UEFA Euro 2016 kicked off in earnest today, a day after Olivier Giroud scored a goal in France’s 2-1 win over Romania in the tournament opener.
Arsenal’s new summer signing Granit Xhaka played a full 90 minutes in Switzerland’s 1-0 triumph against Albania. The Swiss opened the scoring in the 4th minute with centerback Fabian Schär beating Albanian goalkeeper Etrit Berisha to the ball on a corner, heading into an empty net. Switzerland was fairly comfortable after Albania’s captain Lorik Cana earned himself a red card in the 37th minute.
Xhaka, who was voted Man of the Match, performed very well. According to FourFourTwo Stats Zone, the midfielder completed 101 of his 115 passes, recycling possession well from a slightly more advanced position than he is expected to play for the Gunners. From that advanced position, he created 3 chances. On the defensive end, he won 3 of his 4 tackles, had 5 clearances, and had no errors which led to shots for the Albanians. He was the bright spot on a Swiss side that really should have done better against a numerically inferior side.
Aaron Ramsey was integral in Wales’ 2-1 victory versus Slovakia in their first ever UEFA Euro appearance. The Welshman assisted Hal Robson-Kanu’s winner by forcing Martin Skrtel to commit to his dangerous midfield run before laying it off, possibly unintentionally, to Robson-Kanu who scuffed the ball into the back of the net.
Ramsey, playing in a free attacking role with Gareth Bale, only completed 36 of 47 passes, though it should be noted he is asked to be more of a risk-taker for this weak Welsh side. Undoubtedly, the most impressive aspect of his performance, as you might expect, was his work rate. Ramsey harried the opposition in all areas of the pitch as shown by his 11 attempted tackles, 5 of which were successful.
In the final match of the day, England drew 1-1 with Russia. Jack Wilshere was a 78th minute substitute. The Three Lions had taken the lead on an Eric Dier free kick in the 73rd minute but were unable to hold onto the victory. As Russia threw men forward at the end in stoppage time, Vasili Berezutski headed home, quite brilliantly, to earn the Russians a point.
The match-ups for tomorrow are Turkey-Croatia, Poland-Northern Ireland, and Germany-Ukraine.