What a surprise, I’m late on posting something again. I know I said I’d do reviews for each gameweek but do you know how quickly they come around? Especially when there was only a 2 day gap between England v Scotland and Wales’s last game. I know it sounds like excuses, and the truth of it is they are, but the point still stands. I was busy Friday night and all day Saturday and it felt weird to post a review for Wales’s game against Turkey the day they were playing Italy, so apologies. To make up for it this will be a longer post where I’ll go over the last two group games for the home nations to make up for a bit of lost time. Promise I’ll be better for the last 16 and later rounds. Without further ado, let’s get down to business!
I. Love. This. Team. Little old Wales showing everyone up again! A tale as old as time. To the world’s surprise (again) Wales started off gameweek 2 with a very solid performance with a 0-2 win against Turkey in Baku. Some dark horses eh? In truth, I’m actually super grateful for Turkey for scoring against Switzerland to ease the goal difference pressure a bit, thanks gents. Everything was spot on (apart from the penalty but let’s not get into that) in what was probably their best performance since the Belgium quarter final in 2016. Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale have both still got it (as if there was any doubt about that), Ben Davies is a national hero, Kieffer Moore is winning the Ballon d’Or, Joe Morrell and Joe Allen are the Welsh Xavi and Iniesta, Dan James is proving yet again how good of a player he is, and Joe Rodon… I knew I’d end up liking an ex-Swansea player eventually.
Next came Italy in Rome and a 1-0 defeat with Wales playing with 10 men for most of the second half. For what it’s worth I thought that was an unbelievably harsh red card for Ethan Ampadu, made even worse with Peter Walton agreeing with absolutely every refereeing decision so far. But it turned out to be enough as Switzerland couldn’t overturn the goal difference and Wales finished second going into the last 16. There’s absolutely no shame in losing to Italy, they’re most people’s favourites by now and have the coolest manager on the planet in the form of Roberto Mancini. But we did enough to get into the last 16 in back to back tournaments. This team has come so far in the last decade. From ranked 117th in the world in 2011 with *that* TalkSport Facebook post which has aged like a fine milk to where we are now is unbelievable. Some might think we’ll be out in the last 16 with Denmark in Amsterdam but keep writing Wales off and they keep shocking the world.
History is full of iconic duo’s. Albert and Costello, James Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, and Gareth Southgate and playing conservative football in big games. Yeah it was bad. England met Scotland at Wembley on a rainy Friday night in the capital and were frustrated to a 0-0 draw. There were some decent performances, Reece James had a fairly good showing and Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish looked good when they came on. But they were exceptions rather than the rule. England looked flat and were generally quite boring. John Stones was unlucky not to score in what was England’s best chance of the game but that was it really. Not good enough, not creative enough, didn’t do enough for the win. I think Grealish is England’s best creative outlet and definitely needs to play more, but what do I know.
Vs Czech Republic
What a surprise, starting Bukayo Saka and Jack Grealish means you create more chances. This was a much better display from England than it was against Scotland. It was always going to be a potential banana peel but they managed to pull through with Raheem Sterling’s first half goal. Saka was a breath of fresh air into the team giving them that bit more attacking quality that was not there for Scotland. His positive style of play mindset was central to England getting a result and was deservedly man of the match. England go through as group winners and next it’s Germany at Wembley in the last 16. Arguably the biggest game of the last 16 and it has potential to be a classic. A rematch of the semi in ‘96 and the first time they’ve met in a tournament since the 4-1 humbling in South Africa. Expect Southgate’s missed penalty and Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal to be played as much over the next week as Gazza’s goal was before the Scotland game.
The mighty Tartan Army descended on a rainy London in their numbers and boy did they enjoy this one. Scotland weren’t bad, their aim was clearly a draw after a poor result against the Czech Republic. I though Billy Gilmour really impressed me and was central in Scotland getting a decent result. There’s no doubt in my mind that they would’ve preferred the win but a 0-0 at Wembley is a very respectable result. Scott McTominay impressed me and their defence looked far more solid with Kieran Tierney back. I knew Tierney and Andy Robertson both playing were important for Scotland but I didn’t realise they were that central. It leaves them in an okay position going into the last gameweek in Group D, Croatia won’t be easy but Hampden Park will be rocking. Out of all 3 I thought Croatia would be the most winnable and 4 points should see them through with the weird 3rd place qualification deal.
Okay so maybe Croatia are better than I thought. Scotland weren’t particularly awful, Croatia were just different gravy on the night. Luka Modric rolled back the years with his goal and proved that he can still perform at the highest level. There was a moment of excitement when Callum McGregor drew Scotland level just before half time following Vlasic’s opener, but two second half goals from Modric and Perisic put the game to bed. I thought Scotland would end up with at least a draw here with it being such a huge game at Hampden but in the end Croatia were just too good. Both teams were going to put everything forward to get as many goals as possible but Croatia just have more attacking talent. Niko Vlasic, Ivan Perisic, and Bruno Petkovic are just better players than Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes. Up next for Scotland is… actually never mind. Sorry, force of habit. Scotland fans can be proud of their team, it was a very tough group and maybe some other time with a better draw they might’ve got through but who knows. The unfortunate streak of being knocked out at the group stage continues as the Scots look to Qatar ‘22 to end it.