Euro 2024 hits and misses: Familiar concerns for England but Jude Bellingham stars in win over Serbia

Plus: Substitute Wout Weghorst struck late on to earn the Netherlands a 2-1 win over Poland in their Group D opener at Euro 2024; Christian Eriksen shines on his Euros return, 1100 days since suffering a cardiac arrest in Denmark’s opening game of the last tournament

What do England do with Foden?

Image: England's Phil Foden had a tricky evening

From the Premier League Player of the Season to arguably the most likely England player to drop out of the starting XI – just what does Gareth Southgate do with Phil Foden?

On paper, the Man City attacker was on the left wing but had the freedom to roam. In the first half, he got into good areas and rotated well with Jude Bellingham at times, winning free-kicks in the process.

  • Serbia 0-1 England – Match report and reaction
  • How teams lined up | Match stats

But end product was at a premium. Zero completed dribbles, zero shots, one touch in the penalty box. Foden was nowhere near his levels.

The issue for the 24-year-old is where else do you put him? Bellingham’s world-class talents cannot be tampered with. The right wing isn’t an option either given how Bukayo Saka efficiently achieved what Foden could not by taking players on and creating chances.

The imminent return of Luke Shaw could help England’s structure down the left and give Foden more time in the starting XI. And with the promising Cole Palmer, Eberechi Eze and Anthony Gordon waiting in the wings, Denmark on Thursday could be telling…
Sam Blitz

Familiar concerns emerge for England

England fans have seen this match before. A fast start followed by the team relinquishing control and Southgate sitting on his subs has become a familiar pattern. Against Serbia – and on plenty of previous occasions – England have found a way to get over the line. But it’s hardly a recipe for tournament glory.

England went from convincing to concerning in this opening game. The authority and dominance of the opening half hour turned to panic by the end, as Serbia stepped it up.

For all the talk about England’s attacking assets in this squad, they were once again dropping deep and hanging on for the final whistle. It was hardly the hallmark of European champions in waiting.

But three points are on the board. A place in the knock-outs is almost assured. And there is time to find a way to play with their early swagger for 90 minutes. But that approach has to come from the top. Southgate needs to set that tone.
Peter Smith

Brilliant Bellingham can do it all

Image: Jude Bellingham celebrates after heading England in front against Serbia

This boy can do it all. And he’s only 20 years old. Incredible. Jude Bellingham started and finished the move for England’s opener, bravely and brilliantly throwing himself at Bukayo Saka’s deflected cross to put his side in front.

He’s earned a reputation in his first season at Real Madrid as a match winner and he was the difference maker here for England. And not just with his goal. From his defensive work, sliding into tackles or nicking the ball off Serbian players, to spraying passes around, including one delicious volleyed ball back to Kyle Walker Bellingham was at the heart of it all for England.

The respect he already has from opposition teams was clear to see too, with Serbia regularly targeting him with some rough stuff. But he’s a tough kid as well as a classy one.

England’s chances in Germany are strongly linked to how the Birmingham boy does. He’s off to a flyer.
Peter Smith

Alexander-Arnold quietens the critics with positive opening display

Image: Trent Alexander-Arnold holds off Nemanja Gudelj

Roy Keane warned Trent Alexander-Arnold would be ripped apart by strong opposition at Euro 2024. That brutal assessment will only be proven correct or not in the knockouts but on Sunday there was plenty to enjoy about the Liverpool ace playing in the middle of the park.

There was a bending shot that had to be saved, a 40-yard crossfield pass and a key interception that launched the move which should have seen Kyle Walker add a second for England.

“In possession, Trent was brilliant,” said midfield colleague Jude Bellingham afterwards. “He conducts games so well. His quality is unmatched in terms of what he can do with the ball.”

That’s not to say there weren’t errors, with Alexander-Arnold losing the ball on the edge of his own box which allowed Aleksandar Mitrovic to shoot just wide. But the overall picture was a positive one. “It was great to see him come through that test,” said Gareth Southgate.
Peter Smith

Weghorst becoming clutch player for Netherlands

Image: Wout Weghorst celebrates giving the Netherlands the lead

In defeating Poland late on, Wout Weghorst scored the fastest goal by a Netherlands substitute at the European Championships, netting the winning goal of the game just two minutes and 18 seconds after coming off the bench. It was his first touch – and not the first time he has had an immediate impact.

In the World Cup 18 months ago, the man still on Burnley’s books came on with 12 to go against Argentina and scored in 83rd and 101st minute.

  • Poland 1-2 Netherlands – Match report and reaction
  • How teams lined up | Match stats | Results | Fixtures | Group tables

This was a typical striker’s finish from Weghorst as he glided ahead of defender Bartosz Salamon, on his left foot, and knew exactly where the goal was. He showed the value of a No 9 with a killer instinct.

