Home » Euro 2024 day two: Goals galore, records fall – and Embolo’s feel-good comeback

Euro 2024 day two: Goals galore, records fall – and Embolo’s feel-good comeback

Euro 2024 day two: Goals galore, records fall – and Embolo’s feel-good comeback

The goals keep on coming.

After Germany’s 5-1 victory over Scotland got us going on Friday night, day two at Euro 2024 picked up the pace with three matches played in the group stage.

Switzerland beat Hungary 3-1 in the early kick-off, Spain defeated Croatia 3-0, and Italy came from behind against Albania to win 2-1 in a gripping contest that featured the fastest goal in European Championship history.

In the first four games, we’ve seen 16 goals. It’s not bad going.

But Saturday’s action wasn’t just about who found the net. Here are the highlights.


Who’s looking good?

Germany’s thrashing of Scotland in the opener set the standard for the top teams — even if their slick performance was made easier by their opponents having Ryan Porteous sent off.

Spain did not quite reach those heights, but a lot went right for them in Saturday’s first game of Group B. Often-questioned captain Alvaro Morata scored a neat goal, 16-year-old Lamine Yamal was sensational, and even a characteristic error from goalkeeper Unai Simon went unpunished.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Spain 3 Croatia 0: Lamine Yamal makes history as youngest Euros player – The Briefing

A 3-0 win in their opening group game from a country with a winning history in the tournament immediately saw Spain join Germany as the favourites for this year’s European Championship trophy in some people’s eyes.

But it should be pointed out that only one game has been played and that an ageing Croatia side played awfully and defended dreadfully. There were some issues in Spain’s performance, especially in a new-look defence, which will face far stiffer tests. Their next match is against defending champions Italy on Thursday.


Morata scored the opening goal in Spain’s 3-0 win (Peter Lous/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Spain can, of course, take plenty of positives, especially as injury issues that forced off Morata and midfielder Rodri do not appear to be serious.

They may not yet be favourites for Euro 2024, but Spain’s chances of winning the competition look much better.

Dermot Corrigan


Italy saved their best performance under Luciano Spalletti for their opener against Albania. They were almost their worst enemy, conceding the quickest goal in the history of the tournament when a Federico Dimarco throw-in allowed Nedim Bajrami to score in front of the Albania end. How they then calmed a hostile Westfalenstadion, which was almost entirely red apart from a corner of blue, was impressive.

Italy not only got in front by the grace of Dimarco’s Inter Milan team-mates Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolo Barella, they dominated to the extent that one of the questions in Spalletti’s post-match press conference was: can you win the Euros?


Barella celebrates putting Italy in front against Albania (Photo Agency/Getty Images)

No matter how many passes they put together (750 against Albania), Spalletti was critical of his players for not going for the kill. In the end they even needed a last-gasp save from captain Gianluigi Donnarumma to clinch the win.

Overall, though, Italy started the defence of their title with a performance that augurs well for the tournament.

James Horncastle


A first feel-good story

Breel Embolo wasn’t guaranteed to be part of the Switzerland squad. The Monaco forward ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a pre-season session in August, training that was itself designed to help him recover from a knee injury. He missed most of the season, only returning at the end of April.

But when he came on with around half an hour left of Switzerland’s match with Hungary, the travelling Swiss fans roared almost as loudly as they did when their team had found the net. Then, as the game ticked into stoppage time with the score at 2-1 and Hungary pressing for an equaliser, goalkeeper Yann Sommer punted the ball up field and Embolo, 27, chased it.

In the process, a leg brace he was wearing fell off, and was left on the pitch about 30 yards from goal. Embolo didn’t seem to notice, and coolly lobbed Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi to seal the 3-1 win.


Embolo racing through on goal (Marius Becker/picture alliance via Getty Images)

At first, it looked like the brace was on his injured knee but after the game, he said it was to protect against another injury, to his thigh, that had been troubling him. Either way, there was some symbolism there, Embolo literally casting off his ailments to get back to scoring goals.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

The Briefing: Hungary 1-3 Switzerland – Duah gamble pays off and Embolo’s comeback

“These two weeks here, I’ve worked with the physios, the doctors, the athletic trainers,” Embolo said after the game. “The goal belongs to them too.”

Nick Miller


The history makers

In Spain’s win over Croatia, Yamal became the youngest player to make the field at a European Championship, aged 16 years and 338 days. It was another big moment for the Barcelona winger, who last year became Spain’s youngest player and goalscorer on the same September afternoon.

In the late kick-off on Saturday, Albania’s Nedim Bajrami wasn’t to be outdone.

Bajrami’s goal came just 23 seconds into his side’s Group B game against defending champions Italy. Albania are making only their second European Championship appearance — they also qualified in 2016 — and this was just their second goal.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

The Briefing: Italy 2 Albania 1 – How fastest goal in Euros history was scored, Barella leads fightback

But they now have their piece of Euros history thanks to Bajrami’s quick thinking and his thumping shot that flew high into the net to beat Donnarumma at the near post.

It sent the travelling Albanian support wild and nobody saw that coming from a side ranked 66th in the world — the second-lowest in the competition.

Nancy Froston


Stat of the day

Spain play a slightly different style under coach Luis de la Fuente, and against Croatia they had less of the ball for the first time in a run of 136 competitive games going back 16 years to the Euro 2008 final.

It all feeds into an idea that this is a different Spain team, with less sideways passing in midfield, and one that could be more effective and decisive in attack than in recent tournaments. But time will tell…

Dermot Corrigan

What’s next?

There are three games to come on Sunday.

(Top photo: Alex Pantling – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)