Erik ten Hag hailed Ajax after the Eredivisie giants made it three wins from three games in the Champions League thanks to a stunning 4-0 rout of Borussia Dortmund.

Ajax produced a merciless performance in Amsterdam, where Dusan Tadic's free-kick deflected off Marco Reus to set the tone before Daley Blind, Antony and Sebastien Haller also scored in Tuesday's rout.

With the Dortmund demolition, Ajax have now won their opening three Champions League matches in a season for the first time since 1995-96, when they went on to reach the final, losing to Juventus on penalties.

Ajax have also scored 11 goals through three matchdays, their most at this stage of a European Cup/Champions League campaign since scoring 26 times in their first three games in the 1979-80 season.

"Of course I'm incredibly proud of my team," Ajax head coach Ten Hag told Amazon Prime. "We produced a fantastic performance and played some incredible football.

"When two teams with this philosophy want to attack like that then it becomes an open shoot-out, which we won tonight."

Ajax condemned Dortmund to their heaviest defeat in European competition since losing 4-0 to Sochaux in the UEFA Cup in November 2003, while it was the Bundesliga side's heaviest ever defeat in the European Cup/Champions League.

Ten Hag added: "Being good in possession was one of our first priorities tonight. My players were exceptional in that regard and created a lot of chances.

"What pleased me most though was the way we pressed. I'm happy that we won and that we won with fantastic football, but there are three games to go."

Haller, meanwhile, became the first African player to score in their first three Champions League appearances since Didier Drogba in 2003 – the Ivorian has six goals and two assists in his three games so far for Ajax.

He also equalled the Ajax record for scoring in consecutive Champions League matches, following in the footsteps of Patrick Kluivert (1995), Jari Litmanen (1996) and team-mate Tadic (2018).

As for man-of-the-match Blind, he scored his first goal in the Champions League since his strike for Manchester United against Benfica in October 2017.

It was his first for Ajax in the competition and came 29 years and 347 days since his father Danny Blind scored his last goal in UEFA European competition for Ajax, against FC Rot-Weiss Erfurt in the UEFA Cup in November 1991.

"We were very good on the ball in the first half," Ajax attacker Steven Berghuis told RTL 7. "We created so many chances, we combined well, and had depth in our game.

"We made sure not to lose the ball quickly, because then you play into their hands. Instead we kept the ball for long periods, and that weakens them."

Christian Eriksen has returned to Inter's training ground for the first time since his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 in Denmark's opener against Finland.

In worrying scenes in June, Eriksen was given CPR after collapsing on the pitch, while his team-mates formed a protective screen around him, before subsequently receiving successful heart surgery.

Eriksen, 29, was then fitted with a pacemaker before going home to recover in Denmark, where he has undergone a host of further medical tests to discover why the cardiac arrest happened.

The former Tottenham midfielder visited Inter's training ground on Wednesday and the 2020-21 Scudetto winners said he was in "excellent physical condition".

A statement released on the club's official website said: "Eriksen, who greeted managers, coaches, team-mates and all the staff present, is fine and in excellent mental and physical condition.

"Eriksen will follow the recovery programme proposed by the Danish doctors in Copenhagen, who will coordinate all the clinical follow-up and will always keep the Inter Milan medical staff informed."

If Eriksen did want to return for Inter, however, he would have to have his ICD – a device connected to his heart to regulate abnormal rhythms – removed due to Italian restrictions preventing people playing contact sport with such devices in operation.

Other European countries, though, do not follow the same protocols as seen in the example of Daley Blind, who continued to regularly feature for Ajax after he had an ICD fitted in 2019.

Eriksen joined Inter, who open their new campaign against Genoa on August 21, in January 2020 and made 26 appearances in their title-winning season.

With the group stage of Euro 2020 now over, we can get down to the important business: arguing over who have been the best players until now.

The first three matchdays produced some enthralling spectacles, a handful of shocks and one or two rather forgettable encounters of which there is no need to speak any more.

We have seen some rather obvious star turns, such as a certain Portugal striker equalling the record for international goals in men's football, while other standout performers have flown a little more under the radar.

