I wrote a few comments as they came to mind after the first round of
matches of Euro 2000 which I'll post here. It was written a couple of
days ago.



A very even group I predicted Germany (first) and Portugal to proceed but
by a very bare margin. So it's not that I think that much of the Germans,
more that I had to pick somebody. And I think I may have picked wrong
given the result of the first game. The absense of Effenburg has such an
emormous impact, robbing the German midfield of the creativity and energy
that he gives Bayern Munich, and of any chance of repeating their previous
success. Scholl was impressive in the first match in providing some of
this spark but I'm not very confident of him playing as well again.
Bringing Hassler back in midfield only highlighted the problem that still
doesn't seem to be being resolved. I kept expecting Germany to bring on
Rudi Voller. The defence is horrendous by German standards. Fantastic
goal against the Romanians, it's hard to know what this German team will
achieve in such an even group. Hopefully Jancker will play up front
against England, he's Germany's best striker.


It has to be said, this is not a very good team. Take away Beckham and
what offence are you left with? It's possible all their goals will come
through him. England are just too predictable, with Owen still not back
to his best their strikers cannot create any magic and neither can the
midfield. The Portugal game showed that McManaman, Scholes and Beckham
cannot really all play together as it creates a weakness in defensive
midfield. It's a crime that Kevin Phillips is not on the field in place
of Shearer, he provides what Shearer did at his peak (which was some time
ago now), a quick world class finisher in fantastic form. Having said
that England are poor, all the players will likely raise their games
versus Germany (as will the German players) and the match is just too hard
to call.


Good to see the coach promising attacking football and the team delivering
it. Hagi's form this season has been excellent and so it was obvious he
would play well at Euro 2000, being such a performer at tournaments.
There was a moment vs Germany where he beat a player with pace and
backheeled the ball to create a chance which would have been particularly
impressive had the man he outpaced not been Lothar Mattheus! Hagi is
still the best player in the world in the over 35s if that counts for
anything. The rest of the team was rather solid as usual vs Germany but
Ilie was poor. I'm calling the next game as a draw. This group will be
the last to be decided.


Everyone is talking about them after the win vs England but Portugal are
not going to win Euro 2000. Their flair in midfield was no surprise,
theirs is a world class midfield. The problem as ever is up front. What
was unusual about the England game was Portugal's excellent finishing
(indeed all 5 goals were brilliant), I don't see them maintaining this.
Portugal will continue to play some of the best football but they do lose
games they dominate. Either Rui Costa or Luis Figo will make the all star
team for the tournament. A good bet to top the group now; if so they
should beat Belgium or Sweden but I don't see them going further.



I picked them as third favourites, more because of the faults of other
teams than their own abilities. I'm writing this after having just seen
their second match vs Belgium and despite two wins from two I'm not very
impressed. One of the top three defences as always, but the attack is
poor. Vieri is such a loss; it's quite a step down to Inzaghi and it's
really his brother Simone who should be playing anyway. On top of that
Totti is just not delivering and I can't help thinking that Baggio should
have been brought along again! Yes, he's old but he's just so good on the
big occasion and he showed he could still do it just recently in Serie A.

Hard to say anything about the Italian midfield that hasn't been said many
times, lack of creativity, etc, etc but Fiore has looked good. Not good
enough to fix the problems though. For a number of years Italy has been
awaiting the 4-3-3 that would suit the players at their disposal but it's
certainly not going to happen now. Cruising to the knockout stages as
expected but they'll likely need penalties to get to the final.


Better than the sum of their parts they continue to look good since their
renaissance. Mpenza-Strupar has been a much better partnership up front
than you would expect on paper. Verheyen was very impressive vs Sweden.
A dream group to offer them the chance to progress. The last game against
Turkey is just the schedule they'd want.


Good team spirit but don't have enough talent. Unlucky to lose to Belgium
in a close game, they are capable of more than this. I'd like to see
Ljungberg playing better. Will need to play a lot better to make the
second round but they are capable of doing so.


Possibly the worst team at the tournament. It's not that they're bad but,
besides Hakan Sukur up front, they have no outstanding qualities or players.



It happens time after time but no-one seems to learn. Every time Spain
are heralded as one of the favourites but they just don't deserve the
ranking. People need to separate the league from the national team.
Three teams in the CL semis does not equal a Euro championship winning
national team. The successes of Barca and Real mean nothing in national
team play. While everyone rightly criticises the Italian midfield, is
Valeron, Exteberria, Fran and Guardiola really that fearsome? No.
Although it has to be said that Mendieta should start, his creativity is
essential. But same as ever the Spanish are very competent but simply do
not have one of the very best squads. In case this wasn't obvious I ask
the question when was the last time the Spanish scored in open play
against a decent team? And no, Austria does not qualify. Spain are good
at efficiently dealing to weaker teams but don't have the quality to beat
a France or a Holland to the title. Before the draw I said that I doubted
Spain could beat a Norway, an Italy or a Czech Republic. They've fallen
to Norway and would lose to Holland or France. Having criticised them,
they are still an excellent team that will likely qualify for the quarters
but Holland and France are just better teams. Raul needs better players
around him to really shine. The day they have a team that looks as good
as a Holland, France, Brazil or Argentina on paper, THEN I'll be the first
to make them favourites.


