It is back! “What is,” you ask? The 2020 European Championship! How entirely 2020 of you… show up a year late, cause tons of travel and logistical nightmares, while hosting this social distant party across 11 countries. I thought it would be fitting to write my first piece for American Scouser the same day that I sprung out of bed at 4:30 AM EDT like a kid on Christmas, ripping though the fixture lists and envisioning how our upcoming season could unfold. Before we even think about Liverpool’s pre-season tours, administrative happenings, silly transfer rumors, and other gossip, we have a European Championship with which to fully engross ourselves!
Whether you support a specific country or not, the primary focus of this series will be examining the Liverpool players participation. The plan is to provide a recap and review of how our lads are faring in the tournament, touch on match results, overall play of the lads… and sprinkle in some fun too. We will mostly be concentrating on those Reds who will be with us when the season kicks off, but may turn our attention to former Reds and/or players linked to the club. Sometimes a player is rumored about so often you would be forgiven thinking he already is or once was a Red (we see you missing those sitters Timo Werner!). Without further adieu, let us get to match day one.
Wales 1-1 Switzerland
First match of the tournament featuring a Red, and we have three! Unfortunately, both Neco Williams and Harry Wilson were both unused substitutes for interim manager Robert Page’s Wales squad. We will have to see how Page lines up the Wales side as they proceed, and if our boys get more minutes as the games go on. Xherdan Shaqiri was in his customary #10 role for Switzerland, and he had a customary Shaq appearance for club or country. He was dazzling, and baffling, drifted in and out of the game, looked disinterested at times, only to supply the assist to what could have been the matchwinner from a corner kick. He was subbed off after 66 minutes and seemed frustrated as he left the pitch. His work rate off the ball is still not there, and it was telling that when Switzerland tried to shift to play more defensively, he was the first player removed from the pitch.
England 1-0 Croatia
It was no surprise to me that Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson did not start this match. I do not care who the England manager selects as captain… Henderson is the emotional leader of every team he plays for. He learned that from Stevie G. Forgive me for saying this, but Henderson’s leadership may even be beginning to eclipse the legend Gerrard’s, right before our very eyes. Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips put in a man of the match performance and fed former Red Raheem Sterling for the game’s only goal. Sterling’s clinical finish and well-timed run was further justification of the England boss’s questionable lineup. This just shows that Southgate’s flexibility with his tactical setup is about as great as his ability to change suit styles (read: not very). Regardless of which style the manager wears, his #1 accessory is his lucky horseshoe! And I must admit, I missed seeing Dejan Lovren’s big smile in Croatia’s famous checkered kits.
Scotland 0-2 Czech Republic
We all love Andy Robertson, and so do the Scottish fans. They were in full force singing his name as he burst up and down the flank. Robertson showed great effort in attack in the first half, and looked to be Scotland’s best chance at a breakthrough. Unfortunately, this match came down to Patrick Schick and his 54-yard absolute peach of a goal in the 42nd minute. Scotland tried to come out of the block quickly in the second half, but another Schick finish in the 52nd minute put this one to bed. Robbo’s troops are going to need to show more against the Three Lions if they want a result and a chance to get out of the group stages.
Spain 0-0 Sweden
In what has to have been the worst match of the entire tournament to date, Thiago Alcantara started from the bench. He came on as a non-impact substitute in the 66th minute for Manchester City’s Rodri. Thiago attempted to get on the ball and dictate play, but too often lost possession or missed his pass entirely. As we saw too frequently at the beginning of last season, he looked a step too slow, and was lucky to escape an early challenge without yellow card. The ref got the look… we all know the look!
Hungary 0-3 Portugal
Diogo Jota started out strong for Portugal, in their bid to defend their 2016 European Championship title. Portugal came out strong, and looked the better side all match. Jota was lively, and his movements helped Cristiano Ronaldo find space and opportunity. Subbed off in the 82-minute for Andre Silva, Jota just missed the Portuguese goal barrage that secured the win. Jota has a big part to play for his club and his country, both in the immediate future and years to come.
24 teams have competed in this tournament. There have been beautiful goals, dreamy assists, and wonderful tackles. But nothing comes close to what Simon Kjaer did on Saturday in Copenhagen. We talk about athletes under pressure being calm, cool, and composed as they take a penalty to win a match or a cup. Kjaer stayed calm, cool, and collected as he saved the life of Christian Eriksen: friend, teammate, and father of two young boys. Kjaer then orchestrated a human shield to stop those in range from making a bad decision to take pictures/videos and document their agony. The images with Eriksen’s wife will forever be in my memory – filed under compassion, heart, and hero. Hundreds of different players will represent their countries in the coming weeks across this beautiful tournament, none will do it with more presence, more strength or more class than Simon Kjaer…and he did it without kicking a ball.
We will have a full recap of Match Day 2 coming up early next week. Until then I want to leave you with a quote that Lingerr Senghor, one of the moderators in our LFC America Facebook group, posted Wednesday:
Learn CPR, get your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol checked.
This statement rings true… yet so many do not do it. It should be moments like these that make us realize we all need to look out for our own health, while learning how to prepare to support and save those around us. I know I am going to take the advice and get my self recertified for CPR. I hope some of you will too. Now… let’s go Italy!