Here, using Opta data for added insight, Stats Perform presents the Euro 2020 team of the group stage. Please do read on for a few explanations before starting on those angry comments...

 

 

GK: DANNY WARD

Wales battled their way into the knockout rounds after finishing second in Group A, ahead of Switzerland on goal difference. Much of that is down to Danny Ward's form.

The Leicester City man saved 86.7 of the shots on target he faced, the best record among keepers to make at least five saves.

 

LCB: DALEY BLIND

The Netherlands surprised a few people with three convincing wins in Group C, with Daley Blind's calm yet authoritative presence at the heart of their performances.

Blind completed 221 passes in the group stage, more than any other Oranje player, with more than half of those (115) coming in opposition territory.

 

CB: ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN

Quite rightly celebrated for that thunderbolt of a goal in Denmark's key victory over Russia, Andreas Christensen's all-round displays make him worthy of inclusion here.

The Chelsea defender won 79.2 of his duels in the first three rounds, a tally bettered only by Oleksandr Karavaev (80 per cent) and Thomas Vermaelen (90 per cent) among those to contest at least 10.

 

RCB: LEONARDO BONUCCI

Italy's 1.3 expected goals against was the lowest figure of any side in the group phase, underlining the imperious nature of their form not just at these finals but in the whole of their 11-game winning run in which they have not let in a single goal.

Leonardo Bonucci has been the rock at the back, particularly with Giorgio Chiellini battling injury. He has won possession 11 times, the most of any Azzurri defender, and has yet to be beaten by a dribble.

 

LWB: JORDI ALBA

Jordi Alba was Spain's standout performer until the rest of the team somewhat caught up on matchday three as they turned on the style to thrash Slovakia 5-0.

The Barcelona left-back completed 247 passes, the most of any defender after Aymeric Laporte (259), while leading the way for possession won (30 times).

 

CM: GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM

With three goals in three games, Georginio Wijnaldum surpassed the great Marco van Basten on the all-time Netherlands scoring charts to reach 25 for his country.

Enjoying a more advanced role at these finals, Paris Saint-Germain fans are being given a glimpse of what the midfielder could provide for them next season.

 

CM: PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG

Alongside Kevin De Bruyne, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is one of only two midfielders to create nine goalscoring chances during the group stage.

The Tottenham man set up two Denmark's goals in the 4-1 hammering of Russia to move to three assists at these finals, a tally matched only by Switzerland's Steven Zuber.

 

CM: MANUEL LOCATELLI

His two goals against Switzerland were the highlight of his group-stage displays and made Manuel Locatelli just the third Italy player to score twice in a single European Championship match.

The Sassuolo star was rested against Wales, but the quality of his performances in the first two games prompted rumours that Juventus have redoubled their efforts to sign him.

 

RWB: DENZEL DUMFRIES

Full-back Denzel Dumfries became an unlikely goalscoring hero for Frank de Boer, becoming just the second Netherlands player to score in his first two European Championship games (the first was Ruud van Nistelrooy).

Denmark wing-back Joakim Maehle was the only nominal defender with more touches in the opposition box (20) during the group stage than Dumfries (17).

 

CF: ROMELU LUKAKU

Continuing his spectacular Inter form at these finals, Romelu Lukaku scored three times in Belgium's group games from a total of just four shots on target.

He would probably be the favourite for the Golden Boot were it not for the form of the only man to outscore him in Serie A last season...

 

CF: CRISTIANO RONALDO

With five goals in three games, Cristiano Ronaldo became the leading goalscorer at the World Cup and European Championship combined (21).

The Portugal captain needs just one more to surpass Ali Daei as the top-scoring international men's footballer of all time.

Matthijs de Ligt will be back in the Netherlands team to face Austria in their second match of Euro 2020 on Thursday after recovering from an injury.

The Juventus defender missed out on the Oranje's 3-2 win over Ukraine on matchday one due to a groin strain, and they were hardly convincing defensively without him.

