The group stage of Euro 2020 definitely threw up some surprises. With heavyweight clashes to smaller nation extraordinaires, it was certainly a group stage to remember. Here is a story of how the group stage of the Euros unfolded for the Manchester United players, and what’s next for them:
With four players from the Reds originally representing England in the tournament, none of them started in the opening fixture against Croatia. The match was a pretty dull afair, but England came away with a 1-0 victory. Marcus Rashford played 19 minutes as he was substituted on for Phil Foden, however Luke Shaw & Dean Henderson did not feature off the bench. Harry Maguire was not in the squad due to injury.
Unfortunately, much like Donny van de Beek for the Netherlands, Henderson had to pull out of the England camp due to a hip issue, which has stopped him from training full time with the squad.
Their second match, a local clash against Scotland, left a lot to be desired. A tame and tentative display saw England and Scotland share a point each, which put a dent in England’s hopes of qualifying as top of their group, with their final day clash against Czech Republic needing to end in victory for England to finish top. It was Luke Shaw’s first international tournament appearance since 2014, and Marcus Rashford came on with 20 minutes to go, however neither Red could help inspire England to a second victory.
Going in to the final game, due to results elseware in the competition on Monday, England had already qualified as they had 4 points, which meant whatever happened, they would go through as one of the four best 3rd placed teams (at worst). In their final game against the Czechs, England fielded a much changed line-up, with Shaw and Maguire both playing from United’s England trio and Rashford coming off the bench, England won the match 1-0 thanks to another goal from Raheem Sterling and finished top of Group C. Marcus Rashford was a substitute in every match, Luke Shaw played 2 games and Harry Maguire played 1.
Next up, we travel to Group A and Azerbaijan, where Daniel James & Dylan Levitt‘s Wales took on Switzerland, in a match that saw them draw their opening game. Daniel James played extremely well, with 2 key passes, winning 3 freekicks and having 85% passing accuracy, before being taken off (much to everyone’s suprise). Dylan Levitt didn’t play.
This performance and result for Wales is not brilliant, as it means they would have to grab a big result against Turkey. With their match against Turkey also taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan, this could cause issues as there is quite a large Turkish population within Baku, meaning there is sure to be a large Turkish audience in the stadium.
And boy did they perform in Baku. Daniel James started the second match of Wales’ Euros as Rob Page named an unchanged side, and spectacular performances from Aaron Ramsey & Gareth Bale, alongside yet another great performance from James, helped Wales climb to 2nd in Group A and put them in a brilliant position to qualify for the knockout rounds.
When the final matchday for Wales came, it came against Italy. They started the day on 4 points with a +2 goal difference, and to finish 2nd, they needed to make sure their 5 goal swing against Switzerland was not eaten up. Switzerland beat Turkey 3-1, and although Wales did lose 1-0 to Italy (with young defender Ethan Ampadu seeing red), the scores were not enough for Switzerland to finish above Wales and Wales finished 2nd in Group A, and will face Denmark in the Round of 16. Daniel James started all 3 games, and Dylan Levitt played a couple minutes of the match against Italy.
Scott McTominay‘s Scotland did not get off to the best start in their group. Despite an incredible and electric atmosphere at Hampden Park, the Scottish fans were silenced by two stunning goals by the Czech striker Patrik Schick (including a potential goal of the tournament halfway line strike) to start their campaign off with a 2-0 loss.
Their second affair, as mentioned above, was a clash against neighbours England. Although the draw was damaging for England, for Scotland it was a lifeline. Many fans and neutrals alike predicted England to cruise past the team from the highlands, however great displays from Chelsea‘s Billy Gillmore and Scott McTominay himself saw them earn a vital point, meaning a win against Croatia could see them set themselves in the knockout stages.
With Scotland having a lot riding on their last game, they were hit with bad news the day before as their afforementioned star Billy Gilmore testing positive for COVID-19 just 36 hours ahead of the match. This ended up being a big blow to the Scots as they lost their final group game 3-1 to Croatia, and they ended up coming dead bottom in their group with 1 point. Scott McTominay played every minute of all 3 games, and will now have the rest of the summer off to relax and recouperate before the start of next season.
