Portugal ease past Turkey to book spot in knockout phase

Published June 23, 2024
DORTMUND: Portugal’s Bernardo Silva (third R) shoots to score during the Group ‘F’ match against Turkey at the BVB Stadion on Saturday.—Reuters
DORTMUND: Portugal’s Bernardo Silva (third R) shoots to score during the Group ‘F’ match against Turkey at the BVB Stadion on Saturday.—Reuters

DORTMUND: Portugal cruised to a 3-0 win against Turkey on Saturday and booked their spot in the Euro 2024 last 16 as Group F winners thanks to a Bernardo Silva strike, an own-goal by Samet Akaydin and a Bruno Fernandes tap-in.

Silva scored his first goal in a major international tournament in the 21st minute when a cross from Nuno Mendes deflected off a Turkish defender to find the Manchester City forward ghosting alone in the area, who then smashed it past the goalkeeper to put the Portuguese ahead.

Seven minutes later, Turkish defender Akaydin made a comical mistake as he tried to play the ball back to his goalkeeper who was out of position and there was nothing he could to stop it from rolling into the net despite their desperate attempts to keep it out.

Portugal kept dominating and extended their lead after substitute Ruben Neves set Cristiano Ronaldo free with a long ball to beat the offside line and, after drawing in the goalkeeper, squared the ball for Fernandes who only had to tap it into an empty goal.

The win lifts Portugal to a guaranteed first place in Group F on six points, three ahead Turkey in second and five ahead of Georgia and Czech Republic with one game to go.

European Championship newcomers Georgia held the Czechs to a 1-1 draw earlier on Saturday, taking a shock lead through a Georges Mikautadze penalty before an equaliser off the chest of Patrik Schick.

Though Georgia will be proud of a first point at a major tournament against a team ranked 40 places higher, it could have been even better, substitute Saba Lobjanidze squandering a glorious chance to win the game at the death.

Both teams need to win their final group matches to progress to the knockout stages in Germany.

In an intense game at Hamburg’s Voklsparkstadion, Mikautadze sent Czech goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek the wrong way with his spot-kick in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time after a handball by Robin Hranac.

That came against the run of play after the Czechs had dominated and goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili made a string of superb saves to keep his team in the game.

But Schick got the equaliser the Czechs deserved in the 59th minute, steering the ball in with his chest after Ondrej Lingr’s glancing header from a corner bounced off the post.

“We had a bit of a bad luck today, we had chances to win, but in the end we managed to draw and the point may after all mean qualifying, we have no options left but to win against the Turks,” Lingr said.

Georgia had a glorious chance right at the end of the match to win the game but at the end of a three-on-one break, substitute Lobjanidze blazed over with just the goalkeeper to beat.

“Our first point is a historic moment, of course we could have won right at the last, I am disappointed about that but this is football and anything can happen,” said Mama­rdashvili. “Of course it’s an important moment but he needs to keep on going. He should be proud, we earned our first point.”

Netherlands, France edge closer to last 16**

In late action on Friday, France and the Netherlands edged towards the last 16 from Group ‘D’ after a 0-0 draw in Leipzig that failed to catch fire in the absence of Kylian Mbappe.

With France captain Mbappe remaining on the bench after suffering a broken nose in their opener, the game sparked only in fits and starts, without ever threatening to turn into a classic.

Both sides squandered chances and had periods of control, but neither could find a breakthrough and eased off the throttle in the second half, seemingly content to claim a point.

The one moment of drama after the break came when Dutchman Xavi Simons had the ball in the net but it was disallowed because Denzel Dumfries, standing offside next to keeper Mike Maignan, was penalised with the decision confirmed by VAR after a lengthy review.

Les Bleus had won both meetings when these sides met in qualifying but Mbappe scored four of France’s six goals in those games.

France coach Didier Deschamps hinted that his decision to leave Mbappe out may have been different for a knockout game, but it was not worth the risk with his side almost certain to reach the next round.

The result leaves the group open, although with four points in the bag both France and the Netherlands will think they have most likely done enough to reach the last 16.

France next face Poland, who have no points and are the first side to be eliminated after losing 3-1 to Austria earlier on Friday, while the Netherlands meet the Austrians, who have three points, also on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2024

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