It had all been going so well for the Dutch. Three games, three wins, nine points in the bank and, whisper it, talk that Euro Not 2020 could be painted a vibrant shade of oranje. Even Frank de Boer, who rode into this tournament with an improved reputation (and boy did it take some improving), thought the Netherlands could win it if “everything fits into place”. But then Schick happened and everything fell apart. The galloping Czech striker spooked Matthijs de Ligt in their last-16 tie by, um, running near him in the 55th minute, making the discombobulated Dutchman turn with all the grace of a drunken hippo and tip the ball away with his hand like a latter-day Larry Bird. For the next 35 minutes, 10 men played an extended version of Radiohead’s How To Disappear Completely, sinking slowly into the Budapest turf and out of EN 2020 to a dissonant wailing sound as the Czechs scored twice and bounded into a quarter-final with Denmark.
“It wasn’t our best game,” honked De Boer afterwards before complaining in the Scooby-Doo style that the Dutch would have gotten away with being tactically inferior and slow to react if it hadn’t been for those meddling Czech kids. “I had wanted to go to 3-3-3, by bringing [Steven] Berghuis on as a right-winger, putting Quincy [Promes] wide on the left and having Wout [Weghorst] as centre forward, but just before that the Czechs made it 2-0 … so I had to ditch that,” he sighed. Poor Frank. The last time a fourth game went this badly, he was hoofed out of the door marked Do One by Crystal Palace and is now highly likely to be Steve Parished by his current paymasters. “Right now we have this big hangover,” he blootered. “We will take this bitter pill tonight and let’s see what happens later.”
Another manager waking up with a steaming headache as he forlornly packs his bags and prepares to head home is Portugal’s Fernando Santos. Despite having a wealth of attacking talent to choose from as the 2016 champions took on Belgium, Santos set up to play like West Brom away at Manchester City. The result was an opening 40 minutes so dull that it made England’s recent games look like harum-scarum white-knuckle rides starring Vin Diesel. It took a screamer by The Other Hazard to finally get the blood pumping and provoke Portugal into some next-level filth.
First Kevin De Bruyne was hacked out of the game by the kind of tackle from behind that was supposed to have been outlawed in 1994, and then Eden Hazard was hoofed around Seville until he finally limped off with muscle-knack in the 87th minute. At least we got to see Pepe play the hits one last time, mind, noodling his way through a Dark Arts solo as he chopped down The Other Hazard before holding his arms aloft and grinning wildly in a life-affirming display of faux innocence. Italy will be thankful for Portugal’s roughhouse tactics. Belgium had about as much creativity as this email after De Bruyne’s departure and Bobby M will struggle to bring the Euros home to his gaff in Wigan if his midfield talisman is forced to miss Friday’s quarter-final. One thing he shouldn’t do is take any tips off the Dutch in times of adversity. Isn’t that right, Frank?
The Euros blog is here, while Niall McVeigh will be on hand at 5pm BST for Croatia 1-1 Spain (aet, 4-5 on pens) before Scott Murray guides you through France 2-0 Switzerland at 8pm.
“Written off before a bag of air was kicked, 3,000 miles from home. Every nation had fans wherever they went, apart from the 350 who broke government rules and bank accounts to be there, you and us deserved more from this joke set-up of a tournament, but who said life was fair” – we’re not quite sure if Chris Gunter is in a glass-half-full kind of mood after Wales crashed out 4-0 to Denmark.
Football Daily at EN 2020: here’s the latest episode.
“Whatever other disappointments the Euros may bring, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that four of the world’s autocratic leaders – Victor Orbán, Andrzej Duda, Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdoğan – will be mightily displeased by their teams failing to progress to the knockout stage” – Graham Stevens.
“VAR is finally getting the plaudits it long deserves. Three or so years after its widespread use began, it deserves extra credit for disallowing Marko Arnautovic’s goal after he prematurely shushed an Italian crowd. Now that’s progress” – Dean H.
England’s players have been subjected to sustained abuse online during their Euro 2020 matches, according to this exclusive analysis. A study of Social Media Disgrace Twitter messages directed at and naming the team during the three group matches identified more than 2,000 abusive messages, including scores of racist posts.
José Mourinho has been flapping his gums in the punditry world with some digs at Luke Shaw, prompting the England man to hit back. “There is no hiding that we didn’t get on,” sighed Shaw. “I think he was a brilliant manager but, you know, the past is the past. It is time to move on. I am trying to move on but, obviously, he can’t.”
Defensive-minded England manager Gareth Southgate insists he’s not too defensive.
Czech Republic coach Jaroslav Silhavy is still pinching himself after beating the Netherlands. “I have no words,” he cooed, before proving otherwise. “This opposition was very strong but we managed wonderfully. We were sometimes sloppy in attack, but the team spirit prevailed again.”
And Fernando Santos has conjured up visions of Pepe bawling his eyes out after the defeat. “The ball would just not go in,” sobbed Santos. “We feel very disappointed and sad. Players are crying in the changing rooms, as many Portuguese will be.”
The absolute state of things dept: a banner threatening Rafa Benítez if he joins Everton has been left near the former Liverpool manager’s family home.
And Arsenal Women have appointed Rosengård’s Jonas Eidevall as their manager. “It’s super-important that we win, but it’s more important we live the values and defend the club badge on a day-to-day basis,” he tooted.
You might not have heard, but England are playing Germany on Tuesday. David Hytner on why it is Gareth Southgate’s acid test.
This is Germany, but not as we know it, explains Jonathan Liew.
“People can say what they want, I don’t care. I’m here.” Aymeric Laporte gets his chat on with Sid Lowe about playing for France and then playing for Spain.
France are still hoping for a grand statement from Kylian Mbappé, according to Nick Ames.
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