Euro 2016 Last 16 review

The group stages were finally over and it was down to the finer points of tournament football, yes that’s right the knockout stages. With the expanded tournament and four best third place nations joining in on the fun, we would see some interesting matchups and first time records.

Kicking off the knockout stages were Switzerland and Poland. This one seemed like it was always going to be a tight affair. The Swiss managed only two goals as did their opponents. Their defence was even stingier with only the Swiss conceding a single goal out of the two nations, so it seemed inevitable that the two sides would end up going to penalties after seeing one of the goals of the tournament.

Wales and Northern Ireland came face to face in a game where one home nation would be guaranteed in the quarter finals saw a quiet start but then the game got going when the tackles flying in. Gareth Bale was not as busy as he was previously, but it just took one moment for him to make impact and he didnt even score. His cross put pressure, with Kanu-Robson waiting in the centre, on McAuley who in trying to deny the Wales player, could only put it in his own net. It was a terrible way for the Irish to go out having contributed so much, but that is how the game goes.

Croatia faced a Portugal side who looked like they could be there for the taking. Croatia looked like the dark horse of the tournament, whilst Portugal were grateful for the expansion of the group stage qualifiers as they finished third. Sadly though for what seemed like a potential game of the tournament, it turned into a dour affair where the game entered into extra time. The stats showed a disappointing reflection of the match. Croatia had 17 shots and none on target.Portugal had 6 shots and two on target of which one came in the form of the winning goal in extra time. Ronaldo too was also below par again. Whilst Poland only won on penalties, Portugal will have to be better prepared when facing an unpredictable Poland side.

France came back from an early set back to beat the Republic of Ireland. The Irish took an early lead through a penalty and held the lead to half time. The lack of firepower would sadly be the downfall of the Irish. The goal would be the only one of the six that they would get on target. The French however would bounce with two quickfire goals leaving the Irish rocked. The final to Irish hopes would come just a few minutes later when they were reduced to 10 men following Duffy’s red card. Irish eyes may not have been smiling but at least they could go home with some pride.

Germany faced Slovakia  in a game that showed England’s scoring issues when they took apart Slovakia with a 3-0 hammering. The World Cup holder were in fine form and really should have been more. An interchangeable line up dominated possession having just over 60% but unlike other nations they converted that possession into shots and goals. A total of 21 shots with 7 on target. The Germans nette through Boateng, Gomez and Draxler and based on this performance, they look like sure fire favourites.

The pitiful opening performance from Belgium seems a very long time ago and they showed in this last sixteen tie against Hungary that they should not be underestimated although to be honest had the Hungarians taken their chances when it was 1-0, they might have made it a little more difficult for the hotly  tipped Belgians. They shall go home with some pride and positivity as they look towards the Russia 2018 qualifying campaign.

In what was to be an unexpected big nation tie, defending champions Spain fell to a second defeat in a row. Spain seemed out of sorts for a team looking to defend their title and had it not been for David De Gea, it could have been the reverse scoreline from their Euro 2012 final match up. It seems that it could well be the end of the dominant Spain on the international front and when the second goal went in to finish off the game the faces of the Spanish players said it all.

They say about leaving the best till last and they certainly did…from an Icelandic position. England were taking on Iceland in what should have been a win albeit a narrow one. Sadly it was the same old story and an embarrassing exit. Apart from the penalty England barely turned up. We saw Sterling start, misplaced passes, goalkeeping blunders, Harry Kane taking free kicks.

Fair play to the Icelandic team who have impressed and taken the tournament by force. French fans beware of what may come.

My Euro 2016 Group stage predictions – The results

So, at the start of the competition I wrote two blog posts covering the six groups. In these posts I shared my predictions and with the group stages at an end, it’s time to see how well or not so well I have done.

Group A

So this group looked like being quite a reasonable one to predict. The hosts France would top the group with Romania coming second on goal difference. Switzerland would finish third together with Albania finishing bottom. Well what do I know. Turns out France would finish top  of the group. They wouldnt be held by Romania, who would end up finishing bottom. The Swiss would go unbeaten with one win and two draws.

