Euro 2024 Daily: Cody Gakpo carrying Dutch, but he needs help

Euro 2024 is into the knockout stages! Our daily files give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what to watch for and best reads.

Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Germany all the way up to the final on July 14.

The lead: Gakpo carrying Dutch, but he needs help

MUNICH — Cody Gakpo is emerging as one of the outstanding players of Euro 2024 and is leading the race for the Golden Boot, but the Netherlands forward needs his underperforming teammates to step up if he and the Dutch are to progress much further in the competition.

Gakpo moved to joint-top of the Euro 2024 scoring charts alongside Jamal Musiala (Germany), Ivan Schranz (Slovakia) and Georges Mikautadze (Georgia) by netting his third goal of the tournament and notching an assist for impact sub Donyell Malen in a 3-0 win against Romania in Munich on Tuesday. The Liverpool forward had another goal ruled out for offside by VAR as the Dutch missed a succession of chances before wrapping up a comfortable victory in their round-of-16 tie.

Gakpo’s first-half strike, when he cut inside from the left and beat goalkeeper Florin Nita with a powerful right-foot shot, ultimately proved enough for Ronald Koeman’s team to secure a quarterfinal clash against Austria or Turkey in Berlin on Saturday. In the 83rd minute Gakpo turned provider, spinning beyond Tottenham defender Radu Dragusin before squaring for Malen to convert from close range. Malen then added a third deep in injury time, cutting in from the left after a quick counterattack and firing beyond Nita at his near post.

Having landed in the easier half of the bracket, avoiding heavyweights such as Germany, Spain, France and Portugal, the Netherlands could make it all the way to final, but Gakpo can’t take them there on his own, especially once the Dutch find themselves up against tougher opposition. The 25-year-old is displaying all of his strengths in Germany, though Memphis Depay and Xavi Simons in particular must find a way to match the Liverpool man’s output.

The misfiring pair had big moments against Romania, but failed to take advantage, either because of a poor finish, misplaced pass or bad decision-making. Simons and Depay in particular missed clear-cut chances to make the game safe for the Dutch, with Malen having an impact as a second-half substitute with two late goals. But it was Gakpo’s tenacity that made Malen’s first, picking up a loose Depay pass and running to the byline before pulling the ball back for a simple finish.

Gakpo is proving to be the main man for Koeman and the one attacking player he can rely on. Only France’s Kylian Mbappé has scored more goals over the last World Cup and Euro 2024 (9 in 10 games) than Gakpo’s 6 in 9. And Koeman, who won Euro 1988 in Germany with the Netherlands as a player, now has a big decision to make ahead of the quarterfinals in terms of his attacking formation.

Does Depay stay in, will he give Wout Weghorst a rare start? One question he doesn’t have to ask is whether to use Gakpo, because the forward has become the first name on the Dutch teamsheet. — Mark Ogden

Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

Talent trumps tactics as Turkey prevail

LEIPZIG, Germany — It may have lacked the star quality of other round-of-16 ties (although, let’s revisit this in a few years, when teenage sensations Kenan Yildiz and Arda Güler grow up) but Turkey and Austria served up possibly the most intense knockout game of the tournament.

Ralf Rangnick’s Austria had won plaudits for their high-press, all-action style and interchangeable parts, a necessity when you play at this level of breakneck speed. Nicolas Seiwald and Marcel Sabitzer were the only outfield players to start all four games, possibly because they’re bionic.

But in winning 2-1, Turkey served up a neat lesson in how skill and tactical organisation can blunt any high press, and they did it without their most accomplished player, Hakan Calhanoglou, who was suspended. It helps, of course, when you go a goal up inside of a minute as they did when Merih Demiral resolved a pinball lollapalooza in the six-yard box. It helps, too, that Christoph Baumgartner twice spurned the opportunity to equalise in the next few minutes.

But then Vincenzo Montella’s crew set to work neutralising the press in the old-fashioned way: by mixing it up. Sometimes playing long, sometimes sending Güler and Yildiz to dribble their way out, sometimes drawing the foul. Austria, by contrast, looked one-dimensional. And when Demiral leapt into the sky with the sort of vertical that suggest he can probably dunk a basketball and made it 2-0 early in the second half, it felt like game over.

