Euro Ramblings – Euros Greatest of All Time by Jade Craddock

Messi or Ronaldo? Ronaldo or Messi? Forget nature v nurture, leave v remain, Corrie v EastEnders, the most hotly contested question of our day and age comes down to the choice between a footballer from Argentina and one from Portugal (who said that society hasn’t progressed?). And it is a question that can divide opinion even among the most united in all other opinions. Messi devotees will point to his superior assists, his dribbling, his team play and his greater individual awards, whilst Ronaldo supporters will cite his club goals, his success in multiple leagues, his incredible athleticism and a superior international record. And whilst debates over who is better are likely to continue for as long as these two keep going – or one of them retires – Ronaldo has ensured his status as ‘greatest of all time’ in Euros history, with a host of records tumbling in his first outing in Euro 2020. Sorry, Messi, this is one arena in which you can’t compete with Ronaldo, in fact no one can.

Most appearances – As Ronaldo led his Portugal side out on Tuesday evening against Hungary, it was his 22nd appearance in the tournament proper. He already held the record, ahead of Bastian Schweinsteiger (18) and Gianluigi Buffon (17), but with a possible further 6 games ahead, Ronaldo could extend his advantage and reach some 28 appearances by the tournament’s end. Whether or not, Portugal qualify from the group, should Ronaldo feature in the two remaining group-stage games, he will also surpass Gianluigi Buffon’s record of 58 appearances, which includes qualifying, with Ronaldo currently sitting on 57.

Most tournaments played – Euro 2020 marks Ronaldo’s fifth – yes, fifth – finals campaign. Whilst a host of players, from Lothar Matthaus to Peter Schmeichel to Olof Mellberg, have racked up an impressive four campaigns, Ronaldo is the only man in history to achieve a breathtaking five campaigns, spanning some sixteen years, with his first appearance in Portugal 2004 aged 19. Now 36, Ronaldo will have to wait another three years until the next Euros in Germany 2024, which may be a bit of a stretch for a then 39-year-old Ronaldo, but I wouldn’t entirely count against it – after all, he hasn’t yet got the oldest player records.

First player to score at five consecutive Euros – When Ronaldo stepped up to slot home a penalty in the 87th minute in the match against Hungary, he became the first player to score at five consecutive Euros. No other player has scored at more than three consecutive Euros, with Wayne Rooney and Thierry Henry amongst those holding that honour, whilst a host of players, including Dennis Bergkamp and Roman Pavlyuchenko, have scored at two. Having first scored against Greece in Euro 2004, Ronaldo also charted the longest gap between first and last Euros goals of some 17 years, which he may extend if he adds any more to his name this tournament.

All-time top scorer at the Euros – I must admit to some surprise that the goalscoring record for the Euros previously stood at 9, held by Michel Platini. Ronaldo obviously shared my surprise and sought to boost that number to a healthier total by bagging a brace, and in doing so catapulting himself to the top of another chart and putting some daylight between himself and his competitors. Now on 11 goals, you wouldn’t bet against that number rising, though Portugal perhaps don’t have the easiest of matches coming up to get out of the group. And despite scoring 11 goals, Ronaldo has only netted against five different opponents (Greece, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Hungary and Wales), so he’ll have to break that if he’s to improve his tally against France and Germany. Incidentally, in terms of most goals including qualifying, no guesses for who claims that record – Ronaldo holds some 27-goal advantage over his nearest rival, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so I suspect this one may stand the test of time, as perhaps will his record as Portugal’s top goalscorer, where he sits almost 60 goals ahead of Pauleta (and some 40 caps ahead of Joao Moutinho).

Most tournaments with at least one goal/most tournaments with at least two goals – Whilst Ronaldo’s first goal secured him the record of being the player to score at least one goal in the most tournaments (5), his second goal added the complimentary record of scoring two goals at the most tournaments (4). Ronaldo also holds the record for scoring at least three goals at most tournaments (2), and another goal at Euro 2020 would cement that record still further.

Most minutes played – Going into the tournament, Ronaldo sat top of minutes played, ahead of Gianluigi Buffon, who notched 1620 minutes in Euros final campaigns. Another 90 minutes for the Portuguese talisman saw his figures jump to some 1880 plus minutes, which equates to over 31 hours’ playing time! Ronaldo could rack up a possible further 540 minutes should Portugal go all the way, which would take his tally over 2400 minutes – or 40 hours! I feel like taking a rest just contemplating that figure.

