Germany are under fierce pressure going into a crucial Euro 2020 game against Portugal on Saturday as world champions France look to clinch a place in the last 16 and Spain chase a first win.
After their failure to make it beyond the group phase at the 2018 World Cup, Joachim Loew’s Germany lost 1-0 to France in their opening game at the Euro and another defeat against the title holders would leave them facing early elimination again.
The Germans have home advantage in Munich, but on the evidence of recent performances they will struggle to win the latest heavyweight showdown in Group F.
Despite that Loew—who will stand down at the end of the tournament—believes his team can rise to the occasion.
“The pressure is always the same, it doesn’t matter who we are playing against, and we can cope with it,” Loew told reporters on the eve of the game.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal arrive on German soil fresh from a convincing 3-0 win over Hungary in Budapest and another victory will secure their place in the last 16 before their final group outing against France.
However, veteran Portugal coach Fernando Santos warned: “You can’t compare Hungary to Germany and we have to be ready for whatever is thrown at us.”
Ronaldo eyes more history
Ronaldo will again be in the spotlight after becoming the leading scorer in European Championship history with a brace against Hungary leaving him on 11 goals across five tournaments.
With 106 goals in 176 games for Portugal, Ronaldo is just three short of the all-time international record, set by Ali Daei who scored 109 goals for Iran between 1993 and 2006.
“Cristiano Ronaldo can’t win matches on his own so everyone must play their part,” warned Santos.
France lived up to their billing as pre-tournament favourites in their 1-0 win over Germany, and the World Cup holders will be expected to build on that against Hungary in Saturday’s first game, at 1300 GMT in Budapest.
“If one team is worth 900 million euros and us 60 million euros, you will probably see that difference on the pitch,” admitted Hungary coach Marco Rossi as he considered the prospect of facing the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba.
Hungary are expecting a crowd approaching 60,000 at the Puskas Arena, the only Euro 2020 venue without restrictions on capacity due to Covid-19.
“The support of a full stadium is an advantage for the Hungarians, it helped them a lot in the first match,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.
In Saturday’s other encounter, all eyes will be on Spain’s strikers as Luis Enrique’s misfiring team take on Poland in Seville in Group E.
The 2008 and 2012 European champions were held 0-0 by Sweden in their opening game, while Robert Lewandowski’s presence could not prevent Poland from losing 2-1 to Slovakia in their first match.
Spain striker Alvaro Morata was jeered by his own fans against Sweden but is set to keep his place.
“At international level, there is only one that beats him, which is Harry Kane,” Luis Enrique insisted as he defended his player.
Scotland deny England
On Friday Scotland produced a stirring performance to hold England to a 0-0 draw at Wembley in Group D, as the old enemies clashed at a major tournament for the first time since Euro 96.
Scotland were well worth their first point, with captain Andy Robertson saying: “I believe we should have won the game.”
The draw edges England closer to the last 16 but their fans—in a Wembley crowd of 22,500 — were not impressed by Gareth Southgate’s team.
“It wasn’t our best performance, but it’s another point closer to qualification and that’s our ultimate goal,” captain Kane told ITV.
England are level on four points with the Czech Republic, who drew 1-1 with Croatia in Glasgow as Patrik Schick’s first-half penalty was cancelled out by Ivan Perisic’s excellent 47th-minute strike.
In Saint Petersburg in Group E, Sweden beat Slovakia 1-0 with a late Emil Forsberg penalty to move above their opponents in the standings.
Meanwhile Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen was released from hospital on Friday following a “successful operation” nearly a week after suffering a cardiac arrest against Finland.
Doctors have said Eriksen, 29, would have a heart defibrillator implanted to regulate his heart rhythm, casting doubt over whether he will be able to play again.