The opening ceremony of Euro 2016 boasted all of the usual pizazz and razzmatazz that we have come to expect from these occasions, and happily the France and Romania match that followed lived up to the billing. Even happier still, the six games that followed have all been entertaining affairs in their own way – which bodes well for the rest of the tournament.
Early days then, but we can still draw some interesting conclusions even at this early stage:
Could Defensive Dilemma Bring Down France and Germany?
It’s far too early in the competition to be making snap judgements about players, but both of the tournament favourites, France and Germany, looked a bit ropey at the back in their respective openers.
France were carved open like a meaty piñata by Romania at times, and particularly in wide areas did Bacary Sagna and Patrice Evra look vulnerable. Evra’s rash tackle handed Romania their equaliser from the penalty spot, and he will have been as pleased as anyone with Payet’s wonder goal winner.
Germany meanwhile had Jerome Boateng to thank for his outrageous clearance off the line to preserve their clean sheet, while Shkodran Mustafi’s wayward header almost gifted the Ukraine a late equaliser.
It’s a bit premature to write off either side, obviously, but opponents more clinical than Ukraine and Romania will be intrigued to see France and Germany’s defensive generosity.
20/1 Shot Ozil Looks Primed for Player of the Tournament
If history has taught us anything, it is that prevailing trends have to be respected; history tends to repeat itself, after all.
In an earlier article we eulogised about the hopes of Mesut Ozil for Player of the Tournament; the last five POTM winners have been midfielders for the eventual winning team, so the Arsenal man stands as good a chance as any.
With his appetite for assists, it was no surprise to see Ozil deliver a gorgeous cross for Bastian Schweinsteiger’s second for Germany, and naturally that caused the midfielder’s price to drop a tad from 25/1 to 20/1.
But with Germany coach Joachim Low appearing to favour the ‘false nine’ system, Ozil should have plenty of opportunities for more creation in his favourite central attacking role.
Newcomers Feel the Heat on Big Tournament Bow
There is a huge amount of pressure attached to representing your country at any given time, but especially in major tournament play like Euro 2016. It was a task that both Abania and Northern Ireland – the former making their first ever appearance in a European Championship, the latter their first showing at a big tournament in three decades – and you could sense that the pressure ultimately told.
If that is an emergent theme, then naturally we would have to favour both Austria (8/11) to beat Hungary and Portugal’s (8/13) experience to tell against Iceland.
It’s not a huge surprise to note that the opening skirmishes of Euro 2016 have been tight and testy affairs, and we can expect the goal count to increase quite considerably as the group stage progresses.
But with five opening encounters still to be played, punters will be taking on board the Under 2.5 goal count, which currently stands at a whopping 71% following the opening weekend of matches (five of seven).
Of the opening ‘match day 1’ games, both Austria/Hungary (8/13) and Republic of Ireland/Sweden (8/15) look liable to follow suit.