Bellingham the beast, German wunderkinders on fire: What we learned from a stunning first round of Euro 2024


From a red-hot German start to a Spanish masterclass, these are my key talking points from Euro 2024 Matchday One.

Germany’s young talent can make anything happen for the hosts

Forget Young Player of the Tournament; Germany may have two Player of the Tournament candidates. The 21-year-olds Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz were breathtaking in Germany’s 5-1 demolition of a limp Scottish outfit.

Bringing flair, enthusiasm, and precision, the Bundesliga Golden Boys set the tone for the hosts. Wirtz opened the account with a scrumptious first-time finish into Angus Gunn’s bottom corner, and less than 10 minutes later, Musiala joined in the party, rifling a shot that rippled the roof of the net. A driving run to pick out forward Nicolas Fullkrug for the fourth goal capped off an ominous player-of-the-match performance for Musiala.

There may have been doubts internally and externally for this German team going into Euro 2024, but this victory was the ideal nerve settler. With the engine room of Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan, Robert Andrich, and even Emre Can coming off the bench, the hosts will have the solid base to unleash havoc with their young, hungry talents up front. Nobody is underestimating Die Mannschaft now.

Szoboszlai needs to lead by example for underdogs Hungary 

Dominic Szoboszlai was dubbed pre-tournament as the one to carry Hungary to a memorable Euro 2024 campaign. It hasn’t started precisely how the Liverpool man would’ve liked. Hungary were sloppy in their 3-1 loss to Switzerland, who weren’t going into the tournament with any good form, having struggled in qualification.

For a side relatively new to the limelight, a star player with the standing of Szoboszlai must set the example and say, ‘Follow my lead.’ Despite assisting the goal that sparked life back into the Hungarians, Szoboszlai sometimes looked uninterested and didn’t show the required grit and leadership when the Swiss mounted the challenge early on.

If Hungary is to avoid a winless Euro campaign, Szoboszlai needs to be the barometer and inspiration for this group of talented players. As shown, when Hungary’s star man is playing well, the rest of the team follows suit, nearly nicking a point off the Swiss when they did not deserve it.

New look Spain prove a genuine threat 

La Roja outclassed an in-form Croatian side to kick off their Euro 2024 campaign with a promising 3-0 win. However, it was not in the conventional ‘Tiki-Taka’ style we’ve grown accustomed to.

Playing with a more direct and purposeful style, highlighted by Croatia’s superior possession count, La Roja undoubtedly has had a change in intent, which is thrilling to see. It has not been a coincidence that since Luis De Le Fuente’s appointment, Spain has broken their decade-long major tournament dry streak and formed a new identity. Where past failings would see Spanish sides possess the ball with little purpose and drive, the current Spanish crop cannot be any different.

Spain are running riot in Berlin ????

29’ Alvaro Morata
32’ Fabian Ruiz
45+2’ Dani Carvajal

Three first-half strikes rock the Croatians.

WATCH ???? #OptusSport

— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) June 15, 2024

Spain’s first goal came from a transitional break, which saw Morata get in behind a stingy Croatian defence and finish with composure. The second goal came from a ‘non-classical’ Spanish midfielder, Fabian Ruiz, and record-breaking 16-year-old Lamine Yamal, the catalyst of this change in mindset, set up the third game-sealing goal for the ever-green Dani Carvajal, who was incredibly only playing in his first Euros match. Luis De le Fuente has his side playing great, efficient football, and all it needed was, ironically, to play to your strengths instead of playing on past identity.

Wout Weghorst, the super sub, yet again

The Netherlands would admit they weren’t at their best against Poland. The Dutch proactively probed Szczęsny’s goal but rarely got rewarded for the effort. The wrong final decisions in the box were regularly made, leading to unbearable chances being squandered. With 10 minutes of regulation time to go and all seemed lost. Enter 31-year-old Wout Weghorst.

Ronald Koeman sent on the big striker in the 81st minute to immediate, devastating effect. Fortuitously, Nathan Ake’s drilled ball found its way to the number nine’s feet, where the Hoffenheim man did the rest and scored with his first touch of the game.

An unconvincing result against a depleted Polish side may force Koeman to rethink his tactical setup. The Oranje lacked a real forward presence for large parts of the game until Weghorst’s introduction. With Memphis Depay not firing yet, Koeman may turn to Weghorst to provide the imposing vocal point his attacking talent needs to make a deep run.

Superstar Bellingham headlines winning England’s start

Jude Bellingham was the difference in an intriguing contest between England and Serbia.

England started on the front foot, dominating possession and hemming Serbia deep in their half. The bright start was duly rewarded with Bellingham getting on the end of a deflected floated ball from Bukayo Saka’s right foot in the 13th minute of the game. The number 10, more known for his elegance and skill on the ball, attacked the cross with a fierce determination that announced, ‘This stage is mine.’

In what was a scrappy affair at times, the Real Madrid star oozed class and composure. Bellingham controlled the game from the number 10 position with 96% pass accuracy (completing 67/70 passes) and spread the play well, hitting 4/4 long passes. When Serbia picked up the tempo in the second half, Bellingham was there front and center in securing the three points with two interceptions and ten duels won alongside Declan Rice.

England’s Jude Bellingham. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

From the Championship with Birmingham to a winning goal in the Euros, 20-year-old Jude Bellingham has the world at his feet and will be the central piece to drive Gareth Southgate’s team forward.

Belgium loses winning streak after rough Lukaku luck

Belgium suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Slovakia after conceding early to Slovakia’s Ivan Schranz, breaking their second longest run of 15 unbeaten matches. The Slovak calmly finished in the 7th minute from a calm angle to give the Slovaks the lead after Jeremy Doku’s error put the Belgians on the back foot.

Belgium only has themselves to blame for squandering multiple golden chances. Lukaku could not beat Martin Dubravka from point blanc range early on, and Leandro Trossard could not release the striker into space for another clear opportunity moments later. The trend continued after the restart, with the Red Devils’ attacking quadrant not up to the pace. Lukaku had equalised, tapping in from close range, but the ecstasy was quickly erased as Belgium’s highest scorer had strayed offside.

Belgium’s day was well and truly summed up with another goal disallowed late on, seeing Lukaku netting another cutback, but this time, the ref had called a handball on the assister Lois Openda.

Romelu Lukaku thought he’d finally scored the equaliser for Belgium.

Until he didn’t ????

Referee Umut Meler went to the screen and found a handball in the build-up.

WATCH ???? #OptusSport

— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) June 17, 2024

It will be interesting to see how Tedesco’s side responds to this shock result. The first step for this talented but largely inexperienced Belgium team is to maintain confidence and play calmly in the front third. Stars like Jeremy Doku had rough games against Slovakia, but with two crucial group games left, the Red Devils still have time to build into their campaign. Belgium will face an in-form Romania next after the Romanians shocked Ukraine with a 3-0 win.

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