Action aplenty as Euro 2020 surges ahead
These are times when the sporting world is abuzz with football and football. The postponed Euro 2020 being conducted now and the Copa America have come at a time when the world needed a break from the woes of the pandemic and true to the character of this most popular sport in the world, football fans have been ensnared by the happenings on the field. The ebb and flow, particularly in the Euros had swung from the scary to the scintillating to say the least leaving everyone absorbed in the action stunned and swayed. Who would have thought that a player, let alone a man of Christian Eriksen's standing, would collapse right on the field to almost slip into history! The Danish great had many skip a heartbeat with the scary happening (read fall unconscious) right in the opener against Finland only to be revived and saved from a calamity that would have drowned everyone around not just his kith and kin in shock and sorrow. Eriksen's colleagues have taken it upon themselves to cheer him up as he cools his feet away from action after the providential escape and inspire him with astounding performances so far, so much so at the time of writing, Denmark is still there promising to emulate their 1992 show when they won their one and only Euro title!
If that was not enough to catch the eyeballs then the on-field action from thereon made one thing clear that history, reputation, class and standing of teams may not necessarily portray the ground reality in competitions but only the form of the day and the hunger to do well. Not even champions can win. How else can one describe the early exit of world champion France and defending Euro Champion Portugal even before the competition had gained full steam? That despite both teams having the claim of some of the best of names of current world football. But then Portugal great Cristiano Ronaldo could do little except push up his own rating with his 5 goals to top the goal-scorers list and what is more equal the 109 goal long standing record in international football of Iranian legend Ali Daei. His country exited, courtesey Belgium and France which had the imperious Paul Pogba and the highly skilled Kylian Mbappe in its rank failed to get past Switzerland. France had in fact led 3-1 in that match before losing its way and enabling Switzerland to draw level and force the issue through penalties. And horror of horrors, Mbappe failed here and the Champion outfit made a shocking exit.
If this postponed Euro can be considered a mirror to the future, with the World Cup 2022 just a year away, then exciting days are in store for the fans. Talk of Europe and teams like Germany, Belgium and Netherlands seemed certainties to go far but many things could go wrong. This explained their short tenure in the Euro. Netherlands had looked breathing easy as the team had scored the most number of goals (eight) in the Group stage but Czeck Republic had a name for being fighters. Back in 2004, the Czech had come back from 0-2 situation to post a 3-2 win and Netherlands knew it had a tough nut to crack this time. As the Dutch feared, Czech worked out a win with goals by Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick, who is now tied with Ronaldo with five goals each in this year's event. Talk of Schick and indeed this young man who is bound to be heard more, also had the distinction of probably scoring the longest goal in Euro history. His over 45-metre strike, almost close to the half-line against Scotland was just about the most sensational happening in the midst of a goal-glut year in Euro. That goal-glut included a surfeit of own-goals too, standing at 10 at the latest count!
Belgium despite the inspiring presence of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne failed to expectations. The team had in Thorgan Hazard , the man who brought down Portugal with his goal. Yet Italy lived on to push the aspirants aside. As for Germany it seemed ironic that it had to face long time rival England and that too in the first knock out. The four-time world champion Germany, which has also annexed the Euro Cup thrice had not particularly shone in the group stage, having had a loss to France and then getting held by Hungary. But the name England triggers up a certain rivalry that dates back to the 1966 world cup which England won. Where often thereafter Germany had the last say it proved different on the England soil and what is more at Wembley stadium itself! Joachim Loew's men had no answer to the brilliance of Raheem Sterling and the goal-scoring ability of Harry Kane. Prolific scorer that he has been, Kane had looked starved much of the time this time and Germany provided him just the moment to open out. That should be good news for England fans as the country now awaits the cherishing moments ahead.
Action then has been plenty in the championship and it is not over. Italy, Spain, England and Denmark are there chasing a dream each, particularly England which is still to win the Cup! Already over 130 goals have been scored and there are bound to be many more. With the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) now in place, on-field activity will have a clean image about it and in the final analysis that will what matter, a tussle of skills in honest settings!