Euro 2016: Five Things We Learned From Sunday's Games

Toni Kroos
Toni Kroos at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille, June 12. Kroos ran the show for Germany in its 2-0 win over Ukraine. Alexander Hassenstein/Getty

The 2016 European Championship is well under way, with teams from groups A to F having played their opening matches of the tournament.

On Sunday, Poland beat Northern Ireland 1-0 while Joachim Loew's Germany was victorious, 2-0, against Ukraine in group C, seeing the Germans top the group in France.

Earlier in the day, Turkey and Croatia became the first teams in group D to play, with Luka Modric scoring the only goal for the Croatians. Spain and the Czech Republic play on Monday in the other game in the group.

Here, Newsweek looks at five standout topics from Sunday's matches at Euro 2016 in France.

Germany's Kroos

As Bastian Schweinsteiger came off the bench to add a last-minute clincher for the Germans, we were reminded just why Germany became world champions in Brazil two years ago.

But the mantle as Germany's puppetmaster has passed from Schweinsteiger to Toni Kroos, 26. From the first minute in the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, Kroos took control of the game, dictating the tempo and picking Ukraine apart.

Yes, Ukraine didn't help itself. At times the gap between Kroos and the opposition felt almost as large as the distance between the two countries.

But the Real Madrid midfielder was outstanding, setting up Shkodran Mustafi's first half headed goal with a delicious free-kick, and ensuring Germany backs up its bid as a challenger for the title.

Modric Wonder-Strike

Should he, shouldn't he? Luka Modric's 41st minute strike, the only goal of the game between Croatia and Turkey, slipped past Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Babacan too easily, was the accusation after the match.

Yet, it was the surprise of the strike that caught Babacan out. The clearance out of the Turkey penalty area went so high the ball disappeared from view on television screens. But Modric kept his eyes focused.

As the ball fell from the heavens, Modric struck a sensational volley that flew past Babacan and highlighted the difference in class between the Real Madrid midfielder and the 21 other players on the pitch.

Modric, formerly of Tottenham Hotspur, demanded the ball, and, much like Kroos, was the author of every attack Croatia created. He will be pivotal in any success the nation has in France.

Poland Impresses

And could be the surprise package at Euro 2016.

With a front two of the prolific Robert Lewandowski—who scored five goals in nine minutes for club Bayern Munich in September—and match-winner Arkadiusz Milik, Poland will be a threat to any opposition at this tournament.

It was the first time Poland had won an opening match at a Euro finals and victory over Northern Ireland was the first for Michael O'Neill's team in 13 games.

Despite the constant threat of Lewandowski and Milik, it was teenage midfielder Bartosz Kapustka who caused most of Northern Ireland's torment in Nice.

As former England striker Gary Lineker tweeted: "Sense we'll see a lot of Kapustka in the coming years. Deliciously talented 19-year-old."

Lafferty Is Northern Ireland's Hope

On a frustrating day for the Northern Irish, it was even more evident that Kyle Lafferty is the main man for O'Neill's side.

Steven Davis, the midfielder, was constantly trying to find the striker with long balls throughout the painful 90 minutes, but both players had a handful of Poles to contend with each time.

With Germany and Ukraine in group C alongside Northern Ireland, O'Neill's side will have to find a way to bring Lafferty into the game if there is any chance of the country remaining in France past June 21.

And Finally… Loew's Look

Germany manager Joachim Loew opted against the suited and booted look chosen by most managers at Euro 2016.

Instead, the 56-year-old caught the attention of plenty on social media after he and his team sported some loosely fitted khaki-colored T-shirts, exposing the biceps of the Germany boss.