All 24 teams have played one match so far and, as always, there are storylines galore!
All of the hype coming in about the return of The Azzurri did not look unwarranted in Italy’s tournament opening hammering of Turkey, 3-0. In fact, this was probably the most dominant performance from any team that actually won their game (see Group E if you do not know to what I’m referring). The Paisons outshot a decent Turkish squad 23-4 and had over 60% of possession. Italy’s 3 points puts them in the unsurprising position as clear group favorites, and that position was solidified by the 1-1 draw in the other game of this group between Switzerland and Wales. This was a great result for Wales, who got the equalizer in the 74th minute and then held on. Switzerland looked good, particularly their goalscorer Embolo, but have to walk away disappointed by the draw.
Wales vs. Turkey, Wed at noon
The Welsh got a HUGE point from Switzerland and can be in great position if they can get another result here. As for Turkey, they have to shake off their opening match and remind themselves that points from Italy may not come for anyone, so their qualification campaign starts now.
Italy vs Switzerland, Wed at 3:00
This is probably the best match of the group, on paper, but it has some added import for the Swiss after their draw with Wales. Can they steal a result here or will Italy waltz into the Knockout Stage with another 3 points that would pretty much lock up the group?
There isn’t an “in-the-lines” storyline in this tournament that seems to even matter when thinking about the Christian Eriksen situation. Ericksen, the Danes best player, collapsed on the field, suffering a major cardiac arrest, apparently flat-lining before needing CPR resuscitation to bring him “back to life.” Wow. There is no way to even mention that and then seamlessly talk about sports again, so I won’t try. Just saying how horrible that situation must have been for the Denmark squad, who ended up losing to Finland in a game where none of the Danes’ 18 shots found the back of the net, while the Finns scored on their ONLY SHOT for a 1-0 win. Out of context, the win is a great moment for the Finns in their first ever major tournament match, but it is hard to celebrate after what happened. In the other match of the group, Belgium looked every bit of their #1 world ranking, getting a pair of goals from Romelu Lukaku and another from Thomas Meunier for a convincing 3-0 win over Russia. With Denmark getting 0 from their opening match, the top of this group looks as decided as any of them after Day One.
Finland vs. Russia, Weds at 9:00
Finland is sitting on 3 points and the Russians are on 0, so this game is kind of huge. Any result here for the Finns would likely mean advancement, while Russia has to shake off the Belgium defeat and try to get themselves out of this group. 3 points for Russia is most certainly what they’re looking for.
Denmark vs. Belgium, Thurs at noon
As if the Danes haven’t been through enough with the loss of their best player and then a loss to a team whom they outshot 18-1, now they are sitting on 0 points and staring in the faces of the #1 team in the world, who looked damn good in Game One. There is still a path for the Danes to get through, but they could really use a result here, setting up a showdown with Russia for potential qualification. As for Belgium, they only have Finland after this, so any result here should mean that they only a win over Finland for group victory. A win here would all be lock it up unless we all believe that the Finns can win again.
This has probably been the most entertaining group so far, as both games were a lot of fun. The first match of Group C saw Austria pick up a couple of late goals to beat a feisty North Macedonia team, 3-1. As Doogan noted in the preview, it was fascinating to see how Austria’s star, David Alaba was used in this game. The conversation was about what they would do with him, and they left him in the back for most of the game, but whenever he did venture up, good things happened, including on the game-winner, where he just used his elite playmaking skills and superior quality to put his team ahead. He was obviously the best player on the field for either team and picked his spots to show it beautifully. This was a really fun game. And, then there was the second game, which may have been the most entertaining of the all Day One matches. After a scoreless (but wildly entertaining) first half, the Netherlands got two quick goals to start the second and looked like they were going to roll over Ukraine. But, the Dutch had some disturbing defensive lapses, allowing two goals in 4 minutes (75th and 79th) to tie the score at 2-2. And, then, just when it looked like they were going to have a really deflating draw, Denzel Dumfries scored in the 85th minute to win it. Wow! If the rest of this group’s games are as good as the first two, sign me up!
Ukraine vs. North Macedonia, Thurs at 9:00
These two teams both looked good in their opening matches, but both came away with nothing to show for it. This could be a wide open game here, as a draw might not do either of them any good in the long run. While maybe not the most important match on the grand scale of the tournament, this could shape up to be a fun one. If Ukraine can win here, they will have a really good shot to advance, likely only needing a point from their finale against Austria. If North Macedonia wins, they will also have a shot, but they are staring at the Dutch in the final fixture.
Netherlands vs. Austria, Thurs at 3:00
The two winners on Day One in Group C will meet here on Day Two in a really big match. While both teams are in good shape to move on, the difference between the group winner here and runner-up is likely to be the difference between facing Italy in the Round of 16 or facing a third-place team.
