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Thursday, 30 June 2016

Poland v Portugal Match Analysis

Poland got off to a storming start. A shocking bit of defending from Southampton's Cedric allowed Poland's Kamil Grosicki to get in behind and float the ball into the box for the main man Robert Lewandowski to finish first time with a genius finish to make it 1-0 to Poland. The drought was over for Lewandowski who grabbed his first goal at Euro 2016. Poland continued to dominate the game and tested Rui Patricio in the Portugal goal on several occasions mainly through the lively Arkadiusz Milik.

Portugal started to come into the game from the 25th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo was pushed to the ground by Polish defender Pazdan but the referee saw nothing wrong with it and gave no penalty. Ronaldo was infuriated with the decision being denied a clear penalty after the clumsy defending of Pazdan. Soon after Portugal were level. After some elaborate play from Nani who backheeled the ball to Renato Sanches who shifted the ball and took aim to fire the ball into the back of the net past Lukas Fabianski to make it 1-1. The wonder kid announcing himself in style at Euro 2016 grabbing his first goal for his country. Although the ball did take a slight deflection off Grzegorz Krychowiak it should take nothing away from the brilliance of that goal.

The second half didn't have the same verve as the first half. The first clear chance we saw was from Poland. Jedrzejczyk sent the cross into the box to be hot my Milik but Rui Patricio was there with an instinctive reaction save the deny Poland. The dullness that epitomised the second half was summed up when Pep surged forward from his backline and looked to play in Ronaldo but Jedrzejczyk got to it first and sent it flying towards goal but Fabianski was able to smother the ball to leave the score at 1-1. A frankly mind numbing half of football at this point EastEnders seemed a better source of entertainment than this game.

The game went into extra time. If you thought the second half was dull then you hadn't seen anything. The 30 minutes of extra time were eventless with both teams looking tired and ragged and offering up nothing in terms of any real quality. If you were still watching and hadn't fallen asleep the game went to a penalty shootout and thankfully they're never dull. After a perfect 4 penalties for both teams former Poland captain Blaszczykowski stepped up and saw his penalty saved by Patricio after he aimed for the bottom corner but Portugals number one read his intentions and denied the Borussia Dortmund man. Portugal now had the chance to win the shootout and the man it fell to, Ricardo Quaresma with penalty number 5 for Portugal. The chance to be the hero was there for the maveric winger who made no mistake and slotted home the penalty to send Portugal to the semi finals. The ego of Cristiano Ronaldo may need some care as he usally has the task of penalty number 5 to seize the glory but not today he was number one on the list. Of course Cristiano is surly more concerned with his teams progression rather than satisfying his ego.

Incredibly Portugal are through to the semi finals without winning a game in regular time. Their 2-1 win over Croatia came after extra time in the last 16. It is quite astonishing that Portugal have not actually won a game in normal time an yet they are in the finals. Have they been lucky or is it good tactical structure set up by manager Fernando Santos as we saw him do with his previous teams. One thing that is certain is that they haven't shown us what they can truly do with the players in that squad so where better to turn on the style than is a semi final, especially for Ronaldo who has cut a fustrated figure at Euro 2016. Can he show his true self and lead his nation past Wales or Belgium to reach the final?

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

England vs Iceland

All of the talk prior to tonight's match up with Iceland has surrounded speculation on Roy Hodgson's team selection following a dominating but ultimately toothless display against Slovakia. Speculation has persisted that Adam Lallana was either injured or would be dropped, which would see the return of Harry Kane to the starting lineup. England needed goals. It really was as simple as that. The front line of Sturridge, Kane and Sterling had been the favoured prediction from most of the press, then an hour before the game, their foresight was confirmed.

The England line up looked attacking and Hodgson's men adopted an aggressive formation from the start, seemingly with a view to putting the Iceland team very much 'in their place'.

90 minutes later, Roy Hodgson and his backroom team have resigned. England's reputation is in tatters. A 2-1 loss to a team displaying all of the Viking spirit of their forefathers, but handed to them on a plate by an insipid approach to conceding a goal, inconsistency and the lack of any real plan from the so-called superior footballing nation. This isn't truly about the Iceland team though is it? It's about tactical ineptitude, a lack of any composure on the ball, poor movement, maladroit application and schoolboy defending.

