Cup runner-ups. While Croatia no longer has all the star-power they did in that final match against France in 2018, they were still considered a fearsome side before kickoff. They showed they won’t go quietly but it was the Three Lions who pounced harder on this day.

Austria 3- North Macedonia 1

I will give you a cookie if you can show me where North Macedonia is on a non-labelled map, because I certainly couldn’t. The nation making their major tournament debut are certainly no strangers to being met with confusion on the world stage but they certainly made the footballing world take notice with how tightly they played this Austrian side. Don’t let the scoreline fool you, this game could have very easily ended in a draw, but some tactical adjustments from Austria in terms of the positioning of their star Alaba and a 2 defensive blunder from North Macedonia gave Austria all three points. It was a surprisingly entertaining game given North Macedonia’s signature style of parking the bus. They’ll now be driving the bus into a matchup with Ukraine with a little bit of extra confidence that they can stay competitive through the match.

Holland 3- Ukraine 2

Remember when the Netherlands played Spain close right until the final whistle at the 2010 World Cup Final? If you do then you also remember that this is a footballing nation that has not done much of anything on the men’s side since then, and if you don’t then you’re probably just thinking that man those guys in orange shirts sure know how to blow a lead. With the Dutch back in a major tournament since a the 2014 World Cup, all eyes are on the Oranje led by one of the most fireable coaches ever in Frank DeBoer. The pressure seemed to have little effect as they cycled to a 2-0 lead early in the second half. And then the wheels fell off. Ukraine scored two quick ones and all of a sudden the shade of orange seemed to fade from bright enough to light up the Red Light District to that of a dying tulip. To their credit, they managed to steal it at the death to earn the full three points.

Day 4

Czech Republic 2- Scotland 0

Nobody realistically thought Scotland had a shot in this one but don’t tell that to the home side’s fans as the look of pain and sorrow on their faces after the final whistle would suggest that they genuinely believe this team could pull off the upset. Even if Scotland had showed up with their A game plus a country load of luck, nothing would have beaten the Czechs after Patrik Schick sent in a shot that seemed to come off the foot of the gods that sunk perfectly into the back of the net. Seriously, if that marker isn’t named goal of the tournament then we are in a for a treat to witness what would beat it.

Slovakia 2- Poland 1

The boys from Bratislava bounced out to an early lead and never really looked back. Sure Poland got themselves back level for a few serendipitous moments. but they couldn’t hold themselves level with man power. Krychowiak picked up a second yellow just after the hour mark sending Poland down to 10 men and adding a pep in the step of the Slovakian side. Oh I should probably mention that Slovakia’s first goal was actually scored by Poland so they really were there own worst enemy on the pitch during their first match.

Spain 0- Sweden 0

Who knew that building Ikea furniture would be easier than finding a goal in this game? Well…the Swedes probably but that’s besides the point because they weren’t the ones we were expecting to find the back of the nรคt. It was the first goalless match of the tournament and Sweden have their keeper to thank for the rest of his career for getting them out of this game unscathed.

Day 5

Portugal 3- Hungary 0

Sure this isn’t the most surprising result of the week, nobody really picked Hungary to do much of anything in the group of death, but the way we got here wasn’t exactly on script. It was 0-0 at the half, in no small part due to Hungary’s stout defence tactic of leaving all 11 men behind the ball, hoping against hope that there wouldn’t be any Ronaldo magic. Their hopes were answered until he struck home his record breaking goal on a penalty kick in the 87th minute. By that point, it was already 1-0 Portugal after a Hungarian defender deflected a shot into his own bottom corner. Ronaldo would add one in stoppage time to plant Portugal atop Group F.

France 1- Germany 0

For the third time this tournament, an own goal was credited which equals the total from all of the last Euros. And for the Germans, it was the first own goal they have ever conceded in a Euro tournament, coming at the most inopportune time. In a group where points will be at a premium, losing because you could only put the ball in your own net will leave a taste more sour than sauerkraut in the German squad’s mouths.