Most victories by a player at the Euros – With 83 minutes on the clock, Andreas Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas may have been thinking their record for most victories in the Euros was intact, but whilst Raphael Guerreiro rocked the boat as he put Portugal ahead, Ronaldo’s brace well and truly sank it. All three players had notched up some 11 victories in their Euros careers, but Ronaldo once more took the record outright after the 3-0 triumph over Hungary. Again, matches against France and Germany may not make this an easy record to progress for Ronaldo, but he won’t be resting on his laurels.

With at least two games in which Ronaldo will most likely feature, it’s possible for the records to keep on tumbling, and one that’s been in everyone’s sights (including surely Ronaldo’s) in recent years has been Ali Daei’s international goalscoring record of 109 goals. Now sitting on 106, Ronaldo could feasibly add this to his record haul, but, again, given the games that lie ahead, it won’t be easy – but then scoring 106 goals isn’t easy in itself and if there is one man/machine that can do it, it’s surely Europe’s G.O.A.T. Ronaldo also currently sits two behind Karel Poborsky on most assists in the Euros with 6 and one behind Zidane et al for most penalties scored – a hugely feasible 2, whilst Ronaldo would need to feature in every game through to the semi-finals to surpass Sergio Ramos as the most capped European international. Whilst there’s not much you’d put past this superhuman, Jude Bellingham and Johan Vonlanthen can breathe a sigh of relief that their youngest player records are secure and Michel Platini’s record of 9 goals in a single tournament will need a gargantuan effort even from Ronaldo. But if Ronaldo wants to add another record to his haul, how about fastest goal? I’ll be setting my stopwatch for 66 seconds when Portugal take on Germany on Saturday and I wouldn’t bet against him. Who knows, maybe even Messi will be watching on to see what other records his rival sets.

UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Day 5

Group D: Scotland (0) 0 – 2 (1) Czech Republic

Goal-scorers: Schick (42′, 52’)

Hampden Park, Glasgow

This was a game I would have attended if COVID hadn’t intervened. With a reduced capacity for 2021, UEFA held a ballot and I lost out unfortunately. So it was a day at work and meetings in Manchester. I had my laptop so thought great I’ll be able to watch the game on the way back to Leeds. Of course I had forgotten how poor the Wi-Fi can be as the train has to pass through various tunnels and the area around Marsden Moor. Subsequently it was nigh on impossible to make out much of the game – I resigned myself to the fact I was simply not meant to watch this fixture. By the time I reached home it was just in time to watch the last thirteen minutes, so had to settle for catching up on the highlights. It seems that there were chances on both sides, and the Czechs were simply more clinical. Scoring just before half-time is always a significant time for a side to take the lead and Schick was impressive to get behind his markers and plant his header away from the five of Marshall. If that was quality then his second seven minutes after the break will be one of the goals of the tournament, catching Marshall off his line from just inside the Scotland half. Attention in this group moves to Friday and the England v Scotland battle and an intriguing contest between the Czechs and the Croats.


Group E: Poland (0) 1 – 2 (1) Slovakia

Goal-scorers: Poland – Linetty (46′). Slovakia – Szczesny (18’og), Skriniar (69′)

Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg

Can this be considered the first shock result of the tournament? Poland ranked 21st in the FIFA list with Slovakia down in 36th position. Yes, I suppose we can. Slovakia were dangerous from the off and it was no surprise when they went ahead, although there was a touch of fortune about their goal on eighteen minutes. Robert Mak ran at the Polish defence and fired low, Wojciech Szczesny in goal got down to his right and pushed the ball onto the post, but it ricocheted off the prone ‘keeper and into the net. Slovakia held the advantage into the break and could have been further ahead. That lead was short-lived as within a minute of the restart Poland were level with a well worked move, and although Linetty didn’t connect cleanly it still found its way in. The game swung Slovakia’s way just after the hour mark after Krychowiak collected a second yellow card for a pretty soft foul leaving the Poles down to ten-men. Within seven minutes Slovakia went ahead, from a corner it was played to Skriniar close to the penalty spot and his sweetly struck finish beat Szczesny nestling in the bottom right corner. A famous victory for Slovakia which put them top of the group.


