Poland, Slovenia, and Serbia shine at Euro 2024

Serbia & England Flags
Serbia & England Flags

Poland, Slovenia, and Serbia played better than the underdogs they were supposed to be, earning their wings as full continental competitors at Euro 2024.

Dutch 2-1 Poland

In a tightly contested match, requiring an 83rd-minute winner by substitute Wout Weghorst, the Netherlands defeated a game Poland whose team had pulled ahead in the 16th minute via Adam Buksa. Playing without the recovering Robert Lewandowski, the Poles were nevertheless every bit as tough as the Dutch would have feared and the outcome was never a foregone conclusion.

Poland’s resistance lasted nearly two-thirds of the first half when Cody Gakpo’s shot toward the right of goal in the 29th minute was deflected left and beyond Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny’s reach.

Taking a bunny out of Louis van Gaal’s hat of tricks, Netherlands coach, Ronald Koeman, brought in Weghorst as a sub in the 81st minute only to have him score the game-winning goal two minutes later. But in truth, the team sorely missed their midfield maestro, Frenkie de Jong, as they seemed rudderless for long stretches of the match. With Lewandoski due to come back for the next match against Austria, the Poles can be encouraged, given their efforts today.

The takeaway was that neither team played like they would give group and tourney favorites, France, any worry.

Slovenia 1-1 Denmark

In another tightly contested match, Christian Eriksen continued the championship’s trend of early match goals with a 17th-minute score to put the Danes ahead. It took  Slovenia until the 77th minute when Erik Janza equalized, and in all fairness, the draw was deserved. For Slovenia, this was a well-earned result.

The match was often mystifying as the Danes controlled 68% of possession, yet only had four shots on target to Slovenia’s two. On the other hand, the underdogs managed to put one of their two shots into the net and control swaths of the match where they were the better side. The takeaway was that neither team seemed any competition for England, the group favorite, or for group mates Serbia, who played well today.

England 1-0 Serbia

Serbia can curse their unlucky stars, but the English can begin to feel their bad luck of tournaments past has departed the pitch. In a game they did not play particularly well, the Three Lions managed a win thanks to Jude Bellingham’s diving header in the 13th minute—another early goal—which was one of the few pretty plays the English produced. The second highlight was a Harry Kane header that Serbian keeper, Pedrag Rajkovic, pushed onto the underside of the crossbar and away from the goal.  

Meanwhile, Serbia were unlucky not to score on several occasions when their players simply missed the goal by inches. Or, in the case of the star-crossed Luka Jovic, simply muffed a sitter from inside the box.

The match possession arrow favored the English, but only 54% to 46% and the Serbs outshot their opponents 6-5. The takeaways were that the English should have an easy time of it in Group C and that Serbia looked the better second side.

Shutterstock photo ID—2474421595, by kb-photodesign.

Tags — Christian Eriksen, Jude Bellingham, Erik Janza, Wout Weghorst, Adam Buksa

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