OLOMOUC: Sweden took second spot in Group B with a dramatic late equaliser against Portugal in the Czech Republic on Wednesday in the U21 European Championship to go through to the semi-finals at Italy’s expense.
A 1-1 draw was all that Portugal and Sweden needed to reach the semi-finals while Italy were left empty-handed despite an impressive 3-1 win over England, who finished bottom of the group.
Portugal won the group with five points from three games while Sweden and Italy both had four points. However, Sweden’s 2-1 victory over Italy in the two side’s first match of the group meant the Swedes go through to the next round at the expense of the Azzurini.
Knowing that a draw would be enough to see both sides through to the semi-finals, neither Portugal nor Sweden seemed overly anxious to score a goal and the match seemed destined for a drab 0-0 draw. However, the game burst into life in the final 10 minutes.
FC Porto striker Goncalo Paciencia put Portugal ahead eight minutes from time, but Groningen midfielder Simon Tibbling equalised a minute from the end to spark wild celebrations among the Sweden supports.
In the group’s other game, FC Turin midfielder Marco Benassi scored twice and Palermo striker Andrea Belotti added another to hand Italy a 3-1 win over England, who only managed a late consolation goal courtesy of Norwich midfielder Nathan Redmond.
Italy took a 2-0 lead with back-to-back goals between the 25th and 27th minutes to ensure that Sweden needed a result in order to go through.
England had only scored once before in the tournament and could only muster one more, with star Tottenham striker Harry Kane failing to find the target in three games, despite creating many scoring chances.
Portugal will take on Germany while Sweden face Denmark in the June 27 semi-finals.
Denmark won Group A with six points from three games, ahead of Germany with five points. The final is scheduled for June 30.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2015.
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