England had started very positively. Raheem Sterling, trying to prove worthy of his place, was played a through ball on 4 minutes on which he got the slightest nudge on the ball to knock it into touch, but a questionable challenge from Halldorsson, took Sterling's legs from under him, leaving the referee to make what appeared to be the correct call in pointing to the spot. Wayne Rooney, converted the penalty with typical aplomb and surely we all felt the rout was on? Straight from the kick off, Iceland challenged hard to get on the end of an enormous throw in from Gunnarsson which resulted in Ragnar Sigurdsson picking off of a flick from Arnason to hit the ball home for an equaliser. The length of England's lead? 84 seconds. This is where it all went wrong. The Icelanders, far from being content with an equaliser, drew confidence from the indecision of and the space created by the England defence and the recalled Kyle Walker in particular. They continued to challenge with fast paced, direct aggressive play. Their attacking intent paid off when on 18 minutes, Sigthorsson latched on to a loose ball on the edge of the 18 yard area and managed to push a scuffed (and very saveable) attempt past a hapless Joe Hart.

A complete paucity of creativity from that point onward and minimal effort saw the England team capitulate to the most embarrassing defeat since a team of part-time American's beat the all-conquering England side in 1950. Hodgson had to fall on his sword, so poor was the second half display in particular. What his immediate and seemingly prepared departure statement did though, was deny us an explanation, from his perspective, as to what actually went wrong. He owes us that explanation and many questions at all levels within the game, will be asked over the coming months..

On the pitch few can look themselves in the mirror tonight and Hart will take much of the blame. This City keeper is a good shot stopper and talented athlete, but his mistakes always seem to come when he has time to think. The second goal was bread and butter for a keeper of Hart's talent, yet all he could do was slow an already pedestrian shot down, but not enough to stop it creeping agonisingly over the line. The defence looked ragged throughout. Only Rose looked anything resembling the player he'd been in the Group stages. Chris Smalling, was nervous and indecisive, panicking whenever the ball came near him. Likewise Cahill, though not quite to the same extent. Kyle Walker, many 'experts' pick of the England team before tonight, was culpable of losing his marker for the first goal.

The England Midfield wasn't much better. Dier, completely ineffective in the first half, was withdrawn at half time and replaced by the unfit and clumsy Wilshere. The less said about that the better. Rooney had a reasonable first half and was at the heart of every English attack. The second half saw him losing all of his composure and making control errors, misplacing short passes and getting nowhere near his intended target with the longer ones. Ali was the proverbial headless chicken and missed England's best chance.

At the front, Kane and Sturbridge were full of running but ultimately, wretched in their application of the most basic facets of the game. Nobody demonstrated any craft, or leadership. Certainly by the time Marcus Rashford entered the fray on 85 minutes, it was too late for England. Yet Rashford, England's youngest ever tournament player, was the one tiny positive that we can take from the game, creating more chances in his brief 8 minute spell than the entire team had created in the second half. The question need to be asked though; Why did Rashford only get on the pitch at 85 minutes? It was obvious to any casual observer that nothing was going to happen with the 11 men on the pitch and that change was needed. Much earlier.

In the final analysis, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of Roy Hodgson. An intelligent, multi-lingual, pleasant gentleman who was ultimately out of his depth and who froze when big decisions needed to be made. It would be a shame to see him personally lambasted in the press. He made many mistakes but he was never right for the job in the first place. This embarrassing, ignoble and inglorious exit to the tenacious Icelandic minnows, will prove to be Hodgson's legacy. That's probably a shame, but such risk comes with the job and the expectation of a deeply disappointed and very hurt nation.

The plucky Icelanders have won many friends at this tournament. This team, drawn from a population of just 360,000 people, proves the point regarding being better than the sum of its parts. They came into the tournament having only conceded 6 goals in 10 qualifying games. Their disciplined approach during the group stages, saw them enter the last 16 with the same record as England and be in no doubt, Iceland deserved their victory. They worked hard and flummoxed an England team with their surprisingly positive tactics. The English just didn't know how to respond and were justifiably knocked out of the Tournament. Prior to the game, there was never any real concern with whether this England side would concede any goals or have any chance of losing this game. How very wrong we were!

Chris W

Monday, 27 June 2016

Italy v Spain Match Analysis

Italy put in a dominant performance to beat defending Champions Spain 2-0 and progress to the Quarter finals of Euro 2016. It was a tactical battle in which Italy manager Antonio Conte romped to victory in, leaving Spain manager Vicente del Bosque looking like yesterdays manager.

Italy took the lead on the 33rd minute through strong centre back Giorgio Chiellini after David De Gea saved brilliantly from Eder's fiercly struck free kick and was somehow able to smother Emmanuele Giaccherini's follow up effort but he was powerless to stop Chiellini tapping in the rebound to give Italy a 1-0 lead. It took the herorics of David De Gea to stop Italy increasing their lead in the closing stages of the 1st half. De Gea lept into the air to tip Emmanuele Giaccherini's long range effort over the bar. An outstanding save from the Manchester United number one who was now saving his country in the same way he has his club over the last 3 years. All in a days work for the world class stopper. Spain were lost for idea's in the first half, clearly having no idea as to how to adapt their game to outfox Italy and Antonio Conte's masterplan.

