Just six games into Euro 2012 it is probably a dangerous enterprise to try and pick out any specific trends, but to Early Doors's largely untrained eye, it appears to be becoming a tournament in which midfielders are impressing at the expense of strikers.
There have been some positive contributions from those in attack — Mario Mandzukic's two headers for Croatia against Ireland last night stand out — but the signature moments have come from deeper positions.
On day one it was Alan Dzagoev's two goals for Russia and Andrei Arshavin's two assists. On day two we had Wesley Sneijder's masterclass in midfield as Netherlands' strikers obstinately refused to score against Denmark: his sumptuous through-ball for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar off the outside of his boot will surely live long in the memory.
And last night, in the most exemplary match of the tournament so far, Italy and Spain both relied on moments of genius from their creative influences to break each other down in a wonderful 1-1 draw in Gdansk.
Sitting in the media centre at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, and taunted by a frosty fridge full of free beer that remains locked until after the final whistle on matchday, ED had a decent spot to watch the drama unfold and the midfield maestros work their magic.
ED thought the aesthetic high point had been achieved when, after 60 minutes, the imperious Andrea Pirlo produced a burst of pace from just behind the halfway line, carried the ball forward with another touch and then played in Antonio Di Natale with a perfectly weighted pass for the substitute to put Italy in front.
But within four minutes, as though affronted by Italy's gall in attempting to out-style the world's flashiest team, Spain responded with a goal of even more concentrated beauty.
Xavi pounced on a loose ball in midfield and slipped it back to Sergio Busquets, who quickly returned the favour. Xavi then played a pass 10 yards forwards to Andres Iniesta, who rolled his foot over the ball and poked it square with the outside of his boot to David Silva. Now came the coup de grace. With a frankly outlandish flick of the left boot, Silva executed a perfect reverse pass for Cesc Fabregas, who timed his run into the box neatly to thump the ball past Gianluigi Buffon.
It was a goal of the highest order, conceived and executed entirely by midfielders. However, this was no surprise given Spain raised more than a few eyebrows an hour before kick-off when naming a team with no strikers. While Fernando Torres, Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente remained parked on the bench, Vicente del Bosque ordered Fabregas to play in the 'false nine' position that Lionel Messi has so popularised.
This was the clearest evidence yet for the suspicion that strikers may not be hogging the headlines in Poland and Ukraine.
While Italy's own unusual tactical switch — another move out of the Barcelona play-book as midfielder Daniele de Rossi was asked to drop deep and play as part of a three-man defence — was pressed upon them by injuries, Spain's felt rather forced, a touch self-indulgent. Frankly, ED wondered if this was Spain's jumping the shark moment, of believing their own hype and losing touch with the formula that brought them this far.
Though losing all-time record goalscorer David Villa to injury prior to the tournament was an event few coaches would have relished dealing with, Del Bosque's decision to ignore the claims of his three natural strikers seemed somewhat perverse. It might have just been the oppressive heat in Donetsk, or residual fatigue following a two-hour sleep the night before followed by a near five-hour train trip across rural Ukraine with a carriage full of boozy and boisterous Danes, but contemplating the decision gave ED a little headache.
In the first half it appeared Del Bosque's tactical move to 4-6-0 — trialled sporadically in the qualifiers and a friendly against England in November but with David Silva in the central role —more resembled Craig Levein's Scotland than Luciano Spalletti's Roma. Too many passing moves came to a grinding halt on the edge of the box with no one to dart in behind the defence.
But just when it appeared Pirlo's moment of magic might have condemned Spain to another loss in the opening game of a major tournament following their shock defeat at the hands of Switzerland in South Africa two years ago, their freeform midfield collective scored one of the best goals seen at the tournament so far to validate their manager's decision to approach the game in such an unexpected fashion.
What followed, though, was utter genius. Having seen his team make his point for him in such sparkling fashion, Del Bosque then sought to drive home the message to his doubters by making them see just how ineffective a striker can be. Deliberately bringing on Fernando Torres for a fairly comical cameo was brave management, but ED can only applaud the Spain boss for the balls he showed in doing it.
Torres was at his Chelsea vintage when coming on for Fabregas with 16 minutes remaining. After racing on to one ball over the top of the defence he allowed himself to be clumsily tackled by Buffon when through on goal, while his poor chip over the bar with five minutes remaining was a horrid effort, particularly with Jesus Navas free to the right and ready to tap the ball home. Both moments felt for split-seconds as though they could be replicas of Torres's goal in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, an opportunistic moment of glory to confound those scrutinising his demise as a top-level forward, but both times the hesitancy that has rendered him impotent for long spells at Stamford Bridge returned.
This was not quite a bottle job of Alexander Kerzhakov, Georgios Samaras or Robin van Persie proportions — three players who have besmirched the good name of the striker at this tournament — but it was close. The Torres malaise continues.
In the end, though, Del Bosque professed himself to be satisfied with Spain's efforts and his own tactical approach.
"Cesc did very well in that position," he said. "When Torres came on, the game was much more open. We had more chances to score, but they had some, too, lest we forget. Time will tell if this (4-6-0) is good for us or not."
In a tournament when midfielders are so clearly taking centre stage, it might not be a bad solution.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Of course we feel the weight of history. It was a facetious question but there was a little element of truth in what he was saying. As a top nation we haven't won as many tournaments as we should or done as well as we should. We all feel that weight and there's nothing we can do to take it off our shoulders except make certain we embrace the tournament, that we are not afraid of it and that we believe in ourselves. It's a fact of life. But I think before the very good French period we could have levelled a similar accusation against them." — Roy Hodgson reacts to a question from a French inquisitor who asked ahead of England's game over France whether they could still be considered a top footballing country.
FOREIGN VIEW: "The French team don't have the same ambitions as Spain or Germany at the start of these European Championships. France, in terms of their results over the last few years, have not allowed us to retain our place in European or World football. People say I often bring this up, but I don't do that because I like to. It's the reality. People say we're favourites in the group, but I don't agree with that. We were in the fourth pot in the draw, and that means something. It's an open group. France, England, Ukraine and Sweden can all legitimately believe they can get into the latter stages." — Laurent Blanc plays down expectations surrounding France, who have emerged as dark horses to win the tournament.
COMING UP: England's campaign gets under way with a huge game against France in Donetsk. The match kicks off at 5pm and we will of course be bringing you live text commentary. Then, at 7.45pm, Group D's first round of games concludes with the match between co-hosts Ukraine and Sweden in Kiev.