The knockout rounds are officially upon us, and it’s loaded with tremendous matchups. This Sunday we get Portugal vs Belgium. This is a matchup between two giants capable of winning the tournament. Then on Tuesday we will get England vs Germany. And that matchup will showcase 3 Manchester United players for sure, and possibly a future Red Devil in Jadon Sancho. The Round of 16 is sure to be an absolute thrill ride.
The final group stage matches were wild to say the least. Portugal and the group of death gave us one of the most exciting finishes to a group stage we’ve ever seen. Hungary made sure that both Germany and Portugal saw themselves out of the tournament at various points on the final day. Fortunately, this won’t be the last of the drama and Scott McTominay is the only United player to leave the tournament early. Now let’s take a look at some the final group stage matches our United players were part of.
Let’s start out with England, as the Three Lions contain the most Manchester United players in their squad. England played the Czech Republic in their last group stage match. The English proved to be a tough nut to crack again and saw out a 1-0 victory thanks to Jack Grealish. Speaking of which, should we make a run for Grealish this summer? I’m not quite sure where he’d fit in, but we can’t let him go to City. Anyways, both Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire got a start against the Czechs. This was Maguires first start, and first action of the tournament.
Harry Maguire played the full 90′ and was brilliant leading the backline. Not only was the United captain strong in defense but he was game changing in attack. Magure provided Harry Kane with a brilliant through ball in the first half, which should have seen Kane nab his first goal of the tournament. That wasn’t the last time Maguire found a man from the backline with a penetrating forward pass. The United and England captain is back and will be vital in helping the Three Lions see of the Germans next Tuesday.
Finally, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford also played in this match. Shaw started and played the full 90′ while Rashford was a 67′ substitution for Raheem Sterling. Rashford was arguably quite poor in this match, although England certainly wasn’t giving the forward line much to work with by the time he came on. Meanwhile, Shaw was absolutely brilliant yet again. Southgate may have played Trippier at left back in the first match, but Shaw has surely cemented his place in the position now. Infact, Luke Shaw has created more chances for England than any other player on the team. The English Red Devils will determine how far this English side can go.
Scotland lost to Croatia 3-1 on the final day, seeing the Scottish fall out of the tournament. There really isn’t much to say about this match. The Scots surely missed Billy Gilmour in midfield and really offered very little going forward. Honestly if the Scottish had a halfway decent striker they may of squeaked out of the group because their finishing is absolutely dreadful.
Scott McTominay got the start as a right sided centre back. The Scotland manager had said ahead of the tournament he wanted to play McTominay in the midfield. Although, McTominay was yet again in the backline, which was quite confusing considering Gilmour was out. Scotland lacked any significant control in the midfield. Perhaps McTominay starting in the center of the park would’ve helped, but we’ll never know. Scotland is out of the Euros and will have a lot to ponder.
Sweden made sure they topped their group with a thrilling 3-2 win over Lewandowski and the Polish. Victor Lindelof was the main stay in the defense again and was probably the teams best defender yet again. Although the Swedish did let two goals pass by when they were up 2-0. Certainly something you wouldn’t expect from the Swedes. But, even after letting Poland equalize behind a pair of Lewandowski goals (one of which was an absolute stunner by the way) the Swedish found the winner through Viktor Claesson in stoppage time.
Alexander Isak, my top target for United this summer, had another decent display. But, the star of the show for Sweden was Emil Forsberg. The Swedes will play Ukraine in the round of 16 next Tuesday.
Portugal & France
Finally, the juiciest tie of them all and the match with perhaps United’s most prolific and talented players. Portugal vs France saw Paul Pogba line up against Bruno Fernandes and United Legend Cristiano Ronaldo. The match finished in a 2-2 draw, but was absolutely brilliant from beginning to end. Controversial penalties, a physical assault on Danilo, brilliant Pogba passing, and Ronaldo setting records. Cristiano Ronaldo is now officially tied for the most international goals in history. One more goal will see Ronaldo break the record and probably secure the golden boot this summer. I should also note that Diogo Dalot also got some minutes in this match. Dalot is still technically a United player, but his future is very uncertain.
Unfortunately Bruno Fernandes was dropped in this match for Joao Moutinho in a midfield diamond. Renato Sanches also got a cap, and showed us all he’s still capable of becoming the player we thought he would be in 2016. This change of tactics and personal by Fernando Santos certainly helped the Portuguese get over the line. Fernandes did come on in the second half as Portugal looked for a winner, and he had some quality moments. Although Fernandes arguably should’ve given away a dreadful penalty in the final moments of the match. I hope to see Fernandes back in the starting lineup against Belgium alongside Sanches and Danilo.
Lastly from this match, we saw Paul Pogba put on another impressive display for Les Bleus. Pogba started alongside Kante in midfield once again and provided the assist for Karim Benzema’s second goal. The Frenchman also had a tremendous right footed strike from outside the box saved by Rui Patricio. There’s little question that Paul Pogba is France’s most creative player and if he keeps performing like this Les Bleus may just go all the way.
Well, I really don’t know what else to say. I’m just extremely excited for the round of 16 and I hope to see Pogba and France matchup with Fernandes and Portugal again. There are 10 active United players left in this tournament, and each of their squads is capable of a run. Lastly, again I did not mention David De Gea and Spain because he was on the bench yet again. Anyways, I’ll see y’all next week to reflect on the round of 16 and look forward to the quarterfinals.
Here’s a list of the round of 16 matchups for our Red Devils:
- Portugal V. Belgium. Sun. June 27th at 2pm on ABC.
- Wales V. Denmark. Sat. June 26th at 11am on ESPN.
- Croatia V. Spain. Mon. June 28th at 11 am on ESPN.
- France V. Switzerland. Mon. June 28th at 2pm on ESPN.
- England V. Germany. Tue. June 29th on ESPN.
- Sweden V. Ukraine. Tue. June 29th at 2pm on ESPN.