Spain slowly grew into the game after half time and were able to control the possession as they usually do and as they couldn't in the first half. However, it was David De Gea who was the standout performer again after Graziano Pelle played Eder through on goal but he was denied by De Gea. Spain tried to force and equaliser but found the legend that is Gianluigi Buffon stood in their way. Buffon saved efforts from Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique to keep the score at 1-0 for the nation he has won 160 caps for. The captians saves proved vital. A minute after Buffon saved spectacularly from Pique's volley Graziano Pelle finished off the Spainish with a sweet finish that summed up the style and finesse of Italy in this game.It was enough to make Antonio Conte climp on top of the dugout. 2-0 Italy and a place in the Quarter finals secured.

There were not many who fancied Italy to triumph over the holders. However, they didn't take into account the tactical master that is Antonio Conte who in this game put in the best tactical performance of any manager at Euro 2016. The Italy manager is famous for his incredible attention to detail, it was clear to see that Conte had drilled his team relentlessly on the perfect plan to beat Spain. The big difference for Italy compared to recent tournemants is the fact they have one of the best managers around who is capable of tactically outfoxing any manager in world football. It may not be the strongest group of Italian players we've seen but the major difference is that this Italy team is molded in the image of their manager, uncompromising and tenacious but they have the quality and the skill to stike fear into any team.

Spain have not recovered from the 5-1 humiliation to Holland and eventual group stage elimination at the 2014 World Cup. They look a team who are stuck in the past looking to evolve their style but seem afraid to. It is clear that the possession obsession style has been figured out by teams. Spain have lost a number of world class players such as Xavi and Charles Puyol to internantional retirement over the last few years but the quality in their national pool is still incredible. Serious questions need to be asked of Vicente del Bosque as to why he chose to call up players such as Lucas Vazquez and Bruno Soriano ahead of the likes of Sergi Roberto and Juan Mata. Spain have a new generation of quality players but it is a different style of player and the style needs to evolve to suit this new generation of players. Is Vicente del Bosque the right man to take this new generation forward? That's the decision for the Spanish FA but it is looking like he is not able to evolve with this new generation of Spanish players

