Jude Bellingham announces himself at Euro 2024

Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham (PC: Jude Bellingham/X)

RevSportz Comment

It’s the nature of the media these days to hype footballers to the skies, and for fans to happily drink that Kool-Aid. A reasoned analysis of a player’s quality is sadly all too rare, with only a few individuals like Roy Keane and Graeme Souness capable of saying it as it is.

So, when Souness, who captained Liverpool to the European Cup in 1984, says this, you perk up and listen. “He [Bellingham] is a giant,” Souness told talkSPORT recently. “He has unbelievable technique, he can find a pass, he is an absolute superstar in the making.

“He is a freak, in the nicest way possible.”

The numbers bear him out. Most teenagers who go to Real Madrid at 20 on a €103m transfer would feel the pressure. Bellingham finished his debut season with a Champions League winner’s medal, 23 goals and 13 assists in 42 matches for Los Blancos.

That Madrid had splurged such a big amount was down to Bellingham’s stellar displays for Borussia Dortmund. After the winter break in 2022-23, they went on an incredible run of 14 wins and four draws, with the only defeat coming against Bayern Munich. Bellingham was central to that revival, scoring four goals in four matches before a knee injury kept him out of the final two matches.

Had Bellingham played on the final day against Mainz, Dortmund would surely have won the title. Instead, a 2-2 draw handed the trophy to Bayern on goal difference. It was the closest Dortmund had come to the title since the glory years under Jurgen Klopp.

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Jude Bellingham after scoring vs Serbia
Jude Bellingham after scoring vs Serbia (PC: Jude Bellingham/X)

Truth be told, Bellingham looked fatigued towards the end of the La Liga and Champions League campaigns. That helped dull the hype to some extent before Euro 2024, but his display against Serbia has once again ratcheted up excitement levels to what Wayne Rooney faced when he took Euro 2004 by storm as a teenager.

England were far from fluent or convincing against a well-organised and physical Serbian side. But that they got the job done was down to an instinctive run and clinical finish from Bellingham. A generation ago, Steven Gerrard was the midfield dynamo, while Frank Lampard was the one who tended to arrive late in the box to get on the end of chances. Bellingham has the best of both, the athleticism and physicality of Gerrard and the game sense that allowed Lampard to contribute so many goals for club and country.

It was also no coincidence that England’s goal came from the right flank where Bukayo Saka’s speed and trickery caused constant problems. It was a deflected cross that looped up for Bellingham to run in and crash a header into the corner. On the whole though, Saka’s delivery left a lot to be desire, and the best cross of the night came from Jarred Bowen, the second half substitute, whose pinpoint delivery saw a Harry Kane header that was incredibly tipped on to the bar by Predrag Rajkovic.

Kobbie Mainoo, another future star, replaced Bellingham on 86 minutes, and England’s chances of ending nearly six decades of major-tournament pain will depend largely on how well Gareth Southgate manages Bellingham’s minutes. Mainoo, Conor Gallagher and Adam Wharton are all capable of playing the position, but for the moment, Bellingham is a class apart. A freak, to echo Souness.

Wout Weghorst
Wout Weghorst (PC: X)

Weghorst comes up trumps for wasteful Dutch

After Adam Buksa had given Poland a shock lead with a wonderful glancing header from a corner whipped in at pace, the Netherlands equalised through Cody Gakpo’s deflected shot. Thereafter, it was mostly one-way traffic with the Dutch squandering chance after chance. They finished with 21 shots, of which only four were on target. Memphis Depay was especially wasteful, and it seemed like a frustrating draw was on the cards before Wout rifled home a first-time finish off a pass from Nathan Ake. It was his first touch after coming on two minutes earlier.

Having seen Frenkie de Jong and Teun Koopmeiners – their two most important midfielders – ruled out through injury in the days leading up to the tournament, the Netherlands have had to rejig in a big way in the middle of the park. They will have to face stronger sides than Poland, but this was a sign that they’re on the right track.

The Eriksen moment

Christian Eriksen’s goal against Slovenia was a special and heartwarming moment, but though they had only a third of the possession, Slovenia were good value for the point they got from Erik Janza’s 77th-minute equaliser. Benjamin Sesko was a big threat, and the Slovenes could well cause a surprise or two with their counterattacking threat.

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