It wasn’t, though.

Michael Gregoritsch pulled one back for the Austrians, who kept pushing even as their legs grew heavier and their minds cloudier. And in the dying seconds, it still took a save-of-the-tournament candidate from embattled keeper Mert Günok to preserve the win.

Dramatic? Yes. Fully deserved? You bet. Talent trumped tactics in Leipzig on Tuesday. Talent and a whole lot of smarts and intensity, that is. Just what some critics alleged this Turkey side lacked. — Gabriele Marcotti

‘Misstiano Penaldo’

Even though Portugal ended up progressing to the quarterfinal on Monday, it was a bad night for Cristiano Ronaldo against Slovenia.

The 39-year-old had a penalty saved in the first period of extra time that could have sent Portugal through and then shed tears at the interval — although he redeemed himself later on by converting the first penalty in the shootout.

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What did Ronaldo’s teammates say after his missed penalty?

Joao Palhinha reveals what his team said to Cristiano Ronaldo after he missed a penalty against Slovenia at Euro 2024.

Ronaldo was also criticised for taking a number of free kicks during the game — all of which missed — while suffering the indignity of seeing Slovenia fans behind the goal trying to put him off by holding up the shirt of his great rival, Lionel Messi.

His night to forget didn’t stop there, and just to cap it all off, the BBC — broadcasting the game in the UK — showed a replay of his penalty miss along with the caption: “Misstiano Penaldo.”

That didn’t go down well with former Chelsea captain John Terry, who posted on social media: “BBC this is a disgrace.” — Rob Dawson

Pogba brings the party vibes

France international Paul Pogba must have been pleasantly surprised with the reception he got from football fans during his first public appearance at a stadium in a while. The 2018 World Cup winner, who is serving a four-year ban after a positive doping test, was the star of the day in Düsseldorf after being invited to watch Monday’s win over Belgium by the French football federation and Didier Deschamps.

When he showed up at La Maison Bleue, the place where French fans meet before every France games, the Juventus midfielder received a hero’s welcome. He got up on the stage while the song “Ramenez la coupe à la maison” (“Bring the cup home“), the 2018 hit by Vegedream, was being played. Pogba danced, sang and said a few words of appreciation to the crowd, who kept singing his name and “Pogba President, Pogba President.”

The 31-year-old, who awaits a date for his hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport where he hopes to see his suspension reduced to a two-year ban, also attracted plenty of attention at the match. Sat with the players’ families, not far from France forward Marcus Thuram’s father, 1998 World Cup winner Lilian Thuram, at first he kept a low profile but eventually took many selfies with fans and signed autographs.

He finished his evening by visiting the France locker room after the 1-0 win to celebrate with some of his former teammates. He hugged Thuram, kissed Deschamps, embraced Kylian Mbappé and N’Golo Kanté, danced with Ousmane Dembélé. It was like he’d never been away. — Julien Laurens

Brady ‘a big supporter’ of England

Harry Kane believes England have added NFL legend Tom Brady to their army of supporters at Euro 2024.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion reacted to England’s dramatic 2-1 win over Slovakia on Sunday by tweeting “Jude” alongside four exploding-head emojis in response to Jude Bellingham’s last-gasp overhead kick which forced extra time.

Brady, who is a minority shareholder in Birmingham City (Bellingham’s boyhood club), later posted on X after Kane’s winning goal with “Harry!!! What a game!!!” and two more exploding-head emojis. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes also simply posted “Crazy!” on X after Bellingham’s goal.

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Why a ban is ‘highly unlikely’ for Jude Bellingham at Euro 2024

Gab Marcotti explains why UEFA’s investigation into a gesture made by Jude Bellingham is unlikely to lead to a match ban.

When shown the reaction from around the world — which also included Prince William describing the game as an “emotional roller coaster,” Kane said: “It’s unbelievable. We know how much football connects people and the fans but also celebrities and royalty. It brings everyone together.

