Euro 2020: Top 5 Team Performances from Round One
The Euros are finally here! Join us as FC Mangalore’s Technical team of Biby Thomas and Shailesh Karkera break down the matches.
The biggest showdown in European International football was finally back this week with Euro 2020, albeit a year later than scheduled on account of the global pandemic. And what an exciting week it has been, with players returning to packed stadiums, some memorable individual and team performances and a nail-biting medical incident which had the entire world on edge.
FC Mangalore Media asked our very own team of Technical Experts Biby Thomas and Shailesh Karkera to pick the top performers of the opening round of matches and here’s what they had to say.
Turkey 0-3 Italy
Merih Demiral 53′ og
The Azzuri set a high bar in the tournament opener in Rome against Turkey and controlled proceedings from start to finish. After a barren first half which was dominated by Italy, the flood-gates finally opened in the second, with goals arriving at regular intervals. Renowned for their defense, the Italians looked rock-solid at the back and rarely allowed Turkey to make into inroads into the final third. Coach Roberto Mancini’s 1-4-3-3 formation featured fullbacks Spinazolla and Florenzi making runs from deep to support the attack to supplement the potent combination of Insigne, Immobile and Berardi upfront.
Overall, from a tactical stand-point, Mancini’s Italy looks like a perfectly balanced side who have all it takes to go far into the tournament.
BT: “The Italians have been famous for the Catennacio style of play but what Mancini has proven is that Italy can also play with an attacking flair and that is extremely refreshing. There is an excellent mix of experience and youth in this side and as a fan of Italy, it makes me all the more excited for the coming matches. However, rest assured that going forward the real test will come against tougher teams like France and Portugal in the next round.”
SK: “Turkey is, in all fairness, a good team who were made to look extremely ordinary by the Italians. There was no space in the final third in the first half as Turkey looked to play a cautious game but that only enabled deep lying players like Spinazolla to flourish and he had a truly outstanding game. With Jorginho operating in front of the back two of Bonucci and Chellini, teams are going to find it difficult to break down the central channel for sure.”
England 1-0 Croatia
England came into the tournament with the customary media hype that bills them to be top title challengers and the team out in a classy performance on home turf against an ageing Croatia outfit. This was a remarkable turnaround since the last time the two sides met in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup 2018 when the Croats thoroughly out-classed the English in all departments.
Wembley has been a stronghold for the English in the international arena and the team went on the offensive with Foden rattling the crossbar early on and Phillips being denied by a reflexive save. Croatia seemed content to sit back and play on the counter and despite the constant pressure, were able to go into the half-time break with the scores levelled at 0-0. The all important winner arrived midway through the second half when Raheem Sterling timed his run to perfection to latch on to a through ball by Phillips for a close-range finish. The result marked the first time that England had registered a win on their opening day in the Euros.
BT: “England has a very young and promising team and it was refreshing to see Sterling have an outstanding game following his poor season with Man City. On the flip side they lack experience, something that is crucial in the later rounds when they come up against stronger opponents. Croatia are clearly ageing and this is probably going to be the final swansong for many of their star players.”
SK: “Southgate has a reliable striker in Kane upfront however the England team is complemented with intelligent attacking players who make off-the-ball runs into the final third and Sterling’s goal is a classic example of that. Croatia rightly pre-empted the English attacking threat but ended up dropping too deep into their own half and inviting pressure on themselves. Having said that, Croatia were well organised and this was probably their toughest fixture of this opening round.”
Belgium 3-0 Russia
Lukaku 10′ 88′
Belgium have been atop FIFA’s World Rankings since September 2018 and have been billed pre-tournament favourites on a consistent basis in recent international tournaments. What unfolded in St. Petersburg was yet another example of an attacking masterclass against a lacklustre Russian outfit.
Lukaku, fresh off an outstanding title winning season with Inter, kicked off proceedings as early as the 10th minute to silence the home crowd and set the tone for the rest of the tie. After a couple of close calls, Belgium finally doubled their lead courtesy a Meunier strike just past the halfway mark.
