Tuesday Team Talk: Euro 2012 captures the imagination as England hit expectations

By Barrie White – Sports News Editor

The opening round of games at Euro 2012 have produced shocks, surprises and some fantastic football.

England’s well-earned point against group favourites was met with varying levels of satisfaction – from people who were generally happy with a point to people who were happy their pre-tournament predictions were met.

Many predicted an industrious, organised and defensively solid performance and that’s exactly what Roy Hodgson delivered in his first competitive match as England boss.

There were many positives – goalscorer Joleon Lescott paired well with John Terry, while Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard combined well to give England protection.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offered Hodgson pace, power and a willingness to run at France’s players, but faded in his first tournament start.

However, it was hardly inspiring stuff. Danny Welbeck, who caused France’s problems with his movement, was often caught outside of the box, while his Manchester United colleague Ashley Young was for large parts insignificant.

Manchester City’s number one Joe Hart flapped at a number of early crosses, but soon settled into a calming influence.

England, on paper, have seen off the biggest threat to qualifying from the group in France, and now face Sweden and Ukraine with confidence, meaning that the expectation levels, which were lowered and upped more times than a flag during the Jubilee, will soon be on the rise again.

Away from Group D, the tournament has caught the imagination. Two cracking opening games between co-hosts Poland and Greece and Russia thrashing a competent Czech Republic side gace people hope of a good tournament.

Denmark’s victory over the Netherlands by a solitary goal has caused the biggest upset so far – as well as providing an amusing and touching moment between Jan Molby, who despite his broad scouse accent is actually Danish, and Radio Five commentator Alan Green.

Molby, struggling to contain his tension during the dying moments, was told “Niet Vodka” by Green, and duly responded with “Not a chance! We’re going out.”

The defeat for the Netherlands makes it doubly hard for the pre-tournament favourites, tipped heavily by one MM writer, and defeat to hated rivals Germany could send them home early.

The tournament remains open – making it all the more disappointing that Ireland were unable to squeeze past Croatia and take advantage of Spain – minus a striker – and Italy’s draw.

One final thought – the Tango. Not a dance on Strictly Come Dancing, but the most iconic football ever produced, and one that is making some of this tournament even better.

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