Group D Final Round Preview

Games of the Day
Croatia vs. Spain, Bordeaux, 20:00
Czech Republic vs. Turkey, Lens, 20:00

Standings
Spain – 6pts
Croatia – 4pts
Czech Republic – 1pt
Turkey – 0pts

Spain have seemingly managed to make light work of arguably the hardest group of these Championships. After securing qualification with a 3-0 drumming of Turkey, Spain move on to facing a potential Luka Modric-less Croatia.

Against Turkey, something seemed to have finally clicked for the Spanish. The combination of Nolito and Alvaro Morata produced an incisiveness that seemed lacking against the Czech’s in the first game. The glancing header by the Juventus striker was a delicate effort that needed nothing more than guiding into the back of the net after a fantastic in-swinging ball delivered by Nolito.

Whilst the second goal may have came about from a defensive error, the third goal by Spain was a thing of beauty. A simple tap in finish for Morata after a 22 pass move, it was a goal that only the Spanish could have crafted. Out of all 22 passes, the one that shone was the pass from Andres Iniesta to Jordi Alba. It was just sublime. Continue reading “Group D Final Round Preview”

Group C Final Round Preview

Games of the Day
Ukraine vs. Poland, Marseille, 17:00
Northern Ireland vs. Germany, Paris, 17:00

Standings
Germany – 4pts
Poland – 4pts
Northern Ireland – 3pts
Ukraine – 0pts

The last set of games in this group saw the perfect juxtaposition of emotions that tournament football throws together. The euphoria of seeing Gareth McCauley thunder a header home as Northern Ireland picked up their first ever European Championship win was one sight. To then be met with one of the dourest 0-0 draws played out by Germany and Poland. I can appreciate a good 0-0 if the chances are there but Christ that took some watching.

Alas, it is another day and the glories of goal difference might change the shape of this Euro’s if both Poland and Germany win today with the price of coming second a likely tie against France in the round of 16, finishing top seems to have great importance in this group.

So who is favourite for the top slot? Whilst Germany may sit pretty at the moment, with Poland, playing a Ukraine side that bar the first 45 minutes against Germany seems to be getting worse for every half of football that passes by and Germany playing an impressive Northern Ireland side, this could be the first real surprise of the tournament. Continue reading “Group C Final Round Preview”

Group B Final Round Preview

Games of the Day
Slovakia vs. England, Saint-Etienne, 20:00
Russia vs. Wales, Toulouse, 20:00

Standings
England – 4pts
Wales – 3pts
Slovakia – 3pts
Russia – 1pt

As Euro 2016 rolls into the final round of group fixtures there is both relief and sadness; it is quite the commitment to watch three live games per day and remain a functioning adult, but no 5pm game on Monday will leave an insurmountable void, filled only with local news, Home and Away and (gulp) The One Show. Then there is the entire lack of live games on Thursday and Friday; it’s almost like there is something more important than football happening instead? Continue reading “Group B Final Round Preview”

Group A Final Round Preview

Games of the Day
Switzerland vs. France, Lille, 20:00
Romania vs. Albania, Lyon, 20:00

Standings
France – 6pts
Switzerland – 4pts
Romania – 1pt
Albania – 0pts

Just like that, we are at the beginning of the end for the group stages of Euro 2016 and what a tournament so far. The tournament may not be bursting at the seams with goals but goals don’t always lead to excitement as Spain proved in their demolition of Turkey.

France have somewhat become the late goal specialists. In a tournament where late goals have come to characterise this championship, it seems only fitting that the hosts themselves have mastered the last gasp winner.

Whether it was Dimitri Payet’s worldie of a goal in the 89th minute against Romania or Antoine Griezmann coming off the bench to break the deadlock against Albania at the death, any tournament needs the hosts to perform and France are duly injecting their own championships with excitement. Continue reading “Group A Final Round Preview”

Republic must dare to capitalise on uncertainty in Brussels

Game of the Day: Belgium vs. Republic of Ireland, Bordeaux, 14:00

Following Italy’s last gasp winner against Sweden, this generation of Irish players may never have a better chance of progressing to the knockout rounds of a major tournament. Martin O’Neill will hope that Belgium are as discombobulated in Bordeaux on Saturday afternoon as they were when wilting against the compact yet deadly Italians in game one. Continue reading “Republic must dare to capitalise on uncertainty in Brussels”

EURO 2016 – The Injured XI

Whilst some superstars from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and further afield will be plying their trade in France this month, others will be watching from their living rooms with their feet up.

Through no choice of their own, some of the biggest names in world football have been robbed of the opportunity to play at the European championships through injury. Like Franck Ribery in 2014, Carlos Puyol in 2012, and David Beckham in 2010, these stars could potentially miss out on one of their respective nation’s biggest footballing moments. Instead they will be watching from afar and hoping that (in some cases) they will be fit for the start of their domestic campaign… Continue reading “EURO 2016 – The Injured XI”

Are goals going to be a problem for Spain?

Game of the Day: Spain vs Turkey, Nice, 20:00

Spain haven’t lost a game in a European Championships since 2004. An obvious fact giving that they are two time reigning champions, it does however just sound very impressive.

When I reviewed Spain’s first game against the Czech Republic, I pointed out the lack of an obvious world class no.9 for Spain and Del Bosque duly gave both Alvaro Morata and Aritz Aduriz air time against Petr Cech and co. Yet it took an 87th minute winner from a certain Gerard Pique to secure the three points. Spain looked good, they dominated possession, played some lovely intricate passing play on the edge of the box but the actual act of scoring seemed that it was going to be too greater ask. So are goals going to be a problem once more down on the Riviera? Continue reading “Are goals going to be a problem for Spain?”

Is England vs. Wales a must win game for Roy Hodgson?

Game of the Day: England vs Wales, Lens, 14:00

Two games left. Three teams qualify from the group. It sounds easy enough? But after Slovakia’s defeat of Russia yesterday, has England’s game against Wales become ‘must win’?

Slovakia’s 2-1 victory over Russia on Wednesday really has changed the complexion of Group B. If England fail to beat Gareth Bale and co in Lens, England will see themselves at best in third place going into the final round of games and whilst a win against Slovakia will basically guarantee qualification, a third place finish will see possibly a round of 16 tie against potentially the likes of France or even Spain. Such an outcome will be an unmitigated disaster of a campaign for Roy and Wayne as this is a group they should so easily of dominated. Continue reading “Is England vs. Wales a must win game for Roy Hodgson?”

Can Dimitri Payet be France’s Euro hero?

Game of the Day: France vs. Albania, Marseille, 20:00

In the world of tournament football, 5 days is an eternity. We’ve had the brilliance of Germany’s counter attacking sucker punch against the Ukrainians, Italy emerging from also-rans to favourites with their 2-0 victory over Belgium and obviously the scenes of Russia’s new breed of footballing madman acting indefensibly in (and around) the Stade Vélodrome. Now we return to the site of such unsavoury scenes 4 days ago with the hosts entertaining the underdogs. Continue reading “Can Dimitri Payet be France’s Euro hero?”