The second round of Euro 2020(1) is in the books, and things are coming to a head in the group stage. Only three teams have clinched their place in the round of 16 through two rounds, but only one team has been eliminated, and no one’s seeding is locked in.
Everyone has things to play for as the final group games commence starting Sunday. Here’s how Juventus’ contingent of players at the tournament fared in the second group game.
Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Chiesa, Federico Bernardeschi
It’s a scene Juventini have seen all too often over the years: Giorgio Chiellini feels something in his leg give, and he immediately stops what he’s doing and calls for a replacement.
That’s what happened 24 minutes into Juve’s second game of Group A against Switzerland. It was a shame, too, because he was having an excellent game up to that point. He held the line with his usual stalwartness in defense, and he thought he’d opened the scoring in the 19th minute before it was ruled out by VAR for a handball that, in terms of the rules, was probably the right call, but in terms of common sense was complete nonsense.
Alas, five minutes later he was coming off, although he has since said that the injury wasn’t serious and that he stopped himself in time before it got worse. Still, he’ll miss Sunday’s game against Wales and will likely be closely monitored before the round of 16 game.
His partner in defense, Leonardo Bonucci, was excellent throughout the entire match. Like the Turkey match, Italy had so much control during the 3-0 victory over the Swiss that he didn’t have all that much to do, even with a lively Breel Embolo trying to get in behind the defense more than any of the Turkish attackers had. He also dropped a couple of nice long balls over the top, including one that produced a good chance that Ciro Immobile couldn’t convert.
As for the Wings of Fede, only one came on in Wednesday’s game. Chiesa came on in the 68th minute and he ended up playing what looked to be part of a strike pair in a 3-5-2, which Roberto Mancini switched to to end the game. He notched a key pass and made a tackle in his 22 minutes on the pitch, and looks likely to start against Wales as Mancini looks to rotate and keep his top XI fresh. Federico Bernardeschi, on the other hand, was an unused sub, although had Mancini not had to burn a sub on Chiellini he likely would’ve made it on the field.
Merih Demiral was dropped from the starting XI for Turkey in their second game against Wales, but came on at halftime after Turkey failed to do anything in the first half and reorganized. He played well, registering a key pass out of the back and getting denied an equalizer when Welsh keeper Danny Ward parried away his header of a corner kick three minutes from time. Wales eventually picked up a second goal in the dying fumes of stoppage time to make the final score 2-0, but Demiral wasn’t particularly at fault for this loss.
Aaron Ramsey needed a big improvement after a dire game in the first match against Switzerland. He certainly moved the needle, but things were definitely up and down.
The midfielder blew two fantastic chances early on in the game, before making up with it on the stroke of halftime, making a beautiful run through the middle of the field and chesting down an excellent ball over the top by Gareth Bale before finishing with a neat half-volley.
Overall it was a definite improvement over the group stage opener, and maybe sen a signal to West Ham or Crystal Palace as his exit looks more and more likely.
Matthijs de Ligt
Matthijs de Ligt was back in the starting lineup for the Netherlands after suffering an injury before the tournament.
He was his usual self against Austria, making two tackles and three clearances as the Dutch put away Austria 2-0 to advance to the knockout stages. He was unlucky to not be on the scoresheet, having a second-half header parried away late on. The Netherlands looked far more solid in the back against better competition in this round, and with their attack clicking could start looking like one of the favorites to go deep into the is competition.
Man, Woj just doesn’t have it right now, does he?
Szczesny couldn’t do much about Spain’s goal — it was a tap-in after a certain Spanish striker (who we’ll get to in a minute) managed to step in front of his defender and get onto Gerard Moreno’s cross. But he was anything but secure. As the game wore on and Spain effectively put Poland’s goal under siege trying to break a 1-1 tie, Szczesny was all over the place. He got lucky when he whiffed on a punch coming out for a free kick and the Spanish were called for hand ball, and nearly spilled the ball in the face of an onrushing attack. It was anything but confidence-inducing, but Szczesny is a far better keeper than this, and the defense in front of him is precarious and, in my opinion, dragging him down.
Alvaro Morata heard all the criticism after his awful performance in Spain’s opener against Sweden. He managed to gain some measure of redemption on Sunday, but there were a few nagging issues. He scored the opening goal with a nice run in front of his defender in the 25th minute and put three of his four shots on target, but he also missed a few other shots that could have put Spain clear and into a much better position heading into the final round of group fixtures. The lowlight came late in the game when Morata had the ball to himself in the six-yard box but couldn’t turn and ended up falling over before he could shoot.
Still, Luis Enrique seems dedicated to him, and he should be the man to start for Spain in a do-or-die third game.
After testing positive for COVID-19 just before the tournament, Dejan Kulusevski was back on the roster for Sweden against Slovakia, but was an unused substitute.
France’s 1-1 draw with Hungary was perhaps the upset of the tournament so far. Adrien Rabiot was one of the French players that didn’t disappoint, registering a pair of tackles and completing 90.7 passes. His impact was limited, though, by his early removal as Didier Deschamps tried to add some more attacking firepower with Ousmane Dembele while France chased an equalizer.
France’s Antoine Griezmann briefly passed Cristiano Ronaldo to be the most prolific scorer in major tournaments since 2016, but Ronaldo popped right back onto the top of that list with an easy tap-in from a Diogo Jota assist after a quarter of an hour against Germany.
Alas, it wasn’t nearly enough for the Portuguese, who squandered the lead that goal gave them with a pair of own goals before Kai Havertz and Robin Gosens sealed the deal for a 4-2 win. Portugal struggled to break Hungary down and were on the back foot for much of the game against the Germans. I stand by what I said last week: any success Portugal has will be pulled by the scruff of it’s neck kicking and screaming by Ronaldo. With their final match against France coming, it’s entirely possible that the defending champions could be out at the group stage this time around.