At the time of writing, all the teams involved in the delayed Euro 2020 tournament have played their opening matches. Yes, it’s too early to draw any hard and fast conclusions, but let’s explore what has happened so far…
First up, the standout moment (sadly for all the wrong reasons) has been the plight of Danish player Christian Eriksen who collapsed with cardiac arrest when playing against Finland. I felt sick in the pit of my stomach when I saw him receiving CPR on the pitch and would confess that I feared the worst. So, I am absolutely delighted to know my fears prove unfounded. Eriksen now seems to be on the road to recovery.
I felt sorry for the BBC in-studio pundits who were struggling to say something sensible in response to the player’s collapse. What can you say when an incident such as this unfolds in front of you? Top marks to ex-Arsenal player Alex Scott who said that she contacted her mum to tell her she loved her.
It doesn’t matter which club you support, the good wishes toward Eriksen transcend any club loyalties. I wish him only the best and I’m confident readers will feel the same. Will he ever play again? Maybe it is too early to pose such a question. But, somehow, I doubt it. He has two young kids to consider.
Back to the (less significant) football and in the order, the games were played…
Italy looked impressive in their opening encounter against Turkey, winning 3-0 and it could have been more. Don’t bet against them going all the way to the final.
Wales managed to scramble a draw against Switzerland. Let’s hope that the point they gained turns out to be significant at the end of the group stage. Remember, the four third-placed teams with the best record will also progress to the knockout stages. So, it is quite possible that an overall total of four points might be enough. Wales face Turkey at 5pm today (11pm in Thailand) and that, I believe, represents their best chance of a win to take them to four points. I don’t give them much chance against Italy, but would be quite content to be proved wrong.
I have already touched upon the Denmark-Finland game. Should the teams have gone back out and finished the match the same evening? I guess it is possible to make out a case both for and against. I was not surprised the Danes lost 1-0. It’s hard to believe they were thinking straight.
Belgium, my tip for the trophy, soundly beat Russia 3-0. I didn’t watch the match, they are coming too thick at fast at this stage.
This brings me to England. I thought they played okay, but only okay. A 1-0 win was very welcome and puts them in a good position going into the next match on Friday against the Scots. I think some of the TV pundits got a bit carried away after the match raving about England. ‘Can do better’ is my summing up. But a win is a win! I’ll take a steady 1-0 ahead of an exciting 3-3 any day.
I saw nothing of the Austria 3, North Macedonia 1 match. It didn’t fire my imagination. Also, I would struggle to pinpoint North Macedonia on a map.
The Dutch beating Ukraine 3-2 looks like a good result.
And how about the Scots? I couldn’t watch the match because it was staged during work time but, viewing the highlights (or should that be lowlights?) it looks like they missed a few decent chances. I don’t know what the Scottish goalkeeper thought he was doing for the Czech Republic’s second goal. He must have been close to the halfway line when the play broke down. Absolutely crazy! But the scorer of both the Czech goals – Patrik Schick of Bayer Leverkusen – probably upped any transfer fee as a result. Not that I saying he is going anywhere, but these major tournaments always bring a few players into our consciousness for the first time and get transfer talk started.
Poland lost narrowly to Slovakia. I had them down as a possible tournament dark horse. Oh well…
To say that Spain were disappointing against Sweden, I think, is fair given the amount of possession they had. But to dwell on that would do the Swedes a disservice. The Scandinavians defended very well, their keeper especially.
Hungary lost at home to Portugal but the 3-0 scoreline flatters the holders who had to wait until very late in the game to open the scoring. Two for Christiano Ronaldo makes him the all-time leading scorer in the finals. I thought his second was offside, by the way. Even aged 36 the player looks in great form and shape. I think the talk of him returning to Manchester United is probably a load of hogwash, but I’m sure there is many a United fan who not-so-secretly hopes it might be true.
France made a big statement by beating Germany on the latter’s home soil. The German side’s next opponents are Portugal on Saturday. I think they will need at least a point from that encounter to have the chance to progress.
A little more about the England V Scotland clash. As predicted in a previous article, the footage of Gascoigne’s ‘dentist’s chair’ goal from the 1996 Euros encounter is being trotted out on British TV at every juncture. I must have seen it at least half a dozen times without really looking for it.
England start as favourites, but expect a more spirited display from the Scots than they produced against the Czechs. The Scots take more pleasure from beating England than any other nation, so big pressure on their players to perform.
I won’t be making any predictions about the game. To use a well-worn football cliché, form goes out the window in such clashes.
Roll on Friday…
Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that, it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.