Swiss, Spanish, and Italians win in Euro 2024

The Albanian Flag
The Albanian Flag

The Swiss, Spanish, and Italian national teams defeated their opponents in their opening Euro 2024 matches.

Spain 3-0 Croatia

For a forgettable half, the Croatian National Football Team seemed unable to recognize their Euro 2024 Group B match had begun. They allowed three infantile mistakes to be converted into the simplest of goals from open spots and/or close range gifting the Spanish a three-goal lead going into the locker rooms at halftime.

In the second half, the Croatian defense was a bit less porous, but critically, their midfield was unremarkable, their offense was nonexistent, and their wingbacks only knew how to pass the ball backward. When their chances did come, they were muffed repeatedly none more so than when Dinamo Zagreb’s Bruno Petkovic missed a penalty and then Hajduk Split’s Ivan Perisic encroached into the penalty area negating the follow-up score off the Unai Emery save. The penalty, committed by Rodri, should have been an automatic red as the midfielder was the last defender, but English Referee Michael Oliver chose to produce a yellow instead and VAR did not overrule him. The rules keep being watered down and we now know why. Can’t have the rule book handicap the tourney progression of the FIFA favorites.

At the 65th minute Croatian Coach, Zlatko Dalic, threw in the towel and substituted Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic, saving them for a run at Italy and Albania and that potential third-place slot in the group. Spain, for their part, did not play a good game, they were simply awake enough to capitalize on the repeated gifts the Croats provided. It will be a different story when they meet Italy next.

Switzerland 3-1 Hungary

Switzerland, playing the earlier Group A game, took full advantage of a Hungarian eleven who played anything but at their best. They came out as if they were starstruck by the tourney’s trappings and were down two goals by halftime. Hungary’s response came via an 86th-minute score, but the Swiss, as if wanting to underline their superiority, added a third goal at 90+3-minute. It was not much of a contest.   

Italy X-X Albania

Joining Spain and Germany with a win, Italy fell behind at the 23rd second—yes, second, a Euro record for the earliest match goal—via a quick throw-in followed by a blast from an acute angle from Albania’s Nedim Bajrami. But Alessandro Bastoni headed a goal in the 11th minute and Nicolo Barella scored on a volley in the 16th to reach halftime ahead 2-1. Though the match was Italy’s to lose, they almost did on the few chances the Albanians had. But it was not to be for the Easter Europeans.

For the rest of the game, the Azzurri maintained three-quarters of possession and were officially allowed to foul constantly to ensure the score held. The most egregious non-call occurred in the 80th minute when Albanian striker, Rey Manaj, went in one-on-one with Italian keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. The last and trailing Italian defender, Riccardo Calafiori, grabbed the Albanian’s jersey and pulled on it for at least five yards inside the box. No call, thus no red card or penalty to mar another FIFA favorite’s win. Warren Barton, the former English defender, said “That was great defense.” Well, no it only was if you were an Italian fan and/or liked your match day bookended with biased calls.   

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Shutterstock photo ID–665758390, by Dragana Stojanovic

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