Group E: Spain (0) 0 – 0 (0) Sweden

La Cartuja, Seville

Yes a game that finished 0-0 but not a boring encounter by any means. The stats showed that Spain had 85% possession and had 17 shots to Sweden’s 4. Morata and Olmo had the best chances for Spain which were wasted, but credit must also go to Robin Olsen in the Swedes goal who made some smart saves. As so often in games like this where one side has so little of the ball, they are always dangerous on the break with Alexander Isak unlucky after a charging run into the box that saw his shot deflect off Spanish defender Marcos Llorente onto the post and into the arms of a relieved Unai Simon in the Spanish goal. Isak also created Sweden’s best second-half opportunity as he created a chance for Marcus Berg who wastefully fired wide. Spain will see it as two points dropped and will be desperate to beat Poland in their next game.


The first round of group matches concludes today with two games from Group F, with Hungary hosting current European champions at the Puskas Arena in Budapest and Germany welcoming France to the Allianz Arena in Munich.

Hungary and Portugal met in the group stage of the Finals in 2016. It was the last round of fixtures and turned out to be quite a game. Hungary were ahead three time in the game through Zoltan Gera, and a brace from Balazs Dzsudzsak, but each time were pegged back with goals from Nani and two from Ronaldo to ensure a 3-3 draw. It proved to be a vital point for Portugal as it enabled them to qualify to the knockout phase as one of the best third placed sides and of course went on to lift the trophy. This could be a cagey encounter and may well end as a draw.

France and Germany conclude Tuesday’s action in Munich, with their last meeting at Euro 2016 in the Semi-Finals, where Antoine Griezmann got a double to send the hosts through to the Final. Is there discount in the French camp after the recent Giroud and Mbappe spat in public, and will it impact Les Bleus performance? It’ll be a case of wait and see. Whilst this game doesn’t have the friction of a Germany v Netherland encounter, there is bound to be a bit of an edge between these two and for fans of a certain age, Harald Schumacher’s appalling foul (well assault) on Patrick Battiston at the 1982 World Cup which left the Frenchman without two teeth and three cracked ribs necessitating his requiring oxygen on the pitch, is not something easily forgotten. Don’t be surprised if this game ends as the second draw of the day.

UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Day 4

Group D: England (0) 1 – 0 (0) Croatia

Goal-scorer: Sterling (57′)

Wembley Stadium, London

When the England team was announced there were more than a few people scratching their heads as to the side Gareth Southgate selected. However, he was totally justified in his selection as England came through without too many nerves to take a 1-0 win through Raheem Sterling who continued his impressive scoring record for the Three Lions. England started brightly with Phil Foden curling an effort onto the post early on, with Sterling also dangerous and Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips impressive in midfield. The Croats settled into the first-half as Modric saw more of the ball, but it was all square at the break. The Three Lions got their breakthrough on fifty-seven minutes as Phillips drove at the Croatian defence and slipped a ball into the box, where Sterling fired in as ‘keeper Livakovic advanced. Chances were at a premium for both sides in the Wembley sunshine, with Harry Kane just not getting onto a cross and a Mason Mount free-kick which just went over bar, the best England had in search of a second goal. A good start for England, with Scotland next up, with Croatia facing the Czech Republic on the same day up at Hampden.


Group C: Austria (1) 3 – 1 (1) North Macedonia

Goal-scorers: Austria – Lainer (18’), Gregoritsch (78′), Arnautovic (89′) North Macedonia – Pandev (28′)

Arena Na?ionala, Bucharest

Gave this one a miss after the exertions of watching England. My only observation was on watching the highlights was who put together that shirt and short combination for the Austrians???!!! Black shirts, with light blue shorts and socks…wow. Result wise, no surprise that the Austrians took the three points.


Group C: Netherlands (0) 3 – 2 (0) Ukraine

Goal-scorers: Netherlands – Wijnaldum (52′), Weghorst (58′), Dumfries (85′). Ukraine – Yarmolenko (75′), Yaremchuk (79′)

Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam

Will Group C come to be remembered as ‘GoG’, the ‘Group of Goals’ as following on from the earlier game in Bucharest and the four goals served up by Austria and North Macedonia, we were treated to another five in this see-saw encounter. Despite a scoreless first-half there were genuine chances for the Dutch in the opening forty-five minutes. Within thirteen minutes of the restart though the Netherlands were two-up through Wijnaldum and Weghorst and seemingly cruising. Then as the game entered the last fifteen minutes Ukraine hit back with two goals inside four minutes. First, Yarmolenko curled one in from distance (goal of the tournament so far) and then Yaremchuk had a free header as the Dutch switched off at the back. The game though had one last twist, as with five minutes remaining Dumfries jumped highest to head home, although Ukraine ‘keeper Bushchan will look back on it and know he should have done better.


