Well that was fun. The group stages are over and we can now brace ourselves for a whirlwind knockout stage.
The group fixtures did come up with some surprises and some of the teams we expected to progress seamlessly, just didn’t have that luck. With our Manchester United hats on we even managed to see a couple of players make their first appearance of the tournament.
The Reds almost came out of the turbulent group games unscathed, the only casualty being Scott McTominay’s Scotland.
Here is the Down The Wings review of how each Manchester United player performed during the final group stage game.
The Welsh faced the small matter of an Italian job in their hopes to finish in one of the top two positions in the group. Daniel James’ Wales side performed admirably. The Azzurri had boasted a flawless start to their Euros campaign beating both Turkey and Switzerland 3-0. Judging by how Wales took to the game you wouldn’t have known that.Embed from Getty Images
There was a drastic difference in quality but Wales had their moments. Daniel James was a typical outlet on the left, a constant willing runner. Without contributing to a goal or an assist the 23-year-old has been one of United’s players of the tournament.
James’ performances for club and country have seemingly caught the eye of those on the continent with Giorgio Chiellini telling ITV how much he likes James and how he’s “growing up at Manchester United”. How’s that for a co-sign?Embed from Getty Images
Wales didn’t manage a win and lost to a single set-piece routine in the first half. The Dragons even had to hold on with 10 men after Ethan Ampadu was dismissed for a reckless challenge. The fact that they held on and didn’t concede any further goals means that Wales finished second in their group on goal difference. James will likely feature in against Denmark in Amsterdam which has the makings of a delicious affair.
Dylan Levitt, who you may have forgotten is with the Wales team – I certainly didn’t – also managed some minutes. His first taste of a major international competition.
Daniel James vs Italy: 6/10
EnglandEmbed from Getty Images
Gareth Southgate needed something special to inspire the nation after a disappointing draw against the Scots. So who do you call? None other than Sheffield’s finest, Harry Maguire.
Gary Neville called it before the tournament, The United Captain is integral to how England play. His ability to bring the ball out of the back and pass through the lines is something England lacked without him. Back from injury, back into the side, Maguire could have had an assist if Harry Kane wasn’t suffering from a Euros hoodoo. The centre-back played more key passes than any other Englishman on the field.
Luke Shaw also put in a stellar performance at left-back, unlucky not to assist Raheem Sterling early on. Shaw seems to be finally maturing as a player where his performances are remaining consistently solid both going forward and defensively.Embed from Getty Images
England beat the Czech Republic by a goal to nil meaning only the three lions and Italy remain the only sides to not concede. Which could bode well for things to come as “Ze Germans are coming”.
Something that may also bode well for United fans is the fact that Marcus Rashford’s minutes for his country this tournament have been few and far between. We obviously want to see United players play and play well but Rashford’s injury concerns are no secret and any “rest” he can get will surely benefit his upcoming season at Old Trafford.
Jadon Sancho finally got some minutes which was another positive, he didn’t have long on the pitch but his link-up with Rashford in the closing stages teased at what the two could muster in a Red shirt – upon the agreement of a deal with Borussia Dortmund of course.
Luke Shaw vs Czech Republic: 7/10
Harry Maguire vs Czech Republic: 8/10
ScotlandEmbed from Getty Images
The one and only United player to not progress into the knockout stages. McTominay was a solid performer for Scotland across the tournament just as the Tartan army were a solid side. However, their “0-0 victory” where McTominay shone at Wembley vs England wasn’t enough to see them through.
Credit where credits due however, Luka Modric’s goal was a sight to behold and the Croats were able to provide the quality that Scotland just did not have.
Scott McTominay vs Croatia: 6/10
David de Gea remained an unused sub in a 5-0 victory vs Slovakia.
SwedenEmbed from Getty Images
Victor Lindelof’s Sweden have steered through the group stage impressively. The Swedes didn’t lose a game and topped a group that featured Spain and a Poland side that houses one of the best marksmen in Europe.
It seemed Lindelof had the aforementioned marksmen well under wraps as they took on the Poles. Sweden won it late on as Claesson made it 3-2 in added time. However, Robert Lewandowski did ruffle some feathers with his brace.
It was the shakiest Sweden have looked thus far, as they seem to pride themselves on a secure defensive foundation.
Victor Lindelof vs Poland: 5/10
Portugal vs France
The famous group F, the obvious group of death delivered in more ways than we could live imagined. Not only could we see a vivid cross-section of the elite talent Europe has to offer, Hungary, the overwhelming underdogs put up a sensational fight. Yes.. they finished last but they really had a go, great fight and even better spirits. Going out of the competition with a draw against Germany is a brilliant feat in itself.Embed from Getty Images
The match we were all waiting for in the group was Portugal vs France. Bruno Fernandes vs Pogba, Ronaldo vs Mbappe, World champions vs European champions. Two out of three isn’t bad, but we can feel somewhat robbed of a true United head to head as Bruno Fernandes began the game on the bench. After his display against the Germans that isn’t a decision, you can deny.
While Bruno observed from the bench Pogba put on a show featuring his best passing technique. His passing meant that Portugal were never safe especially with Mbappe and Benzema who can stay on the last man and are willing runners. There were three penalties in the game, Ronaldo converting two and Benzema converting his. However, the biggest talking point of the game was the Pogba pass that set up Benzema’s security. The pass was on a dime and perfectly weighted for the Real Madrid forward to patch onto and slot away. Sublime.Embed from Getty Images
Bruno Fernandes was introduced and Diogo Dalot’s market value increased with his first international appearance for Portugal’s first team soon after. Fernandes was lucky to have not handed France a potential victory as he clumsily took Kingsley Coman down in what looked like the box in the dying embers of the game.
France, Portugal and Germany all find themselves in the round of 16. However, unsurprising that looks on paper, it was a little surprising judging by the events of today.
Paul Pogba vs Portugal: 7.5/10
What to look forward to in the knockout stages?
The knockout stages will be upon us in next to no time and 10 Reds will be taking part.
- Daniel James along with Dylan Levitt and the flying Welsh dragons will encounter Denmark in Amsterdam.
- Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot will face the no.1 Fifa Ranked international side in the form of Belgium.
- Should David de Gea finally get a game for Spain, he will take on Croatia in Copenhagen.
- Paul Pogba and Les Bleus will take on Switzerland in Bucharest.
- Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford’s England will host familiar foes in Germany at Wembley.
- Victor Lindelof’s Sweden take on Ukraine in Glasgow.