EURO 2024: Recapping all the thrills and spills from game week 1

Euro 2024
File – The empty stadium is seen after sunset during a German Bundesliga soccer match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. The European Championship in Germany is all about tried and tested stadiums with a rich soccer history. Unlike at some recent World Cups, there’s been no rush to finish stadiums on time. (AP Photo/Michael Probst,Pool, File)

It’s time! The 2024 Euros tournament kicked off and what a first set of group-stage games we just had. From multiple new records being set like the youngest player ever to appear at the tournament to the fastest goal ever scored in Euros history, to some of the biggest upsets the tournament has ever seen, and not a single game ended in a 0-0 draw. It’s been the most exciting start to the Euros in history and you can read all about every single opening group stage game below!

Germany 5-1 Scotland – Group A 

The opening game of the tournament saw host nation Germany take on Scotland, whose fans had taken over the capital and were in great form, which was shown as the atmosphere in the stadium was phenomenal by both sides. 

Germany quickly took control of the game and Scotland were backed up onto the ropes from the start. Scotland had set up with a narrow midfield 4 and Germany exposed this by finding little pockets of space between the midfield and backline, or by going out wide and forcing Scotland to spread out of their compact system. 

10 minutes in and we had the opening goal of the tournament, a perfect example of how Germany were finding it easy to get past Scotland. Kimmich cut in from the right, found Florian Wirtz on the edge of the box, who’s shot on goal managed to somehow beat Angus Gunn in the Scottish goal to give the hosts of the tournament the perfect start. 

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Germany’s players, from left to right, Robert Andrich, Aleksandar Pavlovic, Joshua Kimmich, Pascal Groß, Rocco Reitz, Thomas Müller, Maximilian Mittelstädt and Maximilian Beier warm up in a training session of the national team, in Herzogenaurach, Germany, Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Federico Gambarini/dpa via AP)

Barely 10 minutes later and Germany had their 2nd of the game, after some beautifully worked buildup play, Havertz found Musiala in the box, who spun his man and smashed the ball into the roof of the net, Gunn had no chance of ever stopping it. 

Scotland managed to stand firm up until right before the halftime whistle when the game just completely collapsed for them. After a solid save from Gunn, the ball fell to Gundogan, and Ryan Porteous just completely took him out, it was a horror tackle that was only given as a penalty and a red card after a VAR review. Havertz stepped up and slotted the penalty home, sending Germany 3-0 up and Scotland down to 10 men. 

Germany slowed the pace down at the start of the 2nd half, knowing they were cruising to an opening win, but roughly 5 minutes after coming onto the pitch, Dortmund striker Niclas Fullkrug smashed home a 4th with a brilliant finish just inside the box.  

Scotland got one back late on, after Rudiger headed past his own keeper Manuel Neuer from a Scotland free kick, but Germany added a 5th in added time with Emre Can scoring just outside the box, after not being in the squad until 2 days before the game. Germany started in the perfect way, although they’d have liked to keep the clean sheet, while it was a night to forget for Scotland. 

Hungary 1-3 Switzerland – Group A: 

To kickstart the 2nd day of the tournament we had a Group A clash between Hungary, who have taken Turkey’s role of being everyone’s dark horse for the tournament, and Mr Consistent in major tournaments Switzerland. 

Just like how Turkey has disappointed fans in the past after being considered dark horses, Hungary was terrible in the opening 45 minutes of the game. Switzerland took the lead on the 12th minute mark after a brilliant through ball from Aebischer put Kwadwo Duah through on goal and he finished calmly to put his nation up 1-0. 

Switzerland just controlled the game from the off, they were impressive and dominating Hungary. They came close to a 2nd, but Gulacsi made a good save. Switzerland did get their 2nd of the game when Aebischer turned from provider to scorer with a beautiful, curled effort into the bottom corner from just outside the box to put Switzerland 2-0 up. 

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CHESTER, PA – JULY 16: Philadelphia Union Midfielder Daniel Gazdag (6) dribbles the ball during the second half of the Major League Soccer Match between the New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union on July 16, 2022, at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Switzerland had a good chance to kill the game off early in the 2nd half, but Gulacsi made another good save and then Hungary had a huge chance to get back into the game, but Varga headed right at the keeper. 

Varga would have redemption though just minutes later after a brilliant ball into the back post by Liverpool’s Dominik Szoboszlai found Varga, who headed past Yann Sommer to make it 2-1 with 20 minutes left. 

Hungary tried their hardest to get back into the game but just couldn’t find a way to break down a brilliant Switzerland performance. Breel Embolo capped off a great team performance by scoring his nations 3rd after a terrible attempted header back to the keeper fell short to Embolo, who just dinked the ball over Gulacsi.  

Spain 3-0 Croatia – Group B 

The 2nd game on Saturday saw the two big boys in Group B take each other on in a game that meant so much to both teams, with Italy also in the group and starting their Euros campaign with a battle against Albania. 

