• Wednesday, July 24, 2024

FOOTBALL

Euro 2024: Bellingham stars as England beat Serbia; Dutch edge Poland

The England vs Serbia Euro game had been declared “high risk” by German police, and there were minor clashes between rival fans before kick-off.

England’s midfielder #10 Jude Bellingham celebrates with his teammate after scoring a goal against Serbia on Sunday. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

England started their quest for a first major tournament title in 58 years with a 1-0 win over Serbia, thanks to Jude Bellingham’s header. On the same day, the Netherlands secured a late 2-1 victory over Poland.

Christian Eriksen made a significant return to the European Championship by scoring the opening goal for Denmark, though they were held to a 1-1 draw by Slovenia.

England, considered one of the favourites for the tournament, aimed for glory under manager Gareth Southgate. Despite the victory, their performance in Gelsenkirchen left room for improvement. Bellingham, however, stood out with a man-of-the-match display, underscoring his rising status in world football.

“The first half showed why we can score goals against any team and the second half showed why we can keep clean sheets against any team,” said Bellingham. “I feel like in every game I can make an impact. I can decide a game. It’s a release for me to play football, it’s my favourite thing in the world, so I don’t feel any pressure when I go out there.”

At 20 years old, Bellingham became the first European player to participate in three major tournaments before turning 21. He capped his impressive individual performance with the only goal, heading in Bukayo Saka’s deflected cross in the 13th minute.

Harry Kane had a late header turned onto the bar by Serbia goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic. In the closing moments, England endured a tense finish as Jordan Pickford saved a dipping shot from Dusan Vlahovic and Kane cleared Veljko Birmancevic’s goal-bound effort.

The match had been declared “high risk” by German police, and there were minor clashes between rival fans before kick-off, resulting in seven Serbian fans being taken into custody.

For the Netherlands, substitute Wout Weghorst scored in the 83rd minute, just two minutes after entering the match, securing a Group D victory against Poland, who were missing the injured Robert Lewandowski.

“I am very happy. This is indescribable, especially at a final tournament. So special. This is personally a dream scenario,” said Weghorst. “The absolute goal is to win that cup together.”

Dutch fans created an orange wall of noise in Hamburg hours before kick-off. Poland supporters, however, had their moment when Adam Buksa headed their team in front early on. Cody Gakpo equalised before the half-hour mark with a deflected shot, keeping the match lively and competitive. Despite missed chances from Gakpo, Memphis Depay, and Denzel Dumfries, the Dutch persisted until Weghorst secured the win.

The Dutch, winners in 1988, aim to improve on their recent Euros record, having not reached the quarter-finals since 2008.

Earlier in the day, police in Hamburg shot and injured a man who threatened them with an axe and a Molotov cocktail. A police spokesman stated there was no indication the incident was linked to the game.

Eriksen, who collapsed during Denmark’s Euro 2020 opener, marked his return to the European Championship with a goal in Stuttgart.

“I do think this time my story at the Euros is very different from the last one,” said Eriksen. “Luckily it’s been a lot of games since the last time and since it happened. I felt confident in playing again, so in that sense I was just happy to be back playing.”

Denmark, who rode a wave of emotion to the semi-finals three years ago, failed to secure a win as Erik Janza’s deflected effort earned Slovenia a point. Denmark’s next match is a rematch of their Euro 2022 semi-final against England, while Slovenia will face Serbia on Thursday.

(AFP)

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