Hungary vs Belgium Match Analysis

Hungary played Belgium at Toulouse for the sixth match of the round of 16 for the Euros. Both, of course, needed a win to qualify for the quarter finals against Wales, however, it was pretty difficult to pick out a winner till the very end of the game which made for some interesting watching.
The first half was all Belgium, they were on the front foot, dominating the opposition half and passing the ball around very well, in fact to such an extent that by the 10th minute, they were a goal up thanks to Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld, who got a free header and shot right behind the keeper from De Bruyne's free kick. This stopped all Hungarian operations and made them think for a minute, however, Belgium tried very well to exploit this opportunity and score another but the Hungarian goalie, Gabor Kiraly, kept the Hungarians in the game. 
Hungary v Belgium - EURO 2016 - Round of 16
Hungary decided to step up after about 40 minutes, when they started getting a few shots on target and giving a good battle in mid field, their chances, however, were a lot less than those of the Belgians, and they needed to step up their game further, but they were still in it, or so it seemed. The biggest highlight of the first half other than the goal would have to be Kevin De Bruyne, his work rate and intellect was unbeatable, he did not however, get a goal today, tried very hard and certainly deserved one though.
The first half ended at 0-1 with a game of "ping pong" in the injury time. A decent talk by either of the managers during the break would have made all the difference were things to carry on the way they were.
The game of ping pong did carry on and to be honest, it did become boring for quite some time. Both teams got their chances but none finished, thanks to a few offsides and bad luck, the score remained the same. An interesting thing to note was the desperation for a goal by Hungary, it was very interesting to see them try to battle it out and not give up like a few teams did in the group stages, they changed their tactics, gave a shot to possession based play and it seemed to work for them, but not enough to get them on the score sheet.
A man called Michy Batshuayi was subbed on for Romelu Lukaku in the 76th minute and it all went haywire, in just 60 seconds of being on the pitch, Batshuayi got a touch on the ball, and just like that he scored the second goal for Belgium. However, a lot of the credit must be given to Eden Hazard who decided to put his foot on the gas and after some good dribbling and passing, got a fantastic assist and that wasn't the end of the story for him, he returned to the Hungarian box about 3 minutes later on a counter to score another magnificent goal from outside the box. He had a few moments before being subbed off and he made them count, a great game by the Chelsea man. 
Credit must be given to Hungary though, even after being 3-0 down, they were pushing for a goal, they did not lose hope and that's quite important in a game of football. They got very close to scoring soon after the goal but Courtois wanted to keep a clean sheet and allowed Belgium to counter, which further allowed Yannick Carrasco to score a fourth goal for Belgium, total domination by the Belgian Red Devils tonight.
The game of ping pong resumed but not a lot happened after the fourth goal, the deed was pretty much done and Hungary had been broken down successfully. The match ended with the score at 0-4. Belgium now face Wales in the second Quarter Final on Friday at the Stade Pierre Mauroy.
Overall both teams played very well till the end, Hungary's team spirit and motivation is indeed commendable, they tried their best but it just wasn't enough. The defence was pretty shabby in the beginning but improved quite a bit, especially in majority of the second half, but it completely disappeared for the last two goals, and that's probably the reason you shouldn't push for goals when you're 3 goals down and have 9 minutes to play. Good tactics on their end, but everything went to hell after those 12 minutes of goals.
Belgium on the other hand were much like France in this game, the mid field was flawless, a lot of great passes were kicked about and some good defensive tackles were made, their finishing wasn't all that good until the 78th minute though but the only problem that was notable, was a poor defensive mid, while the attack was quite perfect and the back four was the stronger one, the defensive mid allowed the Hungarians strikers to get very close to the box and the goal, in fact it is quite a miracle that they didn't score tonight. However, they can go very far  in the tournament if they play like this. 
It is indeed sad to see Hungary go but at the same time, it would be interesting to see what Belgium and Wales do in the Quarter final. The last two games of the Round of 16 will be played tomorrow at St Dennis and Nice. 
Manchester United Player Focus
  • Marouanne Fellaini (BEL) : He was subbed on for Hazard in the 81st minute and his involvement was pretty notable as soon as he stepped on. He played the role of the defensive mid fielder that was needed and used his height very well at that. He did not participate directly in the scoring of the fourth goal but played a major role in fuelling the counter attack. However, he is Marouanne Fellaini and he had to commit a foul, an unnecessary one at that, he elbowed a Hungarian player in the 92nd minute which got him a nice little booking for no reason. When will you learn Felli?
Images : Indian Express, GOAL, Mirror
This article and more would be up on The Premier League Way as well, be sure to check them out and follow them for the latest news of the Premier League.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Germany v Slovakia Match Analysis

Germany put in an imperious performance to put Slovakia to the sword and show off their Euro 2016 winning credentials. There was no need for extra time, penalties or late winners need for the Germans who were just too good for Slovakia to cope with.

It didn't take long for the Germans to show what they can do. On the 8th minute Jerome Boateng put Germany ahead with a deflected volley. The Slovakian's were facing a near impossible challenge to get anything from Germany before the game had hit the 10 minute mark. 5 minutes later Liverpool's Martin Skrtel pushed Mario Gomez to the ground to concede a penalty. Mesut Ozil had the chance to double Germany's lead but he saw his penalty saved by Kozacik in the Slovakia goal. The 2nd Arsenal player to miss a penalty in the space of 27 hours at Euro 2016. Germany continued their dominance despite the miss and doubled their lead with Julian Draxler setting up the much criticised Mario Gomez who made no mistake to give Germany a 2-0 lead going into the break.

The commanding lead allowed Germany manager Joachim Low to shuffle his pack and give some of his players a rest ahead of a quarter final tie against Spain or Italy. Germamy were in cruise control for the second half. Demonstrating their impressive game management and ruthless efficiency not allowing Slovakia to get back into the game. Germany were able to rap up the win with a third goal. Julian Draxler tapping in from close range after some lazy defending from Slovakia from a Germany corner. Slovakia showing the world how not to defend zonaly from set pieces. Extremly poor from the Slovaks.

This was the perfect performance from Germany who laid down a real marker at Euro 2016. It was a performance of total domination and ultimate professionalism. Once again the real standout performer was Toni Kroos who dominated the game completing 87 passes in the game with 53 of those passed forward. Once again a dominant performance from Kroos but a progressive one with over half of his passes forward and not square. The defence of Germany was much criticised before the tournemant but Germany are the only team at Euro 2016 yet to concede a goal. Germany's scoring record is only bettered by the surprise package of the tournemant Wales. Germany have this incredible nack of finding ways to win at tournemants and they are showing it yet again. They are so difficult to play against in every way which is why they have to now be the favourites to win this competition as no other team can boast such strength in all area'a of the pitch.
Slovakia will be pleased to have reached the last 16 and it was always going to be a step to far against the imperious Germans despite their friendly win over Germany before the tournemant. They will be disappointed with their defensive performance in this game with Martin Skrtel showing exactly why Jurgen Klopp wants to show him the door at Liverpool. Skrtel put in a performance of reckless ameaturish defending that put his team under pressure throughout the game. It was incredibly poor for a player who has managed to play at a club like Liverpool for 8 years but perhaps todays performance shows why Liverpool have struggled so much at the back in recent years with Skrtel at the heart of their defence.