As entertaining as the Group C games were, the Group D opening match may have been the most well-played game of the tournament thus far. England looked really good in a 1-0 win over arch-rival Croatia on the strength of a Sterling goal early in the second half. Three points in a really tough match against the second-best team in the group is a fantastic start for the high expectations of the Three Lions. The other game of the group saw one of the greatest goals I have ever seen off the foot of Czech Republic’s Patrick Schick, who beat the keeper from FIFTY-TWO YARDS away to give the Czechs a 2-0 lead over Scotland, and that’s how it finished. Thrilling goal aside, this was a really fun game. The Scots got 17 shots and actually won the possession with 56%, but it was the Czechs with better chances and the two goals. Should be really interesting to see how these two teams look in their upcoming matches in this interesting group.
Croatia vs Czech Republic, Fri at noon
This is a pretty enormous game here as the Croats lost to England and the Czechs beat Scotland, so the Czechs are sitting on 3, but awaiting England in their finale, while Croatia is sitting on 0 with Scotland still to come. The winner here is very likely to advance, but the loser isn’t done. A draw would make it all very interesting.
England vs. Scotland, Fri at 3:00
This is great! England got a big 3 points in a tough, hard-fought match against Croatia and now have to face a team that would have a generational win if they can pull off the upset. Scotland lost 2-0 to Czech Republic in their first game, but played well, getting off 17 shots. Any result would be Scotland regardless of how the rest of the tournament plays out, but a win would be absolutely legendary.
The first game of Group E was a bit of a shocker, as Poland fell to Slovakia, 2-1 thanks, in part, to a red card in the 62nd minute of a tie game. The Slovaks looked really good, regardless, but playing a man up for 30 minutes was a great boon to their hopes here in this tournament. All the expectations on this Polish side (which seemed warranted) could start to get heavy as they go as they are now the only side without any points and have two tough matches upcoming. This was a brutal result, for sure. On the other side, Slovakia is now sitting atop the group all alone after Day One. Wow! The other game in this group may be the most talked-about match of the Opening Days, despite not seeing a single goal. Spain and Sweden ended with the ole nil-nil draw, but you’d never know it if you watched the game at any point. At one point early in the second half, Spain had 91% possession and had completed nearly 1000 passes to Sweden’s 150. It’s always interesting to me when the one thing that everyone says could be a problem turns out to be a problem. And, that is exactly what happened here, as everyone was afraid that Spain’s only issue is a lack of a goal-scorer – and that was on full display on Monday, as Alvaro Morata reminded me of why he frustrated the HELL out of me during his Chelsea days. He’s a “scorer” who just can’t score. As an unabashed fan of every beautifully gorgeous thing that Spain does as an international squad, this game was incredibly frustrating. But, wow, did they DOMINATE this game, so focus on the positive, people…right? The one bright spot for a Sweden team that just kind of held on with white knuckles was Isak, who looked great.
Sweden vs. Slovakia, Fri at 9:00
The two teams in this group that have to be thrilled with their start to this tournament now face off on Match Day Two here in Group E. Slovakia upset Poland and is in really good shape to advance if they can get any result here. Sweden played the big favorites, Spain, to a draw and have to feel great about that point. If they can win this, they could be in pole position to get through here – and maybe even win this group.
Spain vs. Poland, Sat at 3:00
This was always an AWESOME game on paper, but after the early results, this game is even more fascinating now. Spain got a frustrating draw against Sweden and
The “Group of Death” kicked off with a scary opener and a fascinating nightcap. Portugal “managed” to get 3 points with a 3-0 win over Hungary that looks great in the scorebook, but didn’t look so great on the field. This game was scoreless for 83 minutes before Guerreiro broke through and then Ronaldo had one controversial goal and one BEAUTIFUL goal to make it 3-0 – a score line that could be important in this ridiculous group. It was a road game, yes, but it was Hungary, and the Portugese were somewhat listless for most of this game. It was about as unimpressive as a 3-0 game can be, but that doesn’t matter – they got what they needed against a happy-to-be-here Hungarian squad. The second game was awesome. While “highlights” may have been lacking, it was a jewel of a game won by the France, who was clearly the better team, 1-0. Germany, in defeat – with no context at all – may have actually been more impressive than Portugal was in victory. This French team is just way too loaded. As Doogan put it, you don’t have to find reasons why they will win this tournament – we might want to start looking for reasons why they won’t. And, I’m struggling to find any, personally.
Hungary vs. France, Sat at 9:00
The absolutely loaded French roster goes from Munich to Budapest to take on Hungary. Even on the road, there is no reason to think that Mbappe, Kante, and Co. won’t get 3 more points here and get ready for Portugal in the finale, which could be for all the Group F marbles. With Portugal beating Hungary by 3, the French will want to better that to ensure that they only need a draw with Portugal to win the group. Otherwise, they could be staring at England in the Round of 16.
Portugal vs. Germany, Sat at noon
For the second straight time, the Germans will be the host country in the best match of the Match Day. Not only is this a ridiculously interesting match because of the quality on both sides, but it is also of the utmost importance. The Germans, obviously, need something here to avoid a 0-point start. They do get Hungary to close it out in the final Group, so they will know how many goals they will need, but they still probably want to avoid needing it. As for Portugal, with a 3-0 win over Hungary in the bag, if they win here and France doesn’t beat Hungary by more than 3, they may only need a draw with France on the final day to win the group. And, winning the group would give them a 3rd-place team in the Round of 16, whereas a second-place finish probably pits them up against England.