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U-21 Euros Roundup: Portugal, Sweden Meeting In The Final

Photo courtesy of the AP

After two pretty one-sided semifinals, Portugal and Sweden will meet up in the Under-21 European Championship Final in Prague. Portugal demolished Germany, and Sweden were victorious over Denmark.

Portugal and Germany played the early semifinal on Saturday. The Germans were pre-tournament favorites, but didn’t fully convince during the group stage, winning one game (3-0 over Denmark) and drawing against the Czech Republic and Serbia. Despite finishing second in Group A, Germany was the slight favorite heading into the game against Portugal.

The Portuguese won Group B ahead of Sweden and came flying out the gate against Germany. There was no doubt that it would be a green and red evening when Bernardo Silva scored the opening goal in the 25th minute. Sergio Oliveria had a shot go off the post in the 15th minute, and you could see the tendency starting right there.

It was 3-0 Portugal at halftime after goals by Ricardo and Ivan Cavaleiro, and the Germans just looked defeated at that point. No matter what they tried, nothing was working. And whenever Portugal got into the final third of the pitch it felt like it was going to end with a scoring opportunity.

Joao Mario and Ricardo Horta scored in the second half as Portugal took a dominating 5-0 win over the Germans. It was humiliation at the highest level, as the Germans’ lackluster performance sees them crashing out of the tournament.

The Portuguese had seven shots on target, and five of them ended up in the back of the net. It was amazing to see a team of Germany’s pedigree get outplayed like they were. Portugal played with speed, made runs behind the German defense and were clinical in the attacking half.

Bernardo Silva has lived up to all the hype surrounding him during the tournament, and he was a constant threat anytime he had the ball. Portugal will head into the final against Sweden full of confidence.

Sweden defeated Denmark 4-1 in the battle of Scandinavia in the second semifinal on Saturday. The Swedes have been the biggest fairytale story of the tournament, going back to the qualification playoff where they knocked off France. Sweden were predicted to finish last in Group B behind mighty England, Italy and Portugal.

But a 2-1 win over Italy despite going down 1-0 and playing with 10 men, and a point against Portugal in the final group game saw the Swedes go through to the semifinals.

They played extremely well against Denmark, and took the lead through John Guidetti as he converted a penalty kick in the 23rd minute. Just three minutes later, Simon Tibbling, who scored the vital equalizer in the game against Portugal, made it 2-0 Sweden. Tibbling got a pass from Guidetti inside the penalty area and slotted the ball into the back of the net.

The Danes played a little better at the start of the second half, and Uffe Bech made things interesting when he got Denmark on the scoreboard in the 63rd minute. Denmark kept pressing for an equalizer, but left themselves vulnerable for the counter attack. Instead of a Danish equalizer, we saw Robin Quasion make it 3-1 for Sweden in the 83rd minute. Quasion came into the the penalty area after a nicely timed run and shot through the legs of the Danish goalkeeper Jakob Jensen.

Oscar Hiljemark then made it 4-1 in the dying seconds of the game. Sweden’s Cinderella story continues and although the Portuguese players will be confident, so will the Swedes. The never-say-die attitude of the Swedish players is admirable and the vibe the players give off in interviews and on the pitch is electrifying.

Swedes are generally pretty reserved people, but these young kids are cocky (in a good way) and don’t shy away from making a bold statement or two. It will be a thrilling rematch on Tuesday in Prague between the two sides, and this time it won’t end in a draw.

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