Euro 2024 Daily: Weghorst saves Netherlands, Eriksen inspires Denmark

Euro 2024 is underway! Our daily files give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what to watch for and best reads.

Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Germany all the way up to the final on July 14.

The lead: Weghorst saves Netherlands again, but it’s not pretty

HAMBURG — Remember when Netherlands produced some of the most elegant and prolific goal scorers in the game? The days of Robin van Persie, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert appear to be long gone, but at least the Dutch can count on Wout Weghorst.

When Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman needed a hero to rescue his team in the Group D opener against Poland, he turned to Weghorst, who came off the bench and delivered the winning goal two minutes later on his first touch to seal a 2-1 victory in Hamburg.

The 31-year-old Hoffenheim striker will never win prizes for his aesthetic qualities, and if you recall his loan spell at Manchester United during the 2022-23 season, when he scored just two goals in 31 appearances, he won’t get too much acclaim for his impact in front of goal, either. But in an era when the Dutch can’t seem to produce a striker who comes close to emulating the greats of the past, Weghorst has become an unlikely hero, scoring big goals when it matters.

He famously netted two late goals — including one in the 11th minute of stoppage time — to take the 2022 World Cup quarterfinal against Argentina into extra time in Qatar, and although the Dutch lost that game on penalties, Weghorst highlighted his value as an impact sub. He did so again in the Volksparkstadion on Sunday, with Koeman introducing him in the 82nd minute after seeing the Dutch score just once from 20 chances.

Weghorst replaced Memphis Depay — who is surprisingly second on the all-time Dutch top scorer list, six behind Van Persie — and scored two minutes later by stroking home Nathan Ake’s pass from 10 yards. At 6-foot-6, Weghorst cuts an ungainly figure and lacks pace, but he has proved to be effective for the national team, with his goal against Poland taking him to seven in his past 11 appearances.

It is questionable as to whether his attributes are enough to help the Dutch go deep in Euro 2024, or perhaps even win it, but Koeman is pragmatic enough to exploit the qualities he has. Cody Gakpo, who scored a deflected equaliser after Adam Buksa had headed Poland into an early lead, offered threat from out wide, while Depay put himself into good positions, but the team failed to take advantage of their many chances.

That lack of quality at the sharp end of the pitch might ultimately be what costs the Dutch and sees them exit the competition early in the knockout stages. If they had a Van Persie or a Van Basten, it would be a different story, but they don’t. Right now, Weghorst is the striker whom Koeman can rely on, and that may get them only so far. — Mark Ogden

– Euro 2024: Landing page | Schedule | Rosters | News
– Team previews | Predictions for every team (ESPN+)

Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

Southgate makes history for England — if only just

GELSENKIRCHEN — If you want a 90-minute explanation of where England and Gareth Southgate are at right now, Sunday’s 1-0 win over Serbia was it.

They started with the authority many people expect of the Three Lions at these finals, Jude Bellingham heading England into a 13th-minute lead during a first half in which they dominated their opponents in a manner befitting tournament favourites.

Yet their collective force of personality shrunk after half-time. Serbia grew in confidence and England were left to run down the clock to start Group C with a victory.

The general consensus is that despite issues in defence, England have the players to win Euro 2024 if the manager makes the right call and finds the right blend. Southgate is acutely aware of that conversation — openly admitting his fourth tournament could be his last — and yet amid that noise, he chalked up another piece of history in Gelsenkirchen.

England have now played ten opening matches at a European Championship. This was only their second win, previously drawing five times and losing three. Their only past success came at Euro 2020. Under Southgate. So, no other England manager has ever achieved this relatively modest accomplishment but Southgate has done it twice.

England must improve to meet their target, but this win enables them to begin the search from a position of strength. — James Olley

Inspirational Eriksen scores on Euro return

Football routinely gives us incredible goals and stunning results, but it also gives us those indelible, emotional moments in which neither the ball crossing the line nor the result itself matters at all. Denmark’s Group C opener vs. Slovenia, a 1-1 draw, didn’t have the hallmarks of a classic (the pair played twice in qualifying, drawing 1-1 in Ljubljana, while the Danes snuck in a 2-1 win in Copenhagen). But Christian Eriksen’s first-half goal, coming 1,100 days after he suffered a cardiac arrest, means we’ll never forget it.

The last time we saw Eriksen in Danish colors at the Euros was against Finland at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen in 2021. In the 42nd minute, the midfielder collapsed on the sidelines as he prepared to take a throw-in, and teammate Simon Kjaer administered first aid before a defibrillator was used to resuscitate him. Denmark’s team doctor, Morten Boesen, admitted later that Eriksen “was gone” on the pitch, with the player revealing he had “died for five minutes.”

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Christian Eriksen reflects on scoring a goal 1,100 days after cardiac arrest

Man of the match Christian Eriksen discusses how differently the first game in Euro 2024 went for him compared to Euro 2020, when he suffered a cardiac arrest.

