We've reached that stage of the Euros when pre-tournament predictions speculatively scribbled on to glossy wall-charts without much in the way of prior knowledge about a whole host of teams start to look a tad unrealistic. Who'd have thunk it. Certainly Sweden sitting top of Group F was not a popular pick, nor Czech Republic leading the way in Group D. There are, of course, unforeseen circumstances that help to explain Denmark needing to beat Russia and hope for favours elsewhere to avoid elimination from Group B.

The harrowing scenes of Christian Eriksen's collapse in Copenhagen last Saturday evening in the Danes' group opener against Finland aside, it has been a compelling first week and a bit in the tournament. From this point on, though, it starts to feel a little like we are on the home straight with only two matches in each group played simultaneously until the knockout stages begin. Traditionally, the third match has been a time for already-qualified teams to rest and recuperate. In some groups finishing second is almost incidental – for example Group A's winners and runners-up will be paired with those finishing second in the considerably weaker-looking Groups C and B respectively. All being present and correct it should represent a relatively straightforward path into the quarter-finals for both Italy and Wales.

What else have we learned from these first nine days? On the evidence of Saturday night's Robin Gosens-led demolition of Portugal, it is that Germany were written off too soon following a 1-0 defeat by France in which they weren't as bad as some suggested. The Group of Death has lived up to its billing so far but what has become clear, too, is that Hungary – billed as no hopers - should have been afforded more respect, especially given that looser Covid regulations has allowed for a 61,000 capacity of supporters inside the Puskas Arena. We've also learned England were too heavily touted prior to the tournament and that Scotland might have been better placed had Steve Clarke been a little less conservative in the Group D opener against the Czechs.


Interesting to witness Cristiano Ronaldo's concern for his health and wellbeing by removing the two bottles of Coca-Cola set in front of him at a press conference last week followed by a request for some water. In a move reminiscent of Elon Musk's trashing of Bitcoin on Twitter last month, Ronaldo's fit of pique wiped $4 billion off the value of the drinks' giants business in the aftermath and earned a warning from UEFA that teams could be fined if they did not respect contractual obligations to sponsors.

Interesting to note Ronaldo's endorsements, too. Fast food chain KFC – hardly a beacon for healthy eating – once paid him $2.25 million to promote the brand in the Middle East while slimming brand Herbalife, which has handed the Portugal forward $12.5 million in sponsorship deals up to 2021, has been linked to liver damage in a number of patients who used the company's products in Israel, Spain, Switzerland, Iceland, Argentina, and the United States.


Spotted, a day apart, on the Sky Sports website in the aftermath of Billy Gilmour's man-of-the-match performance against England at Wembley.

Agitated hot-take rating: 4

Handed his first Scotland start but the magnitude of the game took its toll on the 20-year-old. Bypassed several times in midfield, off the pace time and again while trying to recover and outmuscled in the middle of the park as the game passed him by. Took an age to find his feet after being pulled from pillar to post.


Post-match, oops he was given UEFA star of the match rating: 8

Handed his first Scotland start but the magnitude of the game took its toll on the 20-year-old early on. Was bypassed and outmuscled several times and looked off the pace while trying to recover but settled superbly into his passing rhythm and didn't give the ball away - not once! Strength of character in abundance, and another performance which belied his age.


There has been a marked difference in the application of VAR than we are used to seeing on a weekly basis in the Premier League in England. Action-replay decisions have been a beneficial aid to officials throughout the tournament and the controversy has been minimal. The biggest blooper came in Czech Republic's 1-1 draw with Croatia when Patrik Schick was awarded a penalty after Dejan Lovren caught him in the face with his arm. It seemed to be more of a natural coming together and not really something VAR should have retrospectively advised a referral on. Spain's missed penalty in their 1-1 draw with Poland was another that raised eyebrows but Jakub Moder stood on Gerard Moreno's foot and as such it was a penalty by the letter of the law.

A notable dynamic has been the performances of Anthony Taylor, the Premier League's representative at the finals, who is often a target for derision. Taylor dealt superbly with VAR in Germany's 4-2 win over Portugal and his quick-thinking in last week's Denmark-Finland was commended for the role it played in saving Christian Eriksen's life.

It has brought praise from Keith Hackett, the former head of referees in England, who said: “[Taylor] has delivered two very good performances in the Euros. He looks relaxed, calm and in complete control of his own emotions. Anthony: return to the Premier League next season and do the same. Don’t be deflected by the PGMOL [Professional Game Match Officials Limited] management.”

Last week, writing in The Telegraph, Hackett made a radical suggestion claiming that if referees in England could not reach the standards seen at Euro 2020 then the Premier League should consider appointing from Europe.

“Uefa has shown clear leadership with the referees, who know what is expected of them when it comes to using video technology in this tournament.”


One of the more remarkable elements of the first week has been the regularity with which penalty kicks have been missed. Of the nine awarded thus far, only four have been converted with the latest failure coming from Gerard Moreno – who did not miss for Villarreal with his 12 attempts in the season just ended – in Spain's 1-1 draw against Poland.

Ben Lyttleton, author of the Twelve Yards, a book released in 2014 which delved into the science behind penalty-taking has a theory on why so many are being missed.

Writing on Twitter, Lyttleton noted: Moreno . . . becomes [the] third player to miss from the spot trying the goalkeeper-dependent method [waiting for goalkeeper to make first move]. All four scored pens at Euro 2020 have been goalkeeper independent... [The] only players to score are Ronaldo, Depay, Forsberg (regular penalty-takers) and Schick (not regular taker). They all went GK-Independent, picking spot and going for it. Goalkeeper-dependent is harder than it looks!”