Euro 2020 Recap: What we learned from the first round of matches

Craig Hanson 1 month ago

After five days of fabulous football, who looks most poised to go all the way this summer?

It's been a wonderful start to the festival of football that is Euro 2020. Apart from the sobering scene involving Denmark's Christian Eriksen in their game against Finland, it's been thoroughly enjoyable and we hope there is much more to come as we head into matchday two. 12 of 51 matches have been played with a total of 28 goals scored, that's 2.34 per match or a goal every 39 minutes. Opening games at big tournaments are always cagey with no team wanting to get off to a bad start so these numbers are promising. First halves have been predictably tight with only 7 goals coming during opening periods and the other 21 coming after the break. 8 goals have come after the 75 minute mark with late drama already a factor in several matches. Surprisingly we've only seen one 0-0 draw, the Spain vs Sweden game. Poland's Gregorz Krychowiak is the only player to see red so far. VAR has worked well with little controversy, much to the chagrin of Premier League fans who are all too used to it being a talking point. Some of the big hitters have got off to flying starts, here's how Euro 2020 is shaping up so far.

Italy, Belgium and Portugal start strong

Italy were everyone's dark horses coming into the tournament but their opening game against Turkey was expected to be tight with the Turks also tipped to surprise people. Roberto Mancini's side turned the script upside down with a thunderous 3-0 victory to lay down a marker for their rivals in Group A. They registered an incredible 24 attempts and kept a clean sheet. The Azzurri have surely woken up those who were sleeping on them and now look irresistible.

Belgium reacted to cries of "It's now or never" with an equally emphatic win over World Cup quarter finalists Russia. Romelu Lukaku scored twice in a controlled display which should give them confidence heading into their remaining group games. The Inter Milan striker dedicated his first goal to his stricken teammate Christian Eriksen, and with his second, put himself in the frame as an early contender for the golden boot - now joined by Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick who have also registered twice so far.

Portugal were right up there in the estimation of many and that won't have changed after they broke down a resolute Hungarian defence to score three goals in eight minutes at the end of the match. Cristiano Ronaldo missed an easy chance earlier in the game but he came through with two goals, one a penalty and another an exquisite move in tandem with Benfica's Rafa Silva, beautifully finished by the 36-year-old. That goal made him the all-time top scorer in European Championships. It wasn't easy for Portugal as Hungary held strong until the deadlock was finally broken on 84 minutes. In front of a 67,000 capacity crowd at the Puskas Arena, the underdogs made more tackles (22) and more ball recoveries (58) than any other team so far.

Favourites France make the Germans look ordinary

Word of Die Mannschaft's demise may have been slightly exaggerated but on the evidence of Tuesday night's game, they are not the power they once were and they look no match for a terrifying French team. Kylian Mbappe was at his best, displaying pace and technique perhaps unmatched by anyone at the tournament. He caused havoc all night long, scoring an outstanding solo goal and assisting Benzema for another, both of which were disallowed by VAR. In the end the French got the three points thanks to a Mats Hummels own goal on the 20th minute but they were by far the more threatening. Germany showed flashes and with the quality they have they mustn't be discounted completely but fans of other nations will be watching France with great trepidation.

England make history against Croatia

England were second favourites heading into the tournament, unsurprisingly so given the personnel in their squad - a team littered with Premier League and Champions League winners. Having never won an opening game at a European Championship before, Gareth Southgate's side looked assured and controlled the majority of the game against a Croatia side which seemed a long way from the one which beat them in the World Cup semi final three years ago. The manager was vindicated for his controversial selection of Raheem Sterling who came up with the vital goal which earned the Three Lions all three points. The Croats threatened on occasion but never really looked like scoring. After coming through the greatest test in their group, England fans will now be shaking at the prospect of winning it in full knowledge that doing so could lead to a second round game against France, with many online - perhaps with tongue-in-cheek - already praying for a second place finish.

Can the other home nations get through to the second round?

Scotland fans will be devastated to have lost their opening game after coming into Euro 2020 with such confidence. Despite having some very good chances and hitting the crossbar, they were ultimately undone by two fantastic goals from striker Patrik Schick either side of half time. On 42 minutes, he hammered home a header from a Vladimir Coufal cross. Then shortly after the break he spotted Scotland keeper David Marshall far from his goal and lobbed him from the half way line in what will almost certainly be voted the goal of the tournament. It was a game they could have won and with England and Croatia to come, it's now looking pretty bleak for the Scots.

Wales had a slightly better start drawing 1-1 with Switzerland. They also would have hoped to win with seemingly tougher tasks ahead in Turkey and Italy, but after the opening game between those two, the Welsh could be forgiven for thinking they can get all three points against the Turks. Earning a point against the Swiss in itself was no easy task and coach Rob Page will be delighted with the performance of his team and his giant goalscorer Kieffer Moore who rose to glance a header into the far corner and equalise for the Welsh late into the second half. Hearts were in mouths as Switzerland scored again but Mario Gavranović's effort was ruled out for offside by VAR. The next game will be crucial for Wales.

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