10 big talking points that came out of the Euro 2024 Group Stages

Any readers who have followed my coverage of the Euros will know I have been very critical of the current format. A system where we started with 24 teams and after two weeks of action, we have only eliminated 8.

By being able to finish third in your group but still qualify means it’s almost harder for a half decent side to be knocked out
A lack of jeopardy means a lot of fixtures have been played without any drama. That will change now that we are in the last 16.

I have however picked my main 10 talking points from the Group Stage

Fan’s Behaviour

In what has become a worrying occurrence throughout the tournament fans have got into a routine of throwing plastic cups from the stands at players. Wherever it’s to celebrate a goal, a reaction to conceding, not liking who’s taking a corner or responding to a manager thanking supporters for travelling, grown adults yet again think in the confines of a football stadium they can act however they like.

Sadly, the idea of objects being thrown at Gareth Southgate, his squad and their friendsand/ family is no longer even shocking. Organisers have said they won’t tolerate this continuing and will be willing to restrict drinking to the concourse area which is the protocol in the UK.

Man In the Iron Mask!

Let’s be honest the obvious big names have yet to fly out of the traps in Germany. Kylian Mbappe at least has an excuse, breaking his nose in France’s opening match. For some easy headlines some in the media tried to suggest that would end the players competition. Deschamp and his captain (like they should) were always going to do whatever it took for that not to happen.
The 25-year-old is now forced to wear a mask while playing. He was rested for the Netherlands game, giving him longer to recover while his manager says the mask does impact on his sight.

A fan of Teenage Mutant Turtles and training with a version of the colours of his flag on one design, this could be a marketing dream.
Les Blues win the Euros watch a mask become a huge seller in France.

Remember the Name!

As already mentioned, the obvious names haven’t quite got going yet in Germany. Some newer names might have risen to the public’s conscious.

Some will be aware of 19-year Arda Guler. Others won’t because of Real Madrid’s instance on stockpiling the World’s best young talent.
Handling the spotlight of a 20 million move to the Bernabeu, scoring 6 goals for them this year and having the weight of his nation as their next big hope, we are still waiting for the teenager to show any sign of the pressure getting to him.

We have seen famous names built up in the past but who rock up at a tournament crippled by the fear of failure. Guler on the other hand became the youngest name to score on his Euros debut. With Turkey being held by Georgia with 25 minutes to go Guler picked the ball up 25 yards out and produced contender for goal of the tournament. Still waiting for him to be fazed .

Kane Vs Lineker

As the BBC host has since pointed out some journalists have been scared to upset their close relationship with the England squad so have used what has been said elsewhere to ask the questions they are in fear of asking.
To be fair it’s not just Gary Lineker vs Harry Kane. Various players have stressed the need for the media to be more supportive, and we are in danger of going back to the dark days where English fans are reactionary and constantly need an individual to blame.

Let’s make it clear, everyone is entitled to their opinion both in terms of a team collectively and as individuals displays. There is a line though when critiquing becomes hysterical.

Three weeks ago, some were saying Southgate had selected the greatest Three Lions squad of all time. 5 points later I have heard at numerous times should Kane, Foden, Saka, Bellingham, etc be dropped?

This is kind of analysing I expect off YouTubers not people paid to talk about football for a living. This is where pundits should step in, especially ex-players.

For example, Wayne Rooney and Gary Neville were the only two pundits before a ball was kicked who said Trent Arnold shouldn’t get close to our midfield. That’s better punditry then waiting after the event.

Steve Clarke

It’s funny how In the UK media they are selective over what is offensive to them. Should a referee for example be judged on where they are from?

That’s what Steve Clarke did when Scotland were knocked out in the group stages. Instead of taking accountability for their one point, this is what he said … “He’s [Tello] from Argentina. How would I ask him? Probably doesn’t speak the language, I don’t know. Why’s he here, why’s it not a European referee? [It’s a] European competition, it might have been better to have a European referee,”

Of course, the manager didn’t say this before kick-off, where the SFA had days to question UEFA for appointing an official from South America. No, Facundo Tello’s country of birth only got mentioned once he chose not to award Stuart Armstrong a penalty.

If he had pointed to the spot Mr Clarke wouldn’t care where the ref was born.

For what’s it’s worth, the incident divided opinion, some viewing it as a foul, others not. Certainly, subjective enough for VAR to not seem the decision an obvious error. Even if the call was controversial though, what’s nationality got to with do anything? The sport has the same rules and VAR the same flaws all over the world.

For the record this wasn’t the only time someone outside of Europe took charge at the European Championship. I really don’t understand what avenue Clarke was trying to do but in 2024 it’s one we don’t need to hear. If he had judged a person on race, gender, religion, etc this would have been made a bigger issue.

Modric

England, France, Netherlands, Belgium….all nation’s who’s media who have been very harsh towards their country at the Euros, very reactionary. So, it’s rare to see the respect afforded to Luka Modric ironically by an Italian journalist moments after Italy had stolen third of Croatia in the last seconds.

While he hasn’t confirmed international retirement, at the age of 38 it’s safe to assume it’s his last major tournament. This member of the press wanted to thank the midfielder for his contribution to the sport calling him one of the greatest he’s ever seen.

To be fair, the Croatian captain did everything in his powers to make sure midweek wasn’t his farewell. Moments after having a penalty saved, he scored but eventually it turned out to be one competition too many for ageing legs.

Lukaku

In the majority of European Championships Romelu Lukaku would be leading the race for the Golden Boot right now. To be more specific it’s only in the last two Euros where the striker wouldn’t have 3 goals.

Before the 2020 (21) edition VAR wasn’t being implemented. Here in Germany, they have overruled the 31year old twice against Slovakia and once against Romania. Already with a reputation in his career of being offside too many times, twice goals were ruled out due to the admittedly quicker automated system while what is handball in 2024 remains subjective.

Kante
Having won every domestic honour in England, N’Golo Kante didn’t need to do anything else to prove to the world how special he is.
There will be owners from Saudi Arabia clubs delighted that the 33 has proved you can play in the Saudi Pro League and still be one of the best players at the European Championship.
He remains World class at ball recoveries at times in the group stage giving opponents a head start and still getting possession back.

Traffic

Imagine if Southgate blamed recent performances on travel arrangements? Envisage the reaction back in his homeland to this?
Yet that’s what Belgium’s manager did following a 0-0 draw with Ukraine. Surely, he has a PR advisor who would have suggested that faulting the police escort wasn’t ideal, while fans are booing the Belgian’s finishing second in their group.

I almost admire Tedesco for saying how he feels because he must have known that the excuse of not enough time for a pre match speech and exercise due to stopping at too many red lights was not going to go down well. He might have been better off not fighting against the frustration like his captain did. Knowing supporters were not happy KDB just wanted to get off the pitch.

Levelling Up

Managers for years in International Football would stress ‘there’s no easy games’. While you’re still get the likes of San Marino and Liechtenstein rocking up at Wembley, not one country has made up the numbers In Germany.

The lower ranked nations at this Euros will feel they are closing the gap. Georgia this week won their first ever match at a tournament. in the biggest upset in the history of the European Championship based on rankings.

Albania were competitive In the Group of Death. Slovenia got past the group stages for the first time (bizarrely have done that without winning a game)

Outside of Spain, you could argue that Austria and Turkey have played the best football. The gap is closing.

Dan


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1 Comment

  1. Truth be told, i can’t wait to see the end of this tournament, even club friendlies will do right now. Interesting who will make it to the final though, the only part that grabs my interest as far as the tournament is concerned.

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