on Saturday 15 June, 2024

Spain begin Euro 2024 in style, Switzerland win

Spain made a dream start to Euro 2024 on Saturday by beating Croatia 3-0 in Berlin, after Switzerland kicked off their campaign with an impressive 3-1 victory against Hungary. © Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

Berlin (AFP) – Spain made a dream start to Euro 2024 on Saturday by beating Croatia 3-0 in Berlin, after Switzerland kicked off their campaign with an impressive 3-1 victory against Hungary.

Three-time European champions Spain tore apart a disappointing Croatia at the Olympiastadion in the German capital, with Alvaro Morata breaking the deadlock just before the half-hour mark.

Fabian Ruiz soon made it 2-0 and Dani Carvajal got the third goal just prior to the interval as Spain seized control of a difficult Group B which also contains reigning champions Italy and Albania.

The day was also notable for Lamine Yamal, Spain's Barcelona winger, becoming the youngest player in the competition's history at 16 years and 338 days old.

Morata's goal was his seventh at the European Championship, a tally which allowed him to move joint-third on the all-time list alongside Alan Shearer and Antoine Griezmann.

Only Cristiano Ronaldo, with 14, and Michel Platini, who got all of his nine goals on France's run to glory in 1984, are ahead of them.

Ruiz, the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder who set up Morata's opener, produced a lovely finish from just inside the box for the second while Carvajal -- who also scored in Real Madrid's recent Champions League final win -- prodded in a Yamal cross for the third.

Croatia, the 2022 World Cup semi-finalists for whom Luka Modric started but came off on 65 minutes, were stunned and could not come back.

They thought they had claimed a consolation when substitute Bruno Petkovic tapped in after his penalty was saved by Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon.

But the goal was ruled out by VAR for encroachment by Ivan Perisic as Spain added a clean sheet to an almost perfect outing.

"Very happy with the win, for my (Euros) debut," Yamal told Spanish broadcaster La 1.

"We've got confidence, we're a very efficient team and we're showing it. We're happy because all the work from the last few months has borne fruit."

Italy and Albania were due to meet later on Saturday in the same group in Dortmund, before Spain and Italy play each other in Gelsenkirchen next Thursday.

Hungary outclassed

In Cologne, Kwadwo Duah and Michel Aebischer scored their first international goals as Switzerland -- beaten on penalties by Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 -- saw off Hungary in Group A.

Duah opened the scoring in only his second international appearance after making his debut earlier this month.

The London-born 27-year-old, who plays for Bulgarian club Ludogorets Razgrad, holds dual citizenship with Ghana and Switzerland, who will be relieved he opted to represent them on the evidence of a dynamic display.

After providing the assist for Duah's opener, Bologna midfielder Aebischer netted his maiden Switzerland goal with an eye-catching long-range strike just before the interval.

Barnabas Varga's seventh goal in nine starts for Hungary set up a tense finale, but Breel Embolo struck in stoppage-time to seal the points.

"I liken football to chess and today we got our tactics right. We used this formation for a particular reason," Swiss coach Murat Yakin said of his team's line-up which featured a back three.

"We focused on making the most of our strengths and we made our opponents' lives very hard in the first half."

Hosts Germany thrashed 10-man Scotland 5-1 in the same group in the tournament's opening match on Friday in Munich, and Switzerland face Scotland next on Wednesday, while Hungary play Germany the same day.

"We play Germany in four days. I dare anybody to bet one Hungarian forint on us. As of today that looks impossible," said Hungary coach Marco Rossi.