UEFA EURO 2020: Group Stage With One Game To Go

To be among the 16 to qualify, it takes two wins to guarantee. The only way it could ever be possible for a team with two wins not qualifying is if all six groups had three teams with two wins and a loss. And that’s extremely unlikely. Whatever the situation, all four teams of each of the six groups have played two games and there are a lot of telling stats. Three have qualified already while twenty others still have the last game as one last chance, and only one is officially out. Here’s how the groups look so far. Those who have already qualified are bolded:

GROUP A:

Italy came to Euro 2020 with the hope of redeeming their reputation in the football world. They delivered 3-0 wins against Turkey and Switzerland to guarantee themselves qualification for the Round of 16. Wales’ 2-0 win over Turkey and 1-1 draw against Switzerland put them in very good chances of qualifying.

For the next game, Italy could lose to Wales and they’d still qualify, but I’m sure they’d want to win or at least draw so that they can keep their #1 status. Wales’ chances of qualifying are healthy, but they would have to win to take the lead in Group A, draw to guarantee 2nd place, or rely on their game stats and goal differentials if they were to lose to Italy. Switzerland will have to win over Turkey if they want to qualify. A draw won’t cut it as game stats and goal differentials decide the four third-placers that qualify. And Turkey will need nothing less than a win for them to have a chance. They’ve lost to Italy and Wales. Only a win against Switzerland will do if they are to have any chance of qualifying.

GROUP B

Many touted Belgium as the team most likely to win Group B based on their third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup. With two wins, they’ve already guaranteed a qualification no matter how bad their game against Finland goes. They haven’t completely guaranteed the #1 spot. If Finland beats Belgium they will be the #1 team as a result of head-to-head play.

With Russia and Finland having a win under their belts, drawing can guarantee a 2nd place for Russia and a 3rd-place for Finland which would have to rely on their wildcard stats to qualify. However I’m sure Neither of the teams simply want to draw in their last matches on Monday. Denmark is in the uncomfortable position that they will need to win against Russia if they are to have any chance to qualify. It would not surprise me if the Danish team has been shaken since the collapse of Christian Eriksen. That’s a shocker he was dead for five minutes. It’s very good fortune that the first aid on the field did all the right stuff to resuscitate him and have him taken to a hospital. Actually since Eriksen’s cardiac arrest, it’s a reminder to us all that living is more important than winning.

GROUP C

Most groups would normally have a simple qualifier if they have two wins by now. Group C has an official first-place with the Netherlands! It was their two wins and big goal differential that did it! And I doubt if they will want to lose to North Macedonia in their last game!

The game of Ukraine vs. Austria will be the game for second-place in the group. If there’s a draw, Ukraine will have the advantage because of bigger scoring. Austria could qualify due to the combination of game results and goal differentials. If both qualify for the Round of 16, or either one, it will be their first time ever at the Euro that they do. As for North Macedonia, they have the misfortune of being the first team eliminated. Even if they win against the Netherlands and by a big margin, it won’t matter because of their head-to-head losses to Ukraine and Austria.

GROUP D

Interesting that Groups A to C already have a qualifier guaranteed while Groups D to F don’t have anything decided and it will take Matchday 3 to not just decide it all but decide anything. If if any team in those groups is guaranteed a Top 3 finish, that still doesn’t completely guarantee them qualification. Focusing on Group D, Both first-matches for the group’s teams resulted in wins, but both second-matches on Friday resulted in draws. That means with two teams having a win and a draw and two teams with a loss and a draw, none of the four have secured qualification and all four still have a chance in their third-matches on Tuesday.

In the match of the Czech Republic vs. England, the winner will naturally claim the #1 spot of Group D. If there’s a draw, the Czech Republic has the advantage with better goal differentials. However I’m sure both teams want to win. Croatia and Scotland both have a win and a draw. Croatia leads because of goal differentials and a draw would solidify Croatia to finish in third place, but that most likely won’t be enough to qualify. The six third-place teams will be ranked by game stats and goal differentials. Only the top four will qualify for the Round of 16, and two draws and a loss will most likely make Croatia one of the two third-place packing sooner than they hoped. So either Croatia or Scotland will have to win and nothing less if they want to secure qualification.

