So, in Gareth in we trust, right?
It didn’t look quite like that after England’s starting XI was leaked online early Sunday morning. Kieran Trippier at left-back? But you have two actual left-backs in the squad, Gareth. Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice? Bit negative, no? RAHEEM STERLING? Have you seen him play this season, coz nobody else has! Tyrone Mings? May as well play an injured Harry Maguire.
It was nice to see England maintain their tournament traditions of picking unfit key players, placing others out of position, and weirdly leaving players believed to be on form players on the bench, or – in the case of Jadon Sancho – not even in the squad.
But, as the full-time whistle went, Southgate would have been well within his rights to give himself a little pat on the back – every single big call he made came off and some. Kalvin Phillips, England’s man-of-the-match, he who was a defensive choice, went past two and set up Sterling for the only goal of the game. Mings, dodgier than a dodgy kebab in the two warm-up matches, was a rock alongside Stones. And Trippier, a La Liga winner this season do not forget, added that experience and consistency on the outside of Mings that made a lot of sense when you got over the fact that Chilwell had just won the Champions League.
One concern could be the skipper if you are taking a moment to be a little critical. Harry Kane looking around aimlessly to find someone to give the armband to summed up his day.
For Sterling, it was his first goal in a tournament finals for England in a day unwanted records tumbled – Jude Bellingham also became the youngest player ever in the tournament (that one, not so unwanted).
Granted, minimal competition, but this was easily England’s best opening day performance since France in 1982 – though, even with injury-time starting, did anyone truly believe they’d see it home given that England had never won their opening game at a European Championship and had thrown away a lead in 1980, and 1996, and 2000, and 2004, and 2012, and 2016.
Was it perfect? No. Does that matter? No. Is it coming home? Let’s address that question next week, shall we?
For a column that is 100% based around mocking the football circus and poking the finger of fun at anything that moved, you’ll understand why the Christian Eriksen incident/collapse/near-tragedy (I mean, what on Earth do you call it?) is not going to get much airtime here – other than to say, what an amazing job by the medical team and those around them to save his life. It goes without saying, a full recovery is wished for and that everyone affected gets the support that they need.
Belgium looked a bit good – or did Russia look a bit bad? Either way, Romelu Lukaku took his Serie A form into the game and unless you are Belgian, let’s all hope he’s peaked a bit too early.
Those of you foolish enough to have followed this shambles for some time now will not be surprised to learn I tipped Turkey to be the dark horses of this tournament and go further than many expected. I did not say they would win it – and I apologise to anyone from Turkey reading this for pretty much guaranteeing that they are going home in the group stages.
Italy looked decent, moving the ball well and stepping it up to do the pretty important task of scoring goals in the second half. Another team that must have peaked far too soon – you’re supposed to grow into these tournaments, right?
Wales will be grateful Kiefer Moore headed home their equaliser otherwise their “hit the big man” tactics would have been questioned. Nice to see Gareth Bale seems to have retired from football before the tournament.
On the day Bellingham became the youngest player, Goran Pandev netted one for those of us that are old enough to have had a legal pint during Euro 96. Pandev scored North Macedonia’s first-ever goal in a major finals after absolutely broke Real Madrid’s new £500k a week defender David Alaba collided with his somewhat foolish goalkeeper.
Alaba did make up for it though, setting up the goal which means Austria have won their first-ever match at the Euros. It’s almost as if this is a massively extended tournament or something. Marko Arnautovic looks like he’s chilled out a bit since leaving West Ham, as well.
Naturally, the Euros match I did not watch over the weekend was the most entertaining. The Dutch are back after a nine-year absence and have Frank de Boer in charge – not something that would inspire confidence that the Netherlands could win this thing. Having thrown a two-goal lead down the toilet to the Ukraine, Denzel Dumfries – easily my favourite player name in today’s column – scored the later winner.
What about the transfer stuff? Well, Ben White (now in the England squad for the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold) is now, as a direct result, firmly on Arsenal and United’s radar.
Daniel Levy wants a cash-only deal on Kane, but that price might have dropped about £50m this weekend.
Donny van de Beek’s amazing year continues – the United midfielder injured and out of Euro 2020. Next, he’ll be sold to Arsenal or something. Maybe to replace Xhaka who is off to be Jose’s new Nemanja Matic in Roma.
Maurizio Sarri has taken over at Lazio and in true “who used to play for me that I might be able to sign” fashion, fancies a bit of Ruben Loftus-Cheek. You thought I was going to say Jorginho, admit it.
The whole manager merry-go-round still hasn’t stopped turning.
Nuno was going to Palace but then some last-minute demands meant that’s not happening. That meant Everton picked up the phone, but whatever the ex-Wolves manager said led to Everton then being linked to Rudi Garcia, Rafa Benitez and Fatih Terim in the preceding 24 hours.
Spurs are on the verge of doing the ultimate retro 90s Spurs thing possible – by appointing Paulo Fonseca. Fonseca is the sacked Roma coach, the man Roma got rid of because they thought they could get Mourinho. I know, I know. And Levy hopes to keep Kane, what can I say?
The ESL 6 have all been fined £20m for their part in that mockery to football. Hang on, sorry – they were fined £20m between them which is, frankly, as daft as Chris Smalling seeing UFOs.