The incident left Eriksen’s career in doubt as, just days later, he was fitted with a heart-starter device that ultimately forced him to leave his club, Inter Milan, due to Serie A rules that prevent players from playing with such implants. After an emotional return to club football with Brentford and then Manchester United, Eriksen returned to the national team in 2022, played every game of the World Cup in Qatar, and was a major factor in their road to Euro 2024. Then, on Sunday in Stuttgart, came his moment.

The goal itself was simple, as a harmless throw-in down the right was flung in for Jonas Wind, and his first-time flick found Eriksen in stride with a clear lane to goal. The 32-year-old chested the ball down before volleying it across Jan Oblak and rushing to celebrate in front of the Danish fans.

The game finished in unremarkable fashion. Slovenia were lively (in particular Benjamin Sesko up front and Jaka Bijol at the back), while Denmark looked languid throughout, eventually ceding their dominance to concede a late equaliser as 30-year-old left-back Erik Janza blasted the ball beyond Kasper Schmeichel with a healthy deflection off Morten Hjulmand’s thigh.

The result does little for either team — how they perform respectively against England might well decide who else advances from Group C — but thanks to Eriksen’s magic moment, we’ll always remember this game. — James Tyler.

Swiss hero Duah almost misses the bus

COLOGNE — The European Championship often reveals unlikely heroes, and the first to emerge in Germany is Switzerland striker Kwadwo Duah. He was such a surprise inclusion in the squad for Switzerland’s warm-up games that he doesn’t feature in many of the tournament preview magazines. But he took just 12 minutes to announce himself in the first game against Hungary with the opening goal — his first in international football — to set Switzerland on their way to a 3-1 win in Group A.

Duah is 27 and, in a career that has taken him from Switzerland to Germany and now Bulgaria, he has had to wait for his chance at the top level. He probably wouldn’t have started against Hungary had Monaco striker Breel Embolo been fully fit. Such was the interest in Duah’s story after the game that he was one of the last Switzerland players to emerge from the dressing room after fulfilling a number of interview requests. He was even told by staff he couldn’t speak to any more reporters because the bus was leaving and there was a danger they would miss a train back to their base on the outskirts of Stuttgart. — Rob Dawson

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Can Switzerland hold a top performance for 90 minutes?

Ale Moreno reacts to an impressive win for Switzerland over Hungary to kick off their Euro 2024 campaign.

Italy inspired by past heroes

DORTMUND — Italy are drawing on the experience of some of their former heroes for this Euro 2024 campaign. At the start of June, manager Luciano Spalletti invited legendary No. 10s Roberto Baggio, Alessandro del Piero, Francesco Totti, Gianni Rivera and Giancarlo Antognoni into the camp to inspire the squad. Baggio told the squad to embrace the pressure of the shirt, while Del Piero told the team: “You’ll remember this pressure with a smile when you’re older.” Rivera told them to attack, Totti said it’s important they enjoy the experience, while Antognoni enjoyed catching up with players he’d seen in his role with the youth team.

While Italy had the late, great Gianluca Vialli as their head of delegation for Euro 2020, this time around it’s 46-year-old former goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. He’s there to provide guidance to players, while also taking a key role in leadership. Buffon also knows what it takes to win on the international stage, having helped Italy to the 2006 World Cup.

“Having Gigi here, a player who wrote history with Italy, has been hugely important,” goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma said. “He tells us a little bit about his experiences. He told us about the unforgettable summer that they had in 2006. Having him here is already great because Gigi offers so much, but hearing him tell the story, give you advice, is even better. He can certainly give us advice on what’s gone down in history.”

After Italy’s opening 2-1 win over Albania, Buffon was there in the dressing room to welcome each player back. — Tom Hamilton

Stat of the day

Euro 2024 is the first time that Netherlands have a squad of players who weren’t born the last time the country won the tournament back in 1988. — ESPN Stats & Information.

Match previews for Monday

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Why Nicol has doubts about Belgium at Euro 2024

Steve Nicol assesses Belgium’s Euro 2024 hopes ahead of their group opener against Slovakia.

Group E: Romania vs. Ukraine (Munich; 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET)

Odds (via ESPNBET): Romania +300, Draw +240, Ukraine -110

A talented Ukraine side begin their Euro 2024 campaign against Romania at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Monday amid the ongoing backdrop of Russia’s invasion of the country. Coach Sergiy Rebrov stresses that “there are much more important” things happening in his homeland, but there is hope that this squad can provide “positive emotions” during harrowing times.

Wherever you look, there is quality in this Ukraine team. Real Madrid’s Andriy Lunin, Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko, Chelsea’s Mykhailo Mudryk and Girona duo Viktor Tsygankov and Artem Dovbyk, the latter of whom was the top scorer in LaLiga this season, are all capable of mixing it with the best. In a group that also contains Belgium and Slovakia, there is a real belief of progress to the knockout rounds.

