Written By Kurt West
Euro 2016 kicked off last Friday with France scraping past a spirited Romanian side and since then the tournament hasn’t failed to disappoint. With every team now playing once, I look back at 3 things we have learnt so far.
1. Even playing field.
Right from the first to the very last match it’s been clear to see just how evenly matched the teams are. The highest margin of score has been two goals with Germany, Italy and Hungary beating Ukraine, Belgium and Austria by two goals to nil. The competition has been immense and this can only be seen as a good thing in my eyes. The rest of the games have been separated by the odd goal and 3 draws have taken place.
2. Italy and Croatia both impressive.
It may be jumping the gun too early to say Croatia and Italy are major contenders for the tournament but their impressive matchday 1 performances will do them no harm for the rest of the tournament. Croatia outclassed the Turks in their Group C opener and although a piece of magic from Luka Modric won the game, it could’ve been so many more. We all know about the world class talent of Luca Modric and Ivan Rakitic but it was the wide man Ivan Perisic who caught the eye for me and I believe those 3 players will be crucial in how far the Croats go in this tournament.
Next is Italy who I believe probably had the standout performance of anyone so far. I personally believe they have the worst squad they’ve had at a tournament in recent memory but that didn’t stop them from beating the golden generation of Belgium. It was a true defensive masterclass from Conte with his trusted back 4 from his Juventus of Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini cutting out any threat that Belgium posed. However it was in attack where Italy surprised me, breaking with pace and possessing the clinical finishing of Giaccherini and Pelle means they surely go down as an early surprise contender for the competition.
3. Dimitri Payet is a bit special.
The tournament so far has been dominated by immense team displays by the likes of Iceland, Italy and Wales with few individuals truly shining and digging their teams out of a hole, this can not be said about a certain Frenchman from West Ham though. Dimitri Payet took the expectations of France on his shoulders and delivered a performance of a man with supreme confidence. Payet set up the Giroud opener before Romania equalised with a penalty that silenced the home crowd. France were staggering to a draw against a Romanian side they were expected to beat comfortably, that was until Payet unleashed pure genius. He picked up the ball from outside the box and lashed it in the top corner with his weaker foot to send the Stade de France into pandemonium. He was taken off shortly after and was given a standing ovation by the French faithful. Leaving the pitch in tears truly shows how much that goal meant to him and the whole nation. An outstanding performance from a man who continues to deliver at the very highest of stages.
What do you think has been the standout moments of the tournament so far? Do you agree with ours? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured image:Xavier NALTCHAYAN