eEuro 2020 sees De Gea save Spain, Mbappe lead France and Germany stumble

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The eEuro 2020 finals weekend began in earnest on Saturday as 16 nations came together to compete in the biggest international virtual football championship ever.

Whittled down from the 55 preliminary entrants, the teams — who are made up of between two and four gamers from their national efootball team, playing on Konami’s eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer 2020 on Playstation 4 — entered the final two-day phase of the competition having been drawn into four groups.

The group format is a little unorthodox, but basically four teams play two opening fixtures, with the winners of both games facing each other (the “Winners match”) knowing that another victory sees them automatically qualify for the quarterfinals.

The two losers also face each other (the “Losers match”), with the victor earning another chance at qualification for the next phase by facing the loser of the “Winners match” in an all-or-nothing tiebreaker.

The winner of this playoff then qualifies for the quarterfinals as group runner-up as the top two teams from each group go through.

Clear? Clear. Not like a UEFA tournament to be unnecessarily complicated, is it?

GROUP A

As you might expect, things began in Group A, where Spain and Germany were the heavyweight contenders amid a flurry of high-scoring opening bouts.

La Roja just about nudged past Romania by winning their first match 6-5, while their German rivals dished out a comprehensive 5-1 demolition to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Spain then ensured they finished top of the group with a 4-2 victory over Germany in the winner’s match — though they definitely had goalkeeper David De Gea to thank.

Bosnia were eliminated by Romania in the losers’ match, finding themselves on the wrong end of an 8-2 flaying.

However, they did leave eEuro 2020 with a parting gift in the shape of a marvellous consolation free kick from Miralem Pjanic.

Group A was then closed out with a shock result as Romania pipped Germany 4-3 in a tiebreaker, with a golden goal straight from kickoff which sent the former through alongside table-toppers Spain.

Spain 6-5 Romania
Germany 5-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Losers match: Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-8 Romania
Winners match: Spain 4-2 Germany
Tiebreaker match: Germany 3-4 Romania

GROUP B

In Group B, Italy found themselves inspired by a motivational message from real national team coach Roberto Mancini as they trounced Denmark 5-1 in their first game.

The Azzurri then met Serbia (who beat Turkey 6-1 in their opener) in the group winner’s match, only to sneak a dramatic 6-5 win over their opponents and ensure themselves top spot and a place in the knockouts.

Turkey then eliminated the Danes in flamboyant fashion in the Group B losers’ match — a 7-2 trouncing typified by this perfect, laser-guided pass from Oguzhan Ozyakup to set up Burak Yilmaz for the second goal.

Serbia then met Turkey in the Group B tiebreaker, with the former powering into the runner-up spot with a narrow 4-3 win.

Denmark 1-5 Italy
Serbia 6-1 Turkey
Losers match: Turkey 7-2 Denmark
Winners match: Italy 6-5 Serbia
Tiebreaker match: Serbia 4-3 Turkey

GROUP C

Group C began with Montenegro beating Luxembourg 2-1 and Netherlands squeezing out Croatia in a tense 3-2 thriller.

The Dutch then put a fine cap on things by beating their Montenegrin opponents 2-1 to finish top of the pile.

And so, Montenegro were pitted against Balkan rivals Croatia in the Group C tiebreaker, which saw both teams trading blows throughout a tight and attritional tie.

After extra time proved fruitless, the game was ultimately settled with a nervy penalty shootout.

Both sides missed a succession of spot kicks before Croatia snatched it deep, deep into sudden death as unlikely hero Dejan Lovren held his nerve amid the mounting pressure.

Montenegro 2-1 Luxembourg
Netherlands 3-2 Croatia
Losers match: Croatia 5-3 Luxembourg
Winners match: Montenegro 1-2 Netherlands
Tiebreaker match: Montenegro 2-2 Croatia (pens: 4-5)

GROUP D

Austria got Group D underway with a 2-1 victory over Israel, which was swiftly followed by France’s 3-2 spanking of Greece.

France then beat Austria 2-0 with Kylian Mbappe on the scoresheet in the winner’s match to finish top of the group and thus seal their own safe passage through to the quarters.

Israel were able to bounce back in the loser’s match, winning 2-1 and condemning Greece to their fate, landing themselves a berth in the Group D tiebreaker against old foes Austria — the second time the two nations had faced each other at eEuro 2020.

Another close, cagey skirmish ensued which remained goalless until two quick-fire goals in the space of two minutes propelled the Austrians into a commanding lead.

However, Israel wasted no time hauling themselves back into it as Eran Zahavi pulled one back to suddenly spark a fairly tepid tiebreaker into life.

Indeed, with the clock ticking over into the 85th minute, Israel scored again to square things up at 2-2 and usher in extra time and, eventually, penalties.

Austria scored their first two spot kicks then missed their next four as once again it took sudden death to separate the teams — Israeli sinking the decisive penalty to clinch that last remaining quarterfinal berth.

Austria 2-1 Israel
France 3-2 Greece
Losers match: Greece 1-2 Israel
Winners match: Austria 0-2 France
Tiebreaker match: Austria 2-2 Israel (pens: 2-3)


Quarterfinals, Sunday

Netherlands vs. Romania
Spain vs. Serbia
Italy vs. Israel
France vs. Croatia

Semifinals, Sunday

Netherlands/Romania vs. Spain/Serbia
Italy/Israel vs. France/Croatia