Match day three has come and gone. Bringing an uneventful close to a mediocre group stage of this 2021 European Championship. Our boys stepped up during match day three, including a man of the match performance from Xherdan Shaqiri. Many of the lads secured more minutes and we see 5 of the 6 countries represented by LFC players advance to the knockout stage. Let’s get to the review of match day three!
Italy Vs Wales: Italy 1-0
Neco Williams secured his first start of the tournament against Italy. He was solid in his customary right wingback position for Wales. The Welsh side were reduced to 10 men with 55 minutes played which altered their approach to the match considerably. Williams was subbed off for Ben Davies in the 86 minute of the match. I can imagine this start for his country is only going to increase his desire to secure first team football next season. Once again, Harry Wilson had to settle to be a second half substitute with little to no impact. LFC’s hopes of good play raising Wilson’s value this summer are not coming to fruition.
Switzerland Vs Turkey: Switzerland 3-1
We will not waste much space here talking about Turkey and their defensive frailties or weak coaching in this tournament. I don’t believe there is any question Turkey has been the most disappointing country represented at this championship. Xherdan Shaqiri put in a man of the match performance thanks to fine finishing and some poor Turkish defense. His first half curler to the top right corner gave the Swiss side a comfortable 2-0 lead at the break. After Turkey scored to cut the lead in half, Shaq dragged a nice shot across the keeper and found the net for a his first brace of the tournament.
Croatia Vs Scotland: Croatia 1-0
Andrew Robertson captained his side and completed the entire 90 minutes for the third consecutive match. Unfortunately, his energy, leadership and class were not enough to help his side secure the three points required for qualification. The Scots should be proud of how their side represented the country in their first major tournament in 25 years. Robbo will now have a well-deserved rest, leading up to reconnecting with his Liverpool teammates for preseason. In a shocking twist, Robbo completed all three group matches without receiving a single caution.
Czech Republic Vs England: England 0-1
Gareth Southgate once again comes under scrutiny for his defensive setup and team selection. Rumored Manchester City target Jack Grealish started and created the first for former Red, and current City player, Raheem Sterling, after just 12 minutes. Captain Jordan Henderson was brought on at half time for an ineffective Declan Rice. Jordan was good in the middle of the pitch adding leadership and structure to the England midfield. Rice has been a passenger for the first three England matches and I believe Southgate must consider a start for Hendo vs Germany on Tuesday.
Portugal Vs France: Draw 2-2
Diogo Jota started and completed the full 90 minutes for the first time in this championship. Jota was unlucky not to find the back of the net early in the match. VAR along with controversial penalty decisions were the key talking points of a match that two of the teams many believe have the composition to lift the trophy on July 11th. France star man Kylian Mbappe was lively and earned a controversial penalty late on in first half stoppage time. Karim Benzema’s brace overshadowed Mbappe’s overall performance, however you can see with such fire power upfront, why the French side are such heavy favorites.
Slovakia Vs Spain: Spain 0-5
Spain’s offense finally woke up following two uneventful opening group matches. An Alvaro Morata missed penalty in the 12th minute made some feel it could be another long day for the Spanish attack. Luckily for them, Martin Dubravka’s 26th minute own goal gave them the break though they needed and never looked back. Liverpool midfielder, Thiago Alcantara was substituted on in the 71st minute in just enough time to celebrate Spain’s 5th. Spain will have to be better in front of goal for Luis Enrique’s men to make a long run in the knockout stages. Will be interesting to see if Thiago can secure additional minutes or even a start moving forward in the competition.
Wildcard Report: Gini’s Record Setting Performance
When I decided to add a wildcard report to these columns, I questioned whether I had the heart to write about Gini Wijnaldum as an “Ex-Red”. It still feels too soon, but his record setting performance for the Netherlands cannot be overlooked. The LFC fan favorite scored two additional goals for his countrymen making him the Oranje’s all team leading goal scorer. You did NOT read that incorrectly, Gini just passed Macro van Bastern! This week, Gini was quoted that he is ready to lead his teammates in a walk-off should they be racially abused during their next match in Budapest. Let’s hope the Hungarian supporters in the stadium do not test his resolve. There is ZERO room for racism in sports or any walks of life for that matter. That said, the game needs more leaders like Gini Wijnaldum, I miss him already!
We will be back to review the round of 16, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and then a full tournament recap following the championship match on July 11th. For those readers who still have a country involved in the championship, best of luck to you and your squad! For those that don’t, feel free to jump on the Italian bandwagon…but don’t wait, there won’t be room for much longer.