Day Eight of The UEFA European Under-21 Championship took place on Friday. Serbia took on tournament favourites Spain, whilst Macedonia faced Portugal in Gdynia. Portugal and Spain were the only teams playing for something, with both Serbia and Macedonia already eliminated.
UEFA European Under-21 Championship Day Eight Review
Serbia 0 – 1 Spain
Macedonia 2 – 4 Portugal
Spain finish top of Group B
Matchday three saw tournament favourites Spain secure a semi-final spot. Making 11 changes from the previous game, Albert Celades’ team took all three points. They have set the benchmark so far, winning three games in a row. Barcelona midfielder Denis Suárez scored the one and only goal as captain of what was effectively a backup team. Depth will play a key factor in deciding who wins the tournament.
Spain went in on Friday with very little pressure, mainly because Portugal needed a miracle to qualify. On the day they fell short, beating Macedonia 4-2 only to finish in second. Always needing a win, Rui Jorge’ side also went in search of a clean sheet. This is where the previous game comes in. Star defender Ruben Semedo was suspended, a key loss for Portugal. Quality players like Semedo could have been the difference in a vital game. This loss leaves Group A runners-up Slovakia in the driving seat for the tournament’s “best runner-up” semi-final spot.
Three teams to battle for semi-final place
Portugal’s loss means Group A runners-up Slovakia currently own the title of “best runner-up”. So, what needs to happen for Pavel Hapal’s side to be dethroned? Well, with Group C still incomplete, Italy and the Czech Republic are still in play for a semi-final place. It’s this simple: both teams need to win by three clear goals. Italy face Germany and the Czechs play Denmark. Both are tough games, so Slovakia should be feeling confident. However, the Germans will likely rest players, like Spain. The Danish will be playing for pride and that’s all, so the Czechs must be aggressive.
Italy and the Czech Republic have seven Under-21 Championships to their names, so do not expect them to just lay down and give Slovakia an easy ride into the final four.
Player of the day—Bruma
Scoring a brace on the day, the RB Leipzig winger played a huge role in Portugal’s efforts to qualify. All in vein, Bruma still displayed excellent wing play. Using his blistering pace, the 22-year-old made more of an impact on the tournament as it went on. Playing a minimal role on matchday one, Jorge gave the talented wide man more playing time in games two and three. Maybe if he had been installed earlier, Portugal wouldn’t have gone out on goal difference.