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Some of the best men's soccer teams collide at the UEFA European Championship

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Now to the 2024 Euro Cup. That's the soccer tournament where some of the best European men's teams compete against each other. Today was Day 7 of the tournament, and it featured some of the sport's powerhouses. To catch us up on all the action, let's talk to Dermot Corrigan. He covers soccer for The Athletic and joins us now. Hey there.

DERMOT CORRIGAN: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: Hey. OK, so I'm going to work our way back from the last match of the day, which took place this afternoon, Italy versus Spain - right? - two really excellent teams. What stood out to you in this match?

CORRIGAN: Yeah, two of the big European powerhouses, two contenders for the tournament, and it really sorted out how Spain were really superior in the game. They dominated from - almost from start to finish, had a lot of shots on goal. Italy struggled a lot to get into the game at all. Spain only won one-nil in the end, which didn't really reflect just how dominant they were in over the 90 minutes, but they got a victory. They're through to the next round of the championships, and Italy are going to have to go down to the final game to see whether they go through as well.

CHANG: Cool. OK. And in the second match of the day, we're working backwards, England played Denmark, right? That game ended in a 1-1 draw, meaning the game was tied. I'm learning the soccer lingo here. Let me ask you - England's considered one of the favorites, right? But they've only scored two goals in their two games so far. What do you think is going on?

CORRIGAN: Yeah, England is so different. Spain only scored one goal but played really well. England scored one goal but didn't play well at all. And they have a lot of really good attacking players, but the coach, Gareth Southgate, has not yet found a way to (inaudible) fitted performance. They've got a lot of criticism from pundits back at home. It doesn't look so good for England. They're going to have to make changes for their final game. They'll probably still go through. But for a team who, you know, really came in with ambitions to win the tournament, it's been very disappointing so far.

CHANG: Yeah. Well, in the first game of the day, Serbia scored a last-minute goal to draw against Slovenia, 1-1. But before the game started, I understand the Serbian soccer federation threatened to quit the tournament over allegations that Albanian and Croatian fans were using anti-Serb language. What happened exactly? Tell us.

CORRIGAN: Yeah, this is one of the interesting things that happens when you bring all of the different European countries together in a football tournament like this, and you bring...

CHANG: Yeah.

CORRIGAN: ...Your fans together who travel. You know, Serbia and Croatia and Albania are neighbors in the Balkans. Historically, there's been trouble between the different countries, and fans from Croatia and fans from Albania were chanting some pretty offensive songs on the - in the stadium, got picked up on the TV coverage, as well. Some of the social media companies had to try and take down clips that were circulating online.

Serbia were understandably, I think, disappointed and angry at what happened. So UEFA had to come out and really condemn what happened, say that they're going to try and stop it happening again, but it is difficult to police chants in a stadium. So it's a sign of political frictions and historical problems between countries that come out in the stadiums when you have tournaments like this.

CHANG: Absolutely. So at this moment, the Serbian soccer federation is not going to be quitting the tournament, right?

CORRIGAN: No. They - I guess they made their protest. UEFA came back with - UEFA, the governing body, came back with their own kind of movement on it, which was enough to keep Serbia happy for the moment.

CHANG: OK. And real quick - tomorrow is, of course, another day of matches. What should we be paying attention to?

CORRIGAN: Yeah. France against Holland tomorrow night, a huge game - Kylian Mbappe, one of the stars of the tournament, broke his nose in their first game. He's - might be playing wearing a mask, so everybody's going to be looking forward to see whether he plays and how that turns out in a huge game.

CHANG: That is Dermot Corrigan of The Athletic. Thank you so much, Dermot.

CORRIGAN: Cheers.

(SOUNDBITE OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST SONG, "CAN I KICK IT? ") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Tinbete Ermyas
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.