The Euros are well underway and with all of the teams in the group stages having played their first game, it’s interesting to see how some of the big team players are performing.
Chelsea have a few of their big names at the Euro’s this year, with Eden Hazard looking to be the star of Belgium alongside fellow Belgian Thibaut Courtois, Gary Cahill holding the back for England and Pedro, Cesc Fabregas, and Cesar Azpilicueta all strong choices for Spain. In addition to this, the new Chelsea boss who will be taking over at the start of next season, Antonio Conte, has given a breath of life to the Italy side who were deemed to be the weakest Italian team in 50 years as they had a convincing 2-0 win over favourites Belgium.
Belgium have been named one of the favourites to win this year’s Euro’s but their first performance in the group stages against Italy (who were deemed to be a weak side on paper) was a bit of a disappointment, after losing 0-2 to the Italian side. With slow, backwards-sideways play, they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, until the ball fell at the feet of Chelsea number 10 Eden Hazard. Although Hazard’s form this season hasn’t been anywhere close to that of the 2014/15 season, there seemed to have been a glimmer of hope towards the final few games and his aggressive, quick-footed play in the Belgium-Italy game definitely showed a spark of the old Hazard that we love to see.
Hazard seemed to be one of very few that was creating chances for the Belgium squad in the game, but if this continues and the rest of the squad improve their tactics, we might start to believe that the number 2 side is to be a favourite to win once again.
Fellow Belgian Thibaut Courtois also pulled off some spectacular and vital saves against the Italy side, sprawling himself in the air as he battled against the Grandpa of goalkeepers (Gianluigi Buffon) as the new kid on the block. We all know what Courtois is capable of, and if the Belgium squad play similar to how they did against Italy, Courtois could be their saving grace.
The Spain squad have won the Euros for the last two years in a row and Pedro, Fabregas and Azpilicueta are all strong options for the side and the performance that both Pedro and Fabregas had against the Czech Republic side. However, Azpilicueta has to battle the likes of Juanfran to see him take his place in the Spanish starting 11, so will have to seriously impress when he gets his chance in order to see him start more games throughout the tournament.
It was also a surprise to see that Diego Costa was not called up for the side, as the Spain side now lacking a big name striker. However, the squad has created the same old problem for new faces already this Euros, with their signature style overcoming every obstacle they’ve faced (although their dominance didn’t lead to many goals against the Czech Republic, as Pique scored in the 87th minute.)
Gary Cahill has been a key selection for the England squad, and is a strong centre-back to hold up the England defence against some great attacking players that they could face in the Euros. However, Cahill is just one booking away from a UEFA match ban, so he will have to be careful over the next few games in order to ensure he can remain in the squad. Although the England squad suffered a 1-1 draw with Russia in their first game, they bounced back with a win over Wales and a draw with Slovakia to quality for the knock out stages.
The new Chelsea boss who will be taking over from interim manager Gus Hiddink as soon as the Italy squad are out of the Euros, has shown that his strong managerial skills may have a fantastic impact on the Blue’s next season.
The Italy squad for this year’s Euros are said to be one of the weakest sides on paper in 50 years, but Conte’s team proved this theory wrong with a convincing 2-0 win over favourites Belgium in their first game. The 2016/17 season is looking to be an exciting one for Chelsea, and a good run in the Euros could give both the manager, and the players the confidence they need to bring back the Chelsea side that we all know.