In the last match of UEFA Euro 2021’s Group C, the Netherlands defeated a very challenging Ukraine 3-2 in a match that could have gone either way despite the Dutch team’s overwhelming possession percentage (62%) and chances created (15 to 7).
Georginio Wijnaldum at the 52nd and Wout Weghorst at the 58th had put Holland ahead but Andriy Yarmolenko scored the goal of the tourney so far to cut the deficit at the 75th and Roman Yaremchuk drew the sides even at the 79th before Denzel Dumfries scored the winner at the 85th.
Much like England in its win over Croatia or Austria in its win over North Macedonia, the Dutch did not convince and needed some good fortune to move ahead. But the bottom line is that they won a tough match without many of their stars and can now look to relatively easier competition in their group, giving those injured players time to recoup and join the ranks of those on the pitch.
England 1—0 Croatia
In a remarkably even UEFA Euro 2021 Group D game, where each team traded control of possession and chances for long spurts, it was a fluke occurrence and an extraordinary run of play score for England that spelled the difference in their opening match against an aging Croatia. For a team known to mostly score off of set plays it was eye-opening to see the English side create chances of another nature.
The score, for the team who had created the better number and higher quality of chances, was deserved if lucky. Raheem Sterling was on the receiving end of a series of English passes that each barely made it forward as Croatian slides just missed intercepting the ball. Finally, when Sterling entered the box, closely marked by Atletico Madrid’s Sime Vrsaljko, he barely got a foot on the through ball ahead of the Croatian’s slide. But as the shot came off, the studs on Vrsaljko’s right boot got caught on the turf and came suddenly to a stop two feet short of the block that was certainly, otherwise coming, and the resulting close-range shot easily beat keeper Dominik Livakovic for the lone score of the match.
Denmark’s Christian Eriksen, 29 years old, was “gone” for nearly two minutes before a defibrillator, applied on the playing field, brought him back. Soon thereafter, Eriksen was resting in stable condition at the hospital and within less than an hour after the life-or-death moment on the turf, he had the faculties and presence of mind to speak with the Danish team and urge them to finish their suspended match against Finland without him.
Austria 3—1 North Macedonia
In a toughly contested UEFA Euro 2021 Group C match where the sides seemed particularly combative, Austrian defender, Stefan Lainer, opened the scoring at the 18th minute with a beautifully turned in volley, from an impossible angle, off a long cross from the left wing to the far-right post. At the 28th minute, North Macedonia’s ageless Goran Pandev jumped at the chance an Austrian keeper-defender mistake provided to put the sides even, and things remained even until half-time.
A harsh second half made up mostly of missed build-ups and many fouls ensued. But at the 78th minute David Alaba, who had been playing central defender most of the match, moved deep down the North Macedonian left flank to provide offensive support for only the second time in the entire match. His perfectly curved cross found six-foot-four Michael Gregoritsch running down the middle to volley the ball just ahead of the outstretched hands of North Macedonian keeper Stole Dimitriesvski for the go-ahead goal. A third goal came, against the run of play and at the 89th minute, off a defensive ricochet that left striker Marko Arnautovic with the easy task of rounding an out-of-position defenseman and the on-rushing keeper to slot home the final nail in the coffin.