Day 6

Russia 1- Finland 0

Russia went from playing tournament favourites Belgium to tournament underdogs Finland, and the difference is apparent in the scoreline. While the Russians had little to no realistic hope up against the likes of Lukaku and Co, their matchup with the Finns, who are coming off of an emotional win, was something they could always have their sights set on winning. The lone goal of the game came in first half stoppage time courtesy of a magnificent curler from Aleksey Mirachuk. The win puts the two sides on level terms with three points meaning this result could be key when it comes to deciding who might advance to the round of 16.

Wales 2- Turkey 0

After committing highway robbery for their first point against Switzerland, Wales came out determined to demonstrate that they can outright win their own points. Mission accomplished for Gareth Bale and his boys, even if it was against the group’s weakest side. Though they have the toughest opponent yet to come in Italy, their complete team performance today showed that this dragon might be able to breathe some fire after all.

Italy 3- Switzerland 0

Italy made no mistake of punching their ticket to the round of 16 despite being up against what, on paper, would be the toughest opposition they would face in group play. All eyes will be on the Italian bench boss to see who he decides to play against the group closer against Wales as they would need but a draw to lock up top spot and thus an easier second round matchup. As for Switzerland, they’ll need to beat Turkey and some outside help to feel confident for their Round of 16 chances.

Day 7

Ukraine 2- North Macedonia 1

For the second game in a row the Macedonians fall heart bracingly close to squeezing a point from their opponents, but it wasn’t for lack of heart. Truly, the squad and their fans are one of the highlights of this tournament for the way they refuse to simply go away and instead force their opponents to fight for the three points until the final whistle. There is perhaps no better example of that then the Macedonians falling victim to a VAR-awarded penalty but keeper Dimitrievski came up with a mighty stop. The tournament underdogs will need a miracle to get through to the next round but with the grit they’ve shown, one isn’t completely out of the cards. As for the Ukraines, their two early markers showed that they really are as dangerous as they looked for a spell against the Dutch. Should they get through to the next phase they have the ability to trip teams up if opponents aren’t careful.

Belgium 2- Denmark 1

Inspiring, uplifting, heartwarming; any number of adjectives can be used to describe any showing the Danes put on at this tournament after Eriksen’s cardiac arrest but today’s performance against Belgium was no less than gripping in every sense of the word. From their early goal, their tribute to their teammate in the tenth minute, to the way they forced Belgium to pull out all the stops for the three points, what this squad did was remarkable. Belgium needed to resort to bringing on newly-available Kevin De Bruyne at the half to be able to crack their opponents open, and boy did he ever. The so-called super sub set up his side’s tying goal and scored the winning marker to make sure the upset was avoided and the Golden Generation of Belgium would be through to the round of 16.

Netherlands 2- Austria 0

The entire staff of the Oranje can breathe a sigh of relief that after missing out on the last two major tournaments, they’re through to the knockout stages of Euro 2020 (2021). Sure, their path was never going to be hard but given some of the calamities we’ve seen this squad produce on the big stage, nothing was ever a guarantee. They still have placement to play for against North Macedonia so it will be interesting to see how the favourites to win the group show up against the team everyone expected to be eliminated first. As for Austria, they must now turn their sights to what will be a feisty battle with the Ukraine and will have to hope they get a world class showing from their world class jack of all trades, David Alaba.

Day 8

Sweden 1- Slovakia 0

It took nearly 180 minutes but Sweden finally found the back of the nรคt thanks to an 87th minute penalty shot. The team from Ikea have all but successfully built a campaign that will carry on into the second round as they sit with four points ahead of a final matchup with Poland. Unfortunately for fans, the rest of this game was about as thrilling as watching a set of Malm drawers for 85 of the 90 minutes.

Croatia 1- Czech Republic 1

After the Czech number 10 made the whole tournament say Holy Schick last week, it looked like Croatia had put an X on his back as if to say “Let anyone beat us but him.” Unfortunately, their strategy for accomplishing this feat included rendering Patrick Schick bloody by clobbering him in the box, subsequently giving up a penalty shot. Serendipitously for one site and cruel for the other, it was none other than Schick who stepped up and unflinchingly put the Czech Republic ahead. Croatia’s heads up play out of the half put them back on equal footing but Perisic’s 47th minute equalizer would be the final goal of the game.

