The second matchday brought some great games as the knockout stage for the EURO 2021 tournament became clearer.

Teams such as Italy and the Netherlands solidified their positions as contenders while Spain and England continued to struggle.

Multiple teams were able to confirm their place in the knockout stage while others will have to wait for the third and final matchday.

Group A

Italy and Switzerland was billed as the match of the day with the two neighboring countries facing off for control of the group. Italy, having just beaten Turkey, came in on a nine game winning streak with not a single goal conceded. Switzerland, off a disappointing draw with Wales, looked to bounce back with a strong performance against the Italians.

From the start, Italy would put in a dominant performance as the Swiss defense would struggle to keep the Italians at bay. Giorgio Chiellini would score off a corner only for it to be called back for a handball and he would later be subbed off for a muscle injury. Manuel Locatelli would score the opener capping off a great performance by the Italians in the first half.

Italy would continue their domination in the second half as Switzerland was unable to deal with the attack of Italy. Locatelli would add another goal from outside the box and Immobile would add a third announcing Italy as contenders for the title. Switzerland seem to be regressing with each game as their attack seemed lifeless and the defense unable to stop attacks.

Turkey and Wales played in Baku to start the day’s group A action as both teams could solidify their position in the group with a win. After a tough loss to Italy, Turkey wanted to bounce back and finish second in the group to reach the next round. While Wales played an incredible game against Switzerland, came into the game feeling optimistic about their chances.

From the start, Wales would produce some good chances but Aaron Ramsey would miss a few good chances. The Welsh would be willing to sit back and absorb the pressure from Turkey, preferring to hit them on the counter with the pace of Gareth Bale and Daniel James. Wales would finally get their breakthrough Aaron Ramsey converting an incredible pass from Gareth Bale.

Turkey would start the second half with urgency and get a great chance falling to Burak Yilmaz but he would fail to convert. In the 60th minute, Wales would get a penalty with Bale stepping up to the occasion who would blast the ball over the crossbar. Despite all the chances that Turkey would have, Wales would add one more goal at the end of the game with Bale beautifully setting up Connor Roberts.

Group B

Group B’s second matchday would kickoff with Finland playing Russia in Russia as both teams came into the game with differing results from their first matchday. Finland got a surprise win against Denmark in a match marred by the incident with Eriksen and looked to confirm their place in the knockouts. Russia was looking to bounce back after a loss to Belgium and get their tournament back on track.

Finland would start the half on a strong note with a goal from Joel Pohjanpalo being called off due to Pohjanpalo being fractionally offside. From there, Russia would grab control of the game and produce some quality chances. The inundation of chances would lead to Aleksei Miranchuk curling the ball into the top corner after a great one two play with Artem Dzyuba.

Much like the start of the first half, Finland would start off with a great chance by Teemu Pukki that would get easily stopped by Russia. However, Russia would quickly regain control and easily finish the match with the win. Russia will be happy with this win as it makes their route to the knockout stages easier and Finland will also be content as they could still reach the next stages.

This would be Denmark’s first game since Christian Eriksen suffered a heart attack during the game against Finland. Both teams would stop the game at ten minutes to give a moment of applause to Eriksen as he made his way out of hospital. Belgium looked to confirm their spot in the next round while Denmark looked to bounce back after the incident with Eriksen.

Denmark could not have asked for a better start after Yussuf Poulsen would slot home the opener after a mistake by Jason Denayer. In a surprising turn of events, Denmark would continue to get quality chances as Belgium was unable to break them down. It became clear that to break down the Danish defense Belgium’s best player Kevin De Bruyne would have to be introduced at some point in the second half.

To open the second half, Belgium would sub in Kevin De Bruyne as they felt the pressure to grab a result from this game. Within ten minutes, that decision would pay off as De Bruyne would play an incredible pass to Thorgan Hazard to tie up the game. After some truly incredible passing, De Bruyne would show just how important he is to Belgium’s chances by firing a rocket to the bottom left corner giving Belgium the win.

Group C

Both teams came into the game off close games that they both felt that they could have had better results in. Meaning that they both needed to win this game desperately to stay in the tournament as they both had regrets over their opening game. 

Ukraine would start the game in dominating fashion, controlling the game in terms of possession and shots taken. All this pressure would culminate in Andriy Yarmolenko tapping in a shot off a corner giving Ukraine a deserved lead. Roman Yaremchuk, who at this point had been the best player on the pitch, would receive the ball in the box and curl the ball away from the keeper giving Ukraine a 2-0 lead at the half.

North Macedonia would start the second half with more urgency as they realized they were likely to be eliminated without at the very least a draw. Following a great shot by Aleksandar Trajkovski, Goran Pandev would be taken down in the box yielding to Ezgjan Alioski converting the rebound after a saved penalty. Both teams would continue to exchange blows before Ukraine would be given a penalty that would fail to be converted ending the match 2-1.

Coming into the game, both teams had won close games and with a win either team could confirm their place in the next round. The Dutch would have one of their best players in Matthijs De Ligt back after an injury. Greatly boosting the chances for the Netherlands for the rest of their run in the tournament. 

Within the first ten minutes, Denzel Dumfries would be taken down in the box giving the Netherlands a penalty that Memphis Depay would eventually convert. The Dutch would continue to have more and more quality chances but would fail to add to their lead. Going into the half, Memphis Depay was by far the best player on the pitch and looked like he could add to his tally in the second.

