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City Watch: City stars continue to make an impact at Euro 2024

The Euros are now almost at the half way stage with most of the groups already being wrapped up.

As can be imagined, the Manchester City players have played pivotal roles for their countries in the tournament so far. Some will be advancing to the knockouts and the rest will be heading home early, but as a City fan, I can only be pleased about that as it means less potential injuries!

As I have done for each of these columns so far whilst the European championship has been going on, I’m going to start with England. On the last edition of City Watch, the Three Lions had just won their opening game 1-0 against Serbia in what I’d argue to be a fairly unconvincing victory. Only games against Denmark and Slovenia remained, but both would prove to be tough tasks for Gareth Southgate’s side.

City’s English representatives, Phil Foden, John Stones and Kyle Walker started all three group games. Although Stones and Walker managed to keep a clean sheet against Serbia, this wasn’t the case when they came up against Denmark. Bayern Munich striker, Harry Kane opened the scoring after 18 minutes, however, instead of pushing on from what seemed like a positive start to the game, England sat back and tried to defend the lead. Predictably, the Danes took advantage and produced an equaliser towards the end of the first period, with the game ending 1-1.

Due to other results in the group, a win for the Three Lions in their final game against Slovenia would mean they would finish top of Group C with a win or a draw if Denmark didn’t manage to beat Serbia. Another very lacklusture performance saw out a 0-0 draw, but with the other game also ending 0-0, England finished top and means they will play on the more ‘favourable’ side of the knockouts, avoiding countries like hosts Germany, France, Portugal and Spain until at least the final.

Although this seems like a great result, the performances on the field left England fans booing after the final whistle in both of the games. It does seem to be a recurring theme that the team play well, take the lead, then sit back and try to defend. This may work against teams like Serbia or Slovenia, but when the team come up against potentially defending champions Italy or even Belgium, it could prove very costly. 

I personally still don’t understand why Phil Foden is trying to be used on the left hand side. I’d argue Kevin De Bruyne becoming injured in the first game of last season was the best thing that could’ve happened to Phil, and arguably is what gave him the grounding in the City team, as it allowed him to cement his position in the centre, proving where he’s best. Southgate has previously said that he wants to play players in the England team that are only playing for their club and he doesn't want to play them away from positions they’re playing for their side, so it leaves me wondering why this doesn’t this apply to Foden.

Across the other groups, Manchester City’s Rodri helped his national side, Spain, to a perfect finish in Group B, winning all three of their games and coming out on top. One casualty of this group, though, was Croatia. Following Spain and Italy’s qualification, Mateo Kovacic and Josko Gvardiol’s side are likely to be coming home early as it doesn’t seem that they will qualify for the best third place finishers.

Another City star, Manuel Akanji and Switzerland qualified for the last 16, coming second in their group, meaning they’ll face Italy in their opening knockout game. Akanji played a pivotal part in the Swiss defence, playing every minute of each game in the groups.

For Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias and Matheus Nunes in the Portugal side, as I write this, they are yet to play their final group game, but with two wins out of two, a place in the knockouts has already been cemented.

By this time next week and the next edition of City Watch, the round of 16 games will have concluded and we will know which Manchester City players will heading for the quarters and who will be packing their bags. 

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