England 0- Scotland 0

The most exciting and beer-laden rivalry of the tournament produced, in true English fashion, the biggest blimmin’ snooze fest of recent memory in international play. Truly, the banter in the bars would have been more entertaining that the play produced. Next!

Day 9

Hungary 1- France 1

No, that’s not a typo, France really did drop two points to the team every one agreed would be the basement dwellers of the group of death. Heading into the group stage, a general opinion would be that the three superpowers would each leave with at least three points as they all had to play Hungary. Yet, here we are, after having to play from behind France could only muster a tying goal meaning that the group of death just got even scarier there is no clear picture on who could be the real threat.

Germany 4- Portugal 2

The biggest barnburner of the tournament was perhaps no surprise the matchup between the reigning champs and the perennial powers. While the scoreline makes sense at first glance, when you dig a little deeper, it gets as confusing as the group standings. With six goals on the scoresheet but a 4-2 win you probably wouldn’t be expecting four of the goal scorers to be Portuguese…or maybe you were because this is the tournament of own goals. But yes, Portugal scored two for Germany, both in the first half which caused their initial 1-0 lead to evaporate into but a painful memory by the final whistle.

Poland 1- Spain 1

This tournament has been a whole lot of Spain without the S for anyone whose a fan of La Furia Roja as they have been noticeably lacking any type of furia. For a nation that has been notorious for its creative and fruitful attack, it has been dumbfounding to watch them only find the back of the net once against two of the tournament’s weaker sides. Full credit does go to Poland who refused to go quietly, even after conceding a penalty. The original PK hit the post with the rebound being fired into the top shelf of the stadium…okay so maybe it was partially Poland’s will and partially Spain’s ineptitude but whose keeping track.

Day 10

Italy 1- Wales 0

The game for all the marbles in Group A was a heated affair, but it wasn’t because of the fire breathing dragons. The heat seemed to be fuelled by Italy’s torrid pace through the group stage and their desire to not let up. And the Azzuri proved that though their opposition may be but little, they are still a force to be reckoned with. Whoever finishes second in Group C will need to gamelan for a whole new style of Italian football, one with an attack that can turn on a dime and make you pay for even the most minor of mistakes. As for Wales, while the loss may sting the pain would be short lived as the second game in Group A ensured that the Welsh dragons secure the second automatic qualification for the Round of 16. They’ll meet the runners up of Group B for their elimination match

Switzerland 3- Turkey 1

It only took nearly 200 minutes but the Switzerland attack finally came out of the vault. Unfortunately it could be too little too late as they wind up finishing third in Group A on goal differential. While their four points have them level with Wales and will more than likely be enough for one of the third place qualifications, their -1 goal difference could sink them. They’ll have to wait with baited breath until the final round of group games conclude to know whether or not they’ll continue their Euro expedition or if it’s back to the Alps. As for Turkey, their bags will be packed this evening but they can go home with the confidence of knowing that they possibly played spoiler to the team we all anticipated would challenge Italy for the Group A title.

Day 11

Austria 1- Ukraine 0

Through their first two games, Ukraine genuinely looked like a team that could cause problems come the elimination round, but in order to get there they needed at least a point out of their matchup with Austria. This should have been a gimme the way they had been playing, but as the adage goes, this is why they play the game. Ukraine simply did not show up for this game, looking completely outmatched in every area of the pitch and now pay the price as they must wait until the end of group play to find out if they will make it through as a third place team. With the win Austria claim second place in the group and an automatic qualification for the round of 16 where they will play unbeaten Italy.

Netherlands 3- North Macedonia 0

There was nothing North Macedonia could do to stop from the clock from striking midnight on their Cinderella appearance at this year’s Euros, though they were able to orchestrate a curtain call fit for a prince for their all-time leading scorer Goran Pandev as he was subbed off in the second half. The rest of the game went predictably to script, with the Dutch squad netting three goals to complete their picture-perfect group stage.

