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Euro Daily: June 19, 2021
Day 9 of the European Championships will see another trio of fixtures played out, as the likes of France and Portugal aim to build on respective opening day victories.
Below, check out five things you need to know about Saturday’s action.
1) Record-breaking Ronaldo loves facing German teams
Our latest list opens with Portugal talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.
CR7 was of course back in the headlines earlier this week, after adding yet another record to his ever-growing tally. Upon finding the net twice in his country’s 3-0 opening day win over Hungary, the veteran hitman broke his tie with Michel Platini, to become the all-time leading goalscorer at the European Championships (11 goals).
Ronaldo, on Tuesday, also became the first player to ever score in five consecutive Euro tournaments.
And who would bet against the Juventus standout adding further to his tally later today? Ronaldo, historically, has enjoyed great success when lining out against German outfits at club level. In fact, despite never playing in the division, he has slotted past Bundesliga sides on no less than 28 occasions across his career to date. Nine of these strikes, meanwhile, came versus Germany no.1 Manuel Neuer.
Will Ronaldo make the difference once again on Saturday, to condemn Die Mannschaft to a 2nd-straight group stage defeat?
2) France to make a statement?
Elsewhere in the ‘Group of Death’ this weekend, tournament favourites France are set to make the trip to the Ferenc Puskas Stadium, for a showdown with Hungary.
Didier Deschamps’ men got their Euro 2020 campaign off to the perfect start, courtesy of a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Germany during the week.
Les Bleus, though, despite being widely viewed as front-runners to go all the way this summer, have thus far been overshadowed by one of the competition’s dark horses. The nation in question? Italy. Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri looked absolutely irresistible in their opening pair of fixtures, rattling off consecutive 3-0 wins over Turkey and Switzerland. The Italians are now 29 unbeaten across all competitions, and look a real force to be reckoned with.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 16, 2021
Could France, in turn, use their meeting with Hungary to remind viewers across the globe of exactly why they, and not the Azzurri, remain the team to beat? Deschamps opted to keep the shackles on his side in their opening day victory over Germany, but, today, up against a Hungary side who shipped three in their own Group F opener, Les Bleus could well be eyeing a statement 3 points.
Expect the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann to shine, en route to a convincing French triumph in Budapest.
3) Juventus’ misfiring duo face off (Poland vs Spain)
Moving on to Group E, an interesting showdown is set to play out between a pair of struggling Juventus stars.
The first? Wojciech Szczęsny. Poland’s no.1 got his Euros campaign off to a nightmare start, becoming the first goalkeeper to ever score an own goal at the tournament, en route to a shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of Slovakia. This marked the third consecutive European Championships opener in which Szczesny has endured a 90 minutes to forget, with a Spanish side in need of all three points altogether unlikely to take pity on the Bianconeri star.
? EURO 2012
? Sent off.
? EURO 2016
?♂️ Scores an own goal.
— SPORF (@Sporf) June 14, 2021
The man set to be tasked with putting the ball past Szczesny for La Roja, though, also endured a group stage opener to forget.
Despite the stellar recent campaign enjoyed by Gerard Moreno with Villarreal, Luis Enrique opted to stick with the oft-maligned Alvaro Morata as the spearhead of Spain’s attack versus Sweden on Monday. And to say that the on-loan Juventus man failed to repay the faith shown by his boss would be putting it lightly. Morata’s profligacy in front of goal cost his nation dear, as the toiling Spaniards were eventually held to a 0-0 draw. None of the hitman’s three shots attempted even found the target, with one miss late in the first-half of a particularly clear-cut nature.
Will Morata get back on track this evening, or will it be teammate Szczesny who has the last laugh?
4) The Goretzka factor & home advantage
Back in Group F, one potentially crucial factor in Germany’s showdown with Portugal will be the return of key midfielder Leon Goretzka.
Bayern Munich star Goretzka’s dynamism and drive were sorely missed from Die Mannschaft’s ranks in the middle of the park in their opening day loss to France, as the likes of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba dominated proceedings. Speaking in a press conference ahead of Saturday’s crunch clash at the Allianz Arena, though, Jogi Low confirmed that Goretzka should be fit to feature from the off versus Portugal.
The Germans will of course also be aiming to take advantage of familiar surroundings later today, with all three of the nation’s group stage fixtures scheduled to play out in Munich. A host of Die Mannschaft’s stars – including the returning Goretzka – play their club football on a weekly basis at the Allianz, with the 14,000-strong home crowd set to add further spice to a tantalising occasion.
5) Nego & Griezmann reunite
Our last story to look out for when it comes to Saturday’s fixtures surrounds the reunion of a pair of ex-teammates – Antoine Griezmann and Loic Nego – in France’s clash with Hungary.
Defender Nego was born in France, and lined out alongside Griezmann at youth level for Les Bleus. The duo even went on to lift the Under-19 European Championships alongside one another back in 2010.
Whilst Griezmann’s international career soon took off at senior level, however, Nego was left to watch on from afar. The stopper, previously of AS Roma and Charlton Athletic, struggled to make his mark at the top level, culminating in Nego’s final appearance in France’s colours coming at U20 level in 2011.
Amid a fine spell of form in Hungary with Fehervar, though, Nego came to the decision in 2019 to take advantage of his dual citizenship, to switch international allegiance to Hungary. And the now 30-year-old took little time in endearing himself to his new fans, notching a late equaliser versus Iceland to keep the Magyars’ Euro 2020 hopes alive en route to an eventual 2-1 playoff final victory.
Nego was introduced off the bench in Hungary’s opening day defeat at the hands of Portugal, and could well be tasked with halting the progress of ex-teammate Griezmann at some point in this afternoon’s showdown with France.