UEFA Euro 2024 Matchday 1 Roundup: Portugal, England, and Italy scrape to wins; Belgium shocked

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The former Manchester United man made the difference for the Oranje

The UEFA Euro 2024 is off to a sensational start in Germany with the home team kicking off the action on 15th June with a sensational 5-1 win over Scotland. 

After Matchday 1, the usual suspects lead in all the groups except Group E which is now led by Romania while both Belgium and Ukraine are yet to get off the mark in the points table. With all that in mind, let’s summarise the action that went down across Germany on Matchday 1:

Group A

The tournament opener featured Germany and Scotland on 15th June at the bustling Allianz Arena and Bayer Leverkusen forward Florian Wirtz opened the scoring line in the 10th minute on a one-timer at the top of the box, assisted by a perfectly weighted pass from Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich.

Nine minutes later, İlkay Gündoğan threaded a pass through to Kai Havertz, who let Jamal Musiala dispatch a bullet shot. Gündoğan took a nasty challenge from Ryan Porteous, which resulted in a red card, to allow Havertz to convert a penalty kick right before halftime.

Niclas Füllkrug ripped a right-footed rocket in the 68th minute that smashed through the net. With no time to spare, Emre Can curled in a goal to put the icing on the cake. An own goal from Antonio Rudiger in the 87th minute was what prevented goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from keeping a clean sheet.

In the other clash on the 15th, Switzerland ripped through Hungary 3-1 at the Rhein Energie Stadion in Cologne.

Kwadmo Duah opened the scoring in only his second international appearance. After providing the assist for Duah’s opener, Bologna midfielder Aebischer netted his maiden goal for Switzerland with an eye-catching long-range strike just before the interval. 

Barnabas Varga’s seventh goal in nine starts for Hungary set up a tense finale, but Breel Embolo struck in stoppage time to seal the 3 points.

Group B

Spain made light work of Croatia in their opener on 15th June at the Olympiastadion Berlin. The Spaniards scored twice in three minutes – first when midfielder Fabian Ruiz set up captain Alvaro Morata in the 29th minute and then turned scorer himself. Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal fired home a volley just before halftime from a Lamine Yamal assist.

Barella’s winner helped Italy start off with a victory

Defending champions Italy took on Serbia in the other game on 16th June at the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund. Albanian forward Nedim Bajrami seized upon Federico Dimarco’s wayward throw and fired in to score the fastest goal ever in UEFA Euros history in 23 seconds.

However, manager Luciano Spalleti’s side were back in front within 15 minutes. First Alessandro Bastoni rose imperiously to head in following a short corner before Nicolò Barella’s stunning first-time strike completed the turnaround.

With their noses in front, Italy calmed things down and it took goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha to keep the underdogs in it. There was almost a shock finish to match the start with Albania substitute Rey Manaj clipping a late effort just wide, but the holders held on.

Group C

Slovenia and Denmark took on each other in Group C on 16th June at the MHP Arena in Stuttgart. Although the sides played out a 1-1 draw, it was an emotional game for Christian Eriksen who had suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch in the last edition. He fired his team ahead within 17 minutes. 

However, Erik Janza’s late deflected effort earned Slovenia a point in its first match at the Euros since 2000.

England beat Serbia 1-0 in the other game at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen on 17th June thanks to a Jude Bellingham strike.

A perfectly weighted Kyle Walker pass set up Bukayo Saka for a cross from the right that deflected off the sliding Strahinja Pavlović and looped up perfectly for the fast-arriving Bellingham to thump a header past Predrag Rajković.

Group D

The Netherlands got the better of Poland on 16th June at the Volkspartstadion in Hamburg, winning 2-1. The Poles were without Robert Lewandowski but put that blow behind them to stun the Dutch early on when Adam Buksa headed home in the 16th minute.

Liverpool forward Cody Gakpo equalised when his deflected shot flew past Wojciech Szczesny in the 29th minute. Then, Burnley striker Wout Weghorst snatched the win with a close-range finish moments after coming on. This was a vital win for the Oranje, who will now face France next in a clash that could determine who makes it to the knockouts first.

In the other clash, France somehow scraped 1-0 past Austria in Dusseldorf on 18th June. It was by no means a vintage performance, and France required an own goal by an otherwise highly disciplined Austria defender Max Wober shortly before half-time to secure the three points.

Group E

Stanciu’s Romania produced one of the upsets of the tournament

Romania stunned Ukraine with a 3-0 victory at the Allianz Arena on the 17th of June. Captain Nicolae Stanciu’s cannon shot into the top right-hand corner in the 29th minute gave Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Lunin little chance. 

However, Lunin should have done better on the second goal which slipped underneath him as he dove from a strike from Razvan Marin in the 53rd minute. Denis Dragus drove the final nail in the coffin for Ukraine in the 57th minute and sealed Romania’s first win in the Euros in 24 years.

The other big upset of the tournament was also in this group as Slovakia defeated Belgium 1-0 on 17th June in Frankfurt.

Ivan Schranz put Slovakia ahead when he capitalised on a mistake at the back by Manchester City’s Jeremy Doku in the 7th minute, stunning Belgium ranked third in the world – Slovakia is meanwhile a lowly 48th.

Substitute Johan Bakayoko was denied by a superb goal-line clearance from Slovakia’s David Hancko. Romelu Lukaku had two goals disallowed by VAR in the game which piled on to the Red Devils’ misery.

Group F

Turkey started off with a blast against Georgia, winning 3-1 at the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund on 18th June. 

Manager Vincenzo Montella’s side made a strong start in Dortmund and a cross from Ferdi Kadioglu was headed away into the path of Mert Muldur, who found the top right corner with a stunning first-time volley in the 25th minute.

Georges Mikautadze beat Mert Gunok at his near post to score Georgia’s first goal at a major international tournament in the 32nd minute. After the break, Arda Guler found a pocket of space on the right, drove to the edge of the box and curled a beauty into the top corner in the 65th minute. 

In stoppage time, Gunok punched a corner clear in the end and Kerem Akturkoglu raced clear towards an open goal and slotted in to seal the win.

Portugal defeated Czech Republic 2-1 in the final group game of Matchday 1 at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig. Portugal had the lion’s share of the chances but it was the Czechs who took the lead in the 62nd minute when Lukas Provod whipped a stunning strike into the far corner.

Seven minutes later the Selecao were level when Czech goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek pushed away a header from Nuno Mendes but only as far as the leg of Robin Hranac and the ball ricocheted into the defender’s own net. 

The game was in added time when Francisco Conceicao tapped in from close range after a defensive mistake from Hranac to give the Euro 2016 champions a winning start to their campaign.