Croatia dominated the ball throughout the game and right from the off, which was surprising to see given they were against Spain who are known around the world as the possession masters of football. Issue Croatia had was the fact they just couldn’t create anything significant with all the possession they were having, Spain looked comfortable throughout the game and at the back, defending anything the Croatians threw at them. 

30 minutes in and we had the opening goal as Spain hit Croatia on the counterattack, with Morata being slipped through on goal and calmly slotting past the oncoming Livakovic to give the Spainards a 1-0 lead.  

Just 3 minutes later and Spain had doubled their lead, this time it was Fabian Ruiz with the goal, and what a goal it was. Ruiz picked the ball up just outside the penalty box, used incredibly quick feet to dance around 2-3 defenders, and then finished it beautifully past Livakovic. 

Spain continued their lethal attacks in the first half and got a third goal right on the stroke of halftime. Lamine Yamal, who became the youngest player to ever play in the Euros after starting the game, put a wonderful ball into the box and found Real Madrid’s Daniel Carvajal who had a simple finish. Yamal, with that assist, set another record as the youngest player to record an assist in Euros history. 

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Croatia celebrates winning the match after penalties during the FIFA World Cup 2022, Round of 16 football match between Japan and Croatia on December 5, 2022 at Al-Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah, Qatar. (Photo by Pro Sports Images/DPPI/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS—NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

Croatia had a better second half and looked like they’d at least get a goal back but a couple of goalline clearances denied them of a goal. The final 5 minutes of the game were some of the most chaotic I’ve ever seen. Petkovic went down in the box after a challenge from Rodri, 3 yards out from goal and an open goal at that. VAR looked it over and, in my opinion, Petkovic dived, but VAR gave a penalty and Rodri was only booked, another baffling decision. Petkovic took the penalty and Simon saved it, but the ball fell to a Croatian player, who played it back to Petkovic, who poked it home. 

Croatia had managed to get a late goal, well that’s what they thought until VAR looked back at the penalty and saw that a bunch of Croatian players were in the box when Petkovic took the penalty, so the goal was ruled out and Spain went on to win 3-0. 

Italy 2-1 Albania – Group B 

The final game of day 2 of the Euros saw one of the lowest-ranked teams in the tournament take on the defending champions.

Italy ended up having a throw-in deep in their own half and as they tried to throw it back towards their own goal, Nedim Bajrami snuck in, stole the ball, and hammered the ball home at the front post to put Albania 1-0 up after just 23 seconds, the fastest goal in Euros history. 

The question for the rest of the game was how Italy was going to respond to the shock, early goal? Well, we had an answer 10 minutes after Albania’s goal. Italy pressured from the off and got a corner, where Bastoni managed to just ghost in at the back post, and the Italian defender headed his side level. 

Italy didn’t let up and they managed to break Albanian hearts 5 minutes after their first goal, with an unbelievable finish from Nicolo Barella from outside the box to put Italy in the lead and quickly recover from the early shock. 

The rest of the game was really boring, Italy just dominated possession, kept the ball, played safe and cruised to a 2-1 win. Although Albania had a massive chance to grab a point right at the death but Donnarumma pulled off a brilliant save to make sure his country took all 3 points with a 2-1 win. 

Poland 1-2 Netherlands – Group D 

Day 3 of the 2024 Euros kicked off with a Group D clash between Poland and the Netherlands. With both teams knowing they’ll likely be fighting each other for 2nd place in the group behind France, they both understood how important of a game this was. 

The Dutch started the game really well, dominated possession and looked quite threatening in the opening portions of the game. However, it was Poland who opened the scoring from a corner, with Adam Buksa heading home after a great delivery from the corner. 

Netherlands reacted well to the Polish goal that was against the run of play, and they were rewarded for their consistent pressure when Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo saw his shot deflected and beat Wojciech Szczesny to level the score. 

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FILE – The trophy is on display during the presentation of the European soccer championship ‘EURO 2024’ trophy at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. The European Championship in Germany is all about tried and tested stadiums with a rich soccer history. Unlike at some recent World Cups, there’s been no rush to finish stadiums on time. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

The Dutch dominated a good portion of the 2nd half while looking for a winner, while Poland had their chances too but just couldn’t take them and it was clear they were missing their main talisman in Robert Lewandowski, who was injured for this one. 

With the game looking like it was heading for the first draw of the Euros, Dutch hero Wout Weghorst, who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes, latched onto a deflected pass and rifled home under Szczesny to steal all 3 points for his nation right at the death. 

Slovenia 1-1 Denmark – Group C 

The 2nd game of the day was the opening Group C game between Slovenia and Denmark. This probably turned out to be the game I was most entertained by because it was a close, fast-paced game that had goals too. 

