Matchday 1 of Euro 2020 had a bit of everything. Goals, drama, despair, cards and one of the most harrowing experiences we’ve ever witnessed on a football pitch. It was that crazy, and we’ve just gotten started. After months without fans in stadiums, the crowds are back in full volume. The chanting, the boos, the cheers have all returned, and so too has football as we know it.Embed from Getty Images
Italy and Turkey kicked off the tournament in Rome. The Stadio Olimpico housed 16000 fans, but it felt like a full house each time Italy had the ball. Domenico Berardi forced the opening goal of the tournament – an own goal from Merih Demiral, before Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne finished off the night in style. The next day, Wales and Switzerland played out a 1-1 draw in Baku, with Breel Embolo opening the scoring for the Swiss, and Keiffer Moore equalizing for Wales. What followed next was something that would shake up everyone across the footballing world. Denmark played Finland, and Inter Milan playmaker Christian Eriksen collapsed to the ground in the 43rd minute, suffering from a cardiac arrest. Denmark captain Simon Kjaer performed CPR on Eriksen as the medical team made their way onto the pitch and then guided his teammates to form a protective wall around their teammate. After several long minutes, Eriksen was carried away on a stretcher, as fans of Finland and Denmark chanted the Dane’s name in unison. The match however was ordered to continue after a brief time out, with Denmark’s dreams of a positive night shattered to pieces. Union Berlin striker Joel Pohjanpalo scored the only goal of the match, as Finland recorded its first-ever win in their debut Euro campaign.Embed from Getty Images
Belgium played Russia the next day, and came out as the victors in a routine 3-0 win, with Romelu Lukaku scoring a brace and Thomas Meunier scoring the other. Lukaku dedicated his goal to his clubmate Christian Eriksen, who at that point was still recovering in hospital. Next, England hosted 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia at Wembley. Gareth Southgate threw up a surprise from the get-go as he started Atletico Madrid right-back Kieran Trippier at left-back, leaving out Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell much to the dismay of the England fans. But that didn’t seem to faze the Englishmen one bit on the pitch, as they dominated Croatia from the get-go. Raheem Sterling scored the game’s only goal early in the second half as England came out comfortable winners. Austria ran out 3-1 winners over debutants North Macedonia next with Stefan Lainer, Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic scoring for them, and veteran Goran Pandev scoring the Macedonians only goal.Embed from Getty Images
Arguably the game of the opening round took place next in Amsterdam, where the Netherlands hosted Ukraine. All the pre-match skepticism around Frank De Boer and his tactics were put to rest as Memphis Depay and co ran rings around the Ukrainians. New PSG recruit Georginio Wijnaldum unleashed a fierce left-footed shot to give the Oranje a deserved lead, and it was Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst who converted a close-range chance to put the Dutch 2-0 up. It all seemed smooth sailing for De Boer’s team, right up until West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko scored a thunderbolt from outside the box, giving the Ukraine a glimmer of hope. That glimmer became even brighter after Roman Yaremchuk made it 2-2 minutes later from a set-piece. Ukraine were minutes away from securing a surprise draw, but Denzel Dumfries, who had been bombing up and down from right-wing-back all game long, latched onto an inviting cross from Nathan Ake to head home the winner.Embed from Getty Images
Scotland then hosted Czech Republic at Hampden Park the following day, and this match will be remembered for years to come due to the sheer brilliance of Patrik Schick. Schick gave the Czechs the lead just before halftime with a fine header, and in the 52nd minute scored one of the best goals we will ever see at the European Championships. The Leverkusen forward spotted David Marshall well off his line and then whipped a lofted left-footed strike from the centre circle. It was a goal that will be compared to efforts by Marco Van Basten and Paul Gascoigne for years to come. Scotland for their part did not give up, but kept pushing to no avail as Czech Republic ran out 2-0 winners.Embed from Getty Images
All eyes were on Robert Lewandowski as Poland played Slovakia next. Slovakia took the lead after Róbert Mak’s effort squeezed past Wojciech Szczesny at the near post. Karol Linetty equalized for Poland just after the restart, but the Polish comeback was thwarted after Grzegorz Krychowiak earned himself a sending off in the 62nd minute from a second bookable offence. Slovakia took the lead seven minutes later as Milan Skriniar drilled a right-footed shot past Szczesny to restore their lead and win the match. Spain rounded off the day’s action with a drab 0-0 draw against Sweden. The Spaniards enjoyed the lion share of possession (86% – 14%), but couldn’t make it count as Alvaro Morata spurned a host of chances to put Spain out of sight. Sweden could have won it themselves, if not for a Marcus Berg missed chance from 3 yards out.Embed from Getty Images
The final day of Matchday 1 saw Hungary host Portugal in a packed Puskas Arena. The hosts executed their game plan to a tee, keeping Portugal quiet and ineffective in the final third. But somehow, the defending champions found their way in the 84th minute as Borussia Dortmund left-back Raphael Guerreiro scored a deflected strike to break Hungarian hearts. Moments later, Willi Orban pulled down Rafa Silva in the box, which Cristiano Ronaldo duly converted in record-breaking fashion. But Ronaldo wasn’t done there, as he ghosted into the penalty area and combined magnificently once again with Rafa Silva, before extending his run as the top scorer in the history of the European Championships.Embed from Getty Images
France played Germany in the final match of Matchday 1 in a game that saw the current world champions defeat the former world champions 1-0, thanks to an own goal from Mats Hummels and a bit of class from Deschamps’ men along the way. Germany enjoyed the bulk of the possession, but couldn’t make it count to alter the result, with Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba running the show for France.
Turkey 0 – 3 Italy
Wales 1 – 1 Switzerland
Denmark 0 – 1 Finland
Belgium 3 – 0 Russia
England 1 – 0 Croatia
Austria 3 – 1 North Macedonia
Netherlands 3 – 2 Ukraine
Scotland 0 – 2 Czech Republic
Poland 1 – 2 Slovakia
Spain 0 – 0 Sweden
Hungary 0 – 3 Portugal
France 1 – 0 Germany
So there it is! Our round-up of Matchday 1 of the Euros! Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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When establishing a style of play, all top-level managers face the same pragmatic questions: How will positional defenders become functional attackers (and vice versa) as changes in possession occur? Where is the balance between earnest advancement and cautious reserve? And how is that equilibrium expressed, implicitly and explicitly, on the team sheet?
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