Day two of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship took place on Saturday. Tournament favourites Spain faced Macedonia in a match they were heavy favourites to win; Rui Jorge’s Portugal squad took on a Serbia side looking to pull off an upset.
UEFA European Under-21 Championship Day Two Review
Portugal 2 – 0 Serbia
Spain 5 – 0 Macedonia
Portugal struggle past Serbia
In an evenly-matched first half, forward Gonçalo Guedes gave Portugal the lead in the 37th minute. Serbia had their fair share of chances in the half, but Rui Jorge and his team had taken the advantage. Star man Andrija Živković had been pulling the strings all half, but his team-mates were failing to take the chances he was creating.
Changes were made by manager Nenad Lalatović, which led to Serbia taking control of the game. All of a sudden Serbia had more possession, more life and even some hope. However, they failed to make a breakthrough, with Portugal’s back four remaining solid. Liverpool’s Marko Grujić had the best opportunity, with the impressive youngster missing an open header from just five yards out.
With Serbia struggling to mount a comeback, Portugal made changes of their own. Bayern midfielder Renato Sanches entered the fray, and despite starting slowly, he created Portugal’s second goal to seal the victory.
What we learned
In a game played at a snail’s pace, Portugal had to fight in their group opener. Serbia proved to be a challenge for a talented Portugal side, who were too cautious after the break. The introduction of Sanches made very little difference, up until the second goal. This was a game where Serbia’s lack of talent cost them dear.
If Portugal play like this against group rivals Spain, it’s fair to predict there can only be one winner. This group is talented, but to play with such caution is a real waste. Regardless, they picked up the win and that’s all that matters.
Spain thrash Macedonia
In a first half full of chances for both sides, Spain’s quality showed as they took the lead through Saúl Ñíguez’s overhead kick, goalkeeper Igor Aleksovski palming the shot into his own net. Marco Asensio doubled their lead with a powerful shot and the Spanish began to take control. To cap off a good first half, Spain captain Gerard Deulofeu converted a penalty after a Egzon Bejtulai handball. Despite failing to find the net Macedonia played well, with Blagoja Milevski’s team forcing 24 attempts on goal.
Spain’s creative powers continued into the second half, with Asensio scoring in the 54th and 72nd minute to complete his hat-trick. Macedonia can be proud of their efforts. At times, they matched a possession dominant team, creating more than double the number of chances which their opponents could manage.
Spain: Tournament favourites for a reason
This was a quality performance from Spain. Clinical in front of goal and solid at the back, a reserved Celades will be happy with his players. A squad with this much depth and ability will go deep into the tournament. The Spanish have set the tone, with Germany and Italy next up on Sunday.
Next Tuesday, Spain are set to take on Portugal in Gydnia. Set to be one of the games of the tournament, Spain and Portugal both enter in similar situations. Winners on match day one, Spain come off an impressive performance, full of confidence. Portugal, on the other hand, had to fight Serbia for their three points. These are two sides full of quality, in a game which will decide the group winner.
Player of the day—Marco Asensio
Day two’s player of the day is Spain and Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio. The Spaniard put together a superb performance, scoring a hat-trick on the day. Today, the 21-year-old announced himself as a future star for club and country. If he can find a way to get into Real Madrid’s first team, this is one Spaniard who could find himself on a plane to Russia next year.