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Euro 2020: 5 scintillating strikes of League Round 2

By Rediff Sports
June 20, 2021 12:55 IST
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Manuel Locatelli celebrates after putting Italy ahead during the Euro 2020 Group A match against Switzerland, at Olimpico stadium, Rome

IMAGE: Manuel Locatelli celebrates after putting Italy ahead during the Euro 2020 Group A match against Switzerland, at Olimpico stadium in Rome, Italy. Photograph: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The Euro 2020 preliminary group stage is coming to a close. Only 16 of the 24 nations in the fray will go through to the knock-out rounds.

The top two teams in each group qualify, along with the best four of the six third-placed teams. 

With the teams having played their second matches in the league stage, at the conclusion of the Spain-Poland match in Group E on Saturday, looks at the best goals from those matches.

Manuel Locatelli 

Italy's Manuel Locatelli scores Italy's second goal against Switzerland with a left-footed strike.

IMAGE: Italy's Manuel Locatelli scores Italy's second goal against Switzerland with a left-footed strike. Photograph: Riccardo Antimiani/Getty Images

Manuel Locatelli scored a brace of goals for the first time in his career as Italy defeated Switzerland 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico to become the first side into the last-16 of Euro 2020.

The midfielder, who plays for Serie A team Sassuolo, timed his run for the Azzurri's opening goal in the 26th minute. He started and finished the move from which he opened the scoring, netting from close range following Sassuolo teammate Domenico Berardi's excellent run down the right wing. 

He swept a volleyed pass out to the right wing to Berardi, before racing half the length of the pitch to get on the end of the cross and fire home.

Locatelli then followed that up that effort with a superb left-footed strike from the edge of the box into the bottom corner from outside the area, leaving Switzerland 'keeper Yann Sommer rooted to the spot, to top off a night in which he announced himself to a global audience.  

Having earned his first Italy cap last September, after the Euro tournament was originally scheduled to take place, Locatelli soon became a central part of Roberto Mancini’s plans as his international form matched the progression he was showing under Roberto De Zerbi for his club.

Since his debut, in a 1-0 Nations League win over the Netherlands, Locatelli has featured in 11 of Italy’s 13 games.

Major tournaments tend to throw up unexpected heroes and Locatelli has already achieved that status with his brace against the Swiss. 

Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne scores Belgium's second goal against Denmark.

IMAGE: Kevin De Bruyne scores Belgium's second goal against Denmark. Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/Getty Images

Kevin De Bruyne's late entry on the European Championship stage not only turned a beleaguered Belgium into winners over Denmark in a Group B clash but also made them a favourite for the title.

He sat out of last weekend's opening game for the top-ranked Belgians, recovering from a double facial fracture as his teammates romped past Russia. He did not start against the Danes, but came on after half-time with his team down 0-1 to remind the world of his brilliance. 

The Manchester City midfielder set up one goal and scored another in a 2-1 comeback that secured Belgium's place in the next round.

Denmark got off to a dream start when Yussuf Poulsen put them ahead after 99 seconds, as the team rode a wave of sentiment over playmaker Christian Eriksen's cardiac arrest in their first game.

They dominated the rest of the first half, but Belgium turned to a bench bursting with talent and De Bruyne, who came on right after the interval, set up a sublime equaliser by laying on a pass for Thorgan Hazard to level in the 54th minute.

He then completed the comeback by finishing off a another classy team move, thumping the ball into the net in the 74th minute.

Ivan Perisic

Croatia's Ivan Perisic scores with a rasping drive from the top of the box against the Czech Republic

IMAGE: Croatia's Ivan Perisic scores with a rasping drive from the top of the box against the Czech Republic. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Czech Republic closed in on the Euro 2020 knock-outs as a bloodied and battered Patrik Schick netted a first-half penalty to help them secure a 1-1 draw with Croatia.

Schick, who took his tally for the tournament to three, picked himself off the turf and wiped the blood from his nose and mouth before burying a 37th minute spot-kick, awarded after Dejan Lovren's flailing elbow clattered into the striker's face.

But that was not enough to secure victory, as Ivan Perisic produced a superb leveller shortly after the break to give Croatia renewed hope of making it through.

Perisic, who was restored to the left flank, was played in down the channel and he cut past two defenders before curling a powerful right-footed effort into the far corner.

That goal made him the first Croatian to score at four major tournaments after strikes at the last two World Cups and Euro 2016.

Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski draws Poland level with a towering header during the Euro 2020 Group E match against Spain

IMAGE: Robert Lewandowski draws Poland level with a towering header during the Group E match against Spain. Photograph: Julio Munoz/Getty Images

Goal-scoring machine Robert Lewandowski has found the net regularly at club level. His scoring record at Bayern Munich is impressive, but the striker is still to deliver as much for country.

Poland's all-time leading scorer with 66 goals had only scored twice at a major international tournament. In 12 games between the World Cup and the European championships, Lewandowski only scored twice: one against Portugal at Euro 2016 and another against Greece in Euro 2012.

However, on Saturday, the winner of this year’s Golden Boot, with 41 goals in 29 matches, and one of the favourites for the Ballon d’Or, was on target for Poland in the 1-1 draw against Spain. 

He had a clear chance to break his drought in the first half when he picked up a rebound inside the area and found himself free from markers in front of the net, but could not get the ball past Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon, who stopped the goal-bound ball with his chest.

However, nine minutes into the second half, Kamil Jozwiak curled in a pinpoint cross from the right and Lewandowski rose between two defenders to power a header beyond Simon and level the score after Alvaro Morata had put Spain ahead. It was his 67th goal in 121 appearances for Poland.

His goal haul, coupled with the Champions League title last summer, earned him the 2020 FIFA player of the year award in December. He had a quiet outing in the 2-1 defeat to Slovakia, but after Saturday's showing against Spain, Poland will surely be counting on the 32-year-old to deliver in the last league stage match against Sweden on Wednesday and take the team to the knock-out stage.

Antoine Griezmann

France's Antoine Griezmann scores against Hungary, at Puskas Arena, in Budapest.

IMAGE: France's Antoine Griezmann scores against Hungary. Photograph: Franck Fife/Reuters

Antoine Griezmann's a second-half equaliser earned France a 1-1 draw with Hungary. 

Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, Hungary nearly pulled off the biggest upset of Euro 2020 at the Puskas Arena, having forged ahead at the stroke of half-time through Attila Fiola.

Latching onto the ball after Roland Sallai won a header down the left flank, Fiola burst into the penalty area and held off defender Raphael Varane before clipping the ball into the bottom corner.

The World champions were frustrated by some stout defending as Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema wasted chances before Griezmann scored in the 66th minute to dampen the spirits of a crowd which gave Hungary unwavering support throughout the Group F match.

The Barcelona striker finished with a powerful shot after an uncharacteristic move. 

Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris kicked the ball down the middle from his penalty box. As the Hungarian defence watched it bounce, Mbappe got to it first. His square delivery was barely intercepted by Willi Orban, whose effort to clear only contrived to tee up a close-in finish for Griezmann.

It was Griezmann's 38th goal for France, moving him three behind third-place Michel Platini on the national team's scoring list, and he did a little celebratory dance in front of the blue-shirted fans.

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