Belgium’s fluid 1-3-4-3 formation enabled them to utilise the entire width of the pitch and work the ball around patiently. Eventually the rout was completed two minutes from the final whistle when Lukaku scored his second of the night in trademark fashion – out-pacing his marker to a through ball from midfield and slotting home at the near post to make it 3-0 on the night. The margin of victory equalled Belgium’s biggest EURO group stage win – they beat the Republic of Ireland by the same scoreline in 2016.
BT: “Belgium traditionally starts strongly in recent tournaments and their golden generation duly delivered. Again, the real test will come for this team in the knockout stages when they will take on the challengers.”
SK: “In Lukaku, Belgium possesses a quality in-form striker who can deliver the goods when required and lead the attacking lineup and just like England with Kane, there are a lot of complementary players making intelligent runs from deep which opponents will struggle to pick up on.”
Hungary 0-3 Portugal
Ronaldo 87′ (p), 90’+2
Despite the advantage of playing in front of a 65,000 noisy fans in Budapest, the odds were stacked heavily against Hungary as they took on defending champions Portugal in their opening encounter. All eyes were on Portugese captain Ronaldo, now featuring in his fifth Euro Championship and chasing multiple individual milestones in the process.
Egged on by the crowd, the Hungarians slowly worked their way into the game and looked all set to rescue a point having managed to hold on to a 0-0 scoreline only for their dreams to come crashing down in spectacular fashion in a late flurry of goals that did not do justice to the final scoreline. Raphaël Guerreiro pounced on a loose ball inside a crowded penalty area in the 85 minute and his resultant strike took a lucky deflection and rolled into the bottom corner to give Portugal the lead.
The goal instantly galvanised the Portugese and up stepped Ronaldo, who had been largely inconsequential up to that point, to double the lead in the 87th minute. The victory was capped off with what was arguably the best ‘team goal’ of the opening round was capped off by Ronaldo rounding off the keeper to make it 3-0.
Ronaldo became the first player to feature and score in five consecutive Euro Championships and enabled him to overtake Michel Platini as the All Time Leading Goalscorer in Euros history. He is also now three goals away from matching Iran’s Ali Daei as the all-time leading international men’s goalscorer.
BT: “Hungary committed most of their players in defence and were almost rewarded for their dogged defending. The only down side to all of this was that Portugal did the opposite and started taking more risks. What the tie also showed that you can never discount Ronaldo, who really was non-existent early on and had a string of misses but eventually hogged all of the headlines.”
SK: “Portugal have the attacking prowess to challenge most of the top teams in this competition. Given that this is the Group of Death featuring Germany and France, a lot will be riding on the remaining two games. They looked confident in possession and took their time to work the ball around patiently and their persistence finally paid off in the final five minutes.”
Germany 0-1 France
Hummels 20′ og
It was billed as the biggest encounter of the opening round and both teams delivered on a spectacular night in Munich. World Champions France showed exactly why they are favourites to win the title with an all-round performance. With the likes of Pogba and Kante in midfield and the attacking prowess of Mbappe, Benzema and Griezmann up front, the pressure was intense and the German defense finally cracked in the 20th minute when Hummels cleared the ball into his own net.
Following the goal, France looked to hold on to their lead and play on the counter. The lead was almost doubled when Rabiot’s shot beat Neuer and rattled the upright.
Germany, famed for its remarkable comebacks in the past, tried to fashion an equalizer and came agonisingly close through Gnarby late in the second half.
At the full time whistle, France cemented their ‘favourite’ tag and are now currently unbeaten in their last 17 games.
BT : “A true classic. To beat Germany in Germany is never easy and France scored early, dropped back and preferred to counter attack through the pace of their front men. Expect more to come from Mbappe and company in the coming games and if there is one thing that history has taught us is that never discount the Germans. “
SK: “France are the reigning world champions and tonight they showed exactly why they are favourites and never really looked under any real threat. The midfield duo of Pogba and Kante is one of the most potent in world football today and judging by the players they have in each position, this team could very well go on to replicate their counterparts from Euro 2000”
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.