France v Republic of Ireland Match Analysis

The Irish media billed this game as a revenge mission, referring to Thierry Henry's handling of the ball in the build up to a goal during a playoff for qualification to the 2010 World Cup finals. French coach, Didier Deschamps, played this down, stating that "In football, there is no revenge", and I'm sure he was sincerely hoping this would be the case, as failure to reach the last eight would be seen as disastrous for the host nation. The overriding motivational factor for Ireland, as well as wanting to do it for themselves and their army of fans, was most likely to be a possible quarter final tie against the old enemy, England.

For the French supporters, their main concern centred around the fact that this team of superbly gifted footballers has largely played within themselves so far. Could this be the day that they threw off the shackles, and cut loose with a display of expressive, free-flowing attacking football?
The Irish fans, however, were asking the opposite question. Namely, could this team of largely technically limited players maintain the exceptionally high standards that they had achieved in the game against Italy?

With kick off approaching, these, and many other questions, were about to be answered.

Martin O'Neill unsurprisingly named an unchanged side from the Italian game, while Deschamps reverted to the team that he started the tournament with.
Straight from kick off Ireland looked to play the ball forward, an unsettled defence allowed Shane Long to control the ball in the penalty area, Pogba's clumsy challenge brought him down and the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Robbie Brady, the hero from Lille on Wednesday evening, and despatched the spot-kick to put the Irish fans in dreamland.

As expected, France came to life. No time to feel out the opposition and play their way into the game, they had to push forward whenever they had the ball. The Irish didn't panic though, and looked to counter at every opportunity, and when they did get forward the French full backs looked decidedly uncomfortable.

Paul Pogba had clearly been identified as the danger man, and was on the end of some fairly agricultural challenges whenever he carried the ball towards the Irish goal. Roy Keane's words about doing whatever it takes to get a result had been taken on board, and a yellow card for Seamus Coleman was rightly shown.
Midway through the half N'Golo Kanté was also booked, the result of this being a suspension for the next game, should France make it through.

The game turned scrappy, with fouls and injuries interrupting the flow, which perfectly suited O'Neill's men, as the longer they held onto the lead, the more frustrated France seemed to become. Ireland should have doubled their lead on 41 minutes as Keogh outjumped the French defence and got his head on the end of a free kick, but was unable to steer the ball towards goal. The fouls and yellow cards continued to come, and with halftime looming, Hendricks and Rami had also been ruled out of their next international match.

France upped the pressure in added time, with only some last-ditch, scrambled defending keeping Randolph's goal intact. Nevertheless, when the referee blew the whistle, Ireland had survived, and left the field with a deserved one nil lead.

Deschamps made an attacking substitution at halftime, Kingsley Coman replacing Kanté, signalling France's attacking intent. Straightaway he made a difference, and the Irish back four looked terrified whenever he ran at them with the ball at his feet. With so many players pushing forward, France looked vulnerable to the counter, so the game started to open up slightly.
France fashioned an equaliser on 57 minutes when an unmarked Griezmann met Giroud's cross from the right hand side, and his powerful header beat Randolph to level the tie.

 Three minutes later, the ball broke to Griezmann on the edge of the Irish box, and this time he steered a shot low into the bottom corner. Two one to France, could Ireland find a way back?

On 65 minutes Ireland pressed the self destruct button, Griezmann (who else?) bore down on goal, Duffy could only hack him down to prevent the shot, and the referee had no chance but to show the defender a red card. The only positive thing Ireland could take from this was the fact that it happened just outside the penalty box, as a penalty, and a third goal, would've completely crushed the Irish spirit.

As it was, Ireland continued to defend well, although they struggled to cope with the movement of the French forwards. A man down, they had nobody to play the ball to whenever they won it back, so invited waves of French pressure onto a beleaguered back line. Depleted, and chasing shadows for much of the rest of the half, the Irish team began to wilt in the afternoon sun. France could, and perhaps should, have scored more, Gignac in particular being guilty of some poor finishing.

