Well another week down at Euro 2021, and what a ride it’s been which has seen the knockout stage almost settled. Groups D, E, and F are all yet to play their final match. Although every team has at least played two of their three matches and the picture of the knockout rounds is becoming clearer by the day.
Italy were the first team to qualify with 3 quality wins to top Group A. Daniel James and Wales will join Italy having finished second. Belgium topped group B with the world’s sweethearts Denmark in second. Group C finished as expected with the Netherlands and Austria making it through. But, much can change in the final days as no team has yet been eliminated from the final 3 groups . Many of the final matches will have an impact on third place qualification hopes. Let’s just hope we get to keep seeing our Manchester United players well into the tournament.
Euro 2021 – Sweden
Let’s start with Sweden, as Victor Lindelof was the first United player to play his second match in the Euros behind Dan James (Wales second match was covered in week 2’s post). Sweden beat Slovakia 1-0 to all but secure their place in the knockout stage. Transfer target (should be at least) Alexander Isak impressed again, and drew the penalty that was finished off by Emil Forsberg to give Sweden the win. Lindelof started as the right sided centre back in Sweden’s traditional 4-4-2. Slovakia were held to 0 shots on goal, so you could say Lindelof was impressive leading that defense. Although there was no man of the match award for the Swed this week. That award went to Isak, the impressive youngster United should be pursuing this summer.
Euro 2021 – England & Scotland
Next let’s discuss England vs. Scotland, the oldest rivalry in football. While this hasn’t been the most competitive rivalry in recent years, the hype was huge for this matchup at Wembley. But, the game did not live up to the hype. I for one did enjoy the match, but was left unfulfilled with a 0-0 scoreline. United fans will be happy to know that Luke Shaw started at left back, but Marcus Rashford once again had to come off the bench. Shaw was very impressive not just in defense but especially in attack. England created a lot on his left side, and Shaw made some brilliant forward runs. Though, England just lacked quality in the final third. Luke Shaw is great but when he’s your best attacker there’s something wrong.
Rashford wasn’t brought on until the 74′ for Harry Kane and he did not play well. The United starlet didn’t play poorly necessarily, but he lost the ball frequently in important areas. Although much of that can be tossed up to Scotland’s tremendous character and tenacity in this match. A draw for Scotland felt like a win, but England knew only a win would do. Gareth Southgate’s decision making of late has been rightfully scrutinized. Many have argued the England boss should have brought on the likes of Rashford and Grealish sooner or even started them over player like Sterling. Southgate also has of yet to play United transfer target Jadon Sancho. England are surely through to the next round but questions will be asked.
Scotland started Scotty McSauce as the right sided centre back in a back 3. Mctominay had a tremendous game and was vital to Scotland’s tenacity in defense. The midfield also benefited by the willingness of McTominay to get forward at times and overload the midfield. While Billy Gilmour ended up with the man of the match award, McTominay was not far off it. McTominay always plays with his heart on his sleeve for club and country so that was no surprise. Scott McTominay will be one of the most important players going forward for not only Scotland but Manchester United.
Euro 2021 – France
France traveled to Budapest for their second group stage match against Hungary. Paul Pogba started for France as part of a 3 man midfield, alongside N’golo Kante and Adrien Rabiot. There isn’t much to say with regards to this game. The match finished 1-1 and lacked a lot of quality overall. If you’re a neutral then you may have enjoyed watching Hungary stifle the French side. France arguably should’ve won the match with the amount of chances they crafted but they lacked the finishing touch.
The likes of Mbappe and Benzema could not finish any of their chances. Pogba provided some nice forward balls but lost the ball frequently in the midfield. Although much of this was due to France’s inability to create. Kante, while brilliant, offered nothing going forward and its not known for his creativity. While Rabiot also is not much of a creative midfielder. Which meant that all the responsibility of chance creating was on Pogba’s shoulders. Deschamps subbed on Corentin Tolisso for the Man United man in the 76′. Pogba and the French side will face Portugal in their final group stage match. There will be a lot riding on this match with regards to who makes it out of the Group of Death.
Euro 2021 – Portugal
Well, much like Paul Pogba and France, Bruno Fernandes and Portugal also had an off day. Fernandes was taken off in the 64′ with the Portuguese side facing a 4-1 deficit. Fernandes just hasn’t been doing it lately, and he did not have a great game against Germany. While he has had decent outings recently, overall Fernandes has been off the mark for both club and country these last few months. Meanwhile, United legend Cristiano Ronaldo scored again and provided the assist for Portugal’s second.
Not all the blame should fall on Fernandes for this match, but Bruno does need to start producing for his country. I believe he’ll keep his place against France, but another poor outing and he could find himself on the bench. Again, it isn’t all Bruno’s fault though. Portugal has insisted on playing with a defensive approach to their matches thus far but are starting 6 attacking players. Fernando Santos will have to either change up his tactics or his lineup if Portugal are to make a run in this tournament.
Euro 2021 – Wales
Lastly, let’s discuss Daniel James and Wales who have officially qualified for the round of 16. James and Wales fell to tournament favorites Italy 1-0. Although the Welsh side did put in a tremendous effort and arguably should’ve squeaked out a draw from this match. Ethan Ampadu left his side in a tough spot as he saw red in the 55′. James and Wales did still have some decent chances though. Gareth Bale should’ve scored, which would have most likely seen Wales finish on 5 points. Chasing the game with ten men, James was taken off in place of Harry Wilson in the 74′. Dylan Levitt also got his first minutes of the tournament coming on for Joe Allen in the 86′. Overall Wales has surprised many this summer and their dream run will continue.
Manchester United players did not have the best week. Although, we did see some quality performances from the likes of Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof. It was also nice to see Dylan Levitt get his debut. With much left to be decided heading into the final group stage matches, it’s not quite clear how many of our Red Devils will be moving on. Part 2 of the Week 3 Euro series will discuss these final matches and more. Lastly, David de Gea once again did not feature for Spain. I will not be covering players that do not see the field for the remainder of the tournament.