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EURO 2024 Talking Points: Spain make flying start as Italy edge out Albania

Spain players and fans celebrate together
Spain players and fans celebrate togetherAFP
After the opening night goal fest in Munich, it would have been understandable if day two of Euro 2024 struggled to live up to last nights excitement. But the goals have kept flowing and the drama is showing no signs of relenting - it has been a breathless day of football.

Switzerland, Spain and Italy came out as victors from the three matches and we have taken a look at three key talking points from today's action.

Swiss will be tough to beat

Having progressed to the knockout round in each of their last five major tournament appearances, Switzerland is a nation that knows exactly what it takes to get the job done in tricky group-stage fixtures.

Once again, the Red Crosses produced an assured display against Hungary in their Group A opener, with clinical strikes from Kwadwo Duah and Michel Aebischer capping a dominant first-half showing from Murat Yakin’s side.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the match, however, was the defensive resilience shown by the Swiss late on - a backline boasting the likes of Manchester City’s Manuel Akanji and Newcastle United’s Fabian Schar.

Hungary looked to be on the front foot when Barnabas Varga headed in with 25 minutes remaining, but Switzerland recovered superbly from that setback to see the game out - even adding gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time through substitute Breel Embolo.

Yamal and Williams give Spain something they have been missing

At the 2022 World Cup and 2020 European Championship, Spain were a pretty team - easy on the eye. But they always seemed a bit too one-dimensional, relying on breaking teams down with intricate passing and patient build-up. What Spain missed were wide players with pace and directness which gave the side something different.

Nico Williams (21) might have been involved in the 2022 World Cup but it was more recently when the youngster established himself as a key part of the national side. Williams started off the left in Spain’s 3-0 win against Croatia this evening and was a constant threat. Meanwhile, Lamine Yamal (16) off the right wing became the youngest player to start a European Championship match. And he was even better than Williams.

Yamal’s determination to take on his man at every opportunity is the type of directness very few modern-day wingers possess and it is a joy to watch. Yamal completed his astonishing and historic day with a world class assist for Dani Carvajal with his wand of a left foot.

Morata goal sequence
Morata goal sequenceFlashscore

Spain had been at times a boring side to watch in the recent past but with Williams and Yamal, they have two young and fearless stars for the present and the future who offer them that missing piece - pace and explosiveness. A frightening prospect for opposition defenders and managers alike.

Barella volley gives Italy new bite

Three years ago, Nicolo Barella was taken off before the hour mark in the final of the European Championships unable to make much of an impact on the game.

Now though, the Inter star looks like the player that his side turn to when they need inspiration. After Albania broke a Euros record, scoring in the 23rd second, the reigning champions looked stunned.

But, up stepped Barella whose volley - ultimately the winner - was technically exquisite. It was a strike out of the top drawer.

Nicolo Barella's winner against Albania
Nicolo Barella's winner against AlbaniaOpta by StatsPerform, AFP

Across the pitch though, he was fantastic, metronomic in midfield with 105 successful passes and with a Flashscore rating of 8.2 to boot. That was only bettered by the other goalscorer for Italy Alessandro Bastoni

The last time two Inter players scored in the same tournament game for Italy was 1970 - Barella and Bastoni then have made club and country proud tonight. 

After that early shock, Italy gained confidence as the match wore on - they will be a frightening prospect for both Croatia and Spain in Group B.

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