Saturday 3 July
Czech Republic 1:2 Denmark
Denmark scored early, through Thomas Delaney and then looked to have put the tie to bed just before half-time when Dolberg netted. The Czech’s are made of sterner stuff and another Schick goal right at the start of the second period meant the Danes were made to sweat for 45-minutes but ultimately held out reasonably comfortably.
The win means Chelsea will have another European champion, if England beat Ukraine tonight. We will have at least two possibly as many as four players in the final. If England beat Ukraine… if.
Ukraine 0:4 England
We needn’t have doubted. England, for once, romped.
The start was glorious; Harry Kane obviously needed weeks of being criticised and mocked to find his form. Sterling, who has endured his own critics, slipped the ball through on the stretch and the Ukrainian plan to try to nick one on the break was out of the window after three and a half minutes.
Even with the recent experience of losing to Iceland after an early goal we allowed the Ukraine to build a head of steam. We gave away free-kicks, set-pieces and possession and the Ukrainians gained confidence. Our passing slowly reduced from slow to pedestrian. It took an explosive run from Jadon Sancho to wake the side up but we didn’t create a chance, a real chance, despite the success of the team pressing. Until Sterling got round the back and his cutback led to a swerving thump from Declan Rice that Bushchan did well to beat away.
Moments after Kryvtsov limped out Ukraine had their best chance. Zinchenko slipped a pass for Yaremchuk and there looked to be room in the box for the first time but Mason Mount cleared after two yellow shirts dithered.
The enforced substitution meant a switch to 4-3-3 for the yellows and a corner reminded us again, and a scrambled Shaw clearance, that this lot will fight to the end and have scored goals in this tournament.
A couple of minutes into the second half and all the nerves and anxiety dissipated with one nod of Harry Maguire’s forehead, apparently nicknamed slab head by a commentator, ’keeper stood no chance from the finish from Luke Shaw’s free-kick. The thump from the header was clearly picked up by pitch-side mikes.
Kane made it three with another header after Mason Mount tore down the left, fed Sterling who laid off to Shaw. That combination is starting to prove fruitful for this England side.
Jordan Henderson lumbered on, lumbered around and then nodded in the corner after Kane was denied a hat-trick with a flying save. Another header, the first team to score with three headers in tournament history… and after we huffed and puffed, handed run outs to subs we are the first side to play five games without conceding a goal.
Thiago Silva is not putting his feet up on the beach this summer as he captained Brazil to a narrow win over Chile where the Seleção played almost the entire second half with ten-men after Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus was dismissed for a dangerous tackle.
Tuesday 6 July
Spain 1:1 Italy
(Italy win 4-2 on penalties)
This was the kind of mega-night at the Euros we are now used to but that we hope we don’t see tomorrow night.
Emerson started for Italy and after a strong start by Spain it was the Chelsea man’s run in behind Azpilicueta that nearly opened the game up on 20 minutes. To be fair to Dave he scrambled back and managed to stop the Italians getting in a shot.
Spain had openings but much of their passing was in front of the Italians and even with runners trying to break from deep there was little penetration.
Italy, on the other hand, fed on scarps, but almost profited from making the better chances from their meagre rations. If it wasn’t for poor clearances from Donnarumma Spain wouldn’t have had a shot on target.
Emerson tried an eye-catching charge as half-time approached by a Spanish boot upended him and the nonchalant ref waved play on. Before the Chelsea left-back hit the cross bar from a tight angle just before the half-time whistle.
When Spain did get a break they shot wastefully high or wide or both.
A first-half of little coherence or quality but one that proves football is absorbing and tense even when the passes are going astray and the shots flying into the seats.
The shanks and miscues resumed in the second period, Italy gifted a corner but made nothing of it.
The Italians responded to some early Spanish attack by sitting deeper and challenging them to commit forwards. And they broke through the whites until the ball broke to Chiesa who curled his chance into the far corner.
Morata came on because the trouble with a false nine if that you have nobody in the box. When the ball broke it fell to Oyarzabal but glanced off his barnet and wide. Or to Olmo who couldn’t hit the target with half a dozen chances.
The best thing about Italian defending, for those of us with foreheads that keep getting bigger, was that Giorgio Chiellini kept using his to head away Spanish crosses. At 36-years-old the man is a beacon for balding men everywhere.
Emerson was replaced on 73-minutes by Toloi. It was a noticeable and influential night for the Chelsea left-back.
But with three Chelsea men on the field, it was Jorginho who stood out. The engine room of a fine Italian midfield. He worked as hard feeding balls forward, creating breaks as he did in shutting off avenues for attack. He, like many Chelsea players in these Euros, has grown in stature and maturity as the tournament has gone on.
Given the fragility the Spanish defence showed you almost hoped for an equaliser. If we get what we hope for tomorrow night the Italians looked by far the better team. So, when Alvaro Morata strode through the middle, onto Olmo’s one-two, and finished into the bottom corner we almost jumped out of our seats. But then with the momentum on Spain’s side they couldn’t find the touch and class and then they blundered by taking off Azpilicueta. Not because they missed him as a defender but his drive and energy have made a difference to their play since he was drafted into the side for the last group game.
The game dawdled to penalties and as Alvaro Morata missed so Jorginho kept his nerve to hop, skip and roll Italy into the final.
Thiago Silva will need a deckchair and a knotted hankie at the end of his season, which is going to encompass the final of the Copa America. His defence kept a clean sheet as Brazil scored the only goal to defeat Peru. Argentina or Colombia in the final on Sunday.