Brave Austria questions Italy’s title hopes
After impressing throughout the group stage, the stage was set at Wembley for Italy to stage its fans, who outnumber their Austrian counterparts inside the stadium overwhelmingly. Italy had played their first three matches in Rome, but it was like a home from home.
With the sun shining and the Italian songs in the stands, their supporters also had something to enjoy their game in the first half, as Roberto Mancini’s side demonstrated the quality gap between the teams.
Had Ciro Immobile’s shot entered rather than crashed into the woodwork, it would have given the Azzurri a well-deserved lead at the break, while Leonardo Spinazzola’s sweeping runs and his combined play with Lorenzo Insigne took out. fans from their seats.
But Italy’s fall in the second half came as a shock. They were suddenly sloppy and slow all over the pitch and an inspired Austria capitalized to give them a real scare, with VAR denying Marko Arnautovic a header opener.
Substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina ultimately saved the day – and underlined the in-depth strength of this Italian side – but after Sasa Kalajdzic scored late to set up a nervous final, after a flurry of Austrian openings, many would have turned out to be away from Wembley reassess Italy’s chances of going through with these euros.
The defense suddenly didn’t seem so tight. The flow in attack is not as smooth. With Portugal or Belgium in Munich in the quarter-finals, then France or Spain their likely opponents after that, Italy is going to have to do it the hard way in this tournament – and they’ll have to be much more precise in these matches. . than they were at Wembley.
Of course, these teams will present different challenges to Italy, while Mancini can highlight the spirit his team showed to fight in the end and maintain their remarkable 31-game unbeaten streak. But brave Austria has taken some of the shine from Italy’s early start to Euro 2020 and it will be fascinating to see how they react.
New stars emerge in Eriksen’s absence
And this is how Denmark is moving forward.
It’s only been a fortnight since Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in his first group game against Finland, but these traumatic events at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, from which Eriksen is now recovering, appear to have galvanized Kasper Hjulmand’s men.
The Danes became the first team in European Championship history to reach the round of 16 after losing their first two group matches with their thrilling and moving 4-1 victory over Russia, and they continued with an even better performance against Wales.
They are stripped of their biggest star in Eriksen, whose fate now serves as their inspiration, but news is emerging in his absence and there is a growing sense that 1992 champion Denmark may be able to repeat this feat. extraordinary.
Kasper Dolberg was the outstanding player against Wales, seizing his opportunity in Yussuf Poulsen’s absence with two goals, but full-back Joakim Maehle was equally impressive, scoring for the second game in a row and then there to Mikkel Damsgaard.
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder who plays for Sampdoria in Italy became the youngest Danish player to score in a European Championship when he scored the opener against Russia and produced another eye-catching performance in Amsterdam.
Damsgaard lined up on the left side of the Danish attack but drifted into the final third as Wales couldn’t contain him.
He was the architect of the first goal, stepping away from Aaron Ramsey and feeding goalscorer Dolberg, but that was just one of many excellent individual moments.
Damsgaard already looks like one of the tournament’s star players and he and Denmark’s other rising stars will now continue their emotional quest for glory against either the Netherlands or the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals.
Did Wales see Gareth Bale’s last?
For Denmark it feels like 1992 again, but it was far from a Super Saturday for Wales. Alun Wyn Jones was left out of the Lions tour of South Africa as Kasper Dolberg’s footwork led them in a merry dance in Amsterdam.
To continue the comparisons with this summer when Denmark were the surprise winners of this competition, Dolberg became the second Danish player to score two goals in a knockout game in a major tournament after Henrik Larsen against the Netherlands. 29 years ago.
Now they might well meet in the last four, but Wales never really started. Other than the first 10 minutes, they rarely threatened.
After traveling 5,350 miles from Baku to Rome via the Netherlands, Wales looked tired and uncomfortable, unable to respond to Kasper Hjulmand’s decision to move Andreas Christensen in the middle of ground to limit the impact of Aaron Ramsey.
It was a feat in itself that Robert Page’s side made it through the group stages, having made Turkey so poor in their second game in Baku, but his players were drowned by 16,000 Danes galvanizing their side to the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Page hopes this is a vital learning curve for the young players on his squad, who have the added experience of facing Italy and being outscored by a well-trained Danish side. After all, this is a team with the third youngest average age in the tournament.
A fourth red card in their last seven matches has added salt to Welsh injuries, and Page will look to address issues of leadership and poor discipline to ensure their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign stays on course. good way until the fall.
Until then, he will know if Gareth Bale will be part of his plans for the future, with speculation about his future in the game.
The 31-year-old has now gone 15 games without scoring for his country, and although injuries have slowed his career, you still feel that Wales’ presence in Qatar depends on his talisman’s decision.