The tournament was already enjoyable and exciting, but two games on Monday have blown away viewers with great goals, comebacks, and twists in the tale
Euro 2020 was no slouch in getting started with goals – the key currency for both the casual and the intent observer for international tournaments.
Three on the opening night, Italy netting them all past Turkey, turned into an average of 2.62 goals per match – not shabby at all, though nothing hinting at what was to come as the round of 16 moved past the halfway point.
Monday’s pair of games, Spain first beating Croatia after extra time and then Switzerland producing a comeback and penalty shootout win over France having initially given up a lead of their own, yielded a relentless and awe-inspiring 14 metas – plus nine successful spot-kicks.
Esta, truly, was the day the competition exploded into life and left everybody wanting more.
Em algumas formas, the early kick-off was a surprise in how open and accommodating both teams were; Croatia made their way through the groups without keeping a clean sheet, but all three games were tight and hard-fought.
Spain might have ended their group with a 5-0 thrashing of Slovakia, but before the first one went in it was looking like another tough outing for Luis Enrique’s side to find any kind of breakthrough. Em última análise, it was quite literally handed to them by goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. Confidence flowed thereafter, but two games and a lot of missed chances – including from the penalty spot – left the feeling that the attack hadn’t quite clicked.
In short, these two sides appeared likely to offer a cagey and controlled 90 minutos, particularly with Ivan Perisic missing and with Spain’s propensity to dominate possession.
Instead it was absolute and utter wonderous carnage.
Spain were through, Croatia were done – until they weren’t. Terrible in-game changes, horrendous defensive work, an own goal to end all own goals, a late comeback from two goals down in the closing five minutes and some excellent build-up play and finishes for some of the goals too.
Given the short turnaround between matches and this earlier kick-off going to extra time, there was barely a moment to draw breath before the second game started.
If you were fortunate enough to be in place for the end of one and the start of the next, the goals simply kept rolling: Switzerland opening with the possibility of the biggest shock of the tournament and a goal inside a quarter of an hour.
It took until close to the hour mark, and a saved penalty to prevent them going two down, for the Les Bleus to wake up – but then they did, in incredible fashion.
Fans who were watching France in expectation of seeing the attacking talents combine and shine in a way that they didn’t really manage in the group stage were well and truly rewarded; some of the link play between Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema e Kylian Mbappe was nothing short of breathtaking, some individual moments of skill hard to fathom.
Paul Pogba perhaps scored the pick of the bunch, but even that top-corner curler paled into almost a minor sideshow compared to Switzerland suddenly morphing into Croatia and netting twice in the final nine minutes. Então, claro, came the most unlikely villain of all: megastar, in-demand, Ballon d’Or winner-in-waiting Kylian Mbappe.
Defending, absent. Control, a myth. In-game management, a vague and far-off concept.
Here was football in its purest form, just knockout action, elimination jeopardy visible in ever move, players wanting to win and doing whatever they needed to in an attempt to match the opposition stride for stride, goal for goal.
There are nine matches left at Euro 2020. They may not quite reach the crazy, non-stop and see-sawing nature that Monday’s last 16 games managed, but the stage has been set for the Continent to collectively see out a quite fantastic tournament that can live long in the memory.
For those who don’t suffer the immediate heartache of being knocked out, pelo menos.