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Winners and Losers from the Euro 2020 Group Stage so Far

Shane Evans@@shanevansContributor IJune 19, 2021

Italy has arguably been the team of the tournament so far.
Italy has arguably been the team of the tournament so far.Andreas Solaro/Associated Press

Well the European Championship has kicked off with a bang, hasn't it? We've seen some truly great performances, some disappointments and one of the most surreal events we've ever seen on a football pitch.

In short, there's plenty to talk about.

Let's take a look back at the thrilling first week of play and pick out who's doing well and who isn't ahead of the final group-stage matches at Euro 2020.

But before we get into the good and the bad, this tournament has given us a clear reminder that none of it really matters in the grand scheme of things. What matters is life, which is why Christian Eriksen's cardiac arrest and collapse against Finland brought the entire sports world to a standstill.

The way the Denmark players came together, led by captain Simon Kjaer and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, demonstrated the true beauty of team sport. Kjaer's immediate first aid helped save Eriksen's life; the way his teammates handled themselves in the moments that followed galvanized a nation and has been lauded worldwide

It was an unbelievable sequence of events that won't soon be forgotten.   

           

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Push: The Favorites

We've seen a bit of a mixed bag with the tournament favorites. This group includes Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal, England and Italy, the top six in my pre-tournament Power Rankings.

Italy and Belgium? They get an A-plus so far. The Italians have been impenetrable and coasted through to the knockout stage with two equally impressive 3-0 victories. Belgium found it more difficult in its second match versus an emotionally charged Denmark, but all it needed to do was bring on Kevin De Bruyne to change everything in the 2-1 victory. The Premier League Players' Player of the Year was fantastic from both sides and scored the game-winner in the 70th minute.

Game. Changer. Kevin De Bruyne came on and rescued Belgium.
Game. Changer. Kevin De Bruyne came on and rescued Belgium.Wolfgang Rattay/Associated Press

France and England have been mediocre and were disappointing in second-match draws against far inferior opposition in Hungary and Scotland, respectively. Brimming with talent, the two sides carry high expectations for much better performances in their third matches. A knockout-stage meeting is also possible between the two if things fall right in the standings.

Lastly, Germany and Portugal. Each pulled off an emphatic win and suffered a difficult defeat.

Most recently, the Germans surprised with their 4-2 defeat of Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. Still, none of these six squads, particularly the last two, should be too concerned about their early form. This is because the route out of the groups is much easier than in years past, as the tournament expanded to feature 24 teams instead of 16 in 2016.

There's plenty of time to get the engines revved.

It will lead to some tasty matches in the knockout stages.

          

Loser: Dark Horses

Again, looking back at the initial Power Rankings, the nations on the cusp of disrupting the order of things in this tournament have mostly fallen flat.

Turkey, arguably the biggest disappointment of the lot, has a minus-five goal differential and is likely headed out of the tournament unless things fall its way in the final set of group-stage fixtures. Austria has been quite inconsistent in its two matches, struggling initially against North Macedonia before winning 3-1 and then losing to the Netherlands in a mostly pedestrian 2-0 defeat.

Poland, another nation we were hoping to see big things from got a 1-1 result against floundering Spain and hasn't really pushed the envelope quite yet. Its still in the mix though going into matchday three with just the one point.

If we expected more, they'd be favorites. Still, these teams have largely fulfilled the first half of the "quiet hopeful" moniker and fallen short of the second.

                

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

Some things are just destined to happen. It seemed coming into this tournament that Ronaldo wanted nothing more than to repeat as European champion with Portugal. Should he break the all-time Euro scoring record (and potentially the all-time international scoring record), all the better for him.

Ronaldo marked his fifth European Championship in typical style.
Ronaldo marked his fifth European Championship in typical style.Bernadett Szabo/Associated Press/Associated Press

And as if by magic, Portugal needed its superstar leader to deliver during a more-difficult-than-it-should-have-been opener versus Hungary at a packed Puskas Arena in Budapest. With the match scoreless past the 80th minute, CR7 didn't put away the opening goal but got himself a five-minute brace to seal it. In doing so, he passed France's Michel Platini for most goals scored at the Euros with 11.

It should be noted that Platini scored nine goals in five(!) games in 1984 to Ronaldo's 22 matches played. He then added a third goal in two matches against Germany (despite a pretty ugly 4-2 defeat) to edge ever closer to the all-time goals record. With 107, he sits two behind Ali Daei of Iran's 109.

Oh, and he also became the first player ever to feature in five European championships. That is astounding. 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020...and if we're being honest, it's likely he'll be around at age 39 for 2024. Some player he turned into.

        

Loser: Euro 2020 Sponsors

We've all seen the clip by now but if you haven't…

B/R Football @brfootball

Water only for Cristiano Ronaldo ⛔ (via @EURO2020) https://t.co/XZBDoDnIZJ

The aforementioned Portuguese legend was seemingly quite displeased with the also legendary soft drink being placed in front of him at his press conference earlier this week. How dare they! Ronaldo knows his body and knows what should go into it, and apparently Coca-Cola doesn't make that list.

According to reports, the American company saw a $4 billion in stock-price drops soon after. Ronaldo's snub has since produced a number of follow-ups at pressers around the tournament. Paul Pogba's removal of a Heineken bottle (he's Muslim and doesn't drink) being one. Andriy Yarmolenko of Ukraine turned 180 degrees and was just as delightful as you might imagine:

Goal @goal

"I’m taking Coca-Cola, I'm taking Heineken. Get in touch with me!” 😅 @CocaCola, @Heineken, Andriy Yarmolenko wants to speak to you! 🤝 #EURO2020 | #UKR https://t.co/ma8hliC6Lg

            

Winners: The Fans

Let's end this by saying how amazing it is to have fans back. Some stadiums have full capacity or close to it, while others are much lower. Regardless of the number of bums in seats, the noise, the energy and the atmosphere across the continent has been outstanding and is a testament to the passion and spirit of the sport's lifeblood.

It's good to have you back in the stands.
It's good to have you back in the stands.Darko Bandic/Associated Press

They say you can't change your club, which is true. But you really can't change your national team, and there's something about big international tournaments that adds just a little bit more to fandom when experienced from the stands. The facepaint, the outfits, the coming together of local rivals. It's a sight to behold and without it, the game just hasn't been the same. Welcome back.

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