Next, we take a look at Victor Lindelof‘s Sweden. With an opening game against Spain, it was a fairly dreadful 0-0 affair. Sweden only had a pretty mind-boggling 14% possession, and completed 162 passes, which when compared to Spain’s 917 passess, it seems incredible that they managed to come away with a point.Embed from Getty Images
Their second game in the group, this time against Slovakia, needed to be a win if they wanted any hope of qualifying for the knockouts, and they did via a penalty scored by Emil Forsberg. Victor Lindelof kept his 2nd clean sheet in two games through the 1-0 win. Much like England, these four points saw Sweden have enough points to qualify for the knockout stages, despite only playing two games.
Swden came up against Poland in their final group stage game. After opeining the scoring in the 2nd minute, Forsberg sent the Swede’s 2-0 up, however two goals from world class forward Robert Lewandowski saw them level at 2-2 with a few minutes to play. It was all set to end in a draw, however a 90+4′ minute winner from Viktor Claesson saw Sweden win the game 3-2 and finish top of Group E! Lindelof played all 3 matches for Sweden, keeping 2 clean sheets in the process.
Although they are in the same group as Sweden, David de Gea‘s Spain had an even less eventful opening two games. After their 0-0 draw with Sweden, they had to face Poland, and that match was a case of incredibly un-clinical finishing. They had an xG of 3.36 against Poland, yet only had Alvaro Morata‘s 25th minute strike to show for it. Drawing yet again (this time 1-1), it came down to Spain requiring a win against Slovakia to qualify with any realistic chance of progressing deep in to the knockout stages.
After a lot of negative press after their first two games, Spain ran riot over Slovakia. Scoring 5 goals to secure a 5-0 victory, Spain went through to the knockout stages finishing 2nd in their group. Unfortunately, David de Gea did not play a single minute of the group stage, as Unai Simon has been the No.1 choice this tournament so far.
France and Paul Pogba got off to a blinding start in the Euros. In this summers “group of death” alongside Germany, Portugal and Hungary. Facing Germany in the first round of games, and thanks to a Mats Hummels own goal, France won the opening match. Paul Pogba pulled the strings in the first game and won a deserved Man of the Match, and alongside a dangerous Kylian Mbappe (who had a goal and assist both ruled out for tight offsides), they really set their pace.
However, their second game came to a shock for everyone. Against the weakest team in the group, Hungary, France could do no better than to share the spoils in a 1-1 draw. A shock goal for Hungary from Attila Fiola right on half-time saw France go behind in the break, and it took a deflected cross from Mbappe to fall in to the lap of Antoine Griezmann to claw back a goal. Next up in their attempt to finish top of their group, they had a match up with Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Portugal.
When going in to the match, France knew they had already qualified for the knockout stage because just like Sweden and England, they had four points already. The match was one that contained 3 penalties and 1 normal goal, and saw France draw 2-2 in their final group game to finish top of Group F. Paul Pogba started all 3 games and was only substituted once, against Hungary.
Bruno Fernandes and Portugal were many people’s 2nd favourites for to retain their 2016 title, however their first game was not convincing. Bruno Fernandes had an individually brilliant game, however Portugal were overall sub-par and it took three late goals (and two from the ever fantastic Ronaldo) to seal the three points in their opening match.Embed from Getty Images
After a shakey first start, Portugal next up had a game against Germany to show to the world that they were still a force to be reckoned with… but that did not happen. After going ahead through Ronaldo (again), Portugal forgot which goal they were scoring in and scored two own-goals to give Germany a 2-1 lead. This was then extended to 3-1 when Kai Havertz scored in the 51st minute, and nine minutes later Gosens made it four with a lovely header at the back post. Portgual did claw one back through Diogo Jota (assisted by… Ronaldo), however the end of the game saw them overall be torn apart and, despite having 3 points from their opening game, there was a lot riding on their match against France.
As mentioned above, the match ended in a 2-2 draw. Fortunately for Portugal, elseware in the group Hungary also drew 2-2, which meant they qualified for the knockout stages by finishing as one of the 4 best 3rd placed teams! Bruno Fernandes played the first two games and played 22 minutes from the bench in the final game, and Diogo Dalot did not play the first two games but did get 10 minutes of the bench in the final match.
The Round of 16 fixtures are as follows:
France vs Switzerland
Croatia vs Spain
Belgium vs Portugal
Italy vs Austria
Sweden vs Ukraine
England vs Germany
Netherland vs Czech Republic
Wales vs Denmark
This next round is sure to be an interesting one, with the showpiece match being Belgium vs Portgual, however many United players have the chance to go through to the quarter-finals, with France, Spain & Wales all having fixtures they can definitely win, and England & Porugal having tougher but exciting match ups. On to the knockouts we go…