That belief will grow if they can start with a win, but they will not have it all their own way against Romania. Edward Iordanescu’s team qualified top of their group, unbeaten through 10 games and only conceded five goals as they booked their place in Germany. They cannot match Ukraine’s star names but they are hard working, resilient and making the most of limited resources — Sam Marsden.

Group E: Belgium vs. Slovakia (Frankfurt; 6 p.m./noon)

Odds: Belgium -210, Draw +350, Slovakia -550

The main headline from Belgium’s squad announcement was the absence of star goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. He was at the forefront of their “golden generation” but with that group ebbing away — including Eden Hazard in retirement — this squad is a mix of 10 from the Euro 2020 team (including Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku) and the new crew. Keep an eye on the likes of PSV’s Johan Bakayoko, Manchester City’s Jeremy Doku and Atalanta’s Charles De Ketelaere, while Leandro Trossard will feature prominently. Doubts remain over their strength at the back with injury concerns for Thomas Meunier, Jan Vertonghen and Arthur Theate, but Belgium should come through this group relatively unscathed.

Slovakia are managed by Maurizio Sarri disciple Francesco Calzona, who also took interim charge of Napoli this season. He has legendary midfielder Marek Hamsik alongside him in the coaching dugout, and there’s an experienced air to this squad with right back Peter Pekarík and midfielder Juraj Kucka both in their late 30s. This is their third straight Euros, and expect striker Róbert Bozeník to fare well. Napoli’s Stanislav Lobotka brings a calm presence to their midfield, Milan Skriniar anchors the back, with Feyenoord’s Dávid Hancko at left back, and Newcastle’s Martin Dúbravka in goal.

“We are well aware of our limitations, but they are very willing and they are open to my suggestions,” Calzona said. “A lot of them usually play in different positions to what they do for the national team; that has been the major difficulty so far. But they are eager and committed.” — Tom Hamilton

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Are Austria a potential banana skin for France at Euro 2024?

Steve Nicol explains why France’s clash against Austria will be “tricky” for Didier Deschamps’ side.

Group D: Austria vs. France (Düsseldorf; 9 p.m./3 p.m.)

Odds: Austria +475, Draw +340, France -190

Eighteen months after their defeat in the greatest World Cup final of all time against Argentina, Kylian Mbappé and France are back in a major tournament and once again are favourites. But Austria are a tricky opponent to start with, with their intensity and high press. Austria coach Ralf Rangnick keeps repeating to his side that under no circumstances should a France player be given more than a second on the ball, and it will be interesting to see how Les Bleus counter that.

All eyes will obviously be on Mbappé, the best player in the world. This is his first big tournament as France’s captain, and now that the announcement of his free transfer to Real Madrid this summer has taken a lot of weight off his shoulders, he is happy again after a tough second part of the season at PSG. French politics have been heavily involved in the buildup to this game after Marcus Thuram’s comments against the rise of the far right on Saturday, so the players will want to make a statement on the pitch this time. — Julien Laurens

Betting tip (via ESPN BET)

For me this is France’s tournament to lose. They are stacked all over the pitch and of course have the best player in Europe. I like France to win the Euros and Mbappe top scorer +1100. — Dan Thomas

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Where Burley sees weakness in Euro favourites England

Craig Burley explains where England are most vulnerable, despite Gareth Southgate’s men heading into Euro 2024 as tournament favourites.

One big read

Is it possible for a country to have the most physically demanding league in world football and still see its national team win an international tournament? England are about to find out at Euro 2024 as, once again, the Three Lions attempt to prove that the Premier League isn’t their biggest roadblock to achieving success.

Despite a status as a major football nation and an abundance of world-class players, England have failed to win a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup. But ahead of their Euro 2024 opener against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday, they are considered one of the favourites to win it.

So after another season of two domestic cup competitions, a winter break so brief that most teams barely noticed it, and European football for the Premier League’s top clubs, do Gareth Southgate’s players have any chance of overcoming England’s age-old problem of fatigue?

– Mark Ogden: Why burnout is England’s biggest opponent at Euro 2024

And finally …

We have our first social media star of Euro 2024, and it’s none of the big names you might expect.

Hungary striker Martin Ádám went viral after coming on for the last 10 minutes of his team’s 3-1 loss against Switzerland on Saturday — not for his performance on the pitch, but because he doesn’t look like your usual footballer at this level.

Adam, 29, plays for South Korean side Ulsan HD, stands 6-foot-3 and has a physique more suited to the NFL than soccer. In fact, with his full beard, he even bears a passing resemblance to one of the Kelce brothers.

But while his size catches the eye, Adam has a decent goal-scoring record, too: 24 goals in 67 league matches for Ulsan in the past two years, and he was top scorer in the Hungarian top flight in 2021-22 with 31 goals. He also has three goals and three assists in 23 caps for his country.

When asked where he was for Euro 2020, Adam’s answer was pretty straightforward: “I was watching it on TV at home drinking beers!” — Laurens.

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