Group B

The group featuring two of the home nations was always going to be an interesting one to watch. The top two in my predictions would see both home nations finishing in the top two with Slovakia finishing third. I wasnt too far wrong, a solid defence by Slovakia denied England a win and top of the group. I did though predict Slovakia finishing third and Russia bottom.

Group C

Thia group saw another home nation representative, this time Nothern Ireland. In a group containing Germany, Poland and the Ukraine, very few would have given them hope of getting anything. For me though the determination would see them get third and thats exactly how it finished. I was spot on with my predictions on places so that was quite impressive.

Group D

This group seemed to be an easy one to predict, Spain would come top with Croatia and the Czech Republic battling it out for second spot…..Turns out it wasnt. It had started well, Croatia and Spain opening with victories followed with a draw between Czech Republic and Croatia. Come the last round though, both Croatia and Turkey both changed the script. The Balkan nation beat the holders to win the group and Turkey decided to find where the opposition goal was. Thanks Group D for literally nothing.

Group E

This saw the Republic of Ireland in amongst Italy, Sweden and Belgium. It looked pretty tricky for the Irish, who would have to be on their top form to progress. Italy won the group ahead of Belgium who started off slowly. After their indifferent opener, they beat Ireland 3-0. Sweden with the mighty Ibrahimovic, continued their Euro finals woe. They came bottom with a point, thanks to the unfortunate own goal from Ireland. The Irish did fulfil one prediction of beating Italy and claiming third spot.

Group F

The final group saw one that was a little drab but actually come the group matches, it turned into something more interesting. I was quite bold in my predictions. For me I tipped Hungary to win with Portugal second. Little did I know that Portugal didnt fancy their shooting boots till late on. The Hungarian side would get the draw against Portugal but also Iceland, who themselves surprise.

Euro 2016 My predictions – The group stages Part 2

So welcome to Part 2 of the group stage predictions. Groups D to F have some interesting match ups and an upset or two.

Group D contains three nations who made it to the knockout stages of Euro 2012; Croatia, Czech Republic and defending champions Spain. Completing the group are Turkey. The Spanish national team will look to make it three Euro Championship wins in a row and bring some pride back to the nation following the disappointing World Cup in Brazil. Croatia will look to get some payback for the 1-0 defeat against Spain that saw them miss out on the knockout stages and the Czechs will face the Turks once more.

My predictions for this group go like this. Spain will top the group ahead of Croatia on goal difference. The Czech Republic will pick up just three points but this could be enough to see them make the knock out stages as one of the best third place teams. Turkey will find themselves propping up the group with 0 points.

Group E looks certain to be a tasty one. Euro 2012 finalists Italy find themselves taking on Sweden, Republic of Ireland and the rising Belgium. A good start is necessary for all sides, especially the Irish who had a disappointing Euro 2012. The Italians will hope to make another Euro final, albeit a winning one. Belgium will look to crown themselves European Champions as they look to put their rankings rise into a winning effort. The Swedes will look to Zlatan Ibrahimovic to lead them to Euro success. The 34 year linked with a move to Man Utd, will hope to help the side make the knockout stages.

The outlook for this group will see one with few wins. Italy will top the group with only the Irish managing to deny the Italians a 100% record. Ireland’s three draws will be enough to sneak second whilst a disappointing Belgium will hand Sweden and Ibrahimovic a bottom finish albeit on goal difference.

Group D and the final group is one of mystery. Made up of Portugal, who make their sixth consecutive finals (2004 as hosts),Hungary making their first appearance since 1972, Austria and debutants Iceland. To many it should look like Portugal should nail in this group but when you have  group with three unknown quantities, anything can happen and thats how it.

