Euro 2020 Reds Review: Semifinals
The 2020 Euro final is finally here! Sunday’s match will cap off an exhilarating month of football that saw a field of 24 teams whittled down to just two, Italy and England. Liverpool players have played a smaller role in this championship than many expected. I am OK with the extra rest our boys will receive in advance of another hectic football calendar year. Before we get to the trophy presentation, first we need to recap the two great semifinal matches played mid-week.
Italy 1-1 Spain (4-2 to Italy on penalties)
The first semifinal saw two former European Champions competing. The Spanish side had most of the possession and more first-half opportunities. Luis Enrique’s decision to start Dani Olmo and the positioning of the false nine disrupted Jorginho and Italy’s rhythm. As the half ended, Spain was on the front foot and looked the more likely to score. Juventus winger Federico Chiesa got on the score sheet with a beautiful strike shortly after the hour mark. Maligned Spanish frontman Alvaro Morata leveled with just under 10 minutes to play. Spain introduced Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara at the start of the second half of extra time. He played out the final 15 minutes and participated in the penalty shootout. After consecutive misses, we saw five well-taken penalties until the Morata stepped to the spot. Morata missed poorly and Jorginho capped off his great tournament firing the Azzurri to the final.
Like most of this championship, there was not much from a Liverpool perspective to cover in this match. Thiago played a small role for the Spanish side and took a great penalty but that was about it. The biggest takeaway for me was the brilliant play of young Pedri. His vision, composure, and overall play for an 18-year-old were truly something special to watch. With Barcelona’s financial struggles surfacing could Liverpool pry away the youngster incoming transfer windows? This Reds supporter surely hopes so! Chiesa would be a dream move for me, but Nicola Barella would also be a great signing for much less.
England 2-1 Denmark (AET)
The second semifinal saw England play host to the tournament’s darling Denmark at Wembley stadium. Denmark scored 30 minutes into the match from a Mikkel Damsgaard wonderful free-kick. Jordan Pickford and his T-Rex arms could not keep it out and it was the first time England had conceded during the championship. The true hero of the Erikson match, Simon Kjaer’s own goal for Denmark leveled the score less than 10 minutes later and it stayed that way until extra time. The extra-time also saw the inclusion of Liverpool Captain Jordan Henderson when he was introduced for Declan Rice. Raheem Sterling was awarded a controversial penalty in the 105-minute which Harry Kane eventually scored after Kasper Schmeichel saved his initial shot from the spot.
The championship might be coming home, but I am not sure the supporters of the three lions deserve it. The England players have been brilliant and though I have consistently mentioned the advantage of playing at home, something must be said for the fact this English group did not wilt under the bright lights. There should be a real belief that “it’s coming home” but I am not sure supporters of the three lions deserve it. The representation at Wembley on Wednesday was an embarrassment to fans of all sport. Starting with the booing of the Denmark national anthem and eventually culminating with a fan shinning a green laser pointer in the Denmark keepers’ eyes before Kane’s missed penalty.
Wildcard Finals Preview: Italy vs England
Sundays finally should be a classic. A match-up of two of the most balanced sides in the world with young talent littered throughout the pitch. Both sides are led by strong spines, but it might be in the middle of the park where I feel Italy’s slight edge lies. It would be harsh for Gareth Southgate to break up the pairing of Phillips and Rice, but I would strongly consider starting Hendo. Not only for his leadership but more for his passing ability from deep which could counter some of Italy’s advantage in midfield. Either way, it is a guarantee that Jordan will see the pitch as he has become one of Southgate’s most trusted leaders in closing out matches. I expect it to be a tight affair and hope for a match-winning moment and not a penalty shootout. Prediction, broken English hearts, again.
Hope everyone enjoys the final on Sunday! We will be back with the final piece of this series to recap the championship match and take a deeper look at each player’s performance during the tournament. Whether England finishes the job or Giorgino Chiellini lifts the trophy with his trademark smile the winner will be a deserving one. Rarely do you get the two most impressive sides matched up in the final, but we have that here. Now can the match live up to it? We will have to wait and see until then thank you for reading and Go Italy!