It is the latest chapter in a curious career. The 31-year-old scored no goals in 17 league games during a dismal loan spell at Manchester United, while this campaign he has scored seven in 28 games for his loan club Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. He has bagged the same number for the Dutch this season in 11 appearances.

“It’s so important to get the early win and for me personally it’s a dream scenario,” Weghorst said of his 12th goal for the Netherlands. “I saw it coming and I felt the goal coming. Our aim now is to leave with the trophy.”

Weghorst is right. In the opening game of any tournament, it doesn’t matter how well you play, provided you win.

This result gives Ronald Koeman’s side a platform and they will be favourites against Austria in their next match. With Jeremie Frimpong and Donyell Malen also impressing in their cameos, the Dutch still have the depth to be a danger to France.
Ben Grounds

Poland miss Lewandowski’s clinical edge

Image: Adam Buksa celebrates after heading Poland in front

Having been billed as the favourites to finish bottom of this year’s so-called ‘Group of Death’, Poland were dealt a further blow when it was announced star man Robert Lewandowski would miss their opener against the Netherlands with a thigh injury suffered during a friendly against Turkey six days earlier.

But that was all forgotten for a little while in Hamburg on Sunday afternoon, when his understudy – Lens striker Adam Buksa – took advantage of some slack marking from the Dutch to head in the opener against the run of play.

  • Every Euros squad | Euro 2024 state of play
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The lead lasted all of 13 minutes, with incessant attacking finally bringing a reward for Ronald Koeman’s side just before the half-hour, thanks to Cody Gakpo. And the chances kept on coming for the Netherlands, who finished the game with 21 shots – their most in a game at a major tournament since the 32 they mustered against Denmark at Euro 2012.

For the most part, they were profligate. Chances came and chances went – though, in fact, both teams ended the game having created 1.26 xG. Seven of the shots Poland racked up hit the target, compared to the Netherlands’ four.

In the end, a clinical touch from Wout Weghorst proved the difference and settled Dutch nerves. Had Poland had their own big man in attack, one would imagine he will have had a say in the final result.

But the opener is history now; Friday’s clash with Austria is the sole focus – and getting Lewandowski back and firing is the priority.
Dan Long

Scrappy Slovenians spring surprise

Image: Erik Janza celebrates after his deflected shot drew Slovenia level against Denmark

Maybe Slovenia, at their first major tournament since 2010, have been underestimated. Statistically, they are the lowest-ranked side in Group C, but against Denmark they proved they can scrap. And few teams in the modern era of possession-based football enjoy a dogfight.

Denmark had 16 efforts on goal but only managed to score once, thanks, largely, to a superb defensive display from Vanja Drkusic and Jaka Bijol. If they were somewhat overawed by the brilliance of Christian Eriksen in the first half – most inside the MHP Arena felt similar – they more than made up for it in the second period. Rasmus Hojlund didn’t get a sniff.

  • Slovenia 1-1 Denmark – Match report and reaction

Injury had robbed Aleksander Sekulic’s side of key defender Miha Blazic, a staple of their qualifying campaign, before the tournament, but it mattered little. This unit should do just fine and played a huge part in winning an important opening-night point. Erik Janza’s instinctive late equaliser was impressive too.

Both sides now can consider qualification a very open proposition – something few would have afforded Slovenia before a ball was kicked.
Laura Hunter

Eriksen winds back the clock on fairytale return to the Euros

Image: Eriksen (centre) is congratulated by his team-mates after scoring Denmark's opening goal against Slovenia

It was not certain whether Kasper Hjulmand would start Christian Eriksen in Denmark’s Group C opener against Slovenia on Sunday afternoon after an in-out domestic campaign, where he made just 22 Premier League starts for Man Utd.

  • How teams lined up | Match stats | Results | Fixtures | Group tables
  • Every Euros squad | Download the Sky Sports App | Get Sky Sports on WhatsApp
  • Euro 2024 state of play

However, there is no doubt the Denmark manager made the right call as the midfielder, on his 131st appearance for his country, produced a man-of-the-match performance at the MHP Arena, running the show from start to finish with the opening goal, as well as a passing clinic throughout with the Slovenians unable to lay a glove on him.

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Exactly 1100 days since suffering a cardiac arrest in Denmark’s opening game of the last tournament, it seemed we were all set for a fairy tale in the Stuttgart sunshine, that is until Slovenia spoiled the narrative late on.

Either way, though, it was still a joy to see the 32-year-old back in Euros action for his country, reminding everyone again – if needed – of his enduring qualities.
Richard Morgan


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