Here we are .. the end of day 5 Euro 2016: 12 matches, the opening group games for all 24 Euro teams, are in the books; 22 goals; 6 matches decided by one goal; 3 ties; Germany, Italy and Hungary managed 2:0 victories.
Based on the first week of play, here are some of our pleasant surprises, shockers, under performers and overachievers:
Pleasant Surprise — Wales: The Football Association of Wales, the 3rd oldest national FA in the world, waited 58 years to field its national team at a major international tournament. Not only did Wales’ superstar Gareth Bale score a goal, the team scrapped and fought it’s way to a 2:1 victory over Slovakia. With the win, Wales sits atop Group B (and England) … at least until Thursday when they battle the perennial underachieving English.
Shocker — Hungary: Many EURO 16 fantasy types picked Austria to go far … after all they took care of business in Euro qualifying plus have Bayern Munich superstar David Alaba and Christian Fuchs, proud member of this year’s Premier league winner Leicester City. Well, Hungary had an appetite for an upset and beat Austria soundly 2:0.
Biggest disappointment — Belgium: If this is truly the best Belgian’s ‘golden generation’ of footballers can do than it’s time to sell your gold reserves. Pound-for-pound, player-for-player, the 2016 Belgian national squad is easily the most impressive of the 24 Euro teams. They started their Euro campaign with a haphazard, uninspired performance versus the laser focused and disciplined Italians. Not all is lost, but the Red Devils may need to watch tape from the 1980s-1990s teams that delivered true championship caliber performances.
Overachievers — Italy: Oh the irony … the team best known for defense and eking out boring 1 nil victories, topped the week 1 scoring charts with two surprise goals against Belgium. Entering the EUROS as one of the weakest Italy squads in many years, the Azzuri are playing light and burden free. Will they be the team to watch? Let’s see what their next match vs. Sweden brings.
As we head into week 2, we have finally warmed up our Euro 2016 diesels and are ready to hit the open road. Who will shine? who will whine? and who will continue to dream of Euro glory. Stay tuned!