We’ve reached day eight of these European Championships and the second round of group stage fixtures are firmly underway.
Netherlands have joined Italy in reaching the knockout stage thanks to 2-0 victory over Austria. Memphis Depay and Denzel Dumfries both scored in a convincing display to make it two wins from twin.
Earlier in the day, after Ukraine beat North Macedonia, substitute Kevin de Bruyne set up one goal before scoring the winner to give Belgium a 2-1 victory over Denmark in a game marked by an emotional tribute to Christian Eriksen in the first half.
Friday is headlined by England taking on Scotland at Wembley as the two Auld enemies face off. But first, it’s to Group E as Sweden take on Slovakia before Croatia look to get up and running against Czech Republic.
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Clarke: We need something – I think we need four points to qualify
Scotland would not be mathematically eliminated were they to lose tonight, but manager Steve Clarke believes his side will end up needing four points to get out of the group.
“We have to try to get something out of the game, because I really feel we are going to need four points to qualify.
“We only focus on ourselves. We have a lot of boys playing at a really high level, week in, week out. We have two Champions League winners in the squad, which is not a bad thing to say.”
England vs Scotland: Where the game will be won and lost
Our man Dan Kilpatrick has been looking ahead to tonight’s huge game from a tactical perspective and has picked out three key battles, including the one between Andy Robertson and Reece James, who we are expecting to start at right-back for England.
You can read the piece here.
Varane: We’ll silence rowdy Budapest crowd
France are aiming to silence a capacity crowd in Budapest and secure safe passage from the “group of death” when they face Hungary tomorrow.
Their hosts, playing in the only stadium at full capacity this summer, are looking to bounce back from their 3-0 bruising by Portugal in the opener, but face the World Cup winners in confident mood.
Didier Deschamps side never looked in trouble as they beat Germany 1-0 in Munich earlier this week, which saw them keep a fifth consecutive clean sheet.
France’s triumph in Russia three years ago was built on solid displays before the front line really began firing late on, and Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane knows their success will be built from the back.
“It’s going to be a very difficult game played in the heat of the day in a full stadium,” said Varane.
“Our opponents will be playing to stay in the competition. They’re a very different prospect to Germany, but they’re also very dangerous and very motivated, so we will have to be effective, find their weaknesses and keep our defensive shape.”
Winger Kingsley Coman is set to be involved in the squad having been granted permission to leave the camp and attend the birth of his child this week.
Morata under pressure to add ruthless streak
Alvero Morata is under pressure to find is finishing touch and get Spain’s Euro 2020 firing after a blunt start to their campaign.
Spain drew a blank against Sweden first time out and face Poland this weekend, looking to take make their mark on Group E.
While Morata is the man leading the line, Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Pablo Sarabia insists the pressure is on the whole squad to add some bite going forward.
“The mood and the goals are the responsibility of all of us,” said Sarabia. “We all defend, we all attack. Morata’s attacking work is to be admired. He’s a cracker of a player. The stats show it: the caps, the goals.”
De Boer brimming with confidence
Franke De Boer says his Netherlands side can beat anyone after securing a place in the knockout stages.
The former Crystal Palace manager can now afford to rest and rotate for their final group game, against North Macedonia, but wants his side to kick on in the knockouts and says, if they do, the Oranje will be a match for anyone.
“I think there are still a lot of things we can improve and we showed some different qualities today,” said De Boer.
“Defensively we were much better than against Ukraine. On the ball we could have done better today but overall it was a really decent performance today and that’s given me a lot confidence for the next games.
“I don’t want to talk about favourites. We have to do our best and I know at our best we can beat everybody.
“But I think other teams are thinking the same, so let’s go from game to game and then we will see where it ends.”
Wembley contingency plan
Uefa says it has a contingency plan to replace Wembley as the host for the final of Euro 2020 unless the British government agrees to exempt travelling foreign fans from 10-day quarantine rules.
Tournament organisers have been in negotiations with the government after it postponed plans to end COVID-19 restrictions on June 21.
The Times reported on Friday that Budapest was the alternative venue being considered if Wembley was not able to accept travelling supporters.
The London stadium is scheduled to host both semi-finals and the final.
“There is always a contingency plan but we are confident that the final week (of matches) will be held in London,” UEFA said in a statement.
“UEFA is delighted that the capacity at Wembley will go up to at least 50% for the knock-out round matches.
“At the moment, we are in discussions with the local authorities to try to allow fans of the participating teams to attend the matches, using a strict testing and bubble concept that would mean their stay in the UK would be less than 24 hours and their movements would be restricted to approved transport and venues only.
“We understand the pressures that the Government face and hope to be able to reach a satisfactory conclusion of our discussions on the matter.
“There is always a contingency plan but we are confident that the final week will be held in London.”
Lay of the land
So, England are back at Wembley Stadium tonight to play their second match.
The English face old rival Scotland knowing another victory will give the team a spot in the round of 16.
The first match of the day will be between Sweden and Slovakia in St. Petersburg. The Slovaks can advance with a victory.
The Czech Republic can also ensure advancement by beating World Cup runner-up Croatia in Glasgow.
To the bar!
England and Scotland fans are predicted to buy 3.4 million pints during tonight’s game.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) estimates that 14.8 million pints will be sold across England and Scotland on match day, with over 3 million sales during the game itself.
But the trade association warned that due to Covid-19 restrictions, including social distancing, rule of six and no standing, that beer sales will be reduced by almost 850,000 pints.
This would result in a revenue loss of around £3.2 million for pubs across England and Scotland.
Chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association Emma McClarkin said: “Whether you’re supporting England or Scotland, nothing beats watching the game at the pub.”
Netherlands into knockout stage
Memphis Depay and Denzel Dumfries scored a goal each to give the Netherlands a 2-0 victory over Austria and a spot in the round of 16.
The Netherlands failed to qualify for the last two major international soccer tournaments but have won both Euro 2020 matches in Group C.
Depay kicked a penalty low into the corner in the 11th minute for his 27th goal in 66 international matches. Dumfries scored his second goal of the tournament in the 67th after an unselfish pass from PSV Eindhoven teammate Donyell Malen.
Austria was playing without banned forward Marko Arnautovic.