FC Daily: Spain, Germany eye top spots; Argentina, U.S. face off
Tuesday, June 21, is a veritable football feast! Four final group games at Euro 2016 are followed by Argentina and the U.S. facing off in the Copa America semifinal. FC Daily has all you need to know to follow today's action.
Matches of the day
- Northern Ireland vs. Germany (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET on ESPN): Both Northern Ireland and Germany are vying for a place in the round of 16 as the group stages draw to a close. A win will likely take Joachim Low's men through in top spot, but to that they'll need to show a level of character and personality that's been lacking in recent times, according to Raphael Honigstein. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, are flying high after their excellent 2-0 win over Ukraine and winger Jamie Ward is feeling bullish about their chances.
- Ukraine vs. Poland (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET on ESPN2): Group C's other match sees Ukraine (the first team eliminated from Euro 2016) and Poland clash. Nick Ames says that Poland has the quality to go all the way and they'll be keen on top spot, but even if they somehow lose Tuesday's game and drop down to third, four points is likely to be enough for Adam Nawalka's charges to reach the round of 16.
- Croatia vs. Spain (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET on ESPN): Spain and Croatia will battle in Bordeaux to decide which nation will finish atop Group D on Tuesday. Defending champions Spain have taken two wins from two and are coming off an impressive 3-0 thrashing of Turkey on Friday. Meanwhile, Croatia might be kicking themselves after allowing a two-goal lead against the Czech Republic turn into a dissatisfying 2-2 draw in a game that was marred by protesting Croatian fans throwing flares and other projectiles onto the pitch. Vicente Del Bosque's men have already secured their spot in the knockout stages, but Luka Modric & Co.'s ticket will certainly be punched with a draw in this matchup, and they would overtake Spain at the group's summit with a victory. If neither happen, however, they still could -- and likely would -- go through as a third-place finisher.
- Czech Republic vs. Turkey (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET on ESPN2): The Czech Republic still have much to play for against point-less Turkey in the second Group D match. A win against Fatih Terim's side coupled with a Croatia loss to Spain could be enough to see Pavel Vrba's men finish in second place, depending on the various tiebreakers. There's just one catch, however: They must do it without midfielder Tomas Rosicky, who will miss the remainder of the competition with a thigh injury. All's not lost for Turkey, either. Yet to be eliminated, a win in Lens might be enough for them to advance as one of the top four third-place finishers with just three points, although their lopsided 3-0 defeat to Spain on Friday will prove a difficult hurdle to overcome.
- United States vs. Argentina (9 p.m. ET/2 a.m. CET on Fox): Copa America hosts the United States are huge underdogs in Tuesday's semifinal against Argentina in Houston. La Albiceleste, spearheaded by Lionel Messi, cruised through the group stage before thumping Venezuela 4-1 in their quarterfinal. Argentina head coach Gerardo Martino says that it's "only logical" that the U.S. will be looking to neutralise Messi's threat, however, ESPN's Jason Davis believes Jurgen Klinsmann will need to do much more than that.
Three key points
1. England, England, England. Just when you expected them to ride their wave of momentum to top spot in Group B, they can't break through Slovakia and draw 0-0 to finish second. Roy Hodgson has played down concerns England may face stronger opposition after finishing as a runner-up and said: "I'm not frightened of anybody." But he's not fooling anyone. The more England change, the more they remain the same, writes Chris Jones.
2. Turns out that to put in a stellar 3-0 thrashing, you had to have LOST the previous game. Wales did that and hammered Russia to make sure they were top. Chris Coleman expressed pride in his Wales players well: "As a nation geographically we're small, but I think if you're judging us on passion then we could be described as a continent tonight, because that was amazing." Meanwhile, Russia coach Leonid Slutsky indicated that he would quit his post after watching his side crash out. And who could blame him.
3. How important is Copa America to Argentina? The South American giants have appeared in two finals in the past two years, but still have nothing to show for it. In fact, it's been over two decades since La Albiceleste last won major tournament. Is that good enough for a team that is built around Messi -- one of the greatest players ever to grace a pitch? With that in mind, Martino's men will surely have one eye already on the Copa final, which gives the U.S. the very real chance of an upset. Klinsmann knows that. This game will be tighter than expected.
Player of the Day
United States centre-back John Brooks has had a stellar tournament for the hosts, and it's starting to make some of Europe's biggest clubs sit up and take notice. Brooks' club, Hertha Berlin, have already come out and said that they have no interest in selling their young star, but if the 23-year-old can do a job on Messi and Co. you can expect that transfer interest to shoot through the stratosphere.
Tweet of the day
Stat of the Day
Germany's Thomas Muller, who has bagged 10 World Cup goals in 13 matches, he is still seeking his first Euros goal (seven matches played entering this match). Meanwhile, the Germans have never lost to a team making its debut at Euros (7-3-0); the only debutants to earn a draw against then are Greece (1980), Portugal (1984) and Latvia (2004).
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