Even for self-confessed haters of international football like yours truly, this Sunday is one to look forward to in anticipation. Not only are the defending champions, Portugal, playing one of the biggest favorites in Belgium in a knockout, but we have a rematch of one of the greatest (international) games ever seen — and you don’t have to take just my word for that.
The group stage (!) match between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic at Euro 2004 was peak footballing entertainment, featuring two extremely talented sides full of attacking intent — and only attacking intent. Dick Advocaat’s Netherlands were led by the likes of Ruud van Nistlerooy, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Edwin van der Sar in goal, and on the wing, a young Arjen Robben, who would sign with Chelsea just a few weeks later.
Meanwhile, the Czechs were at the height of their golden generation, led by the golden boy himself, Pavel Nedved, surrounded by his heir apparent, Tomáš Rosicicky, literal man-mountain Ján Koller, sneaky good Milan Baroš, and a young Petr Čech, having already signed with Chelsea just a few weeks earlier.
What followed was a five-goal thriller with the Czechs coming back from an early 2-0 deficit all the way to a near-last-gasp 3-2 victory. Behind by two after just 15 minutes, head coach Karel Brückner just kept adding attacking players, as both teams poured forward for 90 relentless minutes. In addition to the five goals, there were almost as many woodworks and nearly twice as many great chances — a masterclass in goalkeeping at both ends, despite the crooked scorelines.
If you’ve seen this before, you already know. If you haven’t, here’s a 5-minute highlights package — though this game is so great, UEFA have it available on full replay, or you can also watch it in Czech, if you want the extra emotion.
But enough about the past. It’s time for the present.
In addition to Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi, there may be enough ex-Blues in these two games to construct a very formidable team.
NETHERLANDS vs. CZECH REPUBLIC
Date / Time: Tuesday, June 15, 2021, 17.00 BST; 12pm EDT
Venue: Puskás Aréna, Budapest, Hungary
Referee: Sergei Karasev (RUS)
On TV: ITV 1 (UK); none (USA); elsewhere
Streaming online: ITV Hub (UK); ESPN+, PrendeTV (USA)
BELGIUM vs. PORTUGAL
Date / Time: Tuesday, June 15, 2021, 20.00 BST; 3pm EDT
Venue: La Cartuja, Seville, Spain
Referee: Felix Brych (GER)
On TV: ITV 1 (UK); ABC, Univision, TUDN (USA); elsewhere
Streaming online: ITV Hub (UK); ESPN+, Univision Now (USA)