Cristiano Ronaldo wasteful as Portugal beat Czech Republic, Turkey raise more questions than answers – Euro 2024 hits and misses

Plus: Young Czech Republic squad defy their inexperience to impress in narrow Portugal defeat; Georgia show no fear in gutsy first major tournament appearance against Turkey

Ronaldo wasteful on milestone appearance

Image: Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after the final whistle

Another piece of history in the extraordinary career of Cristiano Ronaldo. Named in Portugal’s starting line-up against Czech Republic, he became the first player feature at a sixth European Championship. He just lacked a goal to mark the occasion.

At times, during the first half in particular, he looked sluggish, repeatedly out of position for crosses into the box as Roberto Martinez’s star-studded Portugal side laboured in the final third, despite dominating possession from the outset.

  • Portugal 2-1 Czech Republic – Match report
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Still, though, the 39-year-old had their best chances, spurning a one-on-one chance from a Bruno Fernandes pass, then seeing a diagonal effort parried in first-half stoppage time. Earlier, there was a decent headed opportunity he sent bobbling past the post.

Ronaldo was prolific in Portugal’s qualifying campaign, top-scoring with 10 goals, but, away from the rigours of European football in Saudi Arabia, it appears he may need a little time to get back up to full speed at this tournament.

He almost provided a match-winning moment, his header steered into the net by Diogo Jota after coming back off the post, but an offside call against him meant that was left to Portugal’s new generation, with Francisco Conceicao the hero on this occasion.

Ronaldo relished the outcome, celebrating the victory with his team-mates after the final whistle. But there is no doubt he will be eager to make his own mark. Even now, in the twilight of his career, and despite a frustrating start to the tournament, you would not bet against him doing it in the games to come.
Nick Wright

Hasek lets young Czechs run free in plucky defeat

Image: Lukas Provod (right) celebrates his opening goal for the Czech Republic against Portugal

There was little reason to believe the Czech Republic would get anything out of their opening game with dark horses Portugal.

Their manager had been fired since their last competitive game, they stuttered through qualifying to finish behind Albania as the joint-lowest goalscorers to reach the finals and they arrived in Germany with the youngest of all 24 squads.

Ivan Hasek has chosen to build his side around domestic players, and 15 of his 26-man squad play their club football in the Czech Republic. Nine of those had 10 caps or fewer coming into the tournament.

But with youth and inexperience sometimes comes a fearlessness. An exuberance untainted by previous failure, and the character on display in Leipzig would have impressed plenty back home who had little idea what to expect.

The result did owe a lot to a profligate Portugal side, as Nick Wright touches on above with Ronaldo a particular culprit.

But the Czech back three was relatively stoic, the forward line looked threatening on the break – and scored a well-worked opening goal – and most impressively, Hasek’s side stuck in there, bided their time and played a mature game, arguably beyond their years.

Tactical tweaks and nuances will come with time, especially with two more winnable group games to come. But the Czechs’ attitude and commitment, the lack of which played its part in Jaroslav Silhavy’s sacking last year, is more difficult to coach.

That will give Hasek, and the watching public back in Prague and beyond, the most encouragement that perhaps matching the 2020 run to the quarter-finals isn’t so out of reach.
Ron Walker

Georgia show no fear in gutsy first major tournament appearance

Image: Georges Mikautadze scored Georgia's first goal at a major tournament

In the 34-year history of the Georgian national team, never once had the eastern European nation qualified for a major tournament – until they beat Greece in a qualifying play-off in March.

“I hope that taking part will bring both the federation and the nation of Georgia an experience that will spur us on to new feats in the future,” head coach Willy Sagnol told earlier in June.

  • Turkey 3-1 Georgia – Match report
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  • Euro 2024 state of play

If their opener against Turkey is anything to go by, the future is certainly bright.

They weathered an early storm in a hostile atmosphere in Dortmund, found a deserved, historic equaliser and continued to push even when Arda Guler’s stunner put them on the back foot for a second time. There were even several chances to level again late on, before Kerem Akturkoglu added the late gloss.

The 3-1 scoreline did not tell the full story: Georgia had five big chances, hit five shots on target, struck the woodwork twice and generated an xG of 1.59.

The tests do not get any easier, on paper, at least. On Saturday, Sagnol’s side face the Czech Republic and next Tuesday, they take on Portugal. But if Georgia deliver similarly gutsy performances over the next week, they will give them both a run for their money.
Dan Long

Turkey performance leaves more questions than answers

Image: Arda Guler celebrates scoring Turkey's second goal.

Turkey have a star in Arda Guler but they can’t rely on stunning solo strikes and open goals to avoid familiar Euros embarrassment.

Guler, the 19-year-old talent at Real Madrid, added to Mert Muldur’s superb volley with a perfect long-range curler to help his country to a crucial opening-game victory, their first in six attempts.

The pressure was on Turkey to deliver against Georgia – making their debut in the European Championships – after three defeats at a miserable Euro 2020 campaign. Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park was dominated by expectant Turks.

Image: Mert Muldur volleys in Turkey's opening goal of Euro 2024.

Turkey had more possession, racked up 22 shots, had an xG of 2.70 and created five big chances yet still they were lucky to escape with three points.

Georgia had five big chances too, hit the woodwork twice and were the forehead of Orkun Kokcu away from scoring a 97th-minute equaliser. Instead, Turkey ran the ball into an open goal at the other end.
David Richardson


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