A group stage that started with trauma and fear, after what happened with Christian Eriksen, ended with incredible scenes last night as they beat Russia 4-1 to finish second. Having lost their first two games, it felt like a most unlikely outcome, but you’d have to have a cold, cold heart (or be a Russian fan), not to feel happy for them after everything they’ve been through.
The opening goal from Mikkel Damsgaard was glorious, and even when Russia got one back after the lead had been doubled, there was an energy to Denmark’s second half performance that saw them score twice more. There’s also something very 2021 about the team huddled around someone checking LiveScore to see if they’d go through, and the celebrations when they did were great. They now face Wales in the last 16, and that should be a fun one.
In the other game, Thomas from Ireland looked like he’d scored for Belgium, but the former Gunner’s header was deemed an own goal as it went in off the keeper. Their 2-0 win over Finland secured top spot with three wins from three. Earlier, the Netherlands comfortably beat North Macedonia to top their group, while Austria’s win over Ukraine saw them finish second.
This evening, Scotland have to beat Croatia to have any chance of qualifying, and will have to do without midfielder Billy Gilmour who tested positive for Covid-19. His close contact with club colleagues Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell may have an impact on England’s team for their game against the Czech Republic. Both are self-isolating, and it remains to be seen if they can play. It’s a little reminder that despite the tournament going ahead, despite fans back in stadiums, the virus is still out there. However, it’s not as if Gareth Southgate doesn’t have decent options if those two miss out. England have already qualified for the knock-out stages, and maybe he could be a bit more adventurous in his team selection this evening.
At Arsenal, still not much going on from a senior perspective, but at youth/Academy level there were three departures. Defenders Mark McGuinness and Zech Medley have joined Cardiff City and KV Oostende respectively, while winger Trae Coyle has secured a move to Swiss Super League side FC Lausanne–Sport. My understanding is that these were all free transfers (perhaps with some payment schedules after a certain amount of appearances), but there are sell-on clauses inserted, so if they go on to develop and command a decent fee in the future, we would benefit.
I know we’re all focused on what’s going to happen with the men’s team this summer, but it does feel like there’s a lot going on at Academy level too. There has been no official announcement about Steve Bould’s departure as U23s coach, but obviously that’s a position that needs to be filled. In terms of players, all three who left yesterday were 20 years of age, kind of at the upper end of the scale for players coming through.
All of them need to be playing senior football on a more regular basis at this point in their careers. There’s only so far you can go playing for U23s etc, so for those individuals it’s a good move for their own careers. It’s then about how those gaps are filled at youth level. Last year, we brought in a number of players who hadn’t quite made it elsewhere, none of whom look anywhere near good enough to make the transition to the first team squad (and I do think it puts last season’s U23 season into some context).
After a period in which we’ve seen Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles break through to varying degrees, there’s not quite the same calibre of young player on the production line at the moment. There are high hopes for Miguel Azeez and Flo Balogun, and there’s some promising young talent, but not a lot to get really excited about just yet. So, who we appoint as U23s coach will be interesting, and how they can bring along some of the young players who are bubbling under will be a big part of their job. In the meantime, good luck to the departing trio, and hopefully these are positive steps in their careers.
Finally, there was a big departure for the Arsenal Women, as Danielle van de Donk ended her six year stay with the club to join Lyon.
142 appearances. 45 goals. Countless memories.
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) June 21, 2021
She’s been a real fan favourite down the years, and the reaction to seeing her leave has reflected that in the Arseblog News comments, and on social media. Best of luck to her in France, and we’re still awaiting news of Joe Montemurro’s replacement. It surely can’t be long now.
Right, that’s it for today, any breaking news throughout can be found on Arseblog News, and I’ll be back with more tomorrow.