Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.
Now that we’ve seen every team in action at Euro 2020 and the continent is well and truly in a Euro fever it’s time to reflect back on what has been an incident-packed and surprisingly entertaining first round of group matches.
Of course, we’ve already started looking ahead at the second round of matches on our Euro 2020 predictions page but before that kicks off later today let’s recap what we’ve learned so far.
Italy could be the real deal
It took an own goal for Italy to take the lead against a negative Turkey side but once the deadlock was broken the Azzurri really hit their stride. They won that game 3-0 but, let’s be honest, it could have been more.
By the time the half-time whistle had been blown they were winning the shot count 14-0 and by the time the curtain fell on their convincing victory they had attempted 25 shots to Turkey’s three.
Their front three – Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi – had 15 shots between them and even the two veteran centre backs had a couple of pops each. We’ll know more after their clash with Switzerland tonight but it certainly looks promising for Roberto Mancini’s side.
There are still question marks over how Chiellini and Bonucci will handle a more pacey attacking setup, though. Their full-backs love to push forward and offer little protection to the ageing duo and you can never feel truly confident when Jorginho is the last line of defence in midfield. The Chelsea man is much more impressive in possession than he is out of it.
We tipped Italy to win at 11/1 in our Euro 2020 winners predictions and after their demolition of Czech Republic in their final warm-up game and their victory over Turkey they have been backed in to 7/1.
Spain are desperately missing a striker
Spain’s hosting of Sweden in Sevilla was one of the few utterly abject matches we’ve witnessed this tournament.
Sweden, credit to them, knew what they were going to do from the start and put in a top-class rear-guard performance in Spain. We should see more of them in an attacking sense when they face a surprisingly good Slovakia side on Friday.
For Spain it was a concerning showing. They played over 900 passes, had 85% possession and displayed some excellent build-up play, but Alvaro Morata simply isn’t a natural finisher. He squandered the best chance of the game and got none of his three attempts on goal on target.
The former Chelsea man has had over £160 million spent on him over the course of his career and performances like that make you wonder what these clubs are seeing in him.
Gerard Moreno came on for the final 15 minutes but fluffed his lines too, but the Villarreal striker is coming off the back of a 30-goal season at club level and should be started ahead of Morata.
There is no doubt this is a Spain squad in transition following their global dominance ten years ago but Luis Enrique’s side must do better if they are to stand any chance of challenging this summer.
France are the team to beat and Germans should be concerned
The first round of group games ended last night with a marquee clash between the last two World Cup champions, but the two nations have been on very different trajectories since their respective trophy wins.
It was one of those games where the stats don’t match up to the eye test. Germany dominated the stats, winning the shot count, generating a greater xG and having more of the ball. Anyone who watched the heavyweight clash will know that doesn’t tell the whole story, though.
France never really had to get out of third-gear to beat a Germany side who lacked bite in the final third and looked fragile at the back. Mats Hummels – scorer of the own goal that won the match for France – was terrorised by the pace of Kylian Mbappe throughout and it was only two tight offsides that stopped France adding to the scoreline.
It’s often said that legendary managers such as Joachim Low hang around for one tournament too many and, after their group stage exit in Russia three years ago, it seems like the Germany boss may have outstayed his welcome by two tournaments.
As for France, they are still the team to beat. They showed class and composure throughout and the midfield pairing of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba looked utterly world class. We tipped them to go all the way at 7/2 pre-tournament and they’ve been shaded in to 7/2 since.
Cristiano Ronaldo is still a game changer
When he finally hangs up his boots Cristiano Ronaldo will go down as one of the two greatest players of all time and, at the age of 36, he showed he is still a world-class game changer on Tuesday evening.
Portugal were frustrated by a stubborn Hungary side in front of a 60,000 strong crowd in Budapest but finally got a breakthrough in the 84th minute, but Ronaldo wasn’t satisfied with a 1-0 win, especially when he wasn’t the one who scored the goal.
He converted a penalty three minutes after Raphael Guerreiro’s opener to become the all-time top scorer at the European Championship and he added an 11th in injury time to finish off a slick Portugal move.
His penalty was a formality but his second of the game showed his class for his second as he played a two quick one-twos with Rafa Silva before coolly rounding the keeper and slotting the ball home.
His double saw him become the first man to score in five European Championships and also broke Michel Platini’s all-time top goalscorer record. He is just three goals off Ali Daei’s record of 109 international goals for Iran and you wouldn’t back against him breaking that record this summer.
Romelu Lukaku can do it on his own
Belgium lined up against Russia without two of their most talismanic products as Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne missed out, but that had seemingly no effect as Romelu Lukaku inspired the Red Devils to a comfortable 3-0 win in Saint-Petersburg.
The Inter Milan forward opened the scoring after just ten minutes and added his second of the game in the closing stages and there can be no doubt that he’s now one of the best strikers in the world.
His movement and first touch was maligned in Manchester but his overall game has come on leaps and bounds since moving to Italy. He has scored 64 goals in 95 appearances since moving to the San Siro and his record for the national team is unparalleled.
He has scored 62 goals – almost twice that of their second highest scorer, Eden Hazard – in 94 games and has now found the net 22 times in his last 22 appearances for Belgium. There’s no surprise we’ve backed him to score against Denmark on Thursday and his exploits in Russia have made him bookies’ favourite for the Golden Boot, which we also tipped pre-tournament.
What about England?
In all honesty, we didn’t learn all that much from England’s win over Croatia. It was a composed performance and impressive in its own right but we all know the dangers of getting carried away too soon.
Gareth Southgate’s team selection raised more than a few eyebrows ahead of the game but every single decision he made was justified in the end. Kalvin Phillips was excellent and Raheem Sterling looked sharp throughout despite his disappointing domestic campaign. Tyrone Mings is no Harry Maguire but he looked solid enough and Kieran Trippier did alright at left wing-back, although I’d still prefer to see Luke Shaw or Ben Chilwell there.
Overall it was a solid performance and a win in the opening game – England’s first ever, I might add – eases the pressure greatly. This young Three Lions squad looks arrogant (in a good way) and fearless and that’s what they’ll need as the pressure ramps up later in the tournament.
I’m not getting carried away just yet, but ask me after the Scotland game and I won’t be able to hear you over Baddiel and Skinner.
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