Five major talking points from match round three of Euro 2017

Crashing out and going home was the order of the day for some while for others their Euro 2017 dreams are still well and truly alive. As we hurtle towards the knockout phase, this tournament has well and truly delivered on its promise.

But what were the main talking points of the last round of matches?

Group A: The good, the bad and the unfortunate

The last round of Group A games drew every single emotion out of the woodwork, you could barely look away with individual battles raging on all over the pitch. The night had it all, missed penalties, flashes of absolute class and outstanding goals.

Norway and Denmark locked horns in what was dubbed by some as “The Battle of Scandinavia”, with Norway needing to win by three goals while hoping Belgium lost.

Sensing weakness in the Norwegians, Denmark wasted little time in turning an improbable task into an impossible one.

A barnstorming run from Pernille Harder set up Karine Veje to score, shell-shocking an already on the rack Norwegian side who were devoid of confidence, such has been the toll of the competition. Pressure continued to grow, with Norway beginning to exert a little pressure of their own.

Earning a penalty after an anonymous game up to this point, Ada Hegerberg who was felled in the box by Frederikke Thøgersen, provided the perfect metaphor for Norways euro woes as Caroline Hansen saw her shot saved. The Grasshoppers then hit the woodwork, before seeing a goal disallowed for offside.

Norway will be glad to see the back of Euro 2017, but for Denmark the journey continues and they can be pleased with their performances so far.

The hosts Netherlands will not want this fairytale tournament to end, Sherida Spitse converting from the spot to put the hosts 1-0 up only for Belgium to equalise, in what can only be described as an opportunistic wonder goal from Tessa Wullaert.

The equaliser afforded Belgium a life-line until Lieke Marten’s goal ensured the party atmosphere would continue long into the Tilburg night.

Belgium were fantastic and can be proud of their achievements as they proved they will be a force to contend with years down the line. There is now no going back to being perceived as European also-rans, while Holland march on with confidence, but what will happen when they are truly put under significant pressure?

Bellissimo Italia, bid arrivederchi with a cracker

“Artistry, pure unadulterated artistry, captivating. A fluid masterpiece of performance.” Would be the review if Italy’s triumph was a Hollywood blockbuster, swashbuckling in every sense of the word.

Already out of the tournament Italy seemed to play with freedom, battling hard and playing with a lack of restraint as if they were children playing in the park.

Attacking with potency and tempo, Linda Sembrant and Magdalena Ericsson all at sixes and sevens at the back, Italy drove forward keen to go out of Euro 2017 on a high.

Daniela Sabatino netted a brace to put the gloss on Italy’s triumph alongside Cristiana Girelli’s winner, while Barbera Bonansea proved the conduit for the best passages of Azzure play.

Even though their Euro dream ended, the level of performance against Germany and Sweden provides further proof that the team founded upon grit and guile will emerge from their Dutch exploits stronger.

Given the lack of resources put into the Italian game, Christiana Girelli was spot on with her assessment.

Simply put she posed a tantalising thought, just think what a properly funded Italian team could achieve? The team needs and deserves an increase in funding.

Whilst a few of the Italian players will ultimately follow Melanie Gabbiadini into international retirement, the core Antonio Cabrini has at his disposal should see Italy improve as France 2019 potentially beckons.

Austria scale new dizzying heights

You would do very well in finding anyone, apart from the most ardent of Austrian fan who could have predicted that Austria would top Group C. Whilst France and neighbours Switzerland laboured through the group phase, Austria looked good value in topping group C.

The Österreichischer Fußball-Bund would be undoubtedly pleased, nigh on in dreamland in very typical Austrian fashion, dancing away in the press zone with disco lights flashing and music blaring.

For tournament debutants it’s generally a process of learning, adapting to the occasion but Austria have learned quickly, and have given teams a lesson all of their own.

Defeating Switzerland was a benchmark moment for the team, to win any opening game is important but when it's your first at a major international tournament it becomes priceless.

Then the Austrians hel their own to earn a draw against France, frustrating them at every turn while being defensively organised and counter-attacking at pace.

Rounding off their resounding group C success with a 3-0 triumph over Iceland in what could have been a very tricky test, doubled-down on their meteoric rise.

Austria's advance is by no means a fluke however, manager Dominik Thalhammer has done something quite special in building a team with character who truly believe they belong at the highest level.

France use their get out of jail free card

France had to turn to their get out of jail free card to progress after Camille Abily's 76th minute equaliser against Switzerland.

Make no mistake, France have been distinctly average in the competition at times playing with the assumption that they are automatically going to win with minimal effort. That misplaced thought process nearly cost them tournament progression.

Teams have got under the French skin, able to sense a team not at their best. Ill discipline has been a constant issue, Eugénie Le Sommer petulantly clashing with Switzerland’s Ramona Bachmann who herself isn’t shy to tell an opposition player exactly what she thinks of them, Wendie Renard seeing yellow followed by Eve Perisset being given her marching orders.

They could find that their luck runs out as they prepare to face England in the knock-out phase, in what has all the hallmarks of a battle royale.

France face one of the tournaments form sides and it is conceivable that those frailties will be amplified against Mark Sampson’s team.

France have not been defensively organised enough and have not dealt well with teams running at them with pace so far during the tournament, so they must remain wary of the threat posed by the Lionesses.

England have been playing with a ferocious tempo and high work-rate in contrast to France who have been lacklustre up until now, and they will find it difficult to cope with a free-scoring England attack while losing Renard and Perisset to suspension will do little to aid their cause.

Scotland fall just short of progressing

Physically and emotionally drained, clutching at the badge on her shirt, Scottish keeper Gemma Fay stood defiant while speaking to the media after just falling short of joining England in the quarter-finals.

Presumably down and very much out after back to back losses Scotland needed a miracle of sorts.

England played their part in winning over Portugal, Scotland themselves withstanding a constant barrage of Spanish attacks.

They were fortunate not to see Fay given her marching orders after handling outside the area, with referee Jana Adámková's opting to brandish a yellow card rather than the dreaded red.

Spain hit the woodwork as if it was going out of fashion before being refused what looked like a stone-wall penalty as it seemed Scotland's luck might have been in as Caroline Weir's first-half goal separated the two sides, but the loss of Jane Ross to injury against England and Kim Little before the tournament took its toll on Anna Signeul's side.

Signeul admitted post match that perhaps it was a tournament too far for Scotland while the loss of Ross and Little saw them pinned down as doomed from the off.

To echo Fay's sentiment, this isn't the last you'll see of Scotland in major competition.

For Signuel it marks the end of her tenure as Scottish manager, her message for 12 years of support was clear.

"Everyone involved in the women’s game in Scotland has been so supportive of me these past 12 years and it has been an absolute honour to be the national coach for Scotland.”

A new era for Scottish football now begins with Shelley Kerr.