For some, Italy dissecting Turkey in Rome will seem quite some time ago. For others, not so much.
Believe it or not, the Euros had moved so quickly that we were with the same teams again, picking up their stories where we’d left off.
There was the added bonus, alongside Group A, of a Finland v Russia rivalry that would split Group B wide open, no matter the result.
Wednesday was the first of the ‘moving days’ at Euro 2020.
For our early-afternoon starters in St Petersburg, that meant a chance for tournament debutants Finland to book a place in the Last 16, or for hosts Russia to kick-start their campaign.
Even for the most ardent fans of Markku Kanerva’s Finns, it would have to be admitted that their opening win against Denmark was slightly hollow.
The Suomi players’ effort and application was infallible, but it would never be the same as a normal tournament game for them.
As such, facing a desperate Russian side in their own backyard would be a daunting test.
The way Russians express desperation is rather different to most other peoples, it would seem, in regard to their laborious attempts to break down the Finns on this occasion.
When an opener finally did come in this low-key affair, it was almost a bolt out of the blue.
In the first minute of first-half added time, highly-rated Atalanta midfielder Aleksei Miranchuk exchanged passes with Artem Dzyuba on the edge of the box, and ignoring the defensive bodies in front of him, struck a looping shot past Lukáš Hrádecký.
The Finns were rocked, and not in the way they’re fans of in their proud nation.
It was tough for them to create anything in the second half, and even when centre-back Paulus Arajuuri was motioned forward in the final few minutes, still the Russians stood tall.
1-0 it finished, meaning it’ll come down to the final day to see whether a Finnish side facing Belgium or a Russian one hosting Denmark will make it through – if either of them.
Then, it was onto Baku, where Wales and Turkey had a similar tussle for what would surely be second place in the group if they could win.
Given the great expectations open them prior to the tournament, a partisan Azeri crowd in this match and the do-or-die need for victory, Turkey, it must be said, disintegrated.
Wales almost had it entirely their own way in the first half thanks to a passive performance from Şenol Güneş’ men; the fortunate thing for spectators was that Aaron Ramsey scored.
It had taken him a couple of decent chances, but in the 43rd minute a sumptuous clipped pass from Gareth Bale found the Juventus midfielder clean through against goalkeeper Uğurcan Çakır, and he tucked a finish home to make the game interesting.
This did at least make the Turks react; they actually had more of the ball for most of the second half, and striker Burak Yılmaz received service for once – although his finishing left something to be desired after so long without shooting practice.
Halfway through this spell, Bale could’ve put us out of misery earlier, but spooned over a penalty that he was lucky to win, in all honesty, after being fouled millimetres inside the box.
It was immaterial when Connor Roberts, the Swansea wing-back who had earlier taken one in the goolies to keep the dastardly Turks out, tucked in from Bale’s byline-hugging assist with the clock saying 95 minutes.
Finally, the Turks were given their death knell and the Welsh, after a cohesive and tireless performance, all-but scored a last-16 spot.
In Rome, Roberto Mancini’s Italy went one further against the visiting Swiss.
It was perhaps the performance of Euro 2020 to date; a 3-0 win against opponents of a very high level, an education in counter-attacking to anyone watching, and a display that showcased every single player in their team.
Manuel Locatelli was the star of the show, no doubt, with his two magic goals; the first a tap-in creditable more to Domenico Berardi’s inside-forward play, but the second all him, a 25-yard strike that Yann Sommer never saw coming.
After so much chopping and changing of personnel in the Italian team since 2016, it is encouraging to see that Mancini is a man who knows his best side, and still has the strength in reserve to mix it up.
Ciro Immobile finished things off in a relatively quiet second half, thrashing past Sommer on a sombre day for the Swiss.
It was another excellent entry into the Italians’ resume, both before and during this tournament, and will bolster confidence against whoever they come up against in the tournament’s latter stages.
Performance of the Day: Manuel Locatelli can take all the praise he wants today as far as I’m concerned. A player who was understandably disgruntled when AC Milan threw him on the scrapheap aged 21, joining Sassuolo and adding a few goals to his game this season, Locatelli has worked hard for this spot under Mancini.
There are no individual stars in this Italian side – everyone contributes equally – but if there was a weak link, it would stand out. Locatelli is stepping up to make sure that isn’t him.
Up Next: Group B concludes with the Scandi-lowlands tussle of Denmark v Belgium on Thursday, a tie sandwiched between Group C’s early game between Ukraine v North Macedonia and a late meeting of the Netherlands and Austria.
Dutch Apple Cake v Apfelstrudel in that one – makes you wonder who Mary Berry would back in this tournament. Is she an England-till-she-dies loyalist, or could she be swayed by the allure of Antoine Griezmann and a raspberry millefeuille? The mind truly boggles…
Author - Will Hugall
Now a BA Journalism student at Nottingham Trent University, I divide my time between my base in Radford and back home in East Sussex while watching as much football as I can!