Welcome, welcome ladies, gentlemen and bairns to the first of my Euro 24 roundups. 12 matches have been played with 29 goals scored and I’m here to bring you up to speed on anything you may have missed. Let’s get stuck in.
Romania 2 – 0 Northern Ireland
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Romania v Northern Ireland at the San Siro isn’t the kind of mouth watering show stopper worthy of kicking off a prestigious tournament like Euro 24, but on this occasion… Yeah, you’re probably right. It wasn’t a great match. I feel a bit for Northern Ireland as on the face of it, this seems like a routine win for the Romanians, but the Northern Irish actually defended resolutely and admirably, undone only by a heavily deflected Andrei Ivan free kick and then an even more heavily deflected Gabriel Stavarache shot from 20 yards that went down as a Brian Caldwell own goal. Jared Thompson had absolutely no chance with either. All that being said though, there’s no doubt the better team won.
Northern Ireland: 3rd
The Netherlands 3 – 0 Russia
Bayer striker Thomas Buitink got the Dutch off to a flyer in the Della Vittoria with a brace inside the first 21 minutes of their Euro 24 campaign: First blasting past the underwhelming Yury Lodygin after a classy assist from Tom Watson, then heading home a James Fofana cross from close range. As Russia pushed for a way back in the second half, that man Buitink drove forward on the counter and then selflessly teed up Memphis Depay, who found the bottom corner to give his country a comfortable win. One of four players to bag 2 goals in the opening round of games, it seems Buitink is one to watch.
Ukraine 1 – 0 Czech Republic
My thoughts are with you if you sat through this one. Hull full back and Czech captain Ales Mateju became a hero to neutrals everywhere when he broke up the mind numbing monotony that was the first 50 minutes by tripping Andriy Yarmolenko on the edge of his own box and conceded a penalty. Yarmolenko blasted beyond the fingertips of a full stretch Tomas Koubek to give a poor quality game at Florence’s Stadio Artemio Franchi it’s only goal. My “Mateju 15” shirt is in the post as we speak, although I doubt Czech manager Karel Jarolim or Mateju’s club manager Peter Crouch were as impressed.
Czech Republic: 3rd
FYR Macedonia 0 – 2 Portugal
It may be a shade too soon to describe the Portuguese as a force to be reckoned with, but they certainly showed their dominance over a thoroughly outclassed Macedonia side that failed to even register a shot on target at Rome’s Stadio Olympico. Portugal went ahead after 17 minutes when João Mario was able to drive a shot home from 20 yards thanks to a fine assist from Renato Sanches, but despite their dominance they were unable to build on their lead for some time. They did hit the woodwork twice in the first half, but only a full hour of football later did they double their tally when Bernardo Silva swung a delicious 30 yard free kick into the top corner.
FYR Macedonia: 4th
Norway 2 – 0 Germany
One of the shocks of the round came at Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris, where an extremely dominant Germany side were undone by the plucky but well drilled Norwegians. Just minutes before half time, a German attack was halted and Norway charged down the other end on the counter attack, ending when Tobias Svendsen cut the ball back from the left byline and Iver Fossum thumped in the opening goal. The second half started more evenly, with the two sides going hammer and tongs to claim the second goal. With 25 minutes to play, one of the passes of the tournament so far was curled perfectly behind the defence by Martin Ødegaard and young striker Vidar Holm was waiting on the shoulder of his marker to lash in his first international goal. He’ll be telling his Grandkids about that one, that’s for sure.
Croatia 0 – 2 Turkey
Written off by some less “ITK” pundits as the weakest team in Group C, Turkey laid down a marker in the Stadio San Nicola against a Croatia side lacking discipline, both defensively and just generally. It took almost an hour for the ill tempered affair to see it’s first goal, when Emre Mor launched a free kick box-wards from near the half way line and centre back Mehmet Niyaz, just seconds after coming on as a substitute, rose above Emanuel Glavica to head in his first goal for his country. Another substitute, Oguzhan Özyakup, set up the second goal with 20 minutes to go, ensuring plaudits aplenty for his twice vindicated manager Ersun Yanal. Özyakup chipped a pass into the left channel for Emre Günal, who clipped his shot in off the inside of the near post to give Turkey a well deserved cushion. Croatia need to have a good long look back at their performance, because they should not be proud of how they approached this match.
Sweden 0 – 2 Belgium
In a match that seemed too close to call beforehand, one side excelled at the Stadio Della Vittoria, while the other disappointed. Sceptics had pointed out in the build up that not only had this Belgium side been beaten to qualification from the group stages in Canada 22 by Paraguay and Iran, but that they were also now without Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, two stalwarts of the national side. However Filip Daems seems to have breathed new life into Belgium and they dominated a meek Swedish team, albeit without the match becoming completely one sided. A goal either side of half time was enough to clinch it, with the first coming from the spot after an admittedly weak penalty decision. The referee judged that Daniel Hansson had jumped unfairly with Corentin Fiore, but replays have since shown otherwise. Nevertheless, Youri Tielemans converted from 12 yards and then within a minute of the second half, a fine Kevin De Bruyne pass released the explosive Divock Origi, who raced clear of poor Hansson and poked his side’s second goal past Jim Lindau.
