Euro 2020 living up to the tournament’s reputation for delivering surprises
Euro 2020 is a little like a general election or an unexpected blizzard – even those with no interest in politics or talking about the weather can’t help but get caught up in events as they unfold. Likewise, the ongoing tournament is capturing the attention of the nation, including the non-sports fans.
Of course, there’s a special poignancy attached to this particular iteration. It’s retained the 2020 label as a symbol of football’s endurance, no matter how hard the circumstances. But also, this is a tournament that always produces surprises. Who can forget Denmark’s fairytale win in Euro 1992? Or England’s shock departure at the hands of Iceland in 2016? The opening salvos of Euro 2020 have already thrown up some surprises of their own.
Finland wins on debut
When Denmark played Finland, the football was secondary in everyone’s minds to the terrifying incident surrounding Christian Erikson, and rightly so. But looking back, and safe in the knowledge that he is OK, one has to feel sorry for Finland. This was their first ever game in any major international tournament, and they were playing a former winner. They played out of their skins to win 1-0 – and hardly anyone even noticed.
Group E shaping up some surprises
There are always a couple of groups that fans just know are going deliver shocks, and the Euro 2020 groups are no different. Group F is the so-called “group of death”, with three big names, France, Germany and Portugal duking it out. But a quick look at Group E brings up more intrigue. In the opening exchanges, rank outsiders Slovakia, with their ageing squad, blew away Poland, while group favourites Spain were left with a battle ahead just to qualify for the knockout stages, after being held to a draw by Sweden.
England blocked by the Scots
England has made such a habit of being tripped up by unlikely opposition that it is stretching a point to call it a real surprise. But this year, everyone expected World Cup finalists Croatia to be the banana skin. England edged by them to win their opening game, but were then blocked by Scotland, the third-lowest ranked team in the entire tournament. The Scots grew in confidence as the game progressed, and by the end, there was a sense among the England fans that they had done well to emerge with a point.
Wales proceeding serenely
With all the drama surrounding England and Scotland, it is easy to forget that there is another home nation involved in this tournament. Wales have proceeded stealthily through their opening games, and while neither the draw with Switzerland nor the victory over Turkey are exactly shocking, they have combined to place Wales in a position of strength such that they seem all but certain to proceed to the knockout stages of the tournament. Nobody in the Valleys will forget what happened in 2016, and the Welsh will go into the closing stages bursting with confidence.
The editorial unit