What did we learn from the first match date of Euro 2020? Gab Marcotti gives us his takeaways on the tournament so far.
Figures from France make a workers’ exhibition against Germany
The French team is much more talented than the rest of the competition, to the point that there are only two ways to stop them: either the technical director Didier Deschamps makes a complete mistake, or too many starters show a drop in level during the same game .
Judging by their performance against the German team in Tuesday’s game that ended in a 1-0 victory, the French players will not disappoint their team. France showed an intensity and diligence that infected the entire squad. The players fell back deeply, as they frequently did at the 2018 World Cup in Russia; interrupting most of the German incursions towards the final third. And perhaps most impressive was the level of effort and concentration displayed by their star players, which lasted the entire 90 minutes of play.
That effort cannot be taken for granted. This Tuesday, the all-star Les Blues offensive quartet – the trident leading the way along with Paul Pogba – brought in a legitimate, blue-collar performance, constantly running and sacrificing in pursuit of the collective. Perhaps we are used to it in the case of Karim Benzema; However, Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe are frequently asked by their clubs to play differently, skimping a bit and allowing others to do the heavy lifting. That was not the case on Tuesday. Not against Germany in Munich. They took on the hard work, enjoyed doing it, and despite that, they managed to create a significant number of opportunities on the other end of the court.
Deschamps has his weaknesses as a coach; However, there is no doubt that the French coach excels at conveying the exact combination of confidence, work ethic, arrogance, grit and team spirit to his squad. That’s how they won the World Cup, after all. Of course, it is easy to indicate that it is not difficult to achieve this motivation against Germany, in the debut match of a European championship, apart from wondering if we will see those same levels of performance against Hungary, for example; although to be honest, they won’t need to do it against Hungary. In that case, your talent is likely to be enough and over.
Germany’s defects can be corrected over time. The problem is that they don’t have much
After the defeat against France, Germany’s midfielder Ilkay Gundogan suggested that the draw would have been a fair result. Easy, Ilkay. A minimal advantage, some wasted opportunities in front of Hugo Lloris’ goal and a highly unequal expected goal average (xG) (1.26 against 0.29) do not indicate that these two teams were level. France dominated and could have won by a larger margin.
That said, that doesn’t mean that Germany was a mediocre eleventh. The Germans did what they could within a system that doesn’t quite fit them, with square pegs in round holes; however, at least it allowed them to get the most out of their players on the court. Some will blame the defeat on coach Joachim Low’s preferred 4-3-3 formation and say that such a system has only worked really well for them once in their last six games (against Latvia, no less). That is true, although two other factors are as well.
The first is that Germany did not really dominate under the old system. The second is that Low faces the basic dilemma faced by national coaches when playing a tournament: How do you strike the right balance between your tactical vision and the talent available in your squad? You want to get a system that works; However, you are also aware that you have little time to work on it and, contrary to that of the clubs, you cannot sign players to fill gaps.
In the same way, you want to shoehorn all the talent you can into your team. That’s what Low did when he got back veterans Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller. Germany is a better squad with both of them present, and probably a better team as well (although it doesn’t take much for that); However, the point is that Muller is forced to play a totally different role than he does at Bayern, where he usually operates behind a high-level center-forward, with two wingers on each wing. Basically, the presence of Hummels forces you to play with a line of three behind, not because he cannot work in a line of four (as he often does with Borussia Dortmund); but because, contrary to club football, he does not have a defensive midfielder in front of him.
Another example of this is the adaptation of Joshua Kimmich to the position of right back, when he can be classified as the best central midfielder of the squad. Looking at the big picture, it probably matters more that he plays out of position than the lack of a genuine center-forward selection (Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Muller can all play there, each in their own way), considering that Germany really haven’t. counted on one in a long time.
They will not play a talented national team like the French again, unless they meet them again in elimination rounds, and the impression they left is that they will solve their problems over time, as they spend more time together. The question is whether they will succeed. A stumble against Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portugal team (both teams will meet on June 19 in Munich) and Germany will no longer control their fate.
Hard to imagine a different action by UEFA in the Eriksen case
Christian Eriksen, figure of the Denmark national team and Inter Milan should be discharged from the hospital within the next 48 hours. The images showing him smiling and waving from his sickbed enlivened everyone. Right now, the only thing that matters is your health.
UEFA has come under fire from some quarters for leaving the Danish and Finnish associations the decision to resume the match on Saturday or postpone it to Sunday. It gives the feeling that the tournament organizers are being whipped just for the sake of it.
I don’t think we can blame UEFA for involving both associations in decision-making. By the way, it was those two federations that had the last word, not the players on their own. They knew the mental state of their players better than anyone; they had highly qualified medical and psychology professionals capable of diagnosing the situation. It would have been a mistake not to have consulted the federations.
The situation would have been different if Eriksen had not recovered, or if there were doubts regarding his evolution. Fortunately, the Danish midfielder was out of immediate danger when making the decision.
The protocol was the same that would have been followed in case of adverse weather conditions, flood damage, problems with the fans, etc.: finish the game the same day or the next day.
Could they have gone outside the norm and canceled the match with a 0-0 result, or tried to fit it in between the end of the group stage and the start of the elimination rounds? In theory yes, but this would have set a precedent and raised a number of additional problems. The first assumption would have damaged the integrity of the tournament. Like the second, with the added problem of forcing footballers to play two games in a span of three days. And most importantly, none of the federations asked for it.
In the end, the parties involved treated the case as they would have treated a serious injury suffered by a star player. It was a far from ideal case, and the players would have carried the scars of what they witnessed. But nothing was ideal in such a situation.
Critics of Luis Enrique do not see the picture and increase the pressure on Spain
As I wrote it at the time, I don’t think that Spain had a mediocre performance in their match against Sweden. Sometimes games just play out like this. That hasn’t stopped coach Luis Enrique from coming under a ton of criticism at home after the 0-0 draw, with many of them imitating Chicken Little, yelling that the sky is about to fall.
Some will want to review history and see how Spain prevailed in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a tournament in which they lost on their debut and won all elimination matches by identical score (1-0). Others may want to note that this template only needs a few adjustments; for example, more Gerard Moreno up front and a pinch of Thiago Alcantara in midfield, rather than a complete makeover.
This selection has its limits (of course it does) and Alvaro Morata will continue to be inconsistent (if he maintains ownership, something that we cannot guarantee in any respect). However, it seems to me that La Roja is on the right track.
Southgate dissociates himself from past England coaches
Those who have closely followed the England team for a long time know well that the coaches in charge of the “Three Lions” in the past used to manage by consensus. So many English teams appeared to be a patchwork quilt, made up of the top 11 players, in order to please national sentiment and a disproportionately influenced local press.
This is not the case with Gareth Southgate. Against Croatia, he deployed Kieran Treppier, ex officio right back; choosing him over Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell. Raheem Sterling was a starter in the forward quartet, preferred over players of the stature of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho (who could be considered the most talented footballer in England). Kalvin Phillips, who probably would have ended up watching the Euro on television if the tournament had been played last summer, not only started, but did so in a different position, more forward, than the one he usually plays with Leeds United at the club level. Southgate is far from perfect and despite the 1-0 win we can see flaws in this performance. However, the England coach has spent enough time in office to know that the starting XI is not a popularity contest, and that sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.