It’s day 7 which means we’ve been doing this for a full week. My fingers are not yet bloody stumps so I am having a great time. Today we’re mostly with Group D, where England will look to build on that 5-1 thrashing of Croatia. We’ll pop by Group E later on for Sweden vs Ireland but let’s remind ourselves where we pick up the action:
First up, Croatia will look to bounce back from that 5-1 humbling with a home clash against Czech Republic.
Croatia vs Czech Republic
Tom has been robbed of the goalscorer from the first game – Asanovic will miss this one and is touch and go for the last game. Jurcic is in, that well known player. Soldo is playing right wing back after much deliberation over him or Simic.
Nick Rowe is still without Smicer so it’s as you were. A win for Nick would put his unfancied Czech’s in the next round.
My word, this wasn’t a good game. Remember the 2010 World Cup? No, me neither. Because it was full of games like this. Also, being drunk. Anyway, it’s 0-0 at half time without a single shot on target. Not to worry though, 11 minutes from time Davor Suker gives Croatia the lead and Tom’s hopes are alive and…before they can kick, Pavel Kuka equalises. It’s a cruel game.
Hardly anything between the two sides so you can’t get too upset with a draw. Nick will be delighted, Tom has it all to do.
Both sides will be hoping for an England win here to leave second place in the balance.
England vs Norway
Dan is unchanged, that 5-1 win saw the front two click almost immediately. They’ll take some stopping.
Mark has switched to the formation he finished the last game with. The reshuffle sees Solbakken miss out and Haaland plays as sweeper.
England and Norway are of course steeped in history, or at least they met once and the commentator got very excited. Ostenstad sparks the beginning of similar scenes only for Shearer to score twice to retain the status quo. Or has he? Runar Berg rams in an equaliser and it’s game on. Paul Scholes does what he always does and scores to ruin a good moment right on half time. Entertaining, even if Wembley is half full.
Tommy Svindal Larsen has arrived! He equalises from 30 yards and the visitors have a lifeline. England are awarded a penalty though for a handball by Haaland and Shearer will surely complete his hat…wait, what? He blazes over and the spoils are shared. Colour me surprised.
This was like kids in a playground. Jumpers for goalposts. Call it what you want, it was incredibly entertaining.
It means both England and the Czech Republic can advance with a point when they meet each other in the final game. Both Norway and Croatia will be hoping to win to not only seal 3rd place but potentially pick up 2nd place if England dish out a heavy win (or the Czech Republic a really heavy win)
Plenty to look forward to in the final match day there then but can Group E match it for drama?
Sweden vs Republic of Ireland
There’s a lot riding on this. Both sides lost in the first set of games and losing a second will make qualifying pretty difficult. Michael is in the dugout from the start this time to add a tweak to the 4-4-2. Kamark is in for the injured Bjorklund.
Paddy (again, that is his actual name) has opted to bring in McAteer for Niall Quinn. Diamonds aren’t forever.
The changes work! For Ireland. They storm into a 2-0 lead thanks to Liam Daish and Keith O’Neill but Kennet Andersson pulls one back five minutes later. Henrik Larsson restores order before half time and everyone has a nice fresh glass of turnip juice. Liam Daish scores at the wrong end to give Sweden the lead and Paddy throws on young Robbie Keane to try and salvage something. As it is, it’s namesake Roy who gets the equaliser and this epic goes on. Blomqvist shatters Irish hearts 10 minutes from time before Andersson gets his second in injury time. That might prove to be important.
The stats show…nearly every shot went in.
Turns out Shay Given had a stinker. He’s one of the most reliable members of the squad so I’m surprised. But it’s Sweden who profit.
Ireland will be hoping Spain beat Poland tomorrow and they’ll have to have a famous night at home to Spain to give themselves any chance of sneaking through.
16 goals in 3 games today, not bad going. The tournament keeps on giving. It’s back to the group of death tomorrow alongside that Spain and Poland clash. See you there!