Friday , July 12 2024

Euro round-up: England survive Slovakia scare, merciless Spain eliminates Georgia

On the pitch the Three Lions have been nothing short of disappointing. And Sunday’s match against Slovakia in the Round of 16 was another poor performance by the men in white.

 

Harry Kane (9, centre), celebrating England’s second goal in the first minute of extra time. XINHUA/VNA Photo

Anh Đức

GELSENKIRCHEN Sunday’s action at the Euro 2024 round of 16 could have started with a shocker, as England, one of the tournament favourites, survived a disappointing display against minnows Slovakia. Another contender to lift the trophy, Spain, pulled off a different performance by dismantling Georgia. 

England 2-1 Slovakia (AET): By the skin of Bellingham’s teeth

England

Jude Bellingham 90+5′; Harry Kane 91′ (ET)

2

Slovakia

Ivan Schranz 25′

1

If you have asked pundits before the tournament started who was likely to win it, most would have said England. Opta Analyst’s supercomputer also said Gareth Southgate’s side had a 19.9 per cent chance of winning their first trophy since 1966.

However, on the pitch the Three Lions have been nothing short of disappointing. And Sunday’s match against Slovakia in the Round of 16 was another poor performance by the men in white.

The underdogs surprisingly went ahead through Ivan Schranz, and could have held on to victory had it not been for Jude Bellingham’s bicycle kick masterpiece with almost the last kick of the game, before Harry Kane sealed victory for England in extra time.

Southgate started 19-year-old Kobbie Mainoo alongside Declan Rice, with many hoping for a change in playing style worthy of the GBP1.5 billion (US$1.9 billion) total squad value. Mainoo did bring more energy onto the field and the unpredictability, but his teammates were still dull.

England were in control of possession, but not in control of the game. Intense pressing from the Slovaks forced Southgate’s men to only pass around in their own half, and failing to make progressive passes.

Kyle Walker, a trusted name in the England defence, was outran by Lukas Haraslin on the day, and the Manchester City right-back made mistakes. One led to Schranz’s opener in the 25th minute, which was assisted by David Strelec on the left wing, with Walker playing Strelec onside. When the ball reached Schranz, Jordan Pickford was beaten with a great strike to the far post.

The response from England in the latter part of the half was somewhat weak, with Slovakia leaving zero space in defence and protected their lead before the break.

A scattered and disconnected England attack seemed to have found each other in the 50th minute, when a great long ball by Kane found Kieran Trippier free on the left wing, who crossed in for Phil Foden to tap in the empty net.

Foden, who celebrated the birth of his third child by thumb sucking, had his joy short lived, as the goal was denied after VAR found him offside.

A tired Slovakia renounced control fully to the Three Lions, but the men in white could at best only found the post of Martin Dubravka’s goal, courtesy of a strike from Declan Rice in the 81st minute.

And just as Sunday was turning into a sad song for England, a hero stepped up and made it better.

With just seconds to go before the end of the match, a long throw in by Walker found Marc Guehi, whose header reached Bellingham.

The Real Madrid midfielder threw his body into the air and fired a Wayne Rooney-esque bicycle kick onto Dubravka’s net, taking the game to extra time. The goal redeemed not only England, but Bellingham himself, who was invisible for most of the match.

After the restart, England quickly had an opportunity from a free kick, which they capitalised. The ball rebounded to substitute Eberechi Eze, whose volley reached another sub in Ivan Toney, and finally to captain Harry Kane, who powerfully headed in to complete the comeback for England in the first minute of extra time.

Despite Slovakia having been exhausted, Southgate subbed out most of his attackers for defensive-minded players for the remainder of extra time, and protected their slim lead to progress to the quarterfinals, where they will face Switzerland.

 

Dani Olmo’s super strike sealed a dominating 4-1 victory for Spain against Georgia. XINHUA/VNA Photo

Spain 4-1 Georgia: Dominating victory

Spain

Rodri 39′; Fabian Ruiz 51′;

Nico Williams 75′; Dani Olmo 83′

4

Georgia

Robin Le Normand 18′ (OG)

1

In Cologne, Georgia seemed to have continued their fairytale story, by taking an early lead against the three-time European champions.

A courageous Georgian team opted for a defensive and counter-attack playstyle, which was fruitful against Portugal in the group stage. The success seemed to have repeated in the 18th minute, as a rare counter from the right wing created space for Kakabadze, whose cross startled Robin Le Normand, making the Real Sociedad defender tapping in his own net.

Le Normand’s own goal was Spain’s first concession this tournament, and it displayed mistakes rarely seen in the group stage by them. La Roja piled on the pressure after Georgia’s goal, but was repeatedly denied by Giorgi Mamardashvili.

But the talent of the Georgian keeper could do nothing to stop an effort from Rodri. A signature long range strike into the bottom left corner at the 39th minute was too much for Mamardashvili, and Spain equalised right before the break.

Rodri’s goal cleared the pressure for Spain, and they went into the second half with a different display. Fabian Ruiz found Spain’s lead in the 51st minute with a powerful header from 16-year-old Lamine Yamal’s cross. More chances came the ways of Spain, as Georgia were shellshocked and exhausted.

As the rain pours harder in Cologne, more goals came the way of Luis de la Fuente’s team. Nico Williams found the net in the 75th minute with a powerful strike into the top corner after a counter, and Dani Olmo put the final nail in the coffin at the 83rd minute mark with an easy strike from outside the box.

With this victory, Spain will face hosts Germany in a rematch of the Euro 2008 final. VNS

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