GROUP E

Like Group D, Group E has the difficulty of two draws causing the statistics to remain completely undecided for who will qualify. One thing that is certain is that all four still have chances to qualify and it’s up to Matchday 3 to decide it. Sweden has the best luck so far with a 1-0 win over Slovakia despite their scoreless draw against Spain. Despite the loss, Slovakia is second in ranks thanks to their 2-1 win over Poland. Spain, normally a powerhouse, has just two draws while Poland looks like their still waiting to deliver. They’re lucky they saved themselves against Spain 1-1.

Sweden has the luxury that they can qualify simply by drawing, but I doubt if they want a simple draw. Especially since Poland will be hungry for the win. The winner of Slovakia vs Spain will definitely qualify, but Slovakia will have better qualifying chances if they lose because of their win over Poland. You can be sure Spain want to win this. Attempting to qualify on a wildcard with three draws is pushing it. Possible, but pushing it. Also Poland requires nothing less than a win if they want to qualify. Two draws and a loss has very low chances of cutting it. Plus they’d have the added bonus that is they win over Sweden, they’d overtake Sweden in standings because of the head-to-head result!

GROUP F

Group F looked to be the Group Of Death. However a lot of lopsided play has turned a lot of things around unexpectedly. France is one team that has underperformed. One would usually expect a lot of big play from the team that are the reigning World Cup holders. However their 1-0 win over Germany came thanks to an own-goal from Germany’s Hummels and they drew 1-1 to Hungary. Drawing against Portugal will guarantee them qualification, but they will have to win if they want to prove themselves a worthy winner. Isn’t that something? A rematch of the Euro 2016 final happening in group play?

Germany has had it most interesting. They got a loss to France because of an own-goal, but a 4-2 win over Portugal thanks to two own-goals from the Portuguese! A draw against Hungary will guarantee them qualification, but Hungary won’t make it easy as they will want to win. Despite the loss, Portugal are still in good contention after their 3-0 win over Hungary. They can still qualify if they lose to France, but they would have to rely on goal differentials to see if their stats are good enough for the wildcard berth. Finally Hungary proved themselves strong players by drawing 1-1 against France, but they need nothing less than a win against Germany if they want to qualify. That’s how it is for them with just a loss and a draw.

And there you go. This is how things look right now with the teams of Euro 2020 with only one game to go. Matchday Three will finalize everything to decide the thirteen others who will advance and the seven others who will be packing for home sooner than they hoped. Looking forward to it!

UEFA EURO 2020: Group C and Group D Review

Some people are surprised to see me do two Euro 2020 groups in a single post. I admit it’s a break from my usual tradition of doing a single blog per group. I’ve been busy with courses and getting used to new work at my job. Nevertheless it won’t stop me from doing my traditional football blogging. Euro 2020 is an event worth looking forward to. This time I will be blogging about groups C and D

GROUP C

Interesting this is the one group full of teams that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Hard to believe that the 2022 World Cup is just a year away. Hard to believe qualifying matches have already been played and Euro hasn’t even started!

Netherlands (14) – All too often in a World Cup, there’s a semi-finalist that usually struggles to qualify for the next World Cup. Netherlands finished 3rd at the 2014, but the team had been lackluster since. For qualifying for Euro 2016, they fell prey to the Czechs, Turks and Icelandics. For World Cup qualification, they were shut out by France and Sweden.

Since their demise in 2018, they’ve hired a new coach Ronald Koeman, They’ve brought in a lot of new young talent to the team. Most of the players are from Dutch clubs. They’ve been successful in qualifying for this Euro. They’ve however had a mixed bag of results. They’ve won against Germany and Poland, drawn against Spain and Scotland, and lost to Italy, Mexico and Turkey. Whatever the situation, Euro 2020 will be a chance for the Netherlands to showcase their new team. A brand new Oranje!

