Euro Daily: June 14, 2021
Day 4 of the European Championships will see another trio of fixtures played out, as the likes of Spain and Scotland eye a potentially crucial positive start to the tournament.
Below, check out five things you need to know about Monday’s action.
1) Spain’s Covid chaos
The most high-profile Euro 2020 clash set to play out today comes in the form of Spain’s showdown with Sweden.
La Roja are, alongside Germany, the most successful nation in Euros history, having gone all the way on three separate occasions. They are also the only country to ever repeat as champions, having won back-to-back European Championships either side of a World Cup triumph in 2010.
To say that Spain’s pre-tournament preparations this time around have not exactly gone according to plan, though, would be putting it lightly.
Just over a week prior to their opening meeting with Sweden, La Roja’s camp was rocked by news of star midfielder Sergio Busquets returning a positive test for Covid-19. This was swiftly followed by Leeds United defender Diego Llorente also testing positive for the virus.
As a result, Spain’s stars have been forced into a period of self-isolation. The country were even forced to field a completely separate squad of players for their final warm-up outing versus Lithuania.
With the likes of Sergio Ramos and Marco Asensio having not even been called up by Luis Enrique, will the Spaniards be able to get back on track in time?
2) Sweden’s missing men
Spain, however, are not the only nation unable to call on a number of key men on Monday.
That fate has also fallen on Sweden, having seen any faint hopes of replicating the country’s heroics of 1992 (when they reached the final-4 of the Euros) all but ruined by a stretch of torrid luck on the personnel front.
First, just a matter of weeks before the competition’s commencement, star striker and talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic was ruled out of contention with a knee injury. The AC Milan hitman is fresh off the back of a fine campaign in Serie A, and only announced his return from international retirement back in March.
Ibra, however, is not the only member of Janne Andersson’s attack set to play no part over the coming weeks. This comes with Dejan Kulusevski, like the aforementioned Busquets and Llorente, having this week tested positive for Covid-19.
The talented starlet last month finished out his debut campaign with Juventus, and was expected to carry his fine late-season form onto the international stage. ‘Kulu’, though, will play no part this evening, with his participation at the tournament as a whole looking up in the air as things stand.
3) The Hampden Roar
Sunday marks the day which Scotland fans across the nation have been patiently awaiting for 23 years. The Tartan Army have not featured at a single major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France.
This summer, though, backed by the talents of a host of Premier League stars – Scott McTominay, Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson to name but a few – the Scots will no doubt be hopeful of defying the odds, to book a spot in the tournament’s knockout round. Croatia’s opening day defeat to England has set the stage nicely for Steve Clarke’s men.
Making Scotland’s return to the major international scene all the more special is the fact that two of their three group stage outings, including today’s versus the Czech Republic, will come at Hampden Park. 12,000 supporters are set to make their way to Glasgow, as the iconic ‘Hampden Roar’ inches ever closer to a return.
4) Napoli face-off
Sunday’s 2nd Euro 2020 fixture will see Poland and Slovakia go head-to-head in Saint Petersburg. Both sides will be desperate to get off to a winning start, eyeing up qualification behind predicted Group E table-toppers Spain.
Of the interesting side-notes surrounding the clash, one of particular intrigue comes in the form of the potential midfield battle between a pair of Napoli teammates.
Piotr Zielinski is expected to play a starring role for Poland this summer, having continued to add to his glowing reputation as one of Serie A’s finest creators throughout the recently completed campaign. The 27-year-old boasts an eye for a defence-splitting pass, but is also more than capable of getting on the scoresheet himself, and enters the Euros amid a fine spell of form which has seen him directly contribute to 5 goals in his last 5 appearances.
Ready to halt Zielinski’s efforts before they begin, however, could well be Napoli teammate Stanislav Lobotka.
The Slovak is fresh off the back of a considerably more challenging campaign at the Stadio San Paolo, which saw him appear in just 15 of the Partenopei’s league outings. Nevertheless, Lobotka remains an unquestionably talented deep-lying midfielder, and could well be tasked with marking Zielinski, if afforded a start by Stefan Tarkovic this evening.
5) Keep an eye out for Adam Hlozek
Our player to keep an eye out for on Monday comes in the form of Adam Hlozek.
18-year-old Hlozek is widely regarded as one of the finest talents produced by the Czech Republic in some time, as evidenced by his remarkable haul of 15 goals and 8 assists in just 19 league appearances this past season. The Sparta Prague man possesses a whole host of impressive attacking traits, with his ability to line out either on the wing or in a central role likely to have proven key to his eventual selection this summer.
Hlozek is yet to get off the mark for his country, but, with game-time – whether in a starting role or as a substitute – all but guaranteed over the weeks ahead, expect that to change in the very near future.
Adam Hložek has been voted the Sparta Player of the Year by fans. https://t.co/juibWkclQo
— Czech Football 🇨🇿 (@czechfooty) June 6, 2021