Denmark scored the second-fastest goal in European Championship history but Belgium advanced to the knockout stages after Kevin de Bruyne orchestrated a 2-1 comeback victory in their Group B match on Thursday.
Denmark got off to a dream start when Yussuf Poulsen put them ahead after 99 seconds as the team rode a wave of sentiment over playmaker Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in their first game.
The Danes dominated the first half but Belgium turned to a bench bursting with talent and De Bruyne, who came on right after the interval, laid on a sublime pass for Thorgan Hazard to level in the 54th minute after a galloping run by Romelu Lukaku.
De Bruyne completed the comeback by finishing off another classy move to thump the ball into the net in the 74th minute.
Denmark never gave up and had numerous attempts to equalise, striker Martin Braithwaite hitting the bar with a header and narrowly failing to connect with a cross.
Belgium lead Group B with six points and became the second side after Italy to clinch their place in the last 16. Denmark have yet to earn a point and will need to win their final game against Russia and hope it is enough to get them through.
Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel was hugely proud of his side’s performance, especially after the trauma of Eriksen’s collapse, and was in awe of the unified atmosphere made by the 25,000 fans present at Parken Stadium.
“Everything that has been said about us is true. We fought to the last. We played a great game. It was not enough and we were not lucky. They put one of the world’s best players on the field (De Bruyne),” Schmeichel said.
“I’ve experienced a lot, but nothing beats this. It sounded like there were 75,000 fans. We would like to have rewarded them with a point or a victory.”
Belgium’s Lukaku also praised the Danes’ spirit both in the game and in their reaction to Eriksen, his Inter Milan teammate who is recovering in hospital.
“I respect them as men. They saved my friend’s life and I appreciate that. Their character today was incredible,” he said.
“I had to put my feelings to one side in the first half because I was thinking of Christian. Denmark must continue to believe in it and complete the job against Russia.”
Both sides’ fans and players participated in a tribute to Eriksen before kickoff as a giant Denmark shirt with the player’s name and number 10 was displayed on the pitch.
The teams then stopped for a moment’s applause in the 10th minute and the Danish crowd unfurled a banner saying: “All of Denmark is with you Christian”.
Mercy Shines On Messi As Argentina Beat Brazil To Win Copa America Trophy
By Taiwo Ibrahim
Romans 9 v15: He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” KJV
For years, it has been a case of tears, disappointment and it looked like Mercy eluded Lionel Messi on the international scene, Sportivation.com.ng reports.
He lost four finals with the La Albiceleste including the 2014 FIFA World Cup and three Copa America finals before Mercy prevailed for him and as it is written in the holy book, “weeping may endure for a night, but Joy cometh in the morning”
Joy truly came in the morning as most Messi fans in Nigeria stayed awake to watch the final in the early hours of Sunday as he led Argentina to their first Copa America trophy since 1993.
Angel Di Maria scored the only goal in the 22nd-minute to give Argentina a 1-0 victory over their arch-rivals, Brazil in the land of the Selecao.
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Before the match, Messi and Neymar were named the best players of the tournament, this is the first time the award will be split between two players.
According to Conmebol, “It is not possible to choose only one player, because this competition has two best players,” CONMEBOL said in a statement.
“They demonstrated in each match the different qualities that make them players of integrity, with technical and tactical quality, for their intelligence with and without the ball, and their decision making, which is always decisive.
“Both are finalists with their national teams, they have performed at a high level, being key players in the goalscoring charts in this tournament.
“In addition, they are leaders in assists – the Argentine has five and the Brazilian has provided three – which demonstrates how decisive they have been on the pitch during this CONMEBOLCopa America 2021.”
Messi was at the heart of everything good for Argentina in the competition scoring four goals and racking up five assists including two sublime free-kicks.
EURO 2020 FINAL: Is It Going Home, Or Is It Going To Rome ?
The last one month in Europe has been full of actions as eleven nations witnessed a premium football festival to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Europe’s football showpiece, Sportivation.com.ng reports.
And so far, there’s been conflicting reactions from different quarters in Europe as to how EUROS 2020 has panned out for a couple of juggernauts in European football.
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The prepotency of narratives that erupted is that UEFA’s diplomacy to make the The Three Lions emerge winners of the competition isn’t stealth enough, due to the scrappy arrangements made by the football body to have Wembley host more matches than any other stadium in Europe.
And indeed, the dodgy penalty awarded to England in the semifinals against Denmark gave some validations to those popular opinions.
But amidst all this reactions and counter reactions, the last hurdle of the competition will still serve off on Sunday evening at the Wembley Stadium, London, in England.
However, the destination of the EUROS trophy remains unclear as both sides in the final fancies their chances of landing the trophy after 90 minutes or a probable enthralling 120 minutes given that the Azurris and The Three Lions have been the best sides in the tourney thus far, and their semifinal matches was decided after 120 minutes.
The Great Intents
England’s journey to the final of a major international competition is as a result of athleticism and resilience in the last four to years, and it has culminated into a steep progress with Gareth Southgate at the helms.
The Three Lions shortly after the disappointing 2-1 loss to Iceland at the quarterfinals of the EUROS in France in 2016, rebuilt from scratch, and appointed her former player and U-21 manager, Gareth Southgate.
And ever since, the team have captured the imagination of a success starved teeming fans of English Football.