Group D continues today with Scotland hosting the Czech Republic at Hampden Park. It’s a game I had a ticket before the capacity was reduced but lost out in the ballot. Gutted. In addition Group E gets underway with Poland against Slovakia at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg and Spain hosting Sweden at La Cartuja in Seville.

Scotland qualified after coming through the Play-Offs, winning ties against Israel and Serbia on penalties, to make it to the Euros for the first time since 1996. The Czech Republic were runners-up to England in the qualifiers and inflicted the Three Lions only defeat in that campaign. The Czechs won only once on the road in the qualifiers in Montenegro, losing against England, Kosovo and Bulgaria, so Scotland with home advantage may fancy their chances to get three points on the board.

Poland were group winners in their qualifiers, losing just the once away to Slovenia and conceded just five goals in their ten group games. Slovakia made it through the Play-Offs, beating both Irish teams. The Republic were seen off on penalties in Bratislava, and then ousted Northern Ireland in Belfast 2-1 AET. Poland will be favourites with the dangerous Robert Lewandowski looking to get amongst the goals early in the tournament.

The last of Monday’s games sees Spain host Sweden in a repeat of the qualifiers. Spain topped the group with 26 points, five ahead of Sweden. The margin created by Spain’s 3-0 win over the Swedes in Madrid and a 1-1 draw in the return game in Solna. Home advantage could be crucial here which might be enough to see the Spanish get off to a winning start.

Euro Ramblings – England light up with Phillips by Jade Craddock

With perfect symmetry, it just so happened that England were fated to meet in the opening match of Euro 2020 the very opposition who had booked their exit at the last major international competition – Croatia – an opposition who had gone on to be runners-up in the World Cup three years previous. Not an easy start to a tournament, but then there never is. And with England’s campaign kicked off, here’s some observations on that first outing.