“It shows you how big the European Championships is, how big these major tournaments are around the world. It’s great to have the support from all those guys. Even for Tom being American, I feel like he’s an English fan for this tournament. He’s been a big supporter, so it’s great to see.”

Kane went on to reiterate his desire to one day play in the NFL. “I’d like to be a kicker, but I don’t think I’ve got enough to be a quarterback,” he said. “I’m not taking those hits! I’d love to do a bit of golf as well. I’m far enough off, after watching the boys and how they play, I’m miles off it! But any of those sports would have been sick.” — James Olley

Bagpipes continue as Euros soundtrack

Scotland were one of the first teams to be eliminated from the Euros, but the sound of the bagpipes is still loud and clear around some of the host stadiums thanks to Neil Marriott, a kilt-wearing New Zealander.

Marriott has been touring Germany during the tournament, standing outside several of the stadiums before games, wearing full Highland Dress — the traditional outfit of kilt, bonnet and sporran — playing his bagpipes in a bid to raise funds to compete at the World Pipe Band Championship in Glasgow next month.

He was in Munich on Tuesday ahead of the round-of-16 tie between Romania and Netherlands, and bravely played his pipes before England’s group game against Denmark in Frankfurt, despite the age-old rivalry between England and Scotland.

“I’ve been playing at a few of the grounds,” Marriott told ESPN. “I’ve come over from New Zealand, but hopefully I’ll have raised enough for Glasgow before the end of the tournament.” — Mark Ogden

Stat of the day

Cody Gakpo joins 1992 and 1994 Dennis Bergkamp as the only Dutch men to score at least three goals in consecutive major tournaments for the Netherlands. — ESPN Stats & Info

Betting tip (odds via ESPN BET)

France seem not to be scoring themselves, rather relying on own goals from the opponents right now, so we’ll take the +1000 on offer for striker Kylian Mbappé to finish as the tournament’s top scorer and assume he catches fire from here. — ESPN

One big read

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Kevin De Bruyne calls reporter’s question ‘stupid’

Kevin De Bruyne called a reporter’s question about his side’s golden generation “stupid” as he left the post-match press conference following Belgium’s 1-0 defeat to France.

“Stupid.” That was the reaction of Belgium’s star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne as he shuffled away from his postmatch interviews after his side’s 1-0 defeat to France in the round of 16 at Euro 2024 on Monday.

The 33-year-old was reacting to the suggestion that this “golden generation” of Belgium players came up short by not reaching the final of a major tournament. De Bruyne does not reject the idea that this Belgian side, at times, may have underdelivered over the past decade compared to the talent they have possessed. His annoyance stems from the fact there are other nations with players equally as talented.

“And you say that France, England, Spain and Germany don’t have golden generations?” he quipped back. “OK. Thank you. Stupid …”

With that, De Bruyne bid farewell to Euro 2024. It remains to be seen if the Manchester City midfielder was also saying goodbye to his international career.

There are others remaining in the Belgium squad from what is considered one of the most talented generations ever. Striker Romelu Lukaku, 31, continues to lead the line, while Jan Vertonghen, 37, is still at the back, although the former Tottenham Hotspur defender may now feel it is time to step aside.

– Marsden: Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ is over, and that’s a good thing

And finally …

English midfielder Jude Bellingham has never been far from the headlines at Euro 2024, whether because of his goals, performances or controversies such as being investigated by UEFA for alleged breaching the “basic rules of decent conduct” with his goal celebration against Slovakia on Sunday.

But because the Real Madrid star is proving to be such a box-office attraction, he has enjoyed a huge uplift in his social media popularity since the start of the tournament.

Bellingham had 31.7 million followers on Instagram at the start of the tournament, but since scoring his dramatic stoppage-time equaliser in the 2-1 round-of-16 win against Slovakia, the 21-year-old has seen his following on the platform go beyond 34 million.

To put Bellingham’s popularity into perspective, Phil Foden is second on the list of England players who have seen the biggest rise in their Instagram following this tournament, but the Manchester City forward has only grown his numbers by 410,000 to take his follower count to 12 million. — Mark Ogden

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