RSL players continue to hit headlines in Euro 2024 Matchday Two

Roshn Saudi League players made plenty of headlines during the second round of matches at UEFA European Championship Germany 2024, with one taking successive Player of the Match awards and another collecting another slice of history.

The irrepressible N’Golo Kante picked up where he left off in Matchday One, following up his standout display against Austria with another in France’s 0-0 draw with the Netherlands. The Al Ittihad midfielder, called up to the French squad for the first time in two years, was at his indefatigable best against the Dutch, his all-action display earning another Player of the Match prize.

France, champions in 1984 and 2000, sit second in Group D, level on points with leaders Netherlands, who again gave Al Ettifaq captain Georginio Wijnaldum a late run-out.

Afterwards, Kante said: "To come back to the national team is always special and even more so with a tournament like the Euros. You want to give your maximum."

France manager Didier Deschamps later quipped: "N’Golo is still out there running."

Never one to slip under the radar, Cristiano Ronaldo added one more European Championship record to his repertoire, this time in Portugal’s 3-0 victory against a Türkiye team who once more called upon Al Ahli’s Merih Demiral as a second-half substitute.

The Portuguese captain, fresh from his record-breaking season with Al Nassr, set up teammate Bruno Fernandes for his side’s third at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund. It lifted Ronaldo, already the tournament’s all-time leading scoring, to eight assists – level at the top of that all-time chart with Karel Poborsky.

In securing a second win on the bounce, Portugal go through to the last 16 as Group F winners. In the same pool, Georgia, contesting their first major tournament, remain in the hunt for a knockout berth despite sitting bottom. Al Okhdood defender Solomon Kvirkvelia completed 82 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Czechia in Hamburg.

Ronaldo will, however, be joined in the knockout stages by Al Nassr teammate Aymeric Laporte, who returned to Spain’s starting line-up for the impressive-but-narrow 1-0 victory against Italy in Gelsenkirchen.

Laporte, part of the Al Nassr team who finished runners-up in the 2023-24 RSL, sat out the Group B opener against Croatia on Matchday One, but played the entire 90 minutes against the Italians. Spain, three-time champions, advance to the knockouts as group winners.

The outlook, though, doesn’t look as positive for another Al Nassr player. In Group B’s other clash, Marcelo Brozovic’s Croatia thought they had rebounded against Austria to earn a 2-1 win and reignite their campaign, only for Klaus Gjsaula to atone for his earlier own goal with an equaliser deep into injury-time.

The draw means Croatia are rooted to the bottom of the pool, and realistically need a victory against Italy to progress.

Meanwhile, Al Hilal duo Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic were not at their match-winning best in Serbia’s Group C encounter with Slovenia at the Munich Football Arena – although there remains all to play for yet.

Mitrovic, whose 28 goals in 28 RSL appearances helped fire Al Hilal to the 2023-24 title, was kept at bay throughout the 1-1 draw, but was right in the middle of Serbia’s wild celebrations following Luka Jovic’s 95th-minute equaliser. Milinkovic-Savic had been introduced as a substitute just after the hour.

Heading into Matchday Three, Serbia lie bottom of the group, but a win against Denmark could still propel them into second, and thus into the last 16.

Another RSL star in need of points in the final group game is Jack Hendry of Scotland. The Al Ettifaq defender again played all 90 minutes for his national team in Group A, but despite an improved performance from their opening 5-0 defeat to hosts Germany, the Scottish were held to a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in Cologne.

Third in the standings, Scotland will be eying a follow-up win against Hungary if they are to make history and reach the knockouts for the first time.

Elsewhere, Damac and Romania captain Nicolae Stanciu didn’t quite enjoy his second Group E match as much as his first. The defender, who on Matchday One netted an early contender for goal of the tournament while also collecting the Player of the Match award, was part of the Romania side who lost 2-0 to Belgium in Cologne.

The Belgians fielded two RSL players: Al Qadsiah goalkeeper Koen Casteels, who played the whole game and set-up Kevin De Bruyne for the second goal, and Al Shabab winger Yannick Carrasco, who was brought on as a second-half substitute for the second successive match.

Intriguing, all four teams in the group are locked on three points, with a thrilling conclusion set for Matchday Three.