The knockout rounds have begun, no more teams tactically playing for 3rd place leaving themselves with a hope of staying in France for a few days longer.
It’s best we start off by saying…Thank goodness for Sunday and Monday. The 6 teams that played on Saturday provided us with a poor spectacle for the latter stages of a major international tournament.
Poland v Switzerland opened proceedings in St Etienne and produced 2 talking points. An outrageous overhead kick from Stoke’s Shaqiri and a woeful penalty in the shootout from Arsenal’s new £30Mil man Granit Xhaka. Poland progress and that’s without the prolific Lewandowski finding the net so far.
Moving to the highly anticipated “Battle of Britain.” It very much disappointed as Wales and Northern Ireland produced a cagey affair. It was settled after a Bale cross delivered into the dreaded corridor of uncertainty and was touched past his own keeper by the unfortunate McAuley, the challenge had to be made with Robson-Kanu awaiting a tap in.
To finish the day, a terrible match produced an extra time win for Ronaldo and co. Quaresma’s nod over the line was the game’s 1st on target attempt in the 117th minute and we were all relieved to be able to turn off in time for the Joshua fight! Portugal are in the quarters having yet to win a game in normal time.
Sunday needed to raise our spirits and it did just that…
As expected a spirited ROI gave hosts France a scare with a 2nd minute penalty from man-of-the-moment Robbie Brady. Then Antione Griezmann decide to silence his critics by turning up to the party, a fantastic 2nd half display saw him terrorise the Irish backline and score twice completing a 2-1 comeback win.
Fearfully for the remaining sides, Germany and Belgium destroyed their opposition to comfortably progress. 3-0 and 4-0 wins respectively and it could have been a lot more for either, do not be surprised if these two contest the final on 10th July.
Monday saw us reach the conclusion of the round and it produced the biggest shock the competition has EVER seen, Iceland 2-1 England!
An early Rooney penalty should have settled any lingering nerves for the favourites but within seconds it was 1-1 and minutes the turnaround was complete. Joe Hart should have kept out a Sigthorsson effort but just like Bale’s free kick, his left hand wasn’t strong enough.
Out-battled and out-thought seems a fair way to sum up a woeful night for the English with Hodgson resigning immediately after the defeat.
In the earlier game Italy produced and stellar “Italian” performance, occasionally threatening going forward and unbeatable at the back. Just like the Belgium game it was wrapped up with a late Pelle volley for a 2-0 scoreline. A mouth-watering Quarter Final with Germany awaits for what was supposed to be their worst side for 50 years.
The Quarter Finals start on Thursday and with every team just 2 games from the showpiece final it should be an exciting watch.
Some of the usual suspects will know what to expect in terms of pressure however the appearance of Iceland, Poland and Wales provides a possible twist for sides that in effect have nothing to lose.
Have we seen the last twist of Euro 2016? Possibly not.
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