  1. Eriksen impact: Firstly, having witnessed the horrific events in the Denmark v Finland game the previous day, I imagine twenty-four hours on, the football world’s thoughts were very much on Christian Eriksen and his recovery. The immediate and continued reaction showed once more the incredible and special unity possible in football. Regardless of nationality, club allegiance, interest, at moments like this, football unites in worry, hope and mostly support and it’s a poignant and powerful thing. Naturally, whilst the Danish and Finnish players were obviously those most closely affected, every team has players who will have crossed paths to varying degrees with Eriksen – past teammates, like Harry Kane and Jan Vertonghen, current teammates like Romelu Lukaku and Ivan Perisic, and myriad opposition players – and even for those who haven’t, I can’t imagine there was any player, fan or human being not affected. And even as the tournament continues, for the players involved what happened will surely play on their minds. Fortunately, a rapid and experienced medical response and the noble reaction of teammates, opposition and officials had a huge impact, but it also perhaps served as a reminder of the importance of first aid and emergency support at all levels of the game. Christian Eriksen will remain at the forefront of the thoughts and best wishes of everyone and although there is still a tournament being played, Eriksen’s recovery is the greatest victory that there can be.
  2. Home advantage?: As part of its 60th anniversary celebrations, UEFA opted to move away from its traditional approach of a single or two countries hosting the event to a fully pan-European tournament, which is a nice idea in principle, but in reality isn’t perhaps the most sensible, not least in these COVID times, but there we have it. Sadly, I’m not party to UEFA’s machinations so am unsure as to why it was 11 cities that were chosen, but each of the qualifying host nations are granted the opportunity to play at least two groups matches at home, whilst six nations, including Italy, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Germany and, crucially, England will play all three group games at home venues. Contrast this to Belgium who are flitting between St Petersburg and Copenhagen and Wales who find themselves manoeuvred between Azerbaijan and Rome, and you have to feel that there is a home advantage for England. More so than any other tournament, when teams would be based in a country and travel would be limited within that nation, or nations, travel and moving camps has to be more of a factor than ever. The group stages and knockout rounds will see the competition similarly spread across various destinations, but notably with the semi-finals and finals scheduled for Wembley, there is a real incentive and motivation for England to thrive. However, given that home nations have only won the Euros three times, perhaps we should give one of the other nations the title of home nation.
  3. Kalvin Phillips: There was much talk going into the tournament around attacking players – Should Sancho be included? Would Grealish be fit? How on earth can we fit in all of these attacking options? – and then when the squad announcement was made attention turned to Harry Maguire and the four right-backs, whilst one man went largely under the radar – Kalvin Phillips. After an excellent couple of seasons with Leeds, Phillips got a much-deserved first England call-up in August last year and hasn’t looked back. Indeed, perhaps most notably, there was never any question of him making Gareth Southgate’s final 26 – his name never came up for discussion. But as the tournament neared and a lot of focus turned to Jordan Henderson’s fitness and possible return, the question of midfield partnerships suddenly arose. Phillips found himself named alongside Rice, but with Jordan Henderson continuing to build towards his return, the spotlight was on, and Phillips didn’t disappoint, putting in a superb performance, both breaking up play and pushing forward, crucially for England’s goal. He took his chance with both hands and surely deserves his spot against Scotland. Tyrone Mings who was similarly under the microscope in what has been deemed a problem area for England with the injury to Harry Maguire put in a solid performance, whilst Foden was, as ever, a shining light. Had Euro 2020 not been delayed, Phillips and Foden, neither of whom made their debuts until August 2020, and Mings, who was still breaking through, may not have featured. What a difference twelve months makes!
  4. Hey, Jude: Can you remember what you were doing at 17? Learning to drive, perhaps; maybe taking exams, or even something a little less virtuous. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t have been representing your country in the Euros. In fact, only one person in history can claim that achievement in the men’s Euros – Jude Bellingham. When he was brought on as a sub against Croatia, at the age of 17 years and 349 days, Bellingham broke the previous record held by Jetro Willems of the Netherlands, who was 18 years and 71 days when he featured in Euro 2012. Bellingham is also some 23 years younger than the oldest ever player at the Euros – Gabor Kiraly of Hungary, who was 40 years and 86 days – and 22 years younger than the oldest ever outfield player – Germany’s Lothar Matthaus, who was 39 years and 91 days. The teenager joins an illustrious group of players who hold the honour of being the youngest players for their nations at the Euros, including Ivan Rakitic (Croatia), Tomas Rosicky (Czech Republic), Michael Laudrup (Denmark), Lukas Podolski (Germany) and Paolo Mancini (Italy) to name a few. In terms of the youngest goalscorer at the Euros, Johan Vonlanthen of Switzerland currently holds that title, aged 18 years and 141 days, so Bellingham could feasibly take that one too. Oh, and one other record of note, the youngest player to feature in a Euros final was Renato Sanches of Portugal, aged 18 years and 327 days. Jude Bellingham only turns 18 twelve days before the final, just saying…
  5. Tough test: England’s 1-0 victory over Croatia ensured England’s best ever start to a Euros; indeed, they had never won their first game at the tournament before. Whilst there were a lot of positives to take from the match, there is, naturally, room for improvement. It is difficult to be at your best in the first game, nor, quite honestly, would you want to be, hoping to build into the competition, so a victory and three points was the most important thing, and against a Croatia side who have been known to cause the odd England upset, it was a solid enough start, but the next game against Scotland may be an even bigger challenge. It is, after all, the oldest rivalry in football, dating back to 1872, and has seen some 113 matches, of which England hold a slight advantage, including in recent years, although the most recent result was a 2-2 draw. Whilst England’s biggest victory was 9-3 in 1961 and Scotland’s 7-2 in 1878, which would make for entertaining affairs, I suspect it will be a much-closer and harder-fought contest when the two sides meet on Friday. England will be looking to build momentum, whilst Scotland will be wanting to make the most of their first major tournament in 23 years. With the likes of Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay and John McGinn, Scotland will be familiar but formidable opponents and surely buoyed by a match against England. The Three Lions will face a tough test and will certainly need to raise their game to keep their 100% start in the tournament.

UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Day 3

Group A: Wales (0) 1 – 1 (0) Switzerland

Goal-scorers: Wales – Moore (74’), Switzerland – Embolo (49’)

Olympic Stadium, Baku

I had this down as a draw, but until Wales levelled through Cardiff City’s Kieffer Moore with sixteen minutes remaining, it looked like the Swiss would take all three points. Although the game was level 0-0 at half-time, the Welsh had been outplayed and had ‘keeper Danny Ward to thank for keeping the game scoreless. The Swiss will have also felt hard done by as in the closing minutes of the opening forty-five minutes they had what looked like a good penalty shout turned down when Embolo was held back by his shirt.

Into the second-half and just like the opening game in Rome, a goal came quickly after the break. Ward was again at his best to deny Embolo’s strike, but from the resulting corner the tall Borussia Monchengladbach striker outmuscled his marker to head home. From that point the Welsh looked under the cosh and Embolo continued to look dangerous forcing Ward into another save from another corner later in the half. Then with Wales looking out on their feet in the Baku sunshine, up popped the bandaged Moore with a cracking header. Suddenly Wales looked brighter although ultimately they had to survive a rocky last few minutes.