Italy 2 – 0 Poland
There were shades of Macedonia v Portugal as Italiano’s intoxicating Italy crushed Banasik’s poor Poland at the Stadio San Filippo. Barcelona’s Yuri Brugger lived up to his billing as potential best player at the tournament with a complete performance, pulling the strings for his side from the number 10 position before bagging a brace of goals either side of the break. The first he curled past Dragowski from the edge of the area after receiving the ball from Cesana and the second he volleyed home after an Italian corner was unconvincingly cleared, with Brugger left completely and criminally unmarked on the edge of the box. Like Buitink of the Netherlands, keep an eye on young Brugger.
France 2 – 2 England
One of only two draws in the first round of games played out at a packed San Siro, where Franjo’s experienced and classy France side met with Howe’s dynamic young England. Although France hit the woodwork early on through Thomas Lemar, it was England who raced into the lead with two quickfire goals around the half hour mark. First Oliver Webb capitalised on Raphaël Varane’s laughable attempts to control the ball by stealing it and slotting in the rebound after Gauthier saved his initial strike. Griezmann struck the post as France continued to go close, but when Webb raced past the lead-footed Varane once more and laid off for Harry Kane to double England’s tally with a well struck effort, the game seemed as good as over. Howe will probably rue his decision to replace eventual Player of the Match Webb at half time as he looked to consolidate his side’s position, as in the second half and especially after the introduction of target man Moussa Dembélé, France dragged themselves back into the game. Kylian Mbappé will take the headlines for a couple of excellent pieces of build up play in which he first set up a tap in for Dembélé, who opened his account for the French and then what should have been the equaliser for Rabiot, but his shot cracked off the foot of the post as France hit the woodwork for the third time in the match. Luckily captain Paul Pogba was on hand to tap in the rebound, leaving both sides with a well earned point.
Denmark 3 – 1 Georgia
In an exciting, end to end match at the Stadio San Paolo, Denmark’s extra touch of class (And a dodgy decision or two) helped them to overcome an impressive Georgia side. The first incident occurred after a quarter of an hour, when 6’6″ powerhouse Jannik Vestergaard was forced to the floor by the slight 5’10” frame of Mate Tsintsadze inside the box following a Danish corner. Make of that what you will. The referee pointed to the spot and Christian Eriksen converted to open the scoring. To their credit though, the Danes continued to press and harry their opponents, thoroughly earning the second goal 5 minutes later, when Jacob Bruun Larsen’s strike deflected in off Malkhaz Nemsadze. The Georgians kept on going and gave a good account of themselves but the game was finally put to bed in the 73rd minute, when René Hechmann’s low cross was turned in by substitute Wessam Abou Ali from close range. Georgia did eventually get something to cheer when a good cross by Qazaishvili came into the corridor between defence and goalkeeper and was tucked away by Jano, but the Danish came away with a deserved win.
Spain 4 – 1 Switzerland
One of the games of the round played out at the Stadio Artemio Franchi with a scoreline that contains a perhaps deceiving amount of gloss for the Spanish. Switzerland struggled to cope with the pace and movement of Spain in the opening minutes and the Spanish took full advantage when Héctor Bellerín got to the right byline unmarked and pulled the ball across goal for Paco Alcácer, who poked it home from point blank range. It could’ve been 2-0 just moments later when a similarly slick move left more holes in the Swiss defence than their cheese and Morata headed inches over the bar. The Swiss soon found their feet and were back on level terms in the 13th minute when a corner resulting in a quick game of pinball inside the Spanish box before Xherdan Shaqiri clipped in the equaliser. Both sides came close to finding that all important 3rd goal in the first half, with Saúl and Kamber forcing good saves from Burki and De Gea, but it wasn’t until 5 minutes after the break that Spain eventually found it, when Morata sent a good cross the way of Alcácer, who headed home his second of the day. From then on it was one way traffic as Switzerland’s collective head went down. 5 minutes after Spain’s 2nd, Morata rose magnificently to reach Grimaldo’s cross and sent a looping header into the far top corner and then 10 minutes later met another cross from Bellerín with a scorching scissor-kick volley that nearly tore a hole straight through the net, which would’ve left it with more holes than Swiss… I’ve already made that joke, haven’t I. I feel conflicted by the final scoreline: Spain have obvious quality but on another day Switzerland could have nicked some kind of result and 4-1 seems a harsh scoreline. That being said, there’s no excuse for capitulating like they did.
Serbia 0 – 0 Scotland
O my luve’s like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June,
O my luve’s like the melodie that’s sweetly play’d in tune.
Aye right, thae Serbians can get tae fuck. Strachan’s michty tartan army towered like a colossus oot there in the Juventus Stadium. Kieran Tierney wis the Tyne and Callum Paterson wis the Solway Firth and the guid laddies in between stood firm as Hadrian’s wall. Aw the Serbs cud muster wis a wee effort from Lukic, but the jessie saw the steel in Gunn’s een and wis up tae high doh, man. Aff is heid. Wisnae even close. But whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye. The baw’s on the slates fae noo, but thon baw wull drap.
Thanks for reading the first of my Euro 24 roundups. I’ll be back after the next round of games. Stay up to date by following me on twitter @doncollins42069
I actually did set Don up a twitter account after writing this (Not yet with that tag) and was planning to do some fun stuff with that, but it was banned within minutes, presumably because I set his banner to a Scottish flag? I didn’t really have time to do anything else. I can’t see why that’d go against twitter rules, but… Anyway I’m giving up on it as a bad job for now, so let’s just pretend. Get yersels tae fuck, twitter.