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Ranking the teams’ performances in the Euros so far
Here's how I see it
Hi, so I’d first like to apologise for the lateness of this article. If you’d like to read more from me, I wrote a piece for Eurosport on Romelu Lukaku, and will have more coming.
Euro 2020 is well underway and I’m enjoying it more than I perhaps expected to. Yes, I am biased and I’m still feeling pleased that England won the other day. But I think the games have also generally been entertaining. Even Spain’s 0-0 draw against Sweden had plenty of good chances and excitement. There was a fear this tournament, with a level of fatigue after a brutal season, would be plodding and negative. So far, that hasn’t quite happened.
So who’s good? Who’s not so good? Here’s my attempt at putting an order on things. I should be clear this is not my predictions of who will win the tournament. That depends on an awful lot of things beyond playing well in the first game. This is just what I’ve been impressed by thus far.
Exempt: Denmark and Finland
You know why. The second half should have not been played. We’ll give them a by, even if UEFA wouldn’t.
Didn’t even try to contest the game against Italy. Probably have a better squad overall than Wales and still got pummelled. They’re surely going straight home and it’s no less than they deserve.
21. North Macedonia
North Macedonia aren’t without their virtues. They kind of showed glimpses of quality, but ended up getting comprehensibly outplayed by an Austria side no one considers favourites for the tournament.
Definitely a team I’ll need to see again before forming a strong opinion on. The red card didn’t help, but even so, it wasn’t Poland’s day. If they can have a game where a terrible goalkeeping error doesn’t put them on the wrong foot, maybe we’ll see a football team.
Yeah, I’m gonna say it: they were worse than Scotland. Yes, Patrik Schick had an outstanding game, but Scotland were consistently able to move the ball into dangerous areas. Quality in both boxes disguised an otherwise very poor performance.
Yes, they have some quality in attacking areas, but the Netherlands weren’t well organised at all and still won this one deservedly. I don’t see it with Ukraine.
I couldn’t have been much less impressed by Russia against Belgium, but things improved substantially against Finland. That doesn’t bode well for Finland.
I don’t know, I felt they caught some lucky breaks against Poland. But if you want the more optimistic take on Slovakia, here’s what Tiago Estêvão thought:
The game was really a story of Portugal building up to hitting the knockout blow, rather than Hungary effectively hanging on until the end. Between the Posts had their xG at 0.17, and at no point were they not miles behind Portugal. I expect the same again when they face France and Germany.
Remember when Croatia were really good? You can see a lot of the same pieces here, but I think we might have underestimated the importance of Ivan Rakitic. Luka Modric was really having to pull the strings himself, which made it much easier for England to shut down. If he could knock it over to Rakitic doing the same thing, he’d find more space. Mario Mandzukic is just as much of a loss upfront, and they feel toothless.
Presumably they’ll have at least some of the ball in the other games? But yes, they’re good at the low block 4-4-2. We’ll see if they have much else about them.
I honestly really liked a lot of what I saw from Scotland. They created a lot of good chances particularly through Andy Robertson. I hated the selection of Lyndon Dykes over Che Adams, but that can be fixed for the next game. There’s a football team in there. It’s just whether we’ll see it.
Yeah they got away with one against Switzerland, but then they seriously looked the part against Turkey. They’re best as a counter-attacking side, but Gareth Bale’s decline in athleticism means they can’t quite break at tempo as easily. This has meant using the runs of Daniel James and Aaron Ramsey more effectively, and Bale adapting to a kind of elder statesman playmaker. It’s fun!
They were much better than Wales but came out with only a point. This is a talented core. Italy played them off the park, but that might be a theme in this tournament.
I think Carl covered the gist of it.
The Netherlands played well without really having clear structures or patterns of play. And I’m sorry, but this collection of talent isn’t good enough to do that.
One of my favourite things at international tournaments is seeing how Austria attempt to build a side around someone so weird as David Alaba. This time they’re playing him as a libero stepping out and doing fun stuff. It worked a treat against North Macedonia but there are tougher tests coming.
So Spain were good against Ukraine? Not spectacular, but good. They possessed it with a clear intent and created a number of good chances they went on to miss. Luis Enrique is trying to move away from the classic tiki-taka style a little, but we’ll have to wait for a tough opponent to see how that works. I think this side could suit the knockout stages better.
Look, I have real concerns about Germany. I don’t think it’s a good idea to play Joshua Kimmich at right-wing-back to leave central midfield for Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan. I don’t think anyone is particularly benefitting from this 3-4-3 system. But they still at least played France close. They were creating good chances against the best low block in the tournament. They have problems, but that’s not nothing.
Ok so England inevitably aren’t going to be as fun as people want them to be. When you have all that attacking talent but some questionable defenders, you have to rein it in somewhat and protect them better. But this is a competent arrangement of talent. Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips and Mason Mount can play at either high or low tempo, while Phil Foden as a possession winger is a good foil for Raheem Sterling running in behind. It makes sense.
Guys, have we slept on Portugal a little? They’re stacked. A front four of Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota and Cristiano Ronaldo, with Joao Felix on the bench, is as good as it gets. And they created plenty against Hungary. I’m in on Portugal. This is a much more complete side than five years ago, for my money.
I don’t know, are they too conservative? After 20 minutes, the aim was to just shut the game down, and they didn’t quite do that. They’re very good and I’m sure they can figure it out. But I still don’t like the general shape and balance of this side. Michael Cox wrote a good article on how they’re very narrow and can be stretched wide quite easily. I don’t love it.
The Romelu Lukaku Show is underway, and you can still add Kevin De Bruyne. Belgium are the most likely of the top sides to continue with attacking football throughout the tournament, and that’s exciting. It might be a problem at some point, but for now, just enjoy the ride.
Dismantling Turkey was one thing. Doing the same to Switzerland was all the confirmation we needed that Italy are for real. Roberto Mancini is a traditional Italian manager in that he’ll adapt those Coverciano-schooled ideas to shape whatever resources he has. It he managed a team with two big strikers and not much else, he’d launch it up to them. Here, he has a number of technical midfielders, so he’s opted for a possession style suited to letting them show off their skills. I’m sure he’ll go more solid once they face one of the better teams in the tournament. This team is really impressive.