Euro 2024 social round-up: What might have been for Wimbledon, UEFA turns 70

By Sports Desk June 15, 2024

Day two of Euro 2024 picked up the excitement where it left off, with a historic round of games on Saturday.

Switzerland joined Germany level on points at the top of Group A with an impressive 3-1 win over Hungary before Spain cruised to a 3-0 victory over Croatia in their Group B opener with three first-half goals.

Italy's European Championships title defence got off to a perfect start as they bounced back from conceding the earliest goal in the tournament's history (23 seconds) by beating Albania 2-1.

While the football continued to entertain, there was also plenty of action on social media. Here's a pick of some of the best posts.

What might have been for Wimbledon

AFC Wimbledon's official X account drew plenty of attention as the admin latched onto the hype over Jamal Musiala, following the Germany international's magical display against Scotland.

Musiala grew up in England, and represented AFC Wimbledon, via the Corpus Christi Primary School, in the EFL Utilita Kids Cup.

It's clear from the highlights of that match, in which Musiala scored a hat-trick and left defenders mesmerised - a bit like he did on Friday - that he was a special talent.

Embolo back on the scene

Breel Embolo endured an injury-hit campaign for Monaco, but he is back to fitness in time to feature for Switzerland, for whom he remains a crucial player.

And after coming on as a second-half substitute, Embolo sealed the three points as the Swiss beat Hungary 3-1 in the first game of the day. 

As the official Euro 2042 X account pointed out, Embolo has now netted in successive Euros tournaments for his nation.

Birthday boy

Pascal Gross is a newcomer to Germany's squad, and came on for his major tournament debut during Friday's 5-1 thrashing of Scotland.

The Brighton midfielder then celebrated his 33rd birthday on Saturday, with Germany's official X account sharing the celebrations.

That big win over Scotland, and his Euros bow, was surely a great way to welcome in his 34th year.

UEFA turns 70

Gross was not the only one celebrating a birthday on Saturday.

Indeed, UEFA marked the 70th anniversary of its founding, which came on June 15, 1954.

"It's a story of devotion, dedication and dreams..." shared the governing bodies' official X account.

Barcelona show pride of record-breaking youngster

Spain got off to the perfect start in the so-called 'group of death' with a rampant 3-0 win over Croatia on Saturday.

But, when the team sheets came out before the game, all the headlines quickly turned to Lamine Yamal, who became the youngest-ever player to appear at the Euros at 16 years and 338 days.

After an impressive performance by the youngster, Barcelona were quick to remind fans where he came from with a post on X: "He's very good... and he's ours."

Van Dijk, Simons and De Ligt put to the test

The Netherlands are yet to open their campaign in Euro 2024, but put aside their preparation to take some time to answer questions from young fans.

Xavi Simons was quizzed on which defender scares him the most - fellow Dutchman Virgil van Dijk - while the captain and Matthijs de Ligt rated their chances of winning the tournament.

Final preparations

England open their campaign when they take on Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday, and on Saturday, Gareth Southgate's team ran through their MD-1 training session.

All 26 players were involved in the session, with England allowing their fans to watch on live via a post on X.

Only part of the session was broadcast, however, so any Serbia spies could not garner too much information about Southgate's tactics ahead of the Group C clash.

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  • Anderson pens emotional England message in 'special' final outing Anderson pens emotional England message in 'special' final outing

    James Anderson held back tears as he called time on his glittering England career following an innings and 114-run triumph over the West Indies at Lord's. 

    Anderson claimed three second-innings wickets in his 188th and final Test match to end up with 704 in his 21-year career, third on the all-time list behind Muttiah Muralitharan (800) and Shane Warne (708).

    Those in attendance at Lord's rose to their feet and applauded the England seamer as he left the field of play for one final time. 

    "I'm a bit overwhelmed, actually. I have been all week. Walking to the ground, taking to the field. The crowd, the players. It has been amazing. It feels really special.

    "It is special to win and to contribute as well. I'm happy I got a couple of top-order batters out in the second innings.

    "I have been using hayfever as an excuse all week. There's been a few moments when it has been emotional. My daughters ringing the bell, walking out this morning.

    "When I ran up to bowl my first ball I was in a daze and had not even thought where I was going to bowl."

    Anderson kickstarted England's search for four wickets to ensure the triumph by bowling out Joshua Da Silva (9) having walked out to a guard of honour at Lord's. 

    The 41-year-old was almost given the dream send-off but was unable to hold Gudakesh Motie's follow through. 

    Instead, it would be Test debutant Gus Atkinson to capture the final wicket, becoming the first England bowler to take a 10-wicket match haul on debut since John Lever in India in 1976. 

    "It would have been nice to get that catch. I should have got two hands to it. It was an awkward height and didn't stick. But I'm just happy we got the win," Anderson said.

    "I am also buzzing for Gus. He has been around the group for a while now. He has worked really hard and to see him go out there and perform like that is amazing."

    With England's bowling in the seemingly capable hands of Atkinson, Anderson will now look forward to a life away from the sport. 