Ukraine had failed to score with any of their previous 72 shots at the Euros before Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk netted with consecutive efforts just four minutes and six seconds apart.

Those goals wiped out the Netherlands' 2-0 lead, though Denzel Dumfries did ensure Frank de Boer's men took all three points with his 85th-minute header, their latest winning goal at the Euros since the Dutch coach himself converted an 89th-minute penalty in Euro 2000.

The Netherlands' average starting position of 52.7 metres from their own goal represents the second-highest defensive line at the Euros so far (Poland, 53.2m), meaning that although dominant on the ball, they are potentially susceptible to being caught in behind.

But it will be hoped De Ligt's assuring presence negates some of the risk against Austria, who showed a desire to press high up the pitch in their 3-1 win over North Macedonia on Sunday, as they allowed the tournament debutants just 10 passes per defensive action (PPDA) in an attempt to suffocate them.

When asked if De Ligt would return, De Boer told reporters: "Yes, he will play, no doubt about it. Did you see any doubt in my eyes? [But] I can't tell you [who will be dropped]."

Daley Blind's withdrawal against Ukraine was a poignant moment, as the Ajax defender left the pitch seemingly in tears as he later revealed he had contemplated sitting out the match entirely after seeing his friend and former team-mate Christian Eriksen suffer a cardiac arrest for Denmark.

It stirred significant emotions in Blind, who in 2019 was fitted with an implanted defibrillator after being diagnosed with heart muscle inflammation in the wake of suffering dizzy spells in a Champions League match.

It remains to be seen whether Blind is mentally right to feature, but De Boer acknowledged that playing De Ligt on the left of the back three would not be ideal.

"I understand the reason he's not so comfortable on that side of the pitch, so it's not the best way to start and I take this into account, it's normal," he said.

It seems likely Wout Weghorst will lead the line once again, however, with the Wolfsburg striker something of a surprise choice in attack for the Ukraine game after Luuk de Jong had played the role with regularity beforehand.

Weghorst scored and showed a willingness to lead the Netherlands' press, with his two tackles the joint-most in the Dutch team and a solid contribution to their 20 high turnovers, the most by any team in the tournament so far.

"At the start I didn't want to change much, I had a good feeling with all the players. I wanted to play with the guys who qualified and that's the way I continued," De Boer continued.

"I think when you look at his [Weghorst] preparation and his matches before the tournament, I preferred Luuk as the striker.

"But I decided Wout because he performed really well in the last month and I think he deserved it with what he can bring for the team against a good team. He did not disappoint."

Daley Blind is hopeful he can be fit in time for the Netherlands' Euro 2020 campaign after being ruled out for the rest of Ajax's season with an ankle injury.

The 31-year-old sustained the damage during the second half of Tuesday's 7-0 World Cup 2022 qualifying victory over Gibraltar.

Blind was initially feared to have suffered knee ligament damage in the awkward fall, which left him wincing in pain and in need of a stretcher.

However, the versatile defender underwent a scan on Thursday and it was confirmed he has avoided a long-term lay-off, but he is unlikely to play again for Ajax this campaign.

Ajax provided an update on their official website and Blind said: "Today, after an examination in the hospital it turned out that fortunately there is no damage to the knee, but that the front ankle ligament of my left ankle is torn.

"I assume that my season at Ajax is over. I will have an operation next week. If everything goes well during rehabilitation, I hope that I can still make it to the Euros this summer."

"Of course I am terribly disappointed. You play football to win trophies and those trophies will be won in the coming months. Of course, I wanted to be there. It has been a wonderful season with Ajax so far. That now ends very abruptly for me."

Ajax are 11 points clear of PSV at the top of the Eredivisie, face Roma in the last eight of the Europa League and are into the final of the KNVB Beker, where Vitesse await later this month.

Vice-captain Blind has featured 34 times for Ajax in 2020-21 and started all three of the his country's World Cup qualifiers.

Fellow Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk is also in a race against time to be fit for the delayed European Championship finals, which begins for the Dutch on June 13 with a clash against Ukraine in Amsterdam. Ukraine and Austria are also in Group C.

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