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Euro 2024: Five things we learned from Matchday One

Following the first round of fixtures at Euro 2024 we’ve picked out five things we’ve learned from the tournament so far.

Never write off the Germans

It might be a tired cliché, but you can never write off the Germans.

Germany have perhaps never come into a major tournament with such cautious expectations, with consecutive group-stage exits at the past two World Cups and a Round of 16 elimination at Euro 2020 fresh in the memory. Last year brought an unwanted record six defeats across the calendar and their pre-tournament status was closer to outsiders than favourites.

On opening night, however, Germany sent a statement. Sure, Scotland were fairly terrible but Germany were also good.

Jonathan Tah and Antonio Rudiger are an imposing partnership at the back, Toni Kroos was flawless in midfield on his tournament return, and in Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala, Die Mannschaft have two of the most exciting young talents anywhere in world football.

It’s early days, but this was a perfect start.

More questions than answers for England

To label a side without a tournament success in 58 years favourites might seem odd but England’s depth of talent means the Three Lions have taken on that billing. Gareth Southgate’s side opened with a 1-0 win over Serbia, a performance that leaves more questions than answers for the England boss.

A bright start saw England look fluid, as positions rotated and the Three Lions dominated the ball. However, Jude Bellingham’s early goal was as good as it got as England failed to create chances and defended deeper as the Serbian pressure increased.

Individually, Marc Guehi passed his audition as Harry Maguire’s replacement at centre-back, though Kieran Trippier again struggled at left-back. Luke Shaw could return for Thursday’s game with Denmark but the only recognised left-back in the squad has not played since February.

Further forward, Trent Alexander-Arnold was hit and miss in a polarising midfield performance, and Phil Foden again flattered to deceive in an England shirt. England have the talent, but on first viewing their favourites tag appears an exaggeration for this team. A straightforward group, however, gives Southgate time to find the formula.

The kid’s are (more than) alright

Euro 2024’s opening fixtures have been an exhibit of the fearlessness of youth. The big stage has been no issue for several wunderkinder in Germany, with many of the pre-tournament ‘ones to watch’ making an instant impact.

Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz dovetailed to devastating effect in Germany’s 5-1 thrashing of Scotland in the tournament opener, before Lamine Yamal became the European Championship’s youngest-ever player – providing an assist in the process – in Spain’s win over Croatia.

Sunday brought an all-encompassing midfield performance from Jude Bellingham for England, and Arda Guler rounded out matchday one by becoming the youngest debutant scorer at a Euros.

This might just be the summer of the starlet.

A welcome return to old-fashioned number nines

Forget your false nines and shadow strikers. Sure, Spain won a European Championship without a proper striker once, but you can’t beat a big man up top.

Week one of Euro 2024 has brought the target-man back into fashion, with Niclas Fullkrug coming off the bench to add some sizeable salt to Scotland’s wounds. The German didn’t make his international debut until the age of 29 but has since struck 12 times in 17 appearances for Germany, after ending the 2022-23 campaign as the Bundesliga’s leading scorer.

Elsewhere, Wout Weghorst rescued the Netherlands with a goalscoring substitute showing of his own. The 6ft 6in forward was introduced in the 81st minute and took less than 120 seconds to find the winner with his first touch.

 

And finally, Hungary’s Martin Adam has become an internet sensation for, well, being a bit of a unit. The 29-year-old has earned the nickname the ‘Hungarian Viking’ for his formidable frame.

“The posts? Of course, one or two get to me, I usually have a laugh about it,” Adam told a news conference at the team’s base on Sunday.

“I was born this way, I have this body shape. I’m not saying that I was this big when I was born, but I have a basic physique. Genetics – I can’t change that.”

— Cultras Football Podcast (@thecultraspod) June 15, 2024

Martinez must make more from second ‘Golden Generation’

Roberto Martinez might just be a case of ‘falling upwards’ in football management. The Spaniard spent six years in charge of the Belgium national team where, despite the wealth of talent available, he failed to win a major tournament. The Red Devils finished third at the 2018 World Cup but missed the chance to capitalise on a ‘Golden Generation’.

Martinez now finds himself in charge of another exciting squad. Portugal produced a perfect qualification campaign with 10 wins from 10 games, 36 goals scored, and two conceded, but opened Euro 2024 this week in unconvincing fashion against the Czech Republic.

Francisco Conceicao came off the bench to score a 92nd-minute winner for Portugal who until that point had lacked a clinical edge. Attention will no doubt turn to Cristiano Ronaldo and whether the 39-year-old remains the right man to lead the line for a talented team, given his lack of contribution out of possession.

Martinez has insisted the trade-off for goals, of which Ronaldo scored 10 in qualification and has a record 130 internationally, is worth it. Portugal, however, must improve and Martinez knows it. He will not want to be remembered as the coach who squandered two Golden Generations.

Read – Euro 2024 Awards for Matchday One – Guler Golazo, Magic Musiala

See more – Euro 2024 – Team of the Week from the opening round of fixtures

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