    "It is difficult to know. I have never retired before so it is hard to think about how you will feel," Anderson said. 

    "It is good that I am sticking with the group all summer. We have a group of talented young bowlers who can have a great career at this level. So this is my job for the rest of the summer.

    "At some point I will sit down and reflect on my career I've never really done that you are always thinking about the next series and next game."

  • Houston Dynamo v Minnesota United: Late losses adding 'insult to injury', says Ramsay Houston Dynamo v Minnesota United: Late losses adding 'insult to injury', says Ramsay

    Minnesota United head coach Eric Ramsay is hopeful they can bounce back after conceding another late goal when they travel to Houston Dynamo on Saturday.

    The Loons are currently on a six-match losing streak, their worst such run in club history, which has seen them drop to 10th in the Western Conference.

    Minnesota conceded a 90th-minute winner against LA Galaxy last weekend, leaving Ramsay frustrated at being unable to snap their poor streak.

    "It's coming down to exceptionally fine margins and what's really tough at the moment is the performances aren't too big a problem, but it's at the end of a very tough month, so it adds insult to injury," Ramsay said.

    "I only take it one day at a time and try not to let the big picture loom too large. We're in a difficult period so we need to alter our expectations from what they were a month ago.

    "It's a good learning curve for me as a young coach, and a test to stay positive and hope the results don't influence the day-to-day so we can keep putting out a competitive team."

    Meanwhile, Houston sit two places and one point above their opponents, though their six-game unbeaten run was ended by a 3-2 defeat to Real Salt Lake.

    Their previous match against Los Angeles FC was postponed due to bad weather, so after an extended break, head coach Ben Olsen is looking to improve on that performance.

    "We looked a little bit unfocused, and I think we understood the task going into it, but on the pitch, we didn't, and I don't think I hammered that in enough," Olsen said.

    "We were lackadaisical, gave up poor goals, played into their hands. Not the greatest performance from us, but maybe we should've come away with something."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Houston Dynamo – Ibrahim Aliyu

    Ibrahim Aliyu has scored in back-to-back matches, taking his goal tally to a team-high six for the Dynamo this season.

    The Nigerian has scored at least once in each of the last five months dating back to March.

    Minnesota United – Teemu Pukki

    Teemu Pukki scored his 13th MLS goal in Minnesota's defeat to LA Galaxy on Sunday. Six of Pukki's 13 goals have been scored in four career matches against the Galaxy, while he has scored seven times in his other 26 MLS appearances in total.

    MATCH PREDICTION: HOUSTON DYNAMO WIN

    Houston have won two of their last three meetings with Minnesota in all competitions (lost one), including a 2-1 road win on April 13, after losing the previous six meetings. The Dynamo have never completed a single-season league double over Minnesota before.

    However, Houston have won only four of their last 14 regular-season matches (drawn five, lost five), dating back to mid-April after winning four of their previous five games (L1).

    Meanwhile, Minnesota have lost six straight matches for the first time in club history. The Loons had lost five of their previous 20 games dating back to the end of last season.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Houston Dynamo – 53.2%

    Draw – 24%

    Minnesota United – 22.9%

  • The Numbers Game: Messi set for triumphant Argentina send-off in Miami? The Numbers Game: Messi set for triumphant Argentina send-off in Miami?

    The stage is set for what could be Lionel Messi's international swansong, as Argentina face Colombia in Sunday's Copa America final in the forward's new home of Miami.

    The Hard Rock Stadium is the venue as Messi and La Albiceleste go in search of a record-breaking 16th Copa America crown, currently level with Uruguay on 15. It would also be a second in a row after they overcame old rivals Brazil in the 2021 final.

    Standing in their way, however, are arguably the most impressive team at the tournament in Colombia.

    Unbeaten in 28 games – a new national record – and led by a rejuvenated James Rodriguez, who is surely the favourite for Player of the Tournament honours, Los Cafeteros downed a much-fancied Uruguay side with 10 men in the last four and are sure to present a stern test.

    Ahead of the showpiece game, we dive into the best Opta data surrounding the two finalists. 

    What's expected?

    Argentina began the tournament as favourites, being given a 30.8% chance of securing back-to-back titles for the first time since 1993 by the Opta supercomputer.

    The supercomputer is still on their side ahead of the final, giving them a 50.9% chance of winning the match in 90 minutes.

    Colombia are assigned a 25.4% chance of victory and a 23.6% chance of taking the game to extra time (which will take place if required after being scrapped for all other knockout matches) and potentially penalties.  

    Argentina have won their last two Copa America shoot-outs, against Ecuador in this year's quarter-finals and Colombia in 2021, though they have lost three of their last four finals at the competition on spot-kicks, versus Brazil in 2004 and Chile in both 2015 and 2016.

    Overall, Lionel Scaloni's team are given a 63% chance of lifting the trophy to Colombia's 37%. 

     

    Colombia will be featuring in just their third Copa America final (also 1975 and 2001), becoming the fourth team to reach multiple finals at the competition this century, after Argentina (six), Brazil (four) and Chile (two).