Two one was the final score, France deservedly progressing to the next round. Griezmann caught the eye because of his goals, and Coman's speed and movement was also a highlight, but for me, the best player was Pogba. When Kanté came off, Pogba moved into a deeper role and played it superbly,  and with Kanté unavailable for the next round, I wonder if Deschamps will be tempted to play him there from the start.

France, at times, did play in a manner that their fans expect. Although Ireland going down to ten men helped them in that respect, so there is still a question for them to answer.
Ireland, on the other hand, answered their fans question, as they showed that despite their best efforts, it was impossible to maintain such a high performance level for another 90 minutes.

So, France march on, to the sound of the Marseillaise, while the Republic of Ireland's dressing room will be deafened by the sound of silence.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Croatia v Portugal - Match Analysis

Heading into today's round of 16, of all three Saturday fixtures this game is set up to be the feature. Taking into account both of the teams previous results in their last group game, it'd be surprising if this game wasn't a thriller. Croatia stunned all with a classy display and a convincing 2-1 win over holders Spain, whilst Portugal were enthralled in a 3-3 draw with first placed Hungary in group F.

Portugal have been off the boil so far this tournament, whilst far from awful they still have a lot to prove in the coming game, main man Cristiano Ronaldo will set to be the focal point if they are to come away with a win. Croatia themselves reached the quarter finals in 2008, and with Luka Modric passed fit, have it all to play for to better themselves compared to previous years.

Quick statistics board before they take to kick off doesn't look great for Croatia, as Portugal have won all three of their encounters, scoring six goals and conceding none. Although they are unbeaten in their last 10 internationals (W8 D2), the longest current run among all teams involved at Euro 2016.
As kick off went through, Croatia started strongly, as was the case for a lot of the first half, Luka Modric of Real Madrid and rival team Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic kept hold of possession, although there wasn't much to show for it. Portugal's game plan seemed to suit the situation though, looking for an inkling on the break for Nani and Ronaldo.

Cagey games are expected throughout the last 16, but it seemed pretty unassuming of both teams, especially for Croatia who definitely will be looking to take the game to the Portuguese contingency.

A second half was just as disappointing, with little chances and no shot on target, as end to end as this game has been you can't help but feel disappointed considering the talent on show. Both teams fans, players and unbiased a like know that penalties are coming. The objective is to see it out, the less risk of conceding the better, damage limitation at its finest.

In what seems a very sparse game, I apologise for jinxing the situation in which I stated this could be a classic. Hopefully penalties will liven up the situation, although from what we can judge so far maybe it will have to go sudden death after both sides miss five. Here I am preaching to the choir, and Portugal score the potential winner. Nani returning the favour with a splendid through ball to Ronaldo, the keeper did fantastic to parry but sadly into the path of substitute Quaresma.

A flurry of players up into the Portugal penalty box, Croatia throwing the kitchen sink and all the utensils, Pjaca pushed in the box and you have to think more honest players would of gone down. A final push as keeper Subasic came up into the box, with an absolutely magnificent attempt at goal from defender Vida, as his acrobatic attempt skimmed the outside of the post.

Portugal pulled off a fantastic, if not plucky smash and grab job, even redefining the term. Croatia for all their efforts still struggled to get a shot on target, commiserations to them in the loss.

Wales v Northern Ireland Match Analysis

If there was ever a greater display of the unifying power of sport than that which has been on display at this tournament, then I've yet to see it. After the violence and public disorder of the first week, the beautiful game came to the fore and transfixed the continent with a blend of light entertainment, tension and high drama. Then we had a two day break, and Europe went to hell and in a hand-cart - politically speaking at least. You see what happens when there's no football? With everything that has happened in the last two days, Europe, and particularly the UK, needs a distraction, and in this game we have the perfect diversion to the news dominating the headlines.

After topping their group, Wales headed into this fixture full of confidence, especially because some of the relatively unknown players, particularly Ben Davies and James Chester, have stepped out of the shadows of their more illustrious teammates. The goal threat of Bale, the tireless running of Ramsey and the calm, accurate passing game of Joe Allen have turned this previously unfancied team into many peoples tournament dark horses. But, could they reproduce the heroics of the Russian performance against a dogged and resilient Northern Ireland, who, despite spending the majority of their opening games being completely dominated by the opposition, have only conceded two goals?

When you consider the many divisions in Northern Irish society, the level of unity shown by their football team is quite staggering, couple that with the fact that they only have 40 professional footballers to choose from, and it's a miracle that they are even here at all. Yet, here they are, 90 minutes away from the quarter-finals. Qualification made them heroes, getting through to the knockouts made them legends, a victory today would make them immortal.

