Can Conte master another miracle in Bordeaux?

Game of the Day: Germany vs. Italy, Bordeaux, 20:00

The glamour tie of the quarter-finals. More fitting of a final than a game to reach the last four but this Euro draw has been kind to us this season and now we get to see Antonio Conte once more try to prove that tactics can overcome any player for player advantage.

I’ve written before, and I will say it once more, this is hardly an Italian Vintage that Conte has rocked up to France with this summer. With Andrea Pirlo’s omission from the squad, it is Conte’s trusted old Juventus generals in defence who embody the tactical foundation that has proved so successful at this year’s European Championships.  Continue reading “Can Conte master another miracle in Bordeaux?”

Italy vs. Spain – When Powerhouse’s Collide 

Game of the Day: Italy vs. Spain, Paris, 18:00

No one saw this coming. Spain coming second in their group.

After losing their first game in the European Championships since 2004 to Croatia, Spain now found themselves on the sticky side of the draw, and a game against an Italian side that at first impressed but now come into this game with questions against their name.

After a tentative start against the Czech Republic, Spain waltzed past Turkey with more flair than a 70s disco in the second game of the group. Spain appeared to have mojo back. Then came Ivan Perisic and Croatia. Continue reading “Italy vs. Spain – When Powerhouse’s Collide “

Euro 2016 Team by Team Review

As the group stage ends, the Euros start getting interesting. It’s only the friggin’ knockouts! Here is a review of all 24 teams that made it too France, so let’s see what teams make the grade…

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Group A

France – B

Favourites at the start of the tournament but don’t seem to know their best starting XI. Two late wins against Albania and Romania, with thanks to goals by Dimitri Payet, followed by a stalemate against Switzerland, means there is definite room for improvement. Didier Deschamps will be expecting Les Bleus to show their potential against Republic of Ireland in the knockout round.

Switzerland – C

With a strike force as strong as their shirt quality, the Swiss have produced two underwhelming draws and a win over Albania. Incoming Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, has looked lively and will hope for more against Poland in the last 16. Continue reading “Euro 2016 Team by Team Review”

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 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”

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?”

Can Del Bosque make it three Euro’s in a row?

Game of the Day: Spain vs. Czech Republic, Toulouse, 15:00

Is the end of Spanish dominance in the Euro’s ending? Its golden generation is drawing to close with Iker Casillas and Andreas Iniesta making their last appearance in European football’s showpiece event but can Vicente Del Bosque muster one last journey with the players who have delivered so much success? Continue reading “Can Del Bosque make it three Euro’s in a row?”