Denmark 4- Russia 1

Before kickoff, nobody was giving Denmark a shot at finding their way out of their emotional group stage and into the knockout phase. But here we are with them capping off group play with an emphatic win over Russia, seemingly still fuelled by what they’ve been through since match day 1. While we as media have spent minimal time talking about their play, Denmark left no option for that after this performance; they took the pitch hungry for a win and simply outworked the Russians for ever ball, every edge, and every chance. While it may have been hard to even consider them a dark horse before this game, their result against Russia combined with the fact that they play Wales in the next round, we would be remised to not be paying attention now.

Belgium 2- Finland 0

Day 11 capped off with a predictable result by the Red Devils, finishing the group stage undefeated, but it all started with a little bit of finishing help. We were deadlocked at 0 until the 74th minute when Finland scored the sixth own goal of the tournament. Belgium would add one on their own accord a few minutes later to lock up Group B and await their next opponent, one of the third place teams.

Day 12

Croatia 3- Scotland 1

It was the result Scottish fans were dreading, one harder to choke back than haggis: they finish last in the group and will be returning home having earned just a point from their three games. It was the showing we were all waiting for from Croatia who were World Cup runners’ up in 2018 and it was all thanks to Luka Modric. The Croatian star was all over the pitch, including netting a goal he had no business finding the back of the net with; an outside footed strike with pure power behind it. The win pushes Croatia to second in the group after a shaky start to the tournament.

England 1- Czech Republic 0

Despite having the best squad of the group on paper, England were in what was an essentially must-win position for their final match if they wanted to secure top spot. In typical English fashion, they did the absolute bare minimum to get there. The boo-birds stayed away for this one but they’ll surely land again should England turn in yet another subpar performance in the elimination rounds. As for the Czechs, they squeak through as a third place team with their four points but will certainly be hoping some more Holy Schick moments are in their future

Day 13

Sweden 3- Poland 2

Ikea was sold out of the comfy chairs for Swedish fans today but that didn’t matter because there certainly wasn’t any opportunity for relaxation as it took an injury time winner to seal the win for Sweden. They blew a two goal lead in the second half courtesy of a Robert Lewandowski brace that turned the game, and the group on its head. The final stretches seemed to be played on a tilted field that favoured Poland but that’s why they play until the final whistle.

Spain 5- Slovakia 0

While we were all in 2021, Spain was playing in 2010, having turned back the clock to the days of Xavi and Iniesta; a seamless, creative attack and a calm sense of play that offered no room for opponents to edge themselves in. Sure, there was some luck thrown in with the Slovakian goaltender punching the ball into his own net while facing it for no apparent reason, but altogether it was as complete a performance as we’ve seen from Spain in recent memory and bodes well for them heading into the knockout phase.

France 2- Portugal 2

Well that was the most thrilling 2-2 draw I’ve ever seen, you? If not please send me the highlight reel of the one that was because I am intrigued.

Germany 2- Hungary 2

Germany was given a golden chance to get out of the group of death: play the one team that isn’t considered as contributing to the “death” element of the moniker and win, then you get to go through. Easy, right? Yeah no, at least not at these Euros. Germany found themselves behind, and out of the tournament just 11 minutes in, so essentially from the get Germany were playing for their lives. Despite a relentless attack, it took until the 66th minute for the Germans to draw back even, and back into the knockout phase. The feeling of glory was palpable through the Munich stadium, and it lasted for a splendid two minutes because right off the restart Hungary seemed to have forced Germany into a glitch and hurried the ball behind Neuer. For the next 20 minutes, Germany were on the plank, about to be cut off from the rest of the tournament, until Goretzka sent a laser into the back of the Hungarian goal, and sent Germany into the knockouts as the second place team in Group F.

Round of 16

Day 14

Denmark 4- Wales 0

Wales clearly forgot to drink their Fire-Breathing Dragon Juice (trademark incoming) pregame because there was no heat to Bale and Co’s play in Amsterdam. Credit where credit is due, my dad put it best when he said that Denmark made Wales look like guppies, don’t ask me where he got the reference but he was shockingly accurate. After their gutsy performance, it is more than safe to say that Denmark has truly become the world’s team and a Cinderella story that will look to avoid the striking of midnight in Baku next weekend against either the Dutch or the Czechs.