Five years into Southgate’s spell, England have played in the semifinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and will play in her first final of a major football competition in 55 years. Really, there’s never been a better feeling than this in the English camp since 1966.
Also, England’s unbeaten run datesback to 2020 when they lost to the Red Devils of Belgium in the UEFA Nations League.
And hitherto, The Three Lions have lost in the semifinals of five major tournaments (EURO ’68 and ’96, the 1990 and 2018 World Cups and the 2019 UEFA Nations League).
But seeing off Germany, Ukraine and Denmark (after 120 minutes) on Wednesday night to book a date in the final against the Azurris, they have the chance to put behind them an agonizing 55 years.
Ostensibly, The Three Lions have gotten a very high mountain to surmount, a fact that has been acknowledged by Gareth Southgate himself.
“We’ve got to enjoy the fact we’re in the final but there’s one more massive hurdle to conquer. Italy are a very good side, I’ve thought that the last couple of years. They are in outstanding form and have defensive warriors who have been through everything. It’s a great game to look forward to.” Southgate said.
Meanwhile, The Italians on the other hand, have surpassed whatever expectations many had for them because they weren’t seen as serious contenders by most people untill the knockout stages of this year’s EUROS.
It will be recalled that Roberto Mancini’s side was not given much respect especially by some English pundits, who claimed that the Italians fizzle out when they face a more technical and clinical side.
But here we are, Italy have knocked out Austria, Belgium and Spain, posing a 6 matches unbeaten run in EUROS 2020 and 33 overall.
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Therefore, if it’s by the pedigree of the teams both Italy and England have ousted in the competition prior to Sunday’s final, the Italians obviously, will be the favorite team to emerge champions of Europe. Sadly, it’ll not happen like that.
This is a final that would be down to the greatest of intents from both sides.
Italy’s probable dynamism so far is how they’ve approached each match they’ve played in this competition with little or no pressure. Even when they were on the brink of elimination during the shootouts against Spain, there were grins on the faces of everyone.
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And there’s no better spirit or feeling to approach a young and talented Gareth Southgate’s tutored English side than this.
Same cannot be said for The Three Lions because at some point in their EUROS 2020 campaign, there was panic and glimpses of disappointment.
Messi, Neymar Battle For First Copa America Trophy
Former Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar will line up opposite each other in Saturday’s Copa America final looking to end a hoodoo that has also affected some of their countries’ greatest players.
Like Brazil’s Pele and Diego Maradona of Argentina before them, neither Messi nor Neymar has ever won the Copa.
That statistic will change for one of them in the dream final at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium.
For six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, this will be his fourth Copa final and perhaps his last chance to finish on the winning side.
He’s been his team’s standout performer, as ever, scoring four goals and creating five more – the tournament leader in both categories.
But at 34, this may well be his last Copa and next year’s World Cup could be his last major international tournament altogether.
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So far, finals have led only to disappointment for Messi having lost in 2007, 2015 and 2016 at the Copa, and seen his side beaten 1-0 by Germany at the 2014 World Cup.
Some people believe winning something with Argentina is Messi’s only remaining professional goal.
“We’ll try to stop him from achieving this objective,” said Brazil centre-back Marquinhos.
“As much as Messi, we also have players that deserve this title … like our own ‘Ney’ who wasn’t there for the last Copa,” he added.
At 29, Neymar has a bit more time on his side but he was injured and absent two years ago when Brazil won their ninth title on home soil, beating Peru 3-1 in the final.
But as well as the two superstars lining up on opposite sides on Saturday, this is a classic match between two world heavyweights.
“We’re going to play a final against our eternal rivals, the lifelong ones, the two most powerful national teams in South America and we hope … it will be a great match,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.
“Brazil versus Argentina is much more than a simple game of football … these jerseys make the world stand still to watch their games. That represents the history of Brazil-Argentina,” added Marquinhos.
Incredibly, these two sides are not even the two most successful ones in Copa history, with Uruguay having won 15 titles to Argentina’s 14 and Brazil’s nine.
In what is the 47th edition of the Copa, this is also just the fourth time these two have met in the final, with Argentina triumphing the first time in 1937 and Brazil coming out on top in 2004 and 2007.
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And that is despite having faced each other more than 100 times in their history.
They have been by far the strongest two sides in the competition, even if Argentina rode their luck a touch in their semifinal penalty shoot-out win over Colombia.
The two squads are impressive for their strength in depth.
In their semifinal victory over Peru – and despite Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus being suspended – Brazil left the likes of Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, Flamengo hot-shot Gabriel Barbosa and Real Madrid starlet Vinicius Junior on the bench.
In midfield, Liverpool’s Fabinho has been kept out of the side by a resurgent Fred, of Manchester United.
Likewise, Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel Di Maria – a bright spark when he came on in the semifinal against Colombia – has mostly started on the bench while new Barcelona signing Sergio Aguero has hardly had a look in for Argentina.
Messi and Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez (three goals) have provided Argentina’s main attacking thrust but they have quality and creativity throughout.
“Argentina are not just Lautaro and Messi, we cannot only concentrate on those two,” said Brazil and Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro.
“They’re great players, world-class players, but if Argentina have reached the final it’s because of the (whole) group, we have to respect this.”
As well as looking to end his career-long trophy drought with Argentina, Messi could make history in another way on Saturday.
He currently sits on 76 goals for Argentina, one shy of Pele’s South American record of 77 national team goals. (AFP)
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