By Joe Behan
Here’s a look of some of the highlights of last week’s Euro 2000 action:
Portugal 3, England 2
Portugal eclipsed Yugoslavia with a superb comeback against England. Down 2-0 after 20 minutes, the Portuguese scored three unanswered goals. But for the opening 20 minutes, the Portuguese were always in control and they made you think that they could score at any time. England had no answer for Portugal’s three world-class midfielders, Rue Costa, Luis Figo, Jo Pinto. Each individual can beat you. Just as in those heart stopping days with Newcastle, yet again a keen side was caught out at the back as Portugal responded with devastating effect to drive hole after hole in the beleaguered England back four. Figo scored a magnificent goal giving goalkeeper David Seaman no chance. Seven minutes before the break Pinto drew the Portuguese level. They are definitely a team who can make noise in Euro 2000. They’ve got a bit of everything and no wonder they’ve been called the Brazilians of European football.
Portugal 1, Romania 0
Portugal stole the points against the unlucky Romanians. A goal 5 minutes into extra time gave the Portuguese the win and put them through to the quarterfinal stages. To add insult to injury, the middle m’stro, Hagi, received a yellow card, his second of the tournament, and will miss the England game, which was to be his swan song to international football. Hagi led Galatasaray to the UEFA Cup. His skill, vision and trickery will be sorely missed by the national side and will be nearly impossible to replace.
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England 1, Germany 0
Alan Shearer gave England victory in a game the Germans can feel hard done by, all their pressure coming to nothing. England again will have to thank goalkeeper David Seaman, who pulled off some crucial saves. This win puts England in the driver’s seat and a win against the already eliminated Romanians will see them through to the quarterfinals.
Norway 1, Spain 0
Spain, tipped by many to win Euro 2000, got off to a terrible start. Tottenham Hotspurs Stefan Iversen capitalized on an error by Real Madrid’s young goalkeeper, Canizares, coming out for a ball he should have been nowhere near. Iversen did well to get to the ball and make a huge leap to head the ball into an empty net. The Spanish goalkeeper, who looked nervous throughout the game — mishandling and miskicking clearances — never looked like the keeper we have seen this year playing for Real Madrid. Norway did not help the game by getting 10 players behind the ball wearing the opposition down and waiting for that one chance or mistake.
Spain 2, Slovenia 1
Spain picked up their first points of Euro 2000. The Spanish got off to a flyer when Real Madrid’s Raul put them up after 5 minutes. Manzahovic did it again for Slovenia. He scored his third goal of the tournament, but the Spanish, facing an early exit again in a major competition, got the go ahead goal from Etxeberria.
Yugoslavia 1, Norway 0
Savo Milosevic’s 8th-minute effort was enough to give Yugoslavia full share of the points in this crucial Group C encounter. Yugoslavia go into today’s game knowing a point will be good enough to see them through to the quarterfinals.
France 2, Czech Republic 1
France showed all their class in beating the Czech Republic with goals from Henry and Djorkeaff. Pobersky pulled one back for the Czechs . The ever-improving French looked a class act and are now favorites to lift the cup. Their passing and movement were a joy to watch. The only thing missing from the French World Cup winning team was a center forward. The French are blessed with two now, Arsenal’s Thiery Henry and Real Madrid’s Nicholas Anelka. Henry is one of the top strikers on show this week and it would not be surprising to see him winning the golden boot for top goal scorer at Euro 2000. His blistering pace and eye for goal is unstoppable at the moment and with Zidane on fire again and the rest playing their part, it’s hard to see anybody other than the French winning Euro 2000.
Holland 3, Denmark 0
It took Holland a long time to finish off a stubborn Danish side that had the better of the first-half exchanges. It was like someone switched the Dutch on. Their second-half display was something we are accustomed to seeing: quick fluent passing, an ability to switch play and start an attack.
Yugoslavia 3, Slovenia 3
Yugoslavia and Slovenia faced off for the first time as Europe’s only representatives from the Balkans in a Group C showdown. Slovenia raced into a three-goal lead. Savo Milosevic scored twice to put the first time finalists in the driving seat. For Yugoslavia, Sinisa Mihajlovic got sent off for two stupid incidents. He got a yellow card for squaring up to the referee and a second, followed by a red card for pushing a Slovenian player. This seemed to ignite the Slavs, they went out with the nothing to lose attitude and it paid off. Substitute Savo Milosevic, the ex-Aston villa striker, came on and scored with an easy tap in. The Slavs at this stage took control. The Slovenians were on the ropes at this stage Ljubinko Drulovic finished of a great move from the Slavs. His powerful drive gave them their second.
Italy 2, Belgium 0
Italy quietly moved into the quarterfinal stages with goals from Francesco Totti and Stefano Fiore. The Italians seem to have got together at the right time. They will sit back, soak up pressure, then hit on the counterattack score and they close up shop.