Italy 2- Austria 1

It was Italy’s first bump in the road at these Euros, needing the extra frame to get something past Austria. While they appeared to be facing adversity, they really had everything going right for them with Austria’s regulation goal being called back for an offside elbow. With the win, despite having conceded for the first time in 1168 minutes, the Azzuri set a new record with 31 straight fixtures without a loss and will now move on to face the winner of Portugal and Belgium (so basically a finals worthy matchup in the last 8, isn’t the draw FANTASTIC?)

Day 15

Czech Republic 2- Netherlands 0

Allow the “Countdown to DeBoer’s Next Firing” clock begin ticking again. While certainly not all the blame can be placed on the Dutch bench boss (the team failed to record a single shot on target all game) it is hard to distance DeBoer from the tradition of losing that seems to befall the teams he’s helmed since leaving Ajax. While the Oranje crash out of yet another tournament in a blaze of anything but glory, credit goes to the Czechs who came out the hungrier squad handmade no mistake on capitalizing off of their opponents being reduced to 10 men just 10 minutes into the second half. It’s hard to imagine anyone in the tournament has a bigger belief in themselves as the Czech Republic right now, except maybe Denmark, who the Czechs will meet in their quarterfinal matchup.

Belgium 1- Portugal 0

They say the bigger they are the harder they fall and with Portugal and their championship crown tumbling down it was a fall to shake the tournament. Belgium bench boss Roberto Martinez told his players that the way to shut Ronaldo’s Portugal down was to not foul anyone in a white shirt in the box, a brilliant strategy given that we’ve seen Ronaldo net three spot kicks so far. Instead the name lit up in the highlight reels will go down as Thorgan Hazard, who’s lone goal of the match was a cannon of a shot from outside the box. While Rui Patricio was helpless on the Hazard howitzer, Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois looked like a brick wall on all 23 of Portugal’s shot attempts, a form he’ll need to continue if the Red Devils want to put an end to the Azzuri’s 31 game unbeaten streak in the next round.

Day 16

Spain 5- Croatia 3

La Roja finally found their fury and just in time to book a spot in the last eight. Their five-goal performance against the Croatians was much more nerve wracking than in perhaps needed to be, though nobody will complain much about the final result. The game started disastrously for Spain, however, as they fell behind 1-0 on an own goal caused by a back-pass that skipped over keeper Unai Simon’s foot. Adding insult to injury was the fact that there wasn’t a Croatian player within 40 yards of the Spanish net and when watching the replays you can see that none of them were even paying attention. Spain would quickly rectify the situation, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. Any hockey fans will shudder at the scoreline as it has become one of the infamous margins on ice, and that infamy nearly materialized on the pitch. In the blink of an eye it was 3-2 and out of nowhere Croatia had died it at three to push the action to an extra 30 minutes. Spain did finally put the back and forth affair to bed however, netting two goals in the extra frame and looking more like the Spanish teams of old, the ones of boundless creativity and composure. The real concern for the side heading into the quarters is figuring out which side will show up…

Switzerland 3 (5)- France 3 (4)

As if Day 16 hadn’t yet produced enough excitement, we were treated to our first penalty shootout of the tournament. The road there was rocky for both sides, with Switzerland at some points having more holes than Swiss cheese and the French occasionally appearing softer than brie. But the major headline of this game (apart from you know, the tournament favourites losing) will be that it was Kylian Mbappe’s penalty kick that sent Les Bleus chez eux. Many saw this tournament as Mbappe’s chance to climb the ranks to join the likes of Messi and Ronaldo as one-name wonders in the soccersphere, yet he was barely a factor in any of France’s games, until he was the deciding factor in their final one. Sure, it’s a team sport and the team did lose, nobody is debating that, but in a shootout scenario, it is 1v1, you and the goalie. The four French players who preceded Mbappe all beat Yann Sommer. Sommer beat Mbappe and now Switzerland are within touching distance of the final four.

Day 17

England 2- Germany 0

Somehow, even after facing the firepower of Mรผller, Havertz, and Werner, England have yet to concede at these Euros, a testament to the eliteness of Jordan Pickford. While yes the Germans did miss the net on a couple of occasions, Pickford was asked to come up with some world class saves to keep Joachim Lรถw’s side off the scoresheet. The longer it went scoreless, the more England fans dared to hope and the further the nightmares of the last matchup between these two teams became in the rearview mirror. It was none other than Raheem Sterling who broke the deadlock who, until Harry Kane’s marker to double the lead, had been England’s only goal scorer at the tournament. It was traditional England football through and through though, boring, as I’m sure it will be should they find a lead in the quarters.

Ukraine 2- Sweden 1

From a purely aesthetic perspective, this game was delightful with both teams rocking the same blue and yellow colour palette. The on-field play, however, was less pretty. It was a gritty contest, ultimately coming down to injury time of the extra frame for Ukraine to grab the lead. Sweden spent the last 20 minutes of the added time with 10 men and it seemed to come down to one team ran out of gas before the other which made all the difference.

Day 18

Spain 1 (3)- Switzerland 1 (1)

Switzerland kept scoring until it truly counted. With a Zakaria own goal in the eighth minute and a Shaqiri equalizer in the 68th, the Swiss forced the extra time in which they had to defend with 10 men. While there may have only been 9 guys running around for Switzerland, the play of keeper Sommer more than compensated for the missing body. The net minder was undoubtedly the star of the match and more than likely eared himself a contract at a top club next season. Unfortunately for Sommer, the game was lost from the spot by the Swiss shooters who found the top row of the stadium, Unai Simon’s gloves, and just about everywhere but the back of the net. Spain progress and seem to have rebound their swagger that could cause problems for opponents moving forward.

Italy 2- Belgium 1

You can now use your betting pools as kindling as the last of the tournament favourites bow out at the hand of the resurgent Italians. After what felt like a lifetime of Italian soccer being just about 1-0 wins, the Azzuri have come out looking electric in this tournament, which is in stride with their 32 game unbeaten streak. Belgium were playing shorthanded, an injured De Bruyne was nowhere near as effective and Eden Hazard was a non-factor. The lone talisman left for the Red Devils was Lukaku who was dutifully shut down by Chiellini, ending the shot at gold for the Golden Generation. As for Italy, there is no reason to expect anything other than a trophy being raised on July 11, having vanquished the tournament favourites, and making the rest of the field look average at best.

Day 19

Denmark 2- Czech Republic 1

What this game showed us, if nothing else, is that Denmark is more than a good story, they’re a darn good squad, proving that through 90 minutes against the Czechs. Two early goals stifled the Czech Republic, forcing the typically air tight squad to open up in ways they hadn’t done yet. Going into the quarter final the Czech Republic had only conceded two goals, while Denmark had scored four in each of their last two, meaning this game would force someone out of their comfort zone in one way or another. Thankfully for neutrals around the world, it created a game desperate for offence.

England 4- Ukraine 0

Was it ever in doubt? Okay well yes it was because this is England and if there’s one thing they’re better at than bland food it’s losing soccer games they shouldn’t. It was a hat trick for the Harry’s and a bonus one for Henderson, the latter three of the goals being headers with Kane having opened the scoring with a poke past Ukrainian keeper. With every goal the chants of “It’s coming home” grew louder and louder in London, they could be heard in Rome. The job isn’t done but a large hurdle was cleared by a group that has a habit of falling early.

Day 20

Italy 1 (4)- Spain 1(2)

Spain, no S, capital and bold P. Italy make it 33 games since their last loss, and if they can make it 34, gold will be theirs four years after they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. For the first time this tournament however, there were cracks in the Italian armour that their final opponent will look to capitalize on. The Italians, for some unknown reason, abandoned their high press that had seen them be so daunting to face. Nevertheless the back three of Bonucci, Chiellini, completed by keeper Donnarumma is about the most formidable threesome on any pitch. It was Donnarumma who felt the most pressure as the game headed to PKs but it was all relieved when Jorginho executed the coolest, calmest, cruelest penalty you’ve ever seen.

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