Denmark vs The Czech Republic

A great game from two “underdog” teams

Kickoff for the Danes against the Czechs. I’ll be writing this as I watch.

I love these kinds of games, where two teams that are fairly talented with a couple of well-known players go up against each other. It’s a refreshing break from all of the teams like England and Spain where you know exactly what to expect from each player on the field. The Danish and Czech teams are more unpredictable, not as well known, and they have nothing to lose. Each player is fighting for their life because this could be their one and only chance for glory. They aren’t sure that they will qualify for a tournament like this again, and for the players who play in smaller leagues (like their own domestic league), this will be by far the largest stage they will ever play on.

I want to root for the Danes because I’ve always thought they were decent. But everybody else is also rooting for the Danes on account of the Christian Eriksen incident, and I hate being a sheep in the crowd, so I’ll try to be impartial here.

Nobody should underestimate the Czechs, though. They have a history of decent football and they have done well so far this tournament, especially with their man-in form Schick.

But hold that thought.

The Danes scored in the first 5 minutes of the game off of a classic corner kick to the center of the box, right near the penalty spot, where the number 8 Thomas Delaney headed it down into the ground and spiked it into the net.

Really poor defending from the Czechs on that goal. Not only was nobody man-marking the open goal scorer, nobody was even close to goal-side near him. There was a wide-open tunnel about twelve yards long between Delaney and the goal as he spiked the ball into the ground and towards the goal without any obstacles in the way. The keeper ought to be furious. Then again, people will wonder if the keeper’s positioning was a bit off… on first glance I would say yes, but I have to watch some more replays, so I’ll give the keeper the benefit of the doubt for now.

It’s really hard not to root for the Danes. Not only do they have a sentimental story. Not only are they tournament underdogs (everybody loves an underdog). But their attacking play is enjoyable. They go for the goal with no fear. As if they have disregarded any and all norms of the modern era. They take wild shots and expect to actually make them. They take bigger risks in real life than I do when I play FIFA. They are like a few young boys on the neighborhood soccer field, just having fun with the ball and taking chances as they come up.

The Czechs are also pretty ballsy on the attack. They are no stranger to shooting from outside the box, and they often look for early crosses to catch backlines off guard. But, it almost feels like they’re shooting for the sake of shooting. I’m not sure they really believe that they will score most of the time, whereas the Danes seem to have a genuine belief in themselves every time they attack. As I write this they’ve just performed two beautiful backheel passes.

The cheeky Czechs have been getting creative in their attempts to get in behind the defense. A long throw to a player who snuck behind the defenders towards the goal line, a nice splitting pass to Schink, and a dangerous corner have kept the Danes on their toes in the past few minutes. The Danes will either need to be tidier in their defense or score more goals if they want to keep this lead.

The Czechs have been playing a lot of long balls, but not in the “kick-and-run” style. They’ve been looking for diagonal long balls to swing the Danes from one side to another and spread them out. It’s a difficult pass to make, a thirty or forty-yard-high ball straight to the chest of a teammate waiting on the sideline or running into the box. So far it hasn’t broken down the Danish defense, but it has certainly tested them.

Kasper Schmeichel with a key save as he dives to the ground. He did a good job defending his near post as the Czechs made a diagonal through ball into the box. The Czechs have been putting in a lot of crosses, and while not much danger has come from it they have gotten a fair share of corners.

The Danes seem like they have slowed down quite a bit. They are low-pressure defensively, and in no intense rush offensively. Quite the opposite of the Czech style. The Czechs are enjoying some possession.

A second goal for the Danes! While the Czechs have had a higher quantity of chances, the Danish quality of each chance has been superb. The # 5 Maehle sent in a cross from the corner of the box with the outside of his foot, curving the ball opposite of its natural trajectory and away from the goal right to his man Kasper Dolberg at the far post who tucked it in with one touch.

Half Time

Time to fill up my drink. I had quite a bit yesterday. First, I had a few during the Switzerland Spain game, then my Italian friend came over to watch the Italy vs Belgium game, and naturally, we drank quite a bit throughout that game and then some more afterward to celebrate the win. Any good drinker knows that when you start drinking heavily, it’s rather irresponsible to stop altogether, so I kept the gravy train rolling and next thing I knew it was twelve hours later, and most of the beer was gone.

So, suffice it to say, I’ll perhaps go a bit lighter today. But beer and sports go together like… well… beer and sports. So, now that it’s 1 pm, and it is Saturday, I’ll be having myself a beer.

Second Half

Off the bat, The Czechs start with a strange formation. They lined up on the left side of the midline for kick-off like track runners and overloaded the left flank of the field the moment the half started. It seemed to be a flop of an idea, at first, but within a minute the Czechs have already tested Schmeichel twice and gotten a corner. The Czech know exactly where they stand in this game, and they are keen to score quickly and then keep scoring.

The Czech Republic with a goal!!

Peter Schick connected beautifully with a side-footed volley on a cross coming to him out of the air. Schick slots it in under Schmeichel’s outstretched arms for his fifth goal of the tournament, tying him with Ronaldo (eliminated) in the run for the golden boot.

Czech captain and West Ham player Soucek is bleeding out of his head, but it seems like it’s just a flesh wound. They have his head wrapped up in a bandage and he will continue playing.

Both teams looking a bit exhausted after 66 minutes of playing their fifth game in this tournament, but they both know that they should score—the Czechs to tie it up, and the Danes to give themselves a cushion against a dangerous Czech side.

This game looks like it will come down to who can have more moments of brilliance inside the box. Both keepers have played their parts well against decent attacks, so it will take something special to get past either one of them again.

Nine corners so far and yet no meaningful shots on goal from the Czechs. Corner-goal conversion rates are statistically pretty low, but one has to wonder why. Teams spend a lot of time working on their corner kick routines, and they are open crosses right into the box, so you would think more would come from them. But the defense always comes out on top.

Schmeichel fingertips away a dangerous freekick. The Leicester City keeper has really been a standout performer today, and if the Danes get through to the Semi-Final they will be hoping he can perform like this again.

The Czech keeper responds with his own big-boy save as he deflects a mid-range shot behind the goal line for a corner.

The Czechs replaced the man-in-form Schick for Vydra, hoping that fresh legs can get on the other side of their long diagonal balls and get the equalizer for the Czechs.

The Czechs with another bleeding head! No malice in it, but a Danish player fell onto the Czech defender during a corner kick with a hard elbow coming into the back of his head. They had to wrap a bandage around the head of the defender but it looks like he’ll continue playing alongside his fellow bandage-headed captain.

In these last few minutes, things are getting aggressive. Lots of meaty challenges shoves, and late tackles from both sides as they try desperately to get through to the next stage. The Czechs have picked up two yellows in the past five minutes, one of which was a bit questionable, and plenty of fouls have been called.

In stoppage time the Czechs have abandoned every tactic except for the hail-Mary long crosses. They are lobbing balls into the box from thirty or forty yards out, even while the Danes outnumber them in the box, and hoping for the best. The Danes meanwhile are holding a deep line and keeping the long crosses out. Desperation is not a good color for the Czechs, who are looking less dangerous with each passing moment.

The Danes are through to the semifinal!

It was a little sloppy at the end of the second half, but after two beautiful goals and a solid defensive effort against a dangerous Czech side, they deserved it.

Author: D.C. Gonk

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