In a trait that’s become a very regular occurrence at this year’s tournament, someone took an early lead and that someone was Denmark. After a quick throw in was taken, Jonas Wind played a great little flick through to Christian Eriksen, who finished brilliantly into the far corner for a beautiful story given what happened to Eriksen at Euro 2020. 

Both teams had some great chances to grab goals throughout the game and as I said earlier in the piece, it was a really close affair between the two. Benjamin Sesko went close in the first half with a long range strike but his one in the 2nd half almost produced an all time Euros great goal, if it weren’t for right post of Denmark’s goal. 

Slovenia didn’t have to wait long for their equaliser after going close through Sesko though, pretty much from the resulting corner, the ball was headed out and Janza hit a thunderbolt of a shot, that took a deflection while heading towards goal and wrongfooted Schmeichel to level the scoreline. Both teams tried for a winner, but the game ended in the first draw at the tournament this year. 

Serbia 0-1 England – Group C 

The final game of the 3rd day of 2024 Euros action was the other Group C contest between 2020 Runners Up England and Serbia. In typical Euros 2024 fashion, an early lead was taken and this time it was England who had scored early on in the game. 

After Saka did some great work down the right wing for England, his deflected cross went into the perfect area for an oncoming Jude Bellingham to head home and fire his country up 1-0. The starboy continues to have an unbelievable rise and season. 

The rest of the game was really poor, England did what they always do under Gareth Southgate and look to just protect their lead, rather than going out and trying to finish the game off with all their talent. 

Serbia just couldn’t get anything going with all the possession they were having, going forward they were really poor and a better side on the night would have taken points off England. The game ended 1-0 and England start their Euro 2024 campaign with an opening 3 points. 

Romania 3-0 Ukraine – Group E 

The first game of day 4 of the 2024 Euros kicked off with the biggest upset of the tournament so far after a clash between two Group E teams, Romania and Ukraine. Heading into the game, Ukraine were heavy favourites to finish 2nd in the group, but Romania had other plans. 

Ukraine opened the game really well, having a lot of the ball and putting Romania under pressure. The issue with that gameplan was the fact they were playing right into Romania’s hands. The half-hour mark was when we got the first goal of the game and it’s definitely the goal of the tournament so far. 

After a mistake at the back from Ukraine’s goalkeeper Lunin, Romania had the ball right by Ukraine’s box. The ball found Stanciu, who hit an absolute thunderbolt past Lunin, into the far-left-hand corner and Romania had the lead. 

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FILE – Belgium’s Jeremy Doku controls the ball during the international friendly soccer match between Ireland and Belgium in Dublin, Ireland, Saturday, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison, File)

Romania went close to grabbing a 2nd goal a couple of times before halftime but the bar denied them on the closest of those attempts. Romania didn’t waste any time in the 2nd half going after Ukraine and they were rewarded with a 2nd goal after 53 minutes. 

Romania broke on a counter-attack and while it looked like Ukraine was going to deal with it, the ball fell to Razvan Marin about 30 yards out and he smashed it towards goal. At first glance it looked like an easy goal of the tournament contender, but replays showed that Lunin should have saved it, so 2 goals, 2 mistakes from the Real Madrid keeper. 

Romania would go on and secure the biggest upset of the tournament 4 minutes later when they worked the ball around the Ukrainian defence and the ball was slipped into the box to Dragus, who tapped his nations 3rd goal home. 

Ukraine had some chances at the end of the game but Romania would come away with all 3 points, the biggest upset of the tournament, and a clean sheet to put the rest of Group E on notice. 

Belgium 0-1 Slovakia – Group E 

Remember how I was just rambling on about Romania having the biggest upset of the tournament so far? Well, Slovakia told me to hold their beer. In the other Group E game, Belgium faced Slovakia and wow, were neutral fans in for a treat. 

Slovakia were absolutely outstanding all game, their high press was causing Belgium all sorts of problems, and the pure heart and passing of the players was incredible to see. After Belgium missed some early opportunities, one was an absolute sitter for Lukaku, Slovakia would go down the other end and send their nation into a frenzy. 

7 minutes into the game and that high press I just mentioned paid dividends as Belgium was dispossessed of the ball in their own box and while the first shot was saved, the ball fell to Schranz, who finished at the front post and put Slovakia 1-0 up. 

Belgium had a multitude of chances following Slovakia’s goal but it seemed like both Romelu Lukaku and Leandro Trossard were in a competition with eachother to be the biggest disappointment for their country.  

Lukaku thought he put his country back on level terms as he tapped home an Onana header back across the box but VAR stepped in and disallowed the goal for offside. Bakayoko thought he had put his nation back in the game but it was cleared off the line in unbelievable fashion by a Slovakian defender. 

