Welcome to Euro 20/97! Today begins a series of blogs where 24 hopeful managers will enter and only one will emerge as the 2020 CM Cup champion. We’ll see defending champion Ross Bell’s Belgium in action later on in Group B but we start with Group A, where Turkey and Italy will lift the metaphorical curtain.
A reminder that we previewed each and every team here if you want to see the full squads before we get stuck in.
There’s a clear favourite in Group A and they have made the trip to Turkey to get us started.
Group A – Turkey vs Italy
Nathan’s got his work cut out with Turkey, not least because a lot of these players have randomly generated stats. He’s stuck with the famous formation but gone for the bold move of putting a centre forward in holding midfield. It might work.
Nikolai is our tactical innovator and he’s gone for this little number to get the best out of an embarrassment of riches.
You know who’s good? Signori. And Zola. The Italian lads run riot to go 4-0 up but a couple of injuries and a couple of goals spoil an otherwise perfect start for Italy. The two goals in a little over a minute briefly stir Turkish hopes but if nothing else it keeps the goal difference respectable. It might be important.
Eyebrows were raised when Pagliuca got the nod in goal and conceding two from three on target might justify that. That said, Turkey’s goalkeeper didn’t make many saves either.
Few will be surprised at this outcome but let’s see what the second game in this group has to offer.
Wales vs Switzerland
Andrew doesn’t have loads to work with but I’m struggling to see the use of Rob Page at left wing back. Giggs, Mark Hughes, Speed and Hartson are decent though. Andy Dibble less so.
Jakob meanwhile has brought his own tactics along with his Switzerland team. Somebody make a Swiss army knife joke please? The keen eyed amongst you will notice that this is before Oliver Neuville was German.
It’s all Switzerland. Neuville scores after just two minutes and whilst Andrew starts pouring through legal documentation to prove he shouldn’t be playing, he has a brainwave at half time. On comes Gareth Taylor, who is inexplicably in the Dutch league, for Nathan Blake. Mark Hughes drops into AM and…Knup makes it 2-0. But wait! Mark Hughes pulls one back just 5 minutes later and it’s game on. It looks like it’ll just be a consolation but then with the time ticking down, Sparky strikes again and lights up Wales. I realise now I’ve built the Cardiff City stadium more than 10 years before it was due but it ends all square.
Probably a fair result, on the stats.
Very early days but that draw puts Italy in a very strong position following their win. Of course Turkey will be looking forward to playing against teams who are not quite as good as Italy. That’ll be on Friday.
We’ve got time for one game from Group B so let’s remind ourselves of who we find dwelling here…
We’ve got our defending champion to bring day one to a close.
Belgium vs Russia
Ross must be reasonably happy with Belgium. I would be amazed if he won it with this lot as they can’t defend but they should reach the knockouts. A home game with Russia looks winnable. He’s opted for…this.
Dan Barker is bringing back the diamond. From Russia with Love. And other Bond titles. Dan Barker shouldn’t be confused with Don Barker, the manager in Dream Team who killed Karl Fletcher.
The early signs are that neither of these teams can defend, even with Onopko in the Russian ranks. They exchange goals in the first 10 minutes before Russia take a surprise lead with the man who I will be calling Besty. Mpenza equalises right on half time, which might be pivotal. Oliveira scores the winner in the second half and brings an entertaining game to a close.
This was a really even game, even if neither goalkeeper can really look back on it with any fondness.
Who gets man of the match? The Belgian centre half. Presumably he wasn’t marking Besty. Kharine gets an 8 for wearing joggers and a doubtless classy keeper kit.
There’s only been one game in the group but let’s see the table anyway just for fun.
We’ll see Denmark vs Finland tomorrow along with two games from Group C where the mighty Holland get their campaign underway.