Italy, Portugal & France set pace at Euro 2020 but Spain are dark horses

Euro 2020’s first round of matches has come to an end and we’ve been shown who the true contenders for the title are already.

It is one of the more stacked tournaments in recent memory, with several top sides coming into the competition with an expectation upon them that they make it to the latter stages.

But following the first round of group games being completed, three teams in particular have stood out as ones to watch more than any other.

Italy opened up the tournament with a 3-0 win over Turkey in Rome, where they really took their pre-tournament dark horses tag literally and turned in a fantastic performance. Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne added to an own goal but the way they kept a high tempo, pressed hard and passed the ball quickly was a joy to watch.

Their home advantage definitely will have helped to spur them on but defensively they still look as solid as they are historically know for being, but going forward they have lots of options and dynamism which stands them in good stead going forward.

Portugal are another side who started the tournament very well. It was a close game against Hungary, in front of a capacity crowd of 61,000 fans in Budapest, but Portugal largely dominated proceedings with some bad decisions and execution in the final third costing them.

They eventually found their rhythm late on though and scored three goals in the final ten minutes to put Hungary to the sword and earn themselves three points – as many as they earned in the entire group stage in 2016.

Also in their group are the last two World champions France and Germany, who played out a highly entertaining game later on Tuesday evening. Mats Hummels’ own goal in the end was the difference, but the French side played a great game that saw them control the tempo for the most part.

They had two goals disallowed for marginal offside calls too to show they are a threat going forward, while Germany didn’t really create any clear cut chances the other way.

But Spain’s performance during the competition is one that has largely divided opinion.

Luis Enrique’s side enjoyed 80% of possession against Sweden in their opening game but after missing a host of chances during the game they could only secure themselves a 0-0 draw – the only one of the tournament so far.

While some claimed they “defended with the ball” by just playing the ball side-to-side with little penetration, I saw it very differently.

They played with a high tempo, moved the ball quickly and Pedri in particular stood out as someone who looked to make those incisive passes in behind the low block of Sweden’s defence. The only thing they were missing was a clinical finisher in goal.

Alvaro Morata, as usual, missed the majority of those but Spain were threatening enough and kept the ball well enough to make me think that that isn’t something that will trouble them long term.

They have options in the squad that can score, with the likes of 30-goal Gerard Moreno, but also Morata can’t keep missing all his chances. The likes of Dani Olmo, Adama Traore, Pablo Sarabia, Ferran Torres and Mikel Oyarzabal are also all capable of finding the net, so it’s not like Spain are going to struggle for depth.

I’m not saying they’re going to waltz to a tournament win here, not by any stretch, but with their style of play and the fact they’re clearly very well drilled in that methodology the results will only improve over time.

Against the top sides they will absolutely need to be more clinical, but they are well set up to get far in this tournament and depending on their route and getting a bit of lucky you cannot rule them all the way out just yet.

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