    Argentina have now reached the final at six of their last eight major tournaments (World Cups and Copa America). The only exceptions were at the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Copa, losing to the eventual champions (France and Brazil) in both instances.

    Colombia have only won one of their last 12 meetings with Argentina (five draws, six defeats) – a 2-0 group-stage win at the 2019 Copa America. The teams' last draw led to Colombia losing on penalties in the 2021 Copa quarter-finals, with Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona all unsuccessful from 12 yards.

    The teams have met on 15 previous occasions in the Copa America, with Argentina recording seven wins to Colombia's three and the remaining five being drawn.

    Fitting farewell for the GOAT?

    Sunday's final could very well be the end of an era, with arguably the greatest footballer of all time contemplating international retirement after the match.

    While there are plenty stateside who are desperate to see Messi continue his glittering Argentina career until the 2026 World Cup, the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner said this week he is fighting his "last battles" on the international stage.

    Having led Argentina to glory at the 2021 Copa and the Qatar World Cup, Messi could go out on a high by inspiring his country to three straight major tournament successes, a feat they only previously achieved by winning three consecutive Copas in 1945, 1946 and 1947, with the World Cup not held during that time.

    It took him a while, but Messi finally got up and running at this year's Copa with a goal in Tuesday's 2-0 semi-final victory over Canada, converting his 12th shot of the tournament.

     

    He has now scored at six different editions of the Copa America, matching the record set by Zizinho all the way back in 1957. Messi has netted at the 2007, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2021 and 2024 editions, only failing to get on the scoresheet in 2011.

    His semi-final strike came 17 years and one day after his first Copa America goal, versus Peru in 2007. That gap is the longest between goals for a single player in the tournament's history, breaking another record previously held by Zizinho (15 years and 52 days between 1942 and 1957).

    Another trophy on Sunday would enable him to end what had previously been a disappointing Argentina career with a perfect run of three tournament triumphs.

    There is also the small matter of another international trophy pulling him clear of his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who led Portugal to glory at Euro 2016 and in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League but now looks unlikely to add to that collection. 

    Cafeteros the Copa's best?

    Argentina may have star quality unmatched by any of their South American rivals, but they were made to work for knockout successes against Ecuador and Canada. Many would argue they have not been the tournament's outstanding team.

    That honour may go to Colombia, who topped Group D ahead of Brazil before dumping out Uruguay – considered second-favourites for the trophy by some – in the semi-finals.

    Nestor Lorenzo's team did not even require a full complement to overcome La Celeste, standing firm after Daniel Munoz's first-half red card as Jefferson Lerma's earlier header proved decisive. 

    Lerma's goal was Colombia's fifth to come via a header at this tournament, the most by a team at a single edition since Argentina netted six times via that route in 1991, when they lifted the trophy.

    Colombia's aerial prowess has been another string to their bow at a tournament where they have been extremely efficient in attack, scoring a competition-high 12 goals from 8.49 expected goals (xG), a tally that puts them second to Argentina (11.1). Colombia rank just sixth for touches in the penalty area (104) but third for shots from inside the box (59).

    Only conceding twice, Lorenzo's side have also been solid at the back – a recipe for tournament success. 

     

    Per game, they have averaged a tournament-low 0.51 expected goals against (xGA), as well as 9.6 shots faced (the third-best figure) and 2.2 shots on target faced (second-best). 

    That solid backline has given James and Luis Diaz the platform from which to make things happen, with the duo ranking third and fourth, respectively, for expected assists (xA) among all players at the competition. 

    Miserly at the back and with two of the competition's most creative players in attack, Colombia will back themselves to spoil Messi's Miami party.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Argentina – Angel Di Maria

    Di Maria made his 27th Copa America appearance in the last four, becoming Argentina's second-most capped player in the competition, behind Messi (38 matches).

    The former Real Madrid wideman will play his final international match on Sunday, and he could go out with a bang, having earned a reputation as a big-game player.

    Di Maria, who has 31 goals in 144 games for La Albiceleste overall, scored the winner in the 2021 Copa America final versus Brazil and also got on the scoresheet in the 2022 World Cup showpiece game against France.

    Only James (17), Nicolas de la Cruz (14) and Messi (13) have bettered his nine chances created at this tournament, while he also ranks sixth for xA (1.01) and only Messi has matched his tally of four chance-creating carries. 

     

    Colombia – James Rodriguez

    Colombia captain James has looked a player reborn at this tournament, recording six assists, with the most recent teeing up Lerma's semi-final winner versus Uruguay.

    That meant he surpassed Messi (five in 2021) for the most assists at a single edition of the Copa America since this data began being recorded by Opta in 2011.

    A remarkable 12 of his 17 chances created at this tournament have come from set-pieces, and with a cagey affair potentially in store, his dead-ball prowess could prove decisive.

    Five of Colombia's 12 goals have come from corners or indirect free-kicks, with James' deliveries helping them surpass their previous best goalscoring return at a Copa America (11 in both 1975 and 2001).

     

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