Wales started the game with an unchanged side, while O' Neill opted to bring Lafferty back into the fold after being dropped for the last two matches. Predictably, Northern Ireland looked to close down the Welsh at every opportunity and use the long, diagonal ball to Lafferty as an attacking platform. A good strike by Dallas on nine minutes, after a surprisingly tidy passing move, brought the first save of the match by Hennessy in the Welsh goal. Meanwhile, Chris Coleman had obviously identified the left back area as a weakness, and looked to attack the Irish down the right flank at every opportunity.

The derby atmosphere and the familiarity of the players made for a fairly tense opening half hour, with neither side dominating for any length of time. Bale looked the most dangerous for Wales, and so wasn't allowed any time to settle on the ball, however when he did find space he looked sharp. Davis emerged as Northern Ireland's most effective player, winning the ball and bringing others into play with some clever passing.
Tactically, O'Neill won the first half. The three centre backs crowded out the Welsh attack, with the full backs taking an advanced position, preventing their opposite numbers from joining the build up. Because of this, Wales never looked fully settled, so the nil nil scoreline would've been gratefully received in the Welsh dugout.

Northern Ireland started the second half on the front foot, causing Wales to defend resolutely, with high pressing from the men in green and white forcing free kicks in dangerous areas. Wales needed a different option as an 'out' ball, which prompted Coleman to put Robson-Kanu on for the ineffective Vokes. Straight after the substitution, Bale was fouled some 35 yards from goal. With his ability and recent record it looked like being the breakthrough that Wales needed, however, McGovern had done his homework and made the save from Bale's dangerous free kick.

With 20 minutes to go, as players started to tire, the game began to open up, although clear cut chances were still few and far between. Northern Ireland looked the most dangerous until the 74th minute, when an unattended Bale sent a low cross into the box from the left that was turned into his own net by Gareth McAuley. It was a cruel blow for the Ulstermen, and a reminder of just how important Gareth Bale is to the Welsh football team.

The final 15 minutes were played out with no real opening from either side, Northern Ireland had given everything and were now running on fumes, while Wales found a second wind that saw them over the line. With hope fading and time running out Michael O'Neill cut a forlorn figure on the touchline, as his Welsh counterpart animatedly directed his players from the technical area.

 The full-time whistle was met with wild celebrations from a Welsh side who, quite honestly, were second best for most of the game. Once again, the worlds most expensive footballer proved to be the difference, providing the decisive ball that forced an error which broke the hearts of the green and white army.

After a tumultuous week in which the British electorate had opted to exit the European Union, one corner of the United Kingdom has earned the right to remain in Europe, for a little while at least.

Poland v Switzerland Match Analysis

Poland triumphed over Switzerland winning 5-4 on penalties to book their place in the last 8 of Euro 2016. The 2 sides couldn't be separated after 120 minutes so it ultimately took a shocking shootout  miss from Arsenal new boy Granit Xhaka to be the decider

Poland should have been ahead after 30 seconds after a shambolic mix up in the Switzerland defence when former Arsenal hero Johan Djouoru passed short to his goalkeeper Yan Sommer and it fell to Robert Lewandowski instead but Sommer was able to smother the effort from the Bayern Munich man. However, it then fell to Arkaduisz Milik to blasted over the bar. Switzerland were incredibly flat in the 1st half unable to show any real quality compared to the energetic attacking play of the Polish. Poland were rewarded for their attacking play in the 39th minute when Kamil Grosicki broke down the left side to get the ball in the box to find Blaszczykowski who slotted the ball through Sommer to give Poland a 1-0 lead going into the break.

Switzerland were much better in the 2nd half and were troubling the Poland defence more than in the 1st half but there was stil a lack of real quality from the Swiss. That changed when there was a moment of sheer majestic brilliance from Stoke man Xherdan Shaqiri. A clearance from Pazdan in the Poland box fell to Shaqiri who was 18 yards from goal twisted in the air to acrobatically smash the ball past Lukas Fabianski. A perfect overhead kick from Shaqiri. You wont see a better goal than that at this tournemant. It was 1-1 and game on!

The game went to extra time with both teams looking tired and lacking any real inspiration. It was no surprise it went to penalties. It was the perfect shootout for both teams with a 100% record from the spot each. That was until the £30 million Granit Xhaka stepped up for the Swiss and blasted his penalty wide, a truly terrible penalty from Xhaka. That gave Poland the chance to take advantage and they sure did that, Krychowiak with the winning penalty to send the Polish through to the Quarter finals and send the Swiss players on their holidays before the new season starts.