The second half brought more of the same as the Netherlands had more and more quality chances that were failing to be converted. The most glaring example was after a scramble off a save by the Austrian keeper where De Ligt would fail to score despite the keeper being unable to come back to the goal. The Dutch would eventually score a second from Dumfries after a great assist from Donyell Malen ending the game 2-0.

Group D

In one of the most hyped games of the group stages, England would take on Scotland adding another layer to this historic rivalry. England and Scotland took part in the first national soccer team game well over a hundred years ago. Both teams came into the game looking to grab something from the game to get bragging rights over their rivals.

The first half opened with Scotland not being afraid of the occasion against this tournament favorite and England struck right back. Both teams would have quality chances with John Stones of England hitting the post and Scotland’s Stephen O’Donnell striking a volley that was saved by Pickford. Scotland went into the half feeling better as they had gone toe to toe with one of the strongest national teams.

England would start the second half the stronger of the two sides off, as they struck quality chance after quality chance. Scotland would get a few more quality chances but the game would eventually end a tie. Leaving the game, England will be disappointed as they failed to show their validity as title favorites while Scotland will be happy as they stood tall to a giant and came close to grabbing a win.

One of the more high stakes matches of the day, as this game would help define the standings in group D. Croatia, desperate to turn their luck around, needed a win to keep their chances at the knockout stages alive. While the Czech Republic, already with a win, just needed to avoid a loss to place themselves in a good position to progress.

The Czech Republic would come out of the gates firing as they looked to grab the game by the neck as Croatia struggled to find a way to come back. In the 33rd minute, Patrik Schick would be challenged in the air by Dejan Lovren and be elbowed seemingly accidently. In a controversial call, the referee would award a penalty and Schick would convert, giving the Czech Republic the lead.

Coming back from the second half, Croatia would get the equalizer from Ivan Perišić who was subbed on at half time bringing that quick punch for the trailing team. Both teams would exchange shots but it seemed that the Czech Republic was willing to absorb the pressure as Croatia ran out of ideas. The Czech Republic left the game much happier as they remain favorites to reach the next round while Croatia will be desperate to beat Scotland.

Group E

Both teams came into the game off surprise results, Sweden drew Spain while Slovakia would beat Poland and Robert Lewandowski. With a win, both teams could pretty much guarantee a place in the next round. 

Sweden showed more of an appetite to attack than Slovakia as they seemed willing to find a way to break through a tough Slovakian defense. Within the first ten minutes, Sweden would have two high quality chances that they would almost score. Going into the half, it felt that it was more a matter of when than if Sweden would score.  

The second half was more of the same with Sweden picking up from the half as they looked to finally get that breakthrough. Swedish striker Alexander Isak continued his fine play from the game against Spain as he put in an incredible performance. Robin Quaison would be taken down in the box leaving Emil Forsberg to convert the penalty, giving Sweden a deserved win. 

Group E would end their matchday with a game between two teams coming off disappointing results. Spain drew Sweden in a game characterized by Spain dominating possession by such a large margin that it is still shocking to think that they failed to win. While Poland lost to Slovakia despite a better team and better chances.

Both teams would start the game in great fashion yielding great chances for both as the game was up in the air. At the 25th minute mark, Gerard Moreno would curl the ball towards the net and Alvaro Morata would intercept the shot and finish the chance giving Spain the lead. Poland would get a few more high quality chances towards the end of the half but Spain would be able to hold them off going into halftime.

Poland showed more urgency at the start of the second half and would get a goal through captain Robert Lewandowski equalizing for Poland. Spain would get a penalty after Moreno would get stepped on in the box, but Moreno would hit the post with Morata blasting the rebound wide despite an open goal. The last quarter of the game would be characterized by Spain throwing everything for a win as Poland would be able to hold them to a draw. 

Group F

Group F opened play between France, one of the title favorites, and Hungary who looked to make some noise in a group where they are supposed to be the punching bag. Off a not too convincing win, France was looking to flex their muscles on Hungary. Their opponents were just trying to hang around in a group where they were heavily favored to finish last in their group.

The first half would open with France gaining control of possession and pouring shots onto the goal as the Hungarian defense refused to bend. Hungarian keeper Péter Gulácsi put in a man of the match performance as he kept the French shots out as Benzema and Mbappe would miss quality chances for France. Hungary would get a surprise goal to lead the game in added time with Attila Fiola finishing a great run due to some shaky French defending.

France would look to shake up their team by inserting Ousmane Dembélé within the first 15 minutes of the second half. This would help the French team unlock the Hungarian defense as Mbappe would play a great pass to Antoine Griezmann to equalize. The game would end in a draw as Hungary left ecstatic with this surprise draw as France was disappointed with a game they should have won.

A heavyweight bout between two historic teams marked the game of the day as Portugal took on Germany. Portugal had won their match against Hungary and were looking to cement themselves as tournament favorites. On the other hand, Germany had lost to France in a close game that the Germans felt they could have drawn.

Within the opening stages, Germany would score a goal from Robin Gosens but was called off due to Serge Gnabry being offsides. Cristiano Ronaldo would give Portugal the lead after a great pass from Diogo Jota marking Ronaldo’s historic 19th tournament goal. However, Germany would then get the equalizer and lead after two own goals from Portugal giving them the lead going into halftime.

Germany refused to let up, adding two more goals within the span of 15 minutes from Kai Havertz and man of the match Gosens. Portugal would claw their way back in the game as Ronaldo would return the favor to Jota scoring the second for Portugal. The game would end 4-2 and could be considered to be the game of the tournament so far as it was filled with high quality exciting moments between two superpowers.

Featured Image: Christof Stache/Getty

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