Switzerland outclass Hungary with 3-1 win in Euros opener

By AFP
June 16, 2024
Switzerland's forward #18 Kwadwo Duah (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal with his teammates midfielder #10 Granit Xhaka (R) and midfielder #17 Ruben Vargas during the UEFA Euro 2024 — AFP

COLOGNE: Granit Xhaka and Dominik Szoboszlai are the number 10s, captains and respective driving forces of Switzerland and Hungary, but it was Xhaka who took the plaudits with a superb all-round display in his team’s 3-1 Euro 2024 victory on Saturday.

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Kwadwo Duah, Michel Aebischer and Breel Embolo scored the goals in a generally dominant Swiss display, despite Hungary briefly rallying at 2-1 after a goal by Barnabas Varga.

With 126 caps to his name and seven years at Arsenal under his belt, Xhaka is enjoying something of an Indian summer.

He was key in Bayer Leverkusen's surprise Bundesliga title and led from the front on Saturday as the assured-looking Swiss got their Group A campaign off to a perfect start.

Still only 31, he is vastly experienced and that priceless ability to find space and pick a pass left the Hungarian defence flailing again and again in Cologne.

When Hungary did finally get something of a foothold in the second half he scampered and harried to pressure them on the ball, then nearly capped a dream day with a last-minute glancing header that was well saved.

It was a different story for Szoboszlai. He missed the last Euros through injury as Hungary, given no chance of progress after being grouped with Germany, France and Portugal, went within six minutes of qualifying before Germany snatched an equaliser that eliminated them. Fully fit and firing after a move to Liverpool, he was the driving force behind Hungary's remarkable unbeaten run over the last 18 months and the theory was that with him back in harness they would be ready to make a real challenge at Euro 2024.

He turned 23 last month and is the youngest captain in European Championship history but Saturday's first half passed with him a totally peripheral figure, deep and wide on the left, with his body language of shrugs and head shakes doing nothing to disguise his frustration.

His contribution was summed up with two free kicks in dangerous positions, both of which he floated too high and deep just when his team were desperate for any sort of half-chance.

Szoboszlai finally came to life with a delicious curling cross for Varga's goal and, like the rest of his team, he then looked a different player as the energy coursed through him with the Hungarian fans in full voice.

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