Poland will be delighted to get through to the Quarter finals and continue their journey in France. Switzerland will be bitterly disappointed after a number of underwhelming performances in ther games especially from their star players in particular Granit Xhaka who was only only able to demomstrate his backwards and sidewards passing in the 4 games. He certainly has a lot of work to do to be a success in the Premier League. There is also a question to be asked of the manager of Switzerland Vladimir Petković as to why he persisted with the non existent Haris Seferovic who was shockingly bad in all ther games he played offering absoloutley nothing to his team. It may be the best grou of Swiss players evetr but they are certainly not one of the best teams at Euro 2016 in fact their performances have shown them to be one of the worst.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Italy vs Ireland Match Analysis

Group E toppers, Italy faced off against The Republic Of Ireland at Stade Pierre Mauroy for their final match of the group stage. While Italy had already qualified for the round of 16, a win for Ireland would seal one for them and rule out Turkey in the third place standings. 
Italy boss Antonio Conte made a total of eight changes to the squad that faced Sweden a few days ago, they kicked off and were looking like the Italy we're used to seeing, but the coin flipped real quick as the Irish got on the offensive and started pushing very well quite early on in the game.
Italy had their fair share of chances, but they were either too tough or were closed down pretty well by the Irish defenders. Much to everyone's surprise, Ireland totally dominated the first half, there were a ton of chances that could've been finished had it not been for some poor finishing. They often used to choke in and around the box  but you must hand it to the Italian defence for reacting to the pressure quite well. However, while the defence was fairly strong. the attacking was pretty bad, I believe Antonio Conte understood that very well, he seemed extremely angry on the side line. Perhaps the Italians got that and were starting to improve right before the break.
This betterment was then boosted in the second half as Ireland kicked it off, perhaps Conte just bashed them as soon as they sat down in the dressing room and it seemed to work, that is another reason why Manchester United vs Chelsea would be very interesting to watch. 
The match then became more like a see-saw with the ball roaming around both boxes pretty quick, the half carried on like that for majority of the time, both teams got their chances but none were finished and then came on the sub that made all the difference, Wes Hoolahan was brought on for James McCarthy in the 77th minute. Exactly 8 minutes later, he put a beautiful cross onto Robbie Brady's head and the ball was shot right into the net. The stadium went crazy, Ireland were about to make history, and this goal was perhaps a motivating factor as we saw a lot of good tackles and defending in the remaining 5-8 minutes. The ref blew the final whistle and that was that. 
Ireland beat Italy 1-0 to reach the round of 16, they face France up next while Italy face off against the Spanish 
Overall, the Irish dominated the game in general, they were statistically ahead and that gave them the upper hand, they need to work on their passing up front if they want to give the game against France a serious shot, other than that, the midfield battle would be interesting to watch
Cannot say much about the Italians though, they played their second team, the game didn't matter to them as much, so there were several factors which affected their performance, all I can say is that the back 3 is going to be really tough to beat for the Spanish, it would indeed be interesting to see how the game pans out.

Manchester United Player Focus
  • Matteo Darmian : He was brought on for Bernardeschi in the 60th minute, but wasn't able to make much of an impact on the game, his crosses weren't all that good, other than one which was unlucky to be met by the goalie first. Could he be better? Yes Should he be let go from United? Probably C

The article will be up on The Premier League Way as well, be sure to check it out for everything related to the Premier League

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Hungary v Portugal Match Analysis

All the talk before this game centred around Portugal's talismanic frontman Cristiano Ronaldo, who has so far struggled to cope with having the expectations of an entire nation resting on his broad, gym-sculpted shoulders. Only today, he grabbed a reporter's microphone and threw it into a lake, although, going by the wayward finishing he has so far displayed in this tournament, I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that he was actually trying to throw the mic somewhere else. Wayward finishing aside, he has been by far Portugal's best player so far. Other attacking talents, such as Nani and Quaresma, have drifted in and out of the two games they have played, and neither the midfield or defence have covered themselves in any glory. If only Portugal had a player along the lines of N'Golo Kanté at the heart of midfield they would look like a much more balanced team. Alas, this is not the case, so for the third consecutive game Portugal are going into a game hoping that their attacking prowess will be enough to overpower seemingly weaker opposition.

And what of the opposition? Hungary have gone about their business with a quiet confidence, happy to let the likes of Iceland and Northern Ireland take the headlines for punching above their weight. Their coach, Bernd Storck, has imbued the team with a typically German combination of hard work and efficiency that belies their technical limitations. One weak link is the goalkeeper, Gabor Kiraly, who doesn't look comfortable dealing with high balls, although, