THE first week of Euro 2020 is done and dusted and we have seen all the teams play at least once, offering us a clearer picture of whether the sides bringing form into the tournament have managed to continue it in the heat of competition. More of that later.
First of all, let us acknowledge the great work of the paramedics and health teams of both Denmark and Finland in saving the life of Christian Eriksen on the opening full day of the tournament.
We can be grateful not only for the sake of Eriksen, his family, and teammates (obviously enough) but also for us the viewing public. Had circumstances taken a turn of the worse for Eriksen, heaven forbid, it would have been very difficult, had the tournament continued, for fans and TV audiences to fully enjoy the spectacle of the tournament in the shadow of such a tragedy. We can all agree that the tournament is a nice morale boost after the pandemic, coinciding with the loosening of restrictions. A tragedy on the field would have been a cruel blow as it would have understandably trivialised the rest of the competition.
For those critical of the TV coverage of Eriksen's collapse and treatment, they should perhaps take a step back and reflect on their response if they were in the situation of controlling the TV feed from Copenhagen. Sports coverage has an entertainment element in its coverage no doubt, but it also has a journalistic responsibility when such rare events of tragedy or distress occur. They cannot necessarily look away, even as events turn tragic. The cameras were there at Hillsborough, at Bradford, and for both Marc-Vivien Foé and Fabrice Muamba's collapses.
If people were distressed by what they were seeing, which is totally understandable, then they should immediately switch off or change channels. One suspects that the hundreds of thousands of voyeuristic views of Eriksen's treatment on YouTube within minutes of the Dane's collapse indicates that much of the online rage was hypocritical.
Back on the field of play, the opening week has provided plenty of entertainment, open football, effective defending, and a few really nice worked goals.
After the first round, there has been little to dissuade me that France are still on course to add the European crown to their World Championship. They were assured and confident against a well-drilled German side full of recognised talent and a few World Cup medals of their own. Killian Mbappe's pace and vision during the game was astounding, while Kanté continued to show the brilliance he provided Chelsea in the Champions League.
France may have only won by the single own goal. But one felt they were still playing within themselves and could have gone up the gears if they needed to.
The favourites have mostly lived up to their credentials with Italy, Belgium, Portugal, and England doing enough to stay on track. The disappointments being an impotent Spain and a flabbergasted Turkey.
Of the "Home Nations," Wales have played way beyond expectations. I feared the turmoil in the camp and losing their manager in such dark circumstance would have destroyed their morale but it seems to have stiffened their resolve and what they produced against Turkey was a truly awe-inspiring performance. Even having the luxury of Gareth Bale launching his penalty into orbit.
The English bandwagon is already on the roll after a good win against a Croatian side that looks a shadow of the side that put England out of the World Cup two years ago. A good opening 20 minutes by England was somewhat diminished by a pretty boring hour with just Kalvin Phillips the only inspired performer among the Three Lions.
Scotland, despite putting in a credible performance in Hampden Park, were unlucky to face a Czech side that looked well on form and hungry for success. And to be fair, what can you do against the class and opportunism of that Patrik Schick curved beauty from the halfway line?
Realistically, it is highly unlikely that we will see such an event but that's what tournament football is all about, those moments of unexpected triumph. Oh and English tears of course.