Euro 2020 - Belgium can see clearly now De Bruyne has come
Pete Sharland brings you Friday's Warm-Up. We look at the magnificence of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku and the sheer joy of watching Andriy Shevchenko's Ukraine team. Plus should you be lumping everything onto the Dutch for Qatar 2022? Plus a look ahead to England Scotland on Friday night and some bonus Sergio Ramos!
'He's sent a reminder after the Champions League final' - Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne shines once more
He entered Thursday’s game with his Belgium team trailing an impressive Denmark by a goal to nil. He then proceeded to put on an absolute masterclass having undergone surgery before the tournament to repair a fractured eye-socket.
Ironically it was De Bruyne who helped make things less foggy for Belgium, rather than the other way around. He immediately took hold of the game, linking well with the Hazard brothers and Romelu Lukaku.
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) against Denmark / Euro 2020
Image credit: Getty Images
His crowning moment was the assist for Thorgan Hazard’s equaliser. After brilliant work from Lukaku, who was once again superb, De Bruyne shaped up to slam the ball back into the net. But with the most delicate of touches he cutely dinked the ball to remove two Danish players from the equation. Rather than shoot with his newly-created space De Bruyne squared the ball for the on-rushing Hazard to have an easy tap in.
The scary thing Is that De Bruyne was only fit for a half. It’s bad news for the rest of the Euros when he hits top gear.
Did anyone predict the Netherlands would be two for two at this stage of Euro 2020? Surely not given they are up against everyone’s dark horse darlings Ukraine and David Alaba’s Austria.
But here we are, with the Netherlands looking pretty solid in their first two matches and a sense that they can still play better. They’re doing this of course without star man and captain Virgil van Dijk. And without the manager who got them there, Ronald Koeman.
Memphis Depay (Netherlands) scored a goal against Austria / Euro 2020
Image credit: Getty Images
Yet barring a potential embarrassment in the round of 16 we need to give some credit to Frank De Boer. The 3-4-3 is working nicely, particularly for someone like Denzel Dumfries, as well as the new captain and latest PSG signing Georginio Wijnaldum. Across the squad there are so many exciting young players who should have burst into the starting XI come Qatar next year such as Ryan Gravenberch, Jurrien Timber and Donell Malen. Not to mention the likes of Sven Botman, Steven Bergwijn, Mohamed Ihattaren and Myron Boadu who didn’t make this year’s team. Add in Van Dijk? That’s tasty.
The Warm-Up isn’t saying put your life savings on the Dutch to win the World Cup next year. But we’re not saying you shouldn’t…
Ain’t no party like a Shevchenko party
Ukraine’s opening match of Euro 2020 against the Netherlands was terrific fun. They were pretty much dead and buried at 2-0 down only to then find life through a ridiculous goal from Andriy Yarmolenko. They came back to 2-2 only to lose right at the death in heartbreaking fashion.
It was particularly reassuring for the Warm-Up to see Andriy Shevchenko’s side pick up where they left off when they faced North Macedonia. There were three goals in this game. The first came form a corner that everyone on the pitch seemed to be willing towards the back post for Yarmolenko. The second was a wonderful passing move finished off in style. The third came on the rebound after a brilliant penalty save.
Ukraine's coach Andrey Shevchenko reacts during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group C football match between Ukraine and North Macedonia at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 17, 2021
Image credit: Getty Images
And that wasn’t all of it. In the build-up to the penalty there was a blistering save that was even better than the one from the spot. Goran Pandev had a wonderful dinked effort ruled out for offside. Oh and we had another penalty. That one was saved too. Shevchenko’s young Ukraine side are a joy to watch, here’s hoping they never change.
IN NON-EUROS NEWS
Spurs doing their best to convince Kane to stay
You might think if you were Tottenham Hotspur and your best player and captain, Harry Kane, had made it known through the media that he wants to leave that you would do everything in your power to stop that happening. Kane is one of just two world-class players currently in the squad along with fellow forward Son Heung-min.
Now, correct the Warm-Up if we’re wrong. But we’re not entirely sure if the best strategy is to go after the manager who was sacked to be replaced by the manager who you sacked in the first place. And we’re pretty confident it definitely isn’t the best strategy to then pull out of trying to hire that manager to bring in another manager who just left his new club after 23 days and once nearly started World War Three with one of your former assistant coaches.
Yes, for a brief moment, it looked as though the new Spurs manager would not be former Serie A title winner Antonio Conte or former Europa League semi-finalist Paulo Fonseca, but rather everyone’s favourite midfield hard man, Gennaro Gattuso. Insert your favourite Gattuso press conference video, this is ours.
However, almost as quickly as talks began, they seem to have come to an end. Gattuso won't be in the dugout at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium any time soon, but it’s really hard to see how either he or Fonseca would have inspired a change in heart for Kane.
If Daniel Levy’s answer to the questions from fans and Kane is a manager who quit because his new club wouldn’t let him sign players represented by his agent, Jorge Mendes, then he was not going to like the state of his inbox if he actually brought in the former Milan midfielder.
IN OTHER NEWS
Hey Sergio, Come to Besiktas
We don’t think the Turkish champions have re-launched their viral recruiting campaign from 2017 sadly.
But what we do know is that there is going to be a fierce bidding war for Sergio Ramos’ services this summer who revealed he wanted to stay but ran out of time to sign a new deal at Real Madrid, which probably is as preposterous as it sounds.
Yes he’s a card liability and yes he is 35 years of age but pretty much every club in Europe should be interested in signing Ramos. Of course he’ll be expensive the but the experience of winning he brings is more than worth it. He would be great for pretty much every locker-room.
Some people (read: “proper football blokes”) have scoffed at the idea of Ramos in the Premier League, as if a 36-year-old Thiago Silva was not one of the best defenders in the league last season and helped Chelsea win the Champions League. He has been linked with Manchester United and Manchester City in England.
The favourites, unsurprisingly given their riches are PSG, who are still looking for their composure in a big game last time we checked. Emotionally the Warm-Up would absolutely love to see Ramos return to Sevilla for a last hurrah. He’d still be in the Champions League and could help his local club take the next step in breaking into Spain’s “Big Three.”
IN THE CHANNELS
Well played Andriy.
'Contact me!' - Yarmolenko's new twist on bottle-moving at Euro 2020
This week’s England-Scotland group game marks 149 years not only of football’s quintessential rivalry but the international game itself. This will be their 115th meeting. They confront one another now with the political divide wider than at any point in that century and a half.
We don’t always like doing this but sometimes we have to, and this was excellent from our very own Paul Hayward on what England v Scotland means in 2021.
It’s England v Scotland. We were never picking anything else.
Did we mention it is England v Scotland? We’ve got the incomparable duo of Marcus Foley and the aforementioned Paul Hayward at Wembley to bring you all the reaction from what should be a fascinating game.
Before that we’ve got Sweden v Slovakia to start with and then Croatia v Czech Republic after that. Sweden and Croatia are both under pressure to get good results, with the former hopefully showing some more expansive stuff after holding Spain in their opening game, whilst the latter need to get their campaign going having lost their first match to England.
There’s also another episode of the podcast collaboration between Eurosport and The Beautiful Game as well as the imperious Desmond Kane bringing you all the news from the start of the US Open.
Andi Thomas has filled his fridge with a certain soft drink in the hopes of bringing in another money to buy a small island and retire. Until then he’s chasing his dream by bringing you a double weekend Warm-Up on both Saturday and Sunday!