Have to admit to not knowing much about Slovenia except for Zahovic and I
was quite shocked to see them knock out Ukraine in the playoff (Ukraine
would have been one of the most likely teams to win Euro 2000 IMO and
Shevchenko would have been the best striker on show). Lovely football but
they needed to have beaten their weakest competitor Yugoslavia to
progress. Spain will beat them on their way to qualifying for round 2.


Never a candidate for the label of dark horse this time around, the stars
are too old and the team spirit is too poor. 92 and 94 were the times
they could have dazzled the world, the combination of Savicevic, Boksic,
Stojkovic, Boban, Jugovic, Prosinecki, etc would have been breathtaking
but for sanctions. It's rather a sad sight watching this generation play
out their last days knowing what was missed. But still great to see
Jugovic playing so fantastically in the comeback vs Slovenia though.
Unlikely to make the second round. Mijatovic has not been much of a
striker for some time.


Have been underrated for the last few years, almost one of the top dozen
sides in the world. Did not disappoint at WC98, beat Brazil and could
well have beaten Italy the way Italy beats everyone else. Hard team to
beat and you never know when Flo and Solkjaer will conjure something on
the break.


Czech Republic

Before the draw I rated the Czechs as fourth favourites to win Euro 2000
but being drawn with the two top teams changed everything. The Czechs
are the Croatia 98 of Euro 2000. Both have that key building point, a very
sound defence, allied with creativity in midfield along with general
allround talent, including a world class creator (Boban/Nedved) and up
front a world class finisher (Suker/Koller). Koller is one of the most
underrated players in Europe, I would much prefer him in my team over
the much more well-known aerial talent, Oliver Beirhoff. And like Croatia in
98, they have the factor that adds 30% to your game, the right mood
amongst the players and coach, a happy positive camp with something to

Given their abilities, I was surprised that the Czechs began so defensively
vs Holland. The Dutch defense is weak enough that it should have been
subjected to 90 minutes of attack rather than 45. Personally I would have
started Lokvenc up front with Koller to give Nedved another talented
target man to play off. The better team (although the Dutch will get
better) lost and it looks bad for the Czechs. With even a draw I would
have fancied them slightly over Holland to qualify for the quarters.
Speaking of draws, they should manage one against the French in
what should be a fantastic game with the Czechs showing more of their
ability in attack. But the loss to Holland has probably put them out.
Unfortunate as they would probably have won Group B or C.


The obvious favourites to win the title it amazes me that so many people
ignore them. Much tends to be made of history, no World Cup winner going
on to win the subsequent Euro champs but history is meaningless. All that
matters is the factors of today (history only being relevant if the
historical factors are still present). While the defence is slightly
worse than 98, with Thuram not the force he was previously, the midfield
is still the best in the world and the attack is far improved. Henry has
been world class since his move to Arsenal and his conversion from a
winger into an Anelka-like striker. My bet for tournament top scorer, he
is in irresistible form. The French midfield will conjure more chances
than any other side for their strikers but at Euro 2000 there will be
someone to properly finish them. Anelka will probably get a couple but is
more important for the space his pace will create, I'd bring on Wiltord
half way through a match if Anelka's efforts have not created chances.

As for the midfield I was surprised not to see Vieira starting, he is
totally world class and must start every game, he's better than both Petit
(as long as Petit's inability to pass like he used to continues) and
Deschamps as a DM. Djorkaeff is lucky to be in the squad, Dalmat should
have had his place. The French midfield is blessed with not only being
the most creative but the best defensively. A rare combination that
occurs because the defensive midfielders have such all round games.
France are really the only team at Euro 2000 without a weakness. Along
with Italy they will be the hardest team to beat.


I feared the Dutch would lose their opening game. For a long time they
have lacked real incisiveness when faced with a sound defence and the
Czechs may well end up having just about the best defence at Euro 2000.
The continual passing of the ball around unproductively has made a number
of the players ineffectual in attack and this side is not one easily finds
the net. The problem is that the midfield doesn't link well with the
attack, the midfield cover well but it seems that Davids has to perform
every role at once. They need far more variety in attack, it's all very
sterile. Overmars coming on was crucial and should have occured in the
first half, without an in-form winger the Dutch are weak on offence.
Should improve a little from the first game but I worry about what happens
when they go down a goal to a decent team.

One key point I think is that I don't think that playing at home is much
of an advantage to the Dutch, unlike for almost every other national
team. While I'm not that confident of Holland, a France-Holland final is
still the most likely.


Denmark are currently like a Scotland, tons of effort, hard running and
covering, Gronkjaer & Jorgensen are talented but one of the weakest strike
forces of Euro 2000 and a dearth of creativity. The worst Danish team in
many years but still would have had chances in the weaker Groups B
and C.

Best matches of Round 1 in order :
Portugal 3-2 England
Slovenia 3-3 Yugoslavia
France 3-0 Denmark
Holland 1-0 Czech Republic

Worst match :
Spain 0-1 Norway

Robert Chapman