‘He writes his own script’: Jude delivers, Foden’s ‘sad’ struggle, Eriksen’s heart warmer, Wout wins out


Jude Bellingham continued his remarkable season, scoring the only goal as tournament favourites England laboured to a 1-0 win in their Euro 2024 opener against Serbia.

Coming off La Liga and Champions League glory in his first Real Madrid season, Bellingham ran into the penalty area to meet Bukayo Saka’s cross from the right with a thumping header in the 13th minute.

The narrow win in Gelsenkirchen put the 2021 runners-up top of Group C, after Denmark and Slovenia drew 1-1 in the other group game.

That game was marked by an emotional goal for Christian Eriksen. Three years after suffering cardiac arrest in the opening match of the previous Euros, Eriksen had a magical return to the tournament when he scored Denmark goal in the 17th minute.

In the third game of the day, the Netherlands squandered a host of chances before overcoming Poland 2-1 with Wout Weghorst scoring with his first touch on 83 minutes after replacing the wasteful Memphis Depay.

After impressive opening wins by Germany and Spain, England looked to make a statement but after an excellent start were unable to power on.

Serbia had their moments against an at times passive England, with Aleksandar Mitrovic firing inches wide right after a big mistake from Trent Alexander-Arnold in the first half, and Dusan Vlahovic’s 82nd-minute blast tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

At the other end, Kyle Walker’s cross after a stunning run down the right did not find a team-mate, goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic palmed away an attempt from Alexander-Arnold, and then also denied Harry Kane in the 77th minute when he tipped the captain’s header against the crossbar.

Declan Rice was England’s next best behind Bellingham best in the six role, while Manchester City star Phil Foden and Kane – that header aside – struggled to get into the game.

“It makes me sad that a player of his quality is just in and out of the game,” said former City defender Micah Richards of Foden’s quiet night. “It’s just disappointing we’re not able to get the best out of him.”

Foden powered City to the Premier League title this year and was player of the season.

While Foden laboured, Saka showed glimpses off the right channel, while Jarrod Bowen also brought energy when he replaced Saka in the second half.

But the match winner was Bellingham, whose touches in the centre of the park oozed class and he timed his run perfectly for the goal.

“I have got used to getting into the box, getting wide and trying to do that,” Bellingham said.

JUDE. BELLINGHAM. FOR. ENGLAND ????????????????????????????

It had to be him.

Watch ???? https://t.co/zklqozJLdE#EURO2024 pic.twitter.com/6imvWK3evx

— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) June 16, 2024

“I got into that habit at Madrid and I wanted to carry my form into the Euros. It’s a great start for me personally to get my confidence up and to help the lads get the win is the most important thing.

“Jude Bellingham is made up of amazing people. It’s not just me. It’s because I have such a great support network.”

England manager Gareth Southgate said of his star player: “

On Jude Bellingham: “He writes his own script. The timing of his runs. It was a super bit of play in the build-up of his play. I think all of our forward players looked really good.

“I am confident we will score goals. Playing against a back give it is not easy to create chances and we did. I liked the fact we had to suffer without the ball because that is an area we have worked on a lot this week. We were obviously much better than last week at doing that.”

Southgate, whose decision to push Trent Alexander-Arnold into midfield alongside Rice failed to fire, said he was happy that his team was stretched.

“We had to suffer a bit which I think is really good for us,” he said. “I think to defend the box the way we did was really good for us. I was really pleased with a lot of the play. Second half we didn’t keep it as well as I would have liked but to get the win is very important.”

Dutch get it done

The Netherlands’ late win puts some pressure on Group D favourites France, who beat the Dutch twice in qualifying last year and play Austria on Tuesday AEST. 

Poland were forced to cope without injured star Robert Lewandowski but soon found a goal from his replacement who matured in Major League Soccer.

Adam Buksa used all his height when circled by four Dutch defenders at a 16th-minute corner to guide a header into the net. Buksa had two-and-half prolific years with New England Revolution until 2022.

Cody Gakpo levelled in the 29th minute with a shot that was deflected and deceived goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny. But it was fair reward for a vibrant first half for the Dutch.

Depay and Gakpo should have put the game out of sight before Weghorst picked up a pass from the excellent Nathan Ake and powered it home.

The Netherlands have not won the European Championship since 1988 – when current boss Ronald Koeman was a player for them – and are among the favourites to triumph in Germany.

This was more late heroics from Weghorst, who scored a stoppage-time equaliser against Argentina at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“Wout Weghorst was able to play and he has added value to the team. He has a different way of behaving and that is what we needed,” Koeman said.


It took him just two minutes after coming on and he makes all the difference.

Unbelievable scenes in Hamburg.

WATCH ???? https://t.co/Don0L6lnZx#EURO2024 #OptusSport pic.twitter.com/sn2y3s7IdL

— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) June 16, 2024

“This should have been 4-1 in favour of us after one hour. We played very well but couldn’t finish opportunities.

“Cody Gakpo also played very well. He was dangerous and we should give him the ball more often.”

Eriksen’s magic moment

Christian Eriksen’s goal against Slovenia 1100 days after suffering a cardiac arrest was a beautiful moment for him and the nation’s fans.

The 32-year-old Manchester United player collapsed in the opening match of Euro 2021 and was later fitted with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), meaning he could no longer play in Serie A with former club Inter Milan.

“This time at the Euros, my story is very different to last time,” said Eriksen.

“I felt confident going into the game and I was just happy to be playing. Playing in the Euros is always special.

“I had in mind that I’ve never scored at a Euros, but there was nothing but football on my mind. I was just happy to help the team with my goal.”

Christian Eriksen opens the scoring and the scenes are amazing ????

Three years ago at EURO 2020, he collapsed in Denmark’s opening game.

Today, he’s scored De Rød-Hvide’s opening goal at #EURO2024

WATCH ???? https://t.co/zPUM6lwtys#OptusSport pic.twitter.com/kePDrOoBkJ

— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) June 16, 2024

“You talk about it sometimes being a dream – it almost is,” former Scotland striker Pat Nevin told BBC Radio 5 Live. “There is such emotion and a story behind that goal.

“It was shocking for everyone involved. Immediately you thought of his family.

“The whole of football was horrified but the positives to be taken from it are that the medical support in football now is brilliant and we have learned a lot.

“To see Eriksen back, playing at this level – I have a huge grin every time.”

(With AAP)

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