Dinamo Zagreb forward Mario Gavranovic came on for the Swiss with six minutes remaining and proved to be a handful. With his first touch he hooked home from close range, only for VAR to come to Wales’ rescue. The Swiss though weren’t done and in those closing minutes of normal time and the five extra minutes they put the Welsh backline under pressure and looked the more likely winner. Wales though saw it through for a point that they were perhaps fortunate to take in the end.

Massive credit to the 500 Welsh fans who made the trips and themselves heard throughout the match. Wales stay in Baku for their game on Wednesday with Turkey, whilst the Swiss made the trip to Rome to face Italy.


Group B: Denmark (0) 0 – 1 (0) Finland

Goal-scorer: Pohjanpalo (59′)

Parken Stadium, Copenhagen

This is a game that will be remembered for the collapse of Danish and Inter Milan player Christian Eriksen shortly before the end of the first-half. Incredibly, the game resumed at the players request at 19:30 (UK time) and it was a strange watch knowing what had happened. Who knows what was going through the players minds as they played out the last five minutes of the first-half and the second forty-five. Were the Danish players affected more than their opponents? We will never know. But you could argue that the two major moments of the game could have been down to the individuals involved not being fully focused. First, just before the hour mark Finland scored through a Joel Pohjanpalo header, an effort than nine times out of ten Kasper Schmeichel would save, but which on this occasion he fumbled over the line. Then with sixteen minutes left, Demark were awarded a fortunate penalty, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s spot-kick lacked power and was easily saved. For Finland it was an historic first win at the Euros but will always be remembered for the traumatic events surrounding Christian Eriksen’s collapse.


Group B: Russia (0) 0 – 3 (2) Belgium

Goal-scorers: Lukaku (10′, 88′), Meunier (34′)

Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg

Having watched the end of the delayed Denmark/Finland game, I missed the start of this fixture and in the end didn’t watch it at all. Therefore caught up with just the BBC highlights. Basically, Belgium were too strong for Russia who contributed to the first two goals through poor defensive play. The opener after ten minutes saw a ball into the box be missed by Andrey Semenov allowing Romelu Lukaku time to turn and fire home. The game was effectively over on thirty-four minutes when Russian ‘keeper Anton Shunin failed to hold a cross-ball into the box and substitute Thomas Meunier slotted home. The icing on the cake came with two minutes left, when Lukaku out muscled his marker on a through ball and slotted home. Belgium in cruise control and looking dangerous.


 The weekend ends with another three games, starting with England and their Group D opener with Croatia at Wembley and then two games from Group C, with Austria taking on North Macedonia at the Arena Na?ionala in Bucharest and Netherlands hosting Ukraine in Amsterdam at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

For whatever reason I just don’t have a good vibe for the Three Lions in this tournament, whether that be concerns over the defence and the associated injuries, or just that England won’t be able to back up the decent run in the last World Cup. Croatia who ended that dream back in 2018 lay in wait once again. These two have been regular opponents in recent years with England’s win in the Nations League in 2018 and World Cup Qualifiers in 2007 and 2008, balanced against the 2018 World Cup Semi-Final defeat and the two losses in the Euros Qualifiers in 2006 and 2007 (the later the infamous, ‘Wally with the brolly’ 3-2 defeat at Wembley). I’ll love to say I can see a comfortable win, but I’d take a point.

Austria and North Macedonia met in the qualifiers for Euro 2020 with the Austrians winning both games. The first in Skopje, saw North Macedonia team take the lead, but Austria struck back to win 4-1. In the return game in Vienna, Austria won 2-1 which saw them secure the runners-up spot and automatic qualification. North Macedonia finished third on head-to head results over Slovenia and had to come through the Play-Offs with wins over Kosovo and Georgia to secure their first ever appearance at the European Finals. Coming into this game, Austria lost 1-0 to England at Wembley and drew 0-0 with Slovakia. North Macedonia drew 1-1 with Slovenia and finished with a 4-0 win over Kazakhstan. The head says that Austria will prevail as North Macedonia adjust to the European stage at a higher level.

Today’s final offering will see the Dutch take on Ukraine. There have been a couple of friendlies between these teams in recent time, with a 1-1 draw in 2010 and a 2008 win for the Netherlands. The Dutch qualified comfortably behind neighbours Germany, whilst Ukraine topped their group, going unbeaten and beating current European holders Portugal 2-1 along the way. The Dutch warmed up for these Finals with a 2-2 draw with Scotland and a 3-0 win over Georgia, whist Ukraine had two victories over Northern Ireland (1-0) and Cyprus (4-0). This will be an intriguing game and could be settled by just a single goal either way.

UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Day 1

Italy and Turkey get the delayed Euro 2020 tournament underway at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome tonight. The Italians topped their Group in qualifying with a 100% record having beaten Finland, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia and Liechtenstein both home and away. The Azzuri scored 37 goals and conceded just 4 as they romped home twelve points clear of second-placed Finland. Turkey came through as runners-up in their qualifying campaign, finishing just two points behind France, in a Group that also contained Iceland, Albania, Andorra and Moldova. The Crescent Stars beat France in the Group stages but lost out on top-stop after only picking up a point in their two meetings with Iceland.

Coming into this game, Italy swept past the Czech Republic 4-0 in their final warm-up game in Bologna which saw an eighth consecutive win without conceding a goal. Immobile and Barella gave Italy a 2-0 halftime lead, with Insigne and Berardi completing the scoring. Turkey also ended their preparations with a victory, beating Moldova 2-0 in a game played at the Benteler Arena in Paderborn, Germany, with both goals coming in the second-half through Burak Yilmaz and Cengiz Under.

These sides have met in European Finals, when back in 2000, they were drawn together in Group B. At the GelreDome, home to Vitesse Arnhem, the game came to life in the second-half when Antonio Conte put the Italians ahead seven minutes after the break. Okan Buruk levelled for Turkey on sixty-minutes, only to see a Filippo Inzaghi penalty eight minutes later restore the lead for Italy as the game finished 2-1 to The Azzuri.

For what it’s worth, I’ll go for an Italian win tonight, possibly 1-0 or 2-0. Given the Italians have won the World Cup on four occasions, it is perhaps a surprise that the have only won one European title, that being back in 1968. If Italy display the kind of fluency in front of goal and meanness at the back as in the qualifiers, they could be a real threat.

Euro2020 Special – Top Ten Three Lions Autobiographies (Part 2)

Having looked at my top ten autobiographies of former England players that I’d like to read, it’s now time to turn my attention to the those and in and around the current squad.

With the squad announcement made and England now with their sights firmly set on Sunday 13 June and their first group-stage clash with Croatia, expectations are beginning to rise once more. There is a particular pressure and expectancy that comes with playing for The Three Lions and this latest generation are no different, but there is still time for them to cement their place in history this summer. Whether that’s the case or not remains to be seen, but in advance of that first fixture, I take a look at the ten players, both in the current squad and those who missed out, whose autobiographies would most pique my interest.

  1. Dele Alli

It’s been a tough couple of years for Dele Alli, both for club and country, initially frozen out at Tottenham by Mourinho and subsequently missing out on selection by Southgate. But still only 25, it’s not that long ago that Alli was twice voted PFA Young Player of the Year, in 2015/16, 2016/17 consecutively. All the more impressive because he was running out in League One for Milton Keynes until 2015. Whilst his talent has been apparent in his time at Tottenham, his attitude has come into question from some quarters, but there is something intriguing about Alli and his off-the-pitch persona comes across as high-spirited and entertaining. The next couple of years look crucial to determining how Alli and his career will be remembered, but either way, it’s a journey that will be worth watching.

  1. Patrick Bamford

Featuring for nine different clubs in seven years, it seemed that Patrick Bamford was to become the latest career ‘journeymen’, just missing out on the big time. But then came his move to Leeds United, culminating last season in his first real chance in the Premier League and an impressive 17 goals to boot. Bamford may seem an anomaly on this list given that he’s never represented England at senior level, despite a handful of appearances for the U18s, U19s and U21s, but arguably his form this season warranted his first Three Lions call-up. Bamford himself qualifies to play for the Republic of Ireland and perhaps that may end up being his path into the international set-up, but one thing Bamford’s career has proved is that he can bide his time, keep producing and eventually he’ll prove his doubters wrong.

  1. Conor Coady

Less than twelve months ago, few outside of Wolverhampton would have even given Conor Coady a passing glance, let alone selected him for England, but those at Molineux knew it was only a matter of time before the man who was practically made to be a leader got his chance and grabbed it with both hands – as he has done throughout his career. Having captained England at both U17 and U20 level and coming through the academy at Liverpool, Coady’s career look set to take off, before he was released from the Merseyside team and found himself in the Championship, first at Huddersfield before moving on to Wolves, where his shift from midfield to defence and his taking of the captain’s armband has been integral to his meteoric rise in recent years. A solid presence on the pitch, Coady has proved himself hugely likeable and engaging off it.

