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Euro 2024: The East in Germany Part II

Part 2

Three more teams…

Group C: Slovenia · Serbia

Appearing at its second Euro since 2000, Slovenia, the smallest country in these finals, relied on its experienced goalkeeper, Jan Oblak, and its promising forward, Benjamin Šeško, to help make this tournament memorable – so far so good!

Reaching the knockout stages despite finishing third after their assistant coach, Milivoje Novaković received a yellow card. This was the decisive factor separating them and Denmark in Group C with both countries finishing on identical records across the table.

After qualifying from the same group on the same points, the 2-1 win to Denmark separated the two. Having drawn 1-1 in the group stages, another 1-1 draw in Stuttgart was spurred on by strong support from the crowd, motivating the team push to the end, not forgetting that left-back Erik Janža levelled the score in the 77th minute.

A 95th-minute equaliser from Luka Jović saw Serbia win their first point and spoil the party for Slovenia after Žan Karničnik put his country in the lead in the 69th minute. Slovenia was seconds away from their second major tournament victory and qualification into the knockouts.

Following their opener against England, Serbia manager, Dragan Stojković, criticised his team for respecting England “too much” after losing 1-0 against England. This allowed Serbia to apply pressure in the second half after they lost their intensity initially. Serbia once again started slowly in their second game against Slovenia.

Debuting for the first time as ‘Serbia’ at a Euro, the squad consisted of players from clubs in ten European countries and Saudi Arabia.

The final games of both countries finished 0-0 with mixed emotions. Despite their talented offensive capabilities, Serbia only managed to score a single goal in three games in Germany, and had only one shot on target in their final game, leaving it very late again in the final minutes after the regulated 90 minutes.

On the other hand, earning their third draw was a cause for celebration in Cologne after a composed Slovenian defence frustrated a desperate England side under severe pressure.

Group D: Poland

After a disappointing qualifying run, which saw it struggle against even the likes of 155th-ranked Moldova, Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland ensured their qualification in the tensest circumstances, beating Wales in a penalty shootout in Cardiff.

Despite this being their fifth consecutive Euro appearance, Poland has repeatedly failed to impress at tournaments.

As the last team to qualify and the first to exit Euro 2024, they faced a difficult group of opponents, with favourites France and the Netherlands, as well as the dark horse Austria to beat.

After suffering from an injury in the final pre-tournament friendly, Poland’s campaign began without their talisman Robert Lewandowski. However, his replacement Adam Buksa flicked in the opener at the near post from a corner in the 16th minute. Unfortunately for them, an 83rd-minute winning goal from Wout Weghorst meant that the Netherlands would take all three points.

Having equalised in the 30th minute after a goal from Krzysztof Piątek after conceding one in the 9th minute, the second game against Austria put both countries in a tricky situation, as a defeat would most likely send them the losers home. Two late goals by Austria despite Poland’s improved efforts, followed by a 0-0 draw later in the day between France and the Netherlands ultimately sent Poland home. Due to their head-to-head record, Poland could not finish above Austria even if they managed to beat France and Austria lost their final group match.

Going into the France game, Poland only had pride to play for now. Having conceded a penalty in the 56th minute, it was then a 79th-minute penalty-repeat for Poland which was frustrating for France as they had now finished second and faced a more difficult last 16 fixture. Even though France dominated the game with 58% possession and 19 opportunities to score, Poland was able to leave Germany with some sense of pride. It now faces a future without its star Lewandowski but must improve at tournaments.

For the match analysis on Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine from Group E, and Turkey, Georgia and Czechia from Group E: read here.

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