A few minutes from the end and Lukaku thought, for a second time in the game, that he had put his country back on level terms after Openda had found him in the box and he thumped home an effort, but VAR stepped in again and ruled that Openda had handled the ball in the buildup. 

Slovakia would somehow survive for the biggest upset at the tournament this year, and statistically, it’s the biggest upset in all of Euros history. 

Austria 0-1 France – Group D 

We ended the 4th day of 2024 Euros action with the highly anticipated opening game of the tournament for France, who took on Austria. Austria surprised quite a few people with their performance in this one and they’ll be one to watch for the rest of the tournament if they keep putting performances like this in. 

The opening half hour or so was pretty even, France looked the more threatening of the two sides but Austria’s high pressing was unsettling the tournament favourites. Unfortunately for Austria all their hard work was undone after Mbappe got through down the right wing and his cross was headed in by Austria defender Wober for an own goal and the only goal of the game. 

Euro 2024
France’s Kylian Mbappe controls the ball during the international friendly soccer match between France and Canada at the Matmut Atlantique stadium in Bordeaux, southwestern France, Sunday, June 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Yohan Bonnet)

Austria had some big chances in the game, especially in the 2nd half and they ended the game with more possession than France, they just couldn’t convert the few chances they had. Mbappe got through 1-on-1 with the keeper and to everyone’s shock, put his shot wide when it looked like he was certain to score. 

Mbappe’s luck didn’t get any better as he collided in the air with an Austrian defender’s shoulder and ended up breaking his nose, the French forward will have to play the rest of the tournament with a protective mask. France ended up winning 1-0 but were a little lucky to get all 3 points. 

Turkey 3-1 Georgia – Group F 

We finally got around to the final groups opening games of the tournament 5 days into Euro 2024 and the first game of the day was a very heated clash between Turkey and tournament debutants Georgia. 

The game was back and forth throughout and was easily the best game of the tournament so far. Turkey took the lead 25 minutes in with a goal of the tournament contender thanks to right back, Mert Muldur, who scored a gorgeous volley from just inside the box, right into the top right-hand corner. 

Turkey thought they had a 2nd just a minute later after Yildiz finished from close range, but VAR stepped in and ruled Yildiz offside by half his boot. Things went from bad to worse in a matter of minutes for Turkey as Georgia drew level through a Mikautadze finish at the front post, although I think the keeper should have stopped it. 

The constant momentum shifts during the game created such a fun game to watch and there were 36 shots in total by both teams over 90 minutes. Turkey grabbed the lead 65 minutes in thanks to Real Madrid’s teenage wonderkid Arda Guler scoring what is, in my opinion, the goal of the tournament as he picked the ball up from 25 yards and curled an unbelievable shot into the far top left-hand corner to put his side 2-1 up. 

Georgia had a catalogue of chances up until the closing minutes but the biggest chance was blocked on the line by a fantastic header from a Turkish defender. Georgia keeper Mamardashvili went up for the resulting corner and that ended up giving Akturkoglu an open goal when he ran through and finished the game for a Turkish 3-1 win. 

Portugal 2-1 Czechia – Group F 

In the final game of the opening games of the group stages, 2016 winners Portugal took on Czechia and the game wasn’t the best, honestly, for the majority of the game, it was comfortably the worst game of the group stages, in my opinion. 

Portugal dominated the ball, they ended up with 74% possession and at almost the half hour mark they had limited Czechia to just 47 successful passes total. However, with all that possession, the Portuguese didn’t create any real chances, especially in the first half.  

It wasn’t until the 62nd minute until we got the first goal of the game, and to the surprise of the crowd and audience at home, it wasn’t a Portuguese goal. The goalscorer Provod clearly watched the earlier game as he put his name amongst the likes of Arda Guler and Mert Muldur for goal of the tournament, as his strike from outside the box curled into the far left post and went in, to send Czechia into a shocking 1-0 lead. 

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FILE – Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo attempts a shot at goal during the international friendly soccer match between Slovenia and Portugal at the Stozice stadium in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. The 24-team lineup is complete and all roads now lead to Germany for the European Championship. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic, File)

Unfortunately for Czechia, their lead didn’t last long as Portugal found an equaliser and it was all down to a bad mistake from Czechia goalkeeper Stanek. A cross was played across the 6-yard box and Stanek, instead of collecting the ball near his front post, decided to push it out but it rebounded off center-back Hranac and into their own goal to draw Portugal level. 

Portugal thought they had the winner 3 minutes from full-time but Jota’s header was ruled out by VAR for offside as Ronaldo was offside from the original headed effort that lead to Jota’s finish. Portugal did however find a winner in added time and it was also down to a mistake from Czechia. 

As the ball was played into the box, a Czechia defender tried to clear it, but the ball went through his legs and debutant Francisco Conceicao was there to tap home and steal all 3 points for his country as Portugal win 2-1. 

AP Photo/Michael Probst,Pool, File