The oldest rivalry in international football is rekindled, while Ronaldo chases another record and Gareth Bale aims to spoil Italy’s…
Game to watch – England v Scotland
The oldest rivalry in international football is rekindled for the 115th time tonight when Scotland will be desperate to p*ss on the Auld Enemy’s parade en route to the Euro 2020 knockout stages.
A positive result for Gareth Southgate’s side will almost certainly carry them through to the last 16 while Steve Clarke’s side need something from Wembley to maintain their ambition of qualifying from Group B.
A draw might suit both sides. Winning the group holds little allure for England in terms of possible knockout paths, while Scotland would be delighted to take back a point to Hampden Park before what would become a cup final against Croatia if a last-16 place was on the line.
There are decisions for both bosses. Southgate is expected to stick with two more defensively-minded midfielders, with Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips deserving of their place against the Scots. Harry Maguire may come in, presumably in place of Tyrone Mings, while Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell will be contemplating a wasted month if right-back Kieran Trippier continues in their place.
Southgate may opt to freshen up his attack with Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford champing at the bit. The England boss is blessed with so many options, perhaps too many. Should Grealish come in and tear Scotland apart, Southgate will face a clamour to stick with the Aston Villa captain, even if the feeling is that would not be his preference.
The agitation north of the border surrounds Che Adams. The Southampton striker’s half-time introduction coincided with an immediate improvement in Scotland’s attack against Czech Republic and Steve Clarke will struggle to resist the calls to start him at Wembley.
Whoever Clarke names in his attack, Scotland will have to be more ruthless in front of goal. They created 18 opportunities last Monday, eight more than Czech Republic, but their finishing was wretched – not for the first time. They will have to be more efficient in front of goal if they are to halt England’s progress into the last 16 at their expense.
The one thing England v Scotland almost guarantees is goals. Since 1872, there have only ever been three goalless draws. One came in the very first meeting, none of them were at Wembley and the last one was 34 years ago.
Team to watch – Turkey
Dark horses? Cart horses, so far.
That’s the impression Senol Gunes’ side have offered from their first two games which each ended in defeats to Italy and Wales, with five conceded and none scored.
Luckily for the Turks, they face a Switzerland side labelled too nice after they were brushed aside by Italy in what has become a shoot out for third place. A draw is no good to either side. A win would see the Swiss claim third or possibly second if Wales fall in Rome.
Turkey will have to roll over the Swiss and wait until next Wednesday in the hope that three points is enough to scrape one of the four best third-place finishes.
To do that, a swift and sudden improvement is required from Turkey, like that which Wales produced to vanquish Gunes’ men in Baku. It would at least spare the embarrassment of many pundits, including three F365ers who had Turkey down as semi-finalists.
Player to watch – Cristiano Ronaldo
After his attempt to bring down Coca Cola earlier this week, the Portugal star switches his focus to Germany on Sunday.
Ronaldo didn’t enjoy one of his better games against Hungary and his first telling intervention did not come until the 87th minute, after which he netted twice and pulled away from Michel Platini as the European Championships’ highest scorer.
That personal record probably arouses Ronaldo more than becoming the first man to play in five of the tournaments Most titillating of all is the prospect of winning back to back Euros.
Having overcome a decent Hungary side in front of a full house in Budapest, Ronaldo and Portugal now face a decisive test in the closest pool the tournament has to a group of death.
And Germany need something against the Portuguese in Munich. Their defeat to France could have been heavier were it not for a couple of tight offside decisions, but so too could they have drawn had they taken their chances against the tournament favourites.
That they didn’t leaves Joachim Low’s men in need of a positive result but Germany’s recent record against their European peers is poor. Portugal can compound the negativity swirling around the hosts in Bavaria by sealing a place in the last 16 while Ronaldo, currently three goals away, continues to chip at Ali Daei’s record of the greatest ever international scorer.
Manager to watch – Luis Enrique
“The plan for each game is the same, to get the ball and do our thing,” said Enrique in the build-up to Spain’s opener against Sweden. And that’s exactly how it played out. Unfortunately, Alvaro Morata’s ‘thing’ is profligacy.
The stalemate with Sweden was a frustrating watch for Enrique. Morata wasted opportunities, as did Ferran Torres and Gerard Moreno, the two players Enrique turned to as strikers as the game wore on. But as the coach reflected in the aftermath of their chaotic preparation for their Group E opener, there were positives for La Roja.
Chief among them: Pedri. The Barcelona teenager was string-puller-in-chief and the midfielder looked equally at home in Spain’s midfield as he does at the Nou Camp. Dani Olmo was also impressive, while Aymeric Laporte and Pau Torres continued their burgeoning partnership with a clean sheet, despite Aleksander Isak’s best efforts.
But Enrique really must find an answer to Spain’s lack of ruthlessness in the final third when they face a Poland side smarting from their opening defeat. And you can bet Robert Lewandowski won’t be so wasteful this time.
Enrique defended Morata, saying the striker had “a great game” before admitting that Spain’s lack of incision was “very clear and we all saw it”. The most obvious solution is to give Moreno a chance to replicate his Villarreal form on the international stage.
One v one battle to watch – Gareth Bale v Francesco Acerbi
He was subdued against Switzerland last Saturday and missed a penalty against Turkey but Bale was still the star of the show in Wales’ win on Wednesday evening.
As well as laying on two assists – he also won the spot-kick he skied – Bale created five clearcut chances, the most in a single Euros game since 1980.
Wales next face Italy in Rome on Sunday, with the hosts already assured of a place in the last 16 and the Welsh with one foot in the knockout stages.
That minor uncertainty will see Robert Page resist the urge to rest Bale against an Italy side who recorded on Wednesday their 10th consecutive clean sheet.
But they earned their latest shutout in the absence of their defensive leader, Giorgio Chiellini. The veteran was withdrawn after only 25 minutes with what appeared to be hamstring injury and with no urgency for Chiellini to recover for the final group game, Bale seems likely to come up against Lazio’s Acerbi on the left of Italy’s defence.
Acerbi, at 33, is no rookie. He has helped to keep six of Italy’s 10 recent shutouts and the prospect of facing an in-form Bale will hardly frighten a man who underwent chemotherapy for testicular cancer in 2014 while playing for Sassuolo.