  1. Jesse Lingard

The omission of Jesse Lingard was one of the big talking points of Gareth Southgate’s squad announcement and he can surely feel hard done by to miss out (should he not get a second call-up given the injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold?) following his late-season form at West Ham. But now 28, Lingard has already packed a lot into his career, including over 200 appearances at Manchester United, loan spells at Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and Derby, as well as his memorable cameo for The Hammers, and he featured in the 2018 World Cup. Noted for his celebrations and lively energy on and off the pitch, Lingard is one of the game’s personalities, and having come through the Manchester United Academy, serving under Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, amongst others, his football schooling is right up there.

  1. Mason Mount

My one concession to youth on this list is Mason Mount. Despite being just 22, he’s already shoehorned a lot in, not least winning that most enigmatic of titles, the Champions League, this season – and, what’s more, he’s done it for his boyhood club. He already had pedigree in Chelsea youth, having scooped the U18 Premier League and 2 FA Youth Cups, as well as being named Chelsea Player of the Year in 2017 and the Golden Player at the U19 Euros the same year. A loan spell under Chelsea legend Frank Lampard was arguably the making of Mount, but his return to Stamford Bridge saw him make his mark for both club and country. There is still a long way for Mount to go, but this will be one story worth following.

  1. Tyrone Mings

Despite spending eight years at Southampton’s Academy, Tyrone Mings was released in his teens, moving on to non-league football. After considering his future in the games, Mings spent a year in the Southern League Premier Division with Chippenham Town before he was snapped up by Championship side Ipswich. Three seasons later saw him make the final step up to the Premier League with Bournemouth, before a transfer to Villa saw him come of age and earn his England call-up. With his first international competition just around the corner, Mings’ story from non-league to world stage will be completed.

  1. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made the move form Southampton to Arsenal just aged 17, there was huge excitement around the lively winger, which was stoked further when he became the youngest English goalscorer in the Champions League. Although his career was more stop-start at the Emirates than it was hoped, with injuries playing their part, he remained an exciting prospect and was duly rewarded with a place in the England senior set-up for Euro 2012. Having won three FA Cup titles and three Community Shields at Arsenal, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s move to Liverpool saw him add the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup to his trophy haul, yet his time for both club and country has been impinged by injuries. Off the pitch, he comes across as vibrant and engaging, but now 27, his legacy will be determined with what happens next in his career on the pitch.

  1. Raheem Sterling

It seems hard to believe that Raheem Sterling is only 26, he seems to have been playing for decades, but that may be because he’s been on the scene regularly since he was 17. Having spent his career at two of the biggest clubs in England in Liverpool and Manchester City, Sterling has already amassed a number of team and individual honours, as well as over 60 England caps. Yet despite all of his success on the pitch, Sterling grabbed the world’s attention in recent years in speaking out on racism and the media and leading the fight against discrimination and inequality. There have, as with most players, been setbacks and controversies along the way, but Sterling has emerged as a figurehead both on and off the pitch.

  1. Kieran Trippier

Kieran Trippier may not be one of the biggest or most well-known names in English football but he is one of very few Englishmen to have played in Spain’s top league, and one of even fewer to have won it, following his Atletico Madrid team’s triumph this season. Prior to his move to Spain, Trippier had come through the ranks at Manchester City but failed to make his mark, settling in the Championship with Burnley before securing promotion. This was followed by a four-year spell at Tottenham that saw Trippier first appear on the England senior team radar and an impressive outing in the 2018 World Cup. His journey from Manchester City outcast to the Championship, promotion to the Premier League and a La Liga winner has autobiography material written all over it.

  1. Kyle Walker

True fact: I once walked past Kyle Walker in a car park in Birmingham. He was on loan at Aston Villa, far from a household name and nobody batted an eyelid. Fast-forward ten years and the very same Kyle Walker has just won his third Premier League title, fourth EFL Cup and appeared in his first Champions League final. Spells at Sheffield United, Northampton Town, QPR and the afore-mentioned Villa were simply precursors to him breaking through at Tottenham, winning the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2012. His career at England kicked on as he featured in both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, but his switch to the Etihad in 2017 really catapulted Walker to the next level. With a senior career already spanning twelve years, Walker has been most places, done most things and got most trophies.


Jade Craddock