Hungary will win the group having only dropped a point against Portugal, who will take second after being denied victory against Iceland in a 2-2 draw. Iceland will mark their debut tournament with third place and a knockout stage. As for Austria it is another performance that shows why the nation continues to struggle.

So that’s my Euro group stage predictions done, I will sit back nervously and see how things go.

Euro 2016 – My predictions The group stages Part 1

It’s that  time again, yep a major football tournament finals finally arrives. Eighteen years after the World Cup was there, we are back in France. Euro 2016 sees the first expanded Euro finals for years and sees it take a leaf from FIFA’s book. With the top two in each group qualifying together with the best four third place teams. So thanks to Sky Sports wall chart predictor, I give to you my predictions.

Group A sees host France battle it out with Switzerland, Romania and new boy Albania. for me its a case of no surprises. Les Bleus, whilst opening up with  a draw against Romania, find themselves beating the Swiss and new boys Albania. Romania also remain unbeaten and it comes down to goal difference and the host nation taking top spot. The Swiss having managed two pre tournament friendly wins, will  continue to see their disappointing form continue as they only muster a win against debut nation Albania.

Group B is the interesting one for Home nation fans as it features England and Wales. They are joined by Slovakia and Russia. It looks to be a tight group. England go into the group with genuine positivity of progressing far in the tournament. Wales in the first finals since 1958 look to stake a claim in the top two. The Russians and Slovakians look to upset Engand and Wales, but in my opinion they will fall far short.

This is how I see Group B finishing. England will top the group whilst Slovakia will battle for second against Wales.finish second. What will lack in experiencec for Wales, will be made up with passion and unpredictablility. The Welsh will make it a home nations top two. Russia having struggled pre tournament will struggle in the finals only gaining two points.

Group C sees another home nation in the form of Northern Ireland. The Irish face a tricky group but they are on a great run and could certainly throw a spanner in the works. I cant see them finishing in the top two but they could find themselves finishing a respectable third. In their group are Germany, Ukraine and Poland. Germany will look to add to their World Cup win and bring the Spanish dominance to an end. An uninspiring pre tournament run will of course count for nothing as the Germans turn it on for the main event. Poland will look to push forward and make up for the disappointing Euro 2012 performance that saw them finish bottom of their group.

Group C will end with Germany pipping the Poles to second, Northern Ireland finishing third with the Ukraine missing out once more.

Well thats all for Part one, the next part will be coming very soon.

New rules -For the better?

On 1st June a number of new rules and changes will take place ready  for Euro 2016. It will be interesting  to see how much these will have an effect on the championship and how the referees deal with the rule changes.

Notably the biggest change of all comes from kick off. Since the first rules were introduced, when the game kicks off or restarts after a goal has been scored, the ball would have to move forward, from 1st June, players will be able to kick it in any direction. Crazy as it seems kicking off with the ball only able to go forward, has never brought any issues in the game whether it be professional or amateur. I dont know about anyone else, but at kick off we just got on with the game. Im not sure whether players will take that much advantage of this rule change.

Now one that may bring relief to some defenders unless they are on a yellow card or a clumsy oaf, is the ‘triple punishment’. The punishment for committing the same offence of bringing down the last man will no longer be met with a red card unless the violent conduct has been committed.

Players who like to partake in pre match fisticuffs will find that those scuffles will bring out the punishment of a red card. Should this happen, one or both teams won’t start with ten men, but the manager(s) in question will be able to use a substitute in place of the red carded player. I wouldn’t want to be the offender if during a game a player is injured and can’t be replaced because of a pretty match square up.

Now, football rule changes wouldnt be the same if the offside rules werent tinkered with. This one coud certainly make things interesting and see a few goals chalked off. First off no longer will hands or arms be counted in the decision and free kicks for offsides will be from where the offside offence is committed.

Penalty takers might want to take particular notice at one rule. if they attempt to feint or dummy the keeper as they take their penalty, they will be given a yellow card and not allowed to retake the kick.

With England friendlies counting including the rule changes, it will be interesting to see how things pan out.