Ukraine (24) – Ukraine is a team that struggles to define itself. It amazed the world when it got as far as the quarterfinals at the 2006 World Cup. However that’s been its only World Cup appearance. As far as Euros go, out in the Group Stage the two previous times. Their only win was against Sweden on home soil in 2012. 2016 was a disaster with losing all three of their matches.

Since 2016, the team has been coached by the legendary Andriy Shevchenko. Most of the players play for team sin the Ukrainian Premier League with four members playing with Belgian teams and two playing with teams in England’s Premier League. They were successful in qualifying for Euro, but their games since have shown them struggle. They’ve had wins against Switzerland and Northern Ireland, draws against Finland and France, and losses to Spain, France and Germany. They’ve been without a loss in 2020. Anything can happen in Euro 2020 for Ukraine.

Austria (23) – Austria is one team that used to do well in decades past, but struggles now. Their third-place at the 1954 World Cup is just a memory now. Actually the last World Cup they competed in was 1998. They came to Euro 2016 hoping to do better than the showing they did in Euro 2018 when they hosted, but they failed to muster a win there.

The current team hope to finally achieve their first-ever Euro win, and hopefully take it even further. Nineteen players play in Germany’s Bundesliga. Austria has an impressive record since the start of 2020. They’ve won against Norway, Greece, Northern Ireland and Romania, but they’ve also had a loss to Romania as well as losses to Denmark and England. Euro 2020 is another chance for Austria to show the football world what they’re capable of.

North Macedonia (62) – Just being at Euro 2020 should be enough to excite the fans of North Macedonia. This is the first time North Macedonia ever qualified for a major football tournament. The new format of the Euro qualifying which would allow for teams of smaller-populated countries to contend added to North Macedonia’s boost and allowed them to qualify. for those curious, their nickname is ‘Lavovi’ (The Lions).

North Macedonia’s players are in various clubs in Europe with most in Croatia, Italy, Spain and Cyprus. Since the start of 2020, they’ve had losses to Armenia and Romania, draws against Georgia, Estonia and Slovenia, and wins against Kazakhstan and Germany. Euro 2020 can be the ideal arena for North Macedonia to be the Cinderella team of the tournament.

My Prediction: I predict the Netherlands to top it with Austria in second and North Macedonia to come in third and advance as a wildcard.

GROUP D

The four teams of Group D really make for a lot of variety in terms of playing style and in terms of past achievements. Two of them even met during a World Cup semi-final! I’m saving the term the ‘group of death’ for another Euro group, but here It’s possible any two or three of the teams can qualify and go far.

England (4) – Team unity has normally been England’s biggest weakness. The Three Lions did the smart thing after Euro 2016 by ditching Roy Hodgson as coach and hiring Gareth Southgate. In two short years, England went to becoming a new team at the 2018 World Cup where they went as far as the semi-finals, had the best goal scorer with Harry Kane, and even won a World Cup match on penalty kicks for the first time ever!

England is hoping this success will continue on into Euro 2020. since the beginning of the year 2020 they’ve had a lot of excellent wins to Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Poland and Belgium, but they also had a loss to Belgium and lost to Denmark too. The furthest England has even gone in a Euro is the semifinals and England is hoping to make this their best Euro ever. This could very well be it.

Croatia (14) – Croatia come to this Euro looking to shed the bad memories of the fan disturbances during Euro 2016. They also come after their brilliant performance at the 2018 World Cup where Vatreni surprised everyone by making it to the World Cup final! They became the first nation with a population of under 5,000,000 to qualify for the World Cup final since 1950.

Zlatko Dalic is still coach of The Blazers. Since the start of 2020, they’ve struggled in play. They’ve had wins against Sweden and Switzerland and a draw against Turkey, but they’ve also had losses to Portugal, France and Belgium. One thing Croatia hopes to do at the very least during Euro is win their first-ever knockout match. Whatever the situation, Euro 2020 is the ideal arena for Vatreni to pull another surprise.

Scotland (44) – Euro 2020 marks the first time since 1996 Scotland qualified for the Euro. Scotland have been known to be a sentimental favorite that just can’t seem to edge itself out of group play, whether it be either the World Cup or the Euro. With the recent creation of the UEFA’s Nation’s League, Scotland got a boost when the upgraded themselves from the Division C to Division B with brilliant play.

Most of the players play for either England’s Premier League or the Scottish Premiership. Since the start of 2020, they’ve won against Slovakia and the Czech Republic twice. However they’ve had draws against Serbia and Austria and had three draws and a loss to Israel. Euro 2020 can be the chance for Scotland to finally prove to its naysayers, that they have finally arrived.

Czech Republic (40) – Ever since Czechoslovakia split up in 1992, the Czech Republic has struggled to prove its football greatness. The team would always have great stellar players, but they would frequently struggle as a team. They’ve qualified for every Euro since 1996 and even made it into the semifinal round twice, but only qualified for one World Cup and only got as far as the Group Stage.

Most of the players play for teams in the Czech First League. Since 2020, the Czechs have had a mixed bag of play. They’ve won against, Slovakia, Israel and Estonia, and drawn against Belgium, but lost to Germany, Italy and twice to Scotland. Euro 2020 is another proving point for the Czech team and they just could prove themselves to be a better team than most people first estimated.

My Prediction: I will pick Croatia to lead the group with England second and Scotland third with enough game cred to qualify as a wildcard.

And there you have it! Those are my predictions for Group C and Group D of Euro 2020. Hard to believe it just starts in two days. Yes, we’ve all waited long enough for this!

Documentary Review: Honeyland (Медена земја)

Honeyland
Turkish-Macedonian beekeeper Hatidze Muratova shows how she makes her livelihood in Honeyland.

Very rarely do I see documentaries, including around Oscar-time. However Honeyland caught my attention. I felt it was a documentary well worth seeing.

The film opens in Bekirlija, a village in North Macedonia that’s part of the Balkan mountain range. Near Bekirlija, a woman of Turkish descent named Hatidze Muratova comes to gather honey from the various beekeeping farms around her home. She’s what’s called a ‘wild beekeeper’ as she keeps bees in the traditional methods and traditional apiaries. Whenever she gathers honey and honeycomb, she always says “Half for me, half for you” as she believes it’s the right thing to leave some behind for the bees. With the honey she reaps, she’s able to sell it at the open air markets of Skopje. Her honey sells better at a higher cost than other honey farmers. She uses the money for goods and food for herself, her cat and dog, and her ailing mother. Her house has no electricity and no running water. However this is the traditional way of beekeeping she wants to do.

Things suddenly change. A Turkish farmer named Hussein Sam arrives. He intends to set up farm in the area near Hatidze. He brings with him his wife Ljutvie, six children, many trailers, a lot of clutter and a lot of cattle. He’s a cattle farmer but he also plans to do a lot of bee farmings as well. Although Hatidze confides to her mother she fears for her future, she does try to be friendly about it. Hatidze introduces herself to Hussein, Ljutvie and the children. They welcome her in, the wife spends time with her, the children find her fun to be around and look up to her. She even tries to be friendly with Hussein and informs him of her beekeeping. Even as he starts beekeeping of his own, she tells him to make sure his bees don’t attack her bees.

Time passes and Hatidze appears to be doing fine. She still continues to feed her mother and her pets, she continues to reap more honey. She’s still friendly with the Sams and even goes to a local Turkish festival with them. However it’s evident there are difficulties coming. First off the children are rowdy. Especially the boys who wrestle. Also Hussein has to up his beekeeping ways to fulfill expectations from contractors. That adds frustration to him. He has built lots of apiaries around the farm to fulfill the expectations. He even recommends that his children don’t learn beekeeping ways from Hatidze, despite how much they admire her.

That’s an added headache for Hatidze as all his farming is causing disorder. She goes to one of the apiaries she made and notices so many dead bees. She’s not making the honey she used to. He accidentally burns a bush. The bush is vital in luring the bees over to Hatidze’s farms. The Hussein cuts down one of the branches: a branch that contains one of Hatidze’s hives. Everything Hussein Sam has done has come at the expense of Hatidze’s way of life. But it’s not without a price on the Sams. Fifty of the cattle had died. Hussein was so fixated on getting honey for his contractors, he and his children neglected the cattle. That leads the Sams to leave the area and find another area to farm. Then one day shortly after, Hatidze’s mother dies. The film ends with Hatidze with her dog and cat all alone.

The message is clear in this film. It showcases a woman’s traditional way of life of making pure honey and shows how big business makes a mess of things. Especially an environmental mess. The film makes its point as it shows two different beekeepers. It shows Hatidze doing her beekeeping craft the traditional way humbly, and for the good of the land she lives in. It also shows the Sams who make honey in massive levels because of the demands of the contractors they work for. In the end, it becomes a case that neither win. Hatidze loses her business and the Sams have to move because of what they did to the land. In the end, it shows that the ‘half for me, half for you’ Hatidze does is the right thing.

The film is not just about a person trying to keep their beekeeping the way it is. It’s also about the person themselves. We learn of Hatidze and her loneliness. In accordance to tradition in her culture, the last-born female stays single to look after the parents. Any other younger sisters of Hatidze dies. You can understand the added problem when the Sams come in. She may face competition with the family in terms of farming and beekeeping, but the appearance of the Sams helps with her loneliness. Before they came, it was just her and her mother. When they came, the Sams made her feel like she was part of a family. I think that had a lot to do with the beekeeping issue because strife with the Sams could lead to her being lonely again. I think the filmmakers wanted to show that added difficulty with the problem. The inclusion of the song ‘You Are So Beautiful’ that we hear over radios also symbolizes that.

I also think the filmmakers wanted to send another message too. The Sam adults feuded with Hatidze over time, but the kids looked up to her and found her a delight to be around. They even had more appreciation for her way of beekeeping than their father’s, which irritated Hussein. I think they wanted to send the message of how children and adults view others differently.

It’s not just the message that makes the film. It’s the documentary itself. This documentary is filmed over a three-year period and there’s no narration. The film has Hatidze tell her story through the conversations she has with her mother and with others, including the Sams. Even silent moments with Hatidze tell a lot with the story. The film also tells a lot with the conversations Hussein Sam has, mostly with his wife and with the contractor he’s hired by. We learn that Hussein may do a lot and it’s intruding on Hatidze, but he’s put under a lot of demand and heavy expectation. The film also shows his side of the story too. Even as it tells each other’s sides of their story, the film does it in an excellent way. It also delivers a lot of great cinematographic images and shots, as well as excellent sound mixing. The story also gives you a feel for the land where this is happening.

The most unique thing about Honeyland is that it’s not only North Macedonia’s first nomination in the Best International Feature Film category in 25 years, but because it’s the first film to earn Oscar nominations in the Feature Film category and Best Documentary Feature! The film has won a wide number of awards including the documentary prize at the Sundance film festival, the Best First Documentary Feature at the Critics Choice Documentary awards, as well as the Best Cinematography in a Documentary at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards. Also interesting to note is that the money the filmmakers won at the Sarajevo Film Festival, they used it to buy a new house for Hatidze. In addition the film’s website is giving 30g jars of the honey from Hatidze and the Sams for the Donate For The Honeyland Community fundraising initiative at a minimum donation. All donated money with go to improve the lives of Hatidze, the Sams and the local community. You can do so yourself by clicking here.

Honeyland is a documentary without a narrator. Instead it’s a documentary where the protagonist tells the story by living their life. That’s enough to send a powerful message and remind you of others on the ‘other side of the world.’