Euro 2024 continued with another exciting slate of games. The three matches on Thursday had a huge effect on all six teams’ playoff chances in Germany.

Slovenia’s 1-1 draw against Serbia was surprisingly open. Slovenia held their own against a seemingly stronger Serbian squad, registering dozens of chances while keeping the Serbian attack frustrated. Slovenia went ahead in the 69th minute through Zan Karnicnik. Karnicnik started a counter-attack, switching the ball to an open Timi Elsnik striding down the field. Elsnik then smashed an amazing cross to the far post back to Karnicnik, who tapped in his shot to go up 1-0.

The Serbs pressed on for an equalizer and got in the 95th minute. With all of Serbia’s players (including the keeper) in the box with one last corner left, Ivan Ilic floated a great ball over to Luka Jović. Jović steered his header past the keeper and into the bottom left corner of the net to end the game at 1-1. Serbia has one point through two games, while Slovenia has two.

Denmark faced England as both battled for the top spot in their group. England went up early in the 17th minute, with fullback Kyle Walker creating a chance out of nothing. Walker powered a seemingly dead ball past the Denmark defense and strode into the box before sending a cutback into a crowded box. The ball ping-ponged around before landing at Harry Kane’s feet, who nearly tucked the ball into the bottom corner.

However, England decided not to push their lead further and maintain their attacking edge, and they paid dearly. Denmark equalized in the 33rd minute through Morten Hjulmand. Hjulmand blasted a long-range screamer from nearly 30 yards out into the bottom left corner, hitting the post as it rolled on the way in. England could not strike back as Denmark scraped out a narrow 1-1 win. Denmark has two points in two games, while England is in first with four.

The marquee matchup of the game saw a conservative Italy match up against an in-form Spain side. Spain dominated the tempo of the game, creating most of the chances, playing to its tempo, and stretching the Italian defense to its limit. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was tested several times by an unstoppable Spain defense, including a Fabian Ruiz long-range effort that took an incredible save to stop.

Spain got their big breakthrough in the 55th minute. Nico Williams tried to find Alvaro Morata in the box with a piercing cross, which he was able to tap slightly. Donnarumma couldn’t reach the ball in time, so center-back Riccardo Calafiori attempted to clear it. Unluckily, the ball cannoned into Calafiori’s shins as he scored the only goal of the game against his own team. Spain will book its spot at the top as group winners after taking three points from the game. Italy rests in second, with three points from two games.

On Friday, Slovakia will play Ukraine at 9 AM EST. The game will not be televised on FOX. Poland will play Austria at noon, with Jacqui Oatley joining Warren Barton to call the game on FS1. Ian Darke and Landon Donovan will commentate on France vs. Netherlands on FOX at 3 PM EST.

Three Things to Watch

To win against Slovakia, Ukraine needs to glue together attack

Ukraine’s shocking 3-0 loss to Romania was shocking on several fronts. The repeated mistakes from the porous Ukraine defense …… Ukraine’s attack was the key to their European success. It’s an entirely new-look team from last season. Mykhaylo Mudryk had a decent season for Chelsea, while Artem Dovbyk, Georgiy Sudakov, and Viktor Tsigankov are all prized by several top clubs. Their four attacking players make up one of the tournament’s best attacks. Ukraine did not score against Romania and struggled to get good shots off against the flexible Romania defense.

It stems not only from a lack of service from that defense but also from a lack of synergy and communication. It seems they haven’t come together as a national team and can’t predict what their teammates will play like or do. The result is clear; a disjointed attack unable to string together passes in the final third or challenging the keeper. For Ukraine to have any chance against another hard-nosed defense in Slovakia, Ukraine’s attack needs to step up not only as a team but as a unit.

Poland needs to summon new-found aggression to survive at Euro 2024.

For approximately 13 minutes in Hamburg, it seemed Poland didn’t need Robert Lewandowski, tending to a thigh injury, after all. His replacement, Adam Buksa, headed home from a Piotr Zielinski cross, and Poland took the lead, putting them in position for their first knockout-round berth since 2016. But, after the goal, it seemed like the fire that Poland possessed was quickly extinguished by its cynical playstyle. Poland threw as many as nine or ten players behind the ball and focused on defending, allowing the Dutch to find a rhythm and eventually come back. Poland’s issues, although a gap in quality played a part, boiled down to a lack of aggression and wastefulness in the final third.

It’s a good thing they’ll get their talismanic striker back in Lewandowski, especially considering he’s in meteoric form, having scored 26 goals in 49 matches. He brings a leadership role onto the field, a never-ending hunger on the pitch, and the finishing that Poland craves. With Lewandowski finally reaching fitness to the relief of many, Poland will finally play with the vigor it lacked on Sunday.

How will France’s lineup shake out?

Losing the best player in the world at Euro 2024 is a huge blow for manager Didier Deschamps and France. It’s especially concerning as they face their biggest test yet against a promising Netherlands side. Deschamps has a lot of questions that he’ll have to answer in Friday’s starting eleven.

The safest option for Deschamps is the reliable Olivier Giroud, who was important for France at the recent World Cup. His game is different than Mbappé, but his ability to hold up play as the number nine will be appreciated. Giroud’s performance as he looks to replace France’s gaping hole in attack will be very interesting in their game against the Netherlands.

In the News

Serbia recently threatened to quit Euro 2024 if UEFA did not open disciplinary action against Croatia and Albania due to hateful chanting. Both sets of fans reportedly chanted ‘Kill, kill the Serb” during their 2-2 draw on Wednesday. Serbia, last in their group with one point, was recently charged by UEFA for displaying provocative banners. Fans reportedly carried controversial flags, including one denying the sovereignty of Kosovo.

Robert Lewandowski will return to Poland’s starting eleven in time for their match against Austria. Lewandowski, who tore a thigh muscle and missed their opener against the Netherlands, figures to slot in as an important player for the Polish.

England gaffer Gareth Southgate told media that the lack of a replacement for defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips was the cause of their midfield woes. Southgate started natural fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold over several midfielders, reasoning that his vision and passing made him an obvious fit. However, Alexander-Arnold has struggled in the role, bringing Southgate’s tactics and team choices into question.

“I wanted to get Conor [Gallagher] on, we needed some energy and to press better,” Southgate said about substituting Alexander-Arnold. “[Alexander-Arnold] had some moments where he’s delivered what we thought he would. We know it’s an experiment and we know that we don’t have a natural replacement for Kalvin Phillips. We’re trying some different things and at the moment we’re not flowing as we’d like, that’s for sure.”

Captain Harry Kane linked the high amount of goals and long-range strikes to the anatomy of the new Adidas-manufactured ball. The Euros has seen exponentially more out-of-the-box goals than any other European Championship. Kane linked the trend to the official Euro 2024 ball, the Adidas Fussballliebe. “It’s quick,” Kane said. “For me, personally, it is better for the strikers or the goalscorers than for the goalkeepers. So, I’m not going to complain about that.”