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Euro 2016. Group stage. First round review

All 24 teams played their first matches in Euro 2016 and it’s time to sum up all impressions and conclude – which teams met expectations and which teams didn’t.

1. Favorites didn’t slip, but…

There were 3 main favorites before the tournament. Holding European champions Spain, tournament hosts France and holding World cup winners Germany were three teams that were considered as main contenders to win the title. All of them earned three points in their first matches, but some of them did it with difficulty. Let’s talk about them in order.

France played Romania in the opening match of the tournament. The latter showed desire and determination as they created many dangerous moments in front of Lloris’s goals. At some point there was even a feeling that France won’t win the match. They weren’t as powerful as it was presented before the tournament. Especially, France were constantly having problems in defense and it was obvious that they missed Raphael Varane. However, in the second half Deschamp’s team could transform their moments into goals as Olivier Giroud opened the scoring. Despite that, Romania didn’t surrender too early and as an award they were given a penalty kick, which was smartly used. And if not Dimitri Payet’s genius, France would leave the stadium with only one point, but West Ham man created a sublime cracker as his shot from outside the area went right into the left top corner. France earned three points but left fans with feeling that something was missing.

Germany were convincing. Joachim Loew’s man outclassed Ukraine with their power and intelligent play. Despite that, Ukraine have to be praised as they fought until last minute. Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko constantly created moments in front of Manuel Neuer’s goal. However, their attempts didn’t give result, while Shkodran Mustafi’s header in the first half found the net. After that goal both teams started to play in a more cautious manner as the Bundesteam didn’t want to risk and Ukraine were afraid to attack with more power and leave open spaces at the back. The score held until the additional minutes of the second half, when Bastian Schweinsteiger who came onto the pitch from bench found the net and set the final result. This match has shown that Germany are still strong and frightening. Until now, they were one of those few teams that met fans’ expectations.

Spain, by their side, left us with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they were dangerous and always controlled the match, continually creating moments. On the other hand, their attack lacked some power and the final and decisive shot. They wasted so many moments, that some teams don’t create such quantity even during the whole tournament. It must be stated, that they may not have so many moments against more organized and strong teams. And if not Gerard Pique’s late header, Spain would be left with one point, too.

2. Teams that surprised

There were some other national teams that surprised in a positive way. Mostly we are talking about Italy. Squadra Azzurra weren’t a favorite before the tournament but their match against Belgium made fans believe in their following success. The former, by their side, didn’t meet expectations as their “golden generation” was helpless against well-organized defense and opponent’s tactical superiority. Italy, by their side, created many moments and as a result won the match 2 goals to 0.

Another team, that was better than expected before, is Croatia. They were much better than Turkey and should have won the match with a bigger score rather than 1-0, that was registered at the end. Croatia have a man to admire, for sure. Luka Modric’s genius left Turkish players helpless every time, and finally he scored a creation of art, and this goal will surely be remembered for years.

And finally, Republic of Ireland and Iceland proved to be strong opponents for any team. Republic of Ireland have been great throughout all the match against Sweden while Iceland managed to stop Cristiano and Co.

3. What to expect

To be honest, we cannot do any predictions and assessments after only one gameweek. There were many cases in history, when a team that lost the first match then became champions of the tournament. In other words, these first matches just show some little aspects of the tournament․ We can just conclude, that some teams were overrated and some other underrated before the tournament, but what will happen in next rounds, nobody knows.

The first round matches always are full of cautiousness, while teams start to show all their potential in the next matches, so let’s hope that the tournament will become more intense, interesting and unpredictable starting from the next matches.

Gevorg Loretsyan