Euro 2020 news and features - Watch out Euro 2020, Germany are good once more - The Warm-Up
They may not quite be the team of old, but Germany finally arrived at the tournament with a 4-2 trouncing of the defending champions. Meanwhile France were dropping points (!) and conceding goals (!!!) against Hungary, and Spain were passing, passing, passing, passing, passing, passing, and drawing. Again.
Go on. Admit it. You wrote them off, didn't you? You wrote off the Germans. Truth be told, the Warm-Up certainly did. And it felt good and we'd do it again, even though we appear to have been just a little hasty.
It's tempting to swing right back the other way: to announce that, just as one defeat meant they were useless hacks without a hope of making any serious progress, so one impressive victory makes them title contenders. Tournaments are short and intense occasions, and every game is ripe for over-interpretation. That's half the fun.
But even if that might be a bit much, we can probably say that nobody will be looking forward to facing Germany in the weeks to come. If the first game against France was dour and damp, this was a chaotic masterclass. Can they defend? Apparently not. Does that matter? Not when you're scoring like this.
Robin Gosens of Germany celebrates with Mats Hummels after scoring their side's fourth goal
Equally impressive was Kai Havertz, who is doing interesting things with the centre forward role. Jogi Löw sometimes gets criticised for his lack of tactical nous, but the decision to deploy Havertz as a floating vibesman is working very nicely. "Get up top, get in their box, and just do cool weird stuff until something happens," or whatever that is in German. It certainly scrambled the brains of the Portuguese defenders, who started pinging the ball into their own net.
The favourites for the tournament, France, rest their case on being a profoundly serious football team: tough to break down, built to outlast teams, with just enough attacking excellence to make and take the few chances needed to win the game. You know, a bit like a stereotypical German team. So as a counterweight, it seems appropriate that Germany have come alive in frivolous and thrilling fashion. The best way to cope with a squidgy midfield and a rickety defence is to score loads up the other end, and we're just glad Löw has realised that in time.
A Crack In The Armour
Obviously this grand theory of France's dour resilience does rather rely on them not getting mugged in Hungary. They avoided that, just about, thanks to a big booming thwack down the middle of the pitch and some magic from Kylian Mbappé. When all else fails, it's good to have the basics to fall back on.
But that was an equaliser. France, who do not concede goals, were losing for 20 whole minutes. And they were losing to Hungary, the officially designated Other Team in Group F. And this was after Hungary lost their much-loved captain Ádám Szalai halfway through the first half.
Football's weird, is what we're getting at here. It is a silly game and it doesn't always make sense.
Hungary v France, Attila Fiola
Image credit: Getty Images
It is hard to truly enjoy the packed crowds in Budapest, given the political context, but it certainly seems to be working for Hungary's players. The roar that greeted Attila Fiola's goal is almost certainly the loudest noise made inside a football stadium for more than a year, and this game as a whole stands as further evidence for the mysterious magical flow of energy from crowd to team and back again.
The worry, after the first round of fixtures, was that this group — which promised so much in the anticipation — would end up with two teams on six points and two teams on zero, stitched up and done before game three. But both Germany and Hungary bounced back from their opening defeats, which means that any one of the big three could top the group and Hungary can still pinch an unlikely second place.
And perhaps even more importantly, for the tournament as a whole, France looked mortal. Nobody else is going to be able to call on a full stadium to support them, but Hungary's endeavour made France uncomfortable, and the goal, while unlikely, was far from freakish. Quick passing, direct running, a smart finish: these are things that other teams can do, some of them quite a bit better than Hungary.
The numbers weren't quite as ridiculous as the Sweden game. Instead of turning 85% possession into no goals, not a solitary one, here Spain turned 77% into a single goal. Progress! At this rate, if they make it to the final, they'll have just 37% of the ball and score six.
SEVILLE, SPAIN - JUNE 19: Luis Enrique, Head Coach of Spain reacts during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group E match between Spain and Poland at Estadio La Cartuja on June 19, 2021 in Seville, Spain.
Image credit: Getty Images
On the other hand they also missed a penalty, the open-goal rebound of that penalty, and a number of other presentable chances, as the universe continued its great conspiracy to make Álvaro Morata sad on television. Sometimes strikers know they're offside, sometimes they don't. But Morata believes he is, all the time, even when he isn't. He has a flag raised deep in his soul.
Naturally, Spain were jeered from the pitch by their own fans. It really is proving to be a mixed blessing, this grand tour Euros. Home advantage is real, and we're guessing that the overall tournament results will bear that out. But it does mean that a dodgy performance at home can be greeted in the usual manner. To watch Spain leaving the field last night, slow and drained, was to see a group of footballers realising that empty stadiums may have been awful and soulless, lifeless and strange, but there's a lot to be said for the fact that empty chairs can't whistle.
IN OTHER NEWS
Non-Euros goal of the day came in the NWSL, a perfectly judged pitching wedge over the goalkeeper. When you look up "despairing dive" in the dictionary, it probably won't have a picture of this goal, because chances are your dictionary was published a while ago. But future editions know where to go.
Get yourself in the mood for Wales against Italy with the BBC's Dafydd Pritchard, and his look back at that magical Welsh win in 2002. (And keep an eye out for Danny Gabbidon accidentally calling the Manics fair-weather fans.)
Even by the Millennium Stadium's standards, with the roof closed and a capacity crowd at full volume, this was a spine-tingling atmosphere. The great John Charles, revered by fans of both sides having served Wales and Juventus with distinction, was moved to tears by a standing ovation; world-renowned bass-baritone Bryn Terfel was brought in to sing the national anthem; and the Manic Street Preachers played a pre-match concert on the pitch.
45 years ago today, Antonín Panenka stepped up to take a penalty and wrote his name into football history. And for every one of those 45 years, one particular German player has been grateful that firing a penalty over the bar isn't known as "doing a Hoeness".
The groups are ending, and that means one thing: it's a simultaneous kick-off situation. As already-qualified Italy and almost-qualified Wales face off in Rome, Switzerland and Turkey will be scrapping it out in Baku. Later, in the Copa América, Venezuela take on Ecuador. Oh, and there's the final of the National League play-offs too: Hartlepool vs. Torquay.
Having written Saturday's Warm-Up with his right hand and today's with his left, Andi Thomas will be completing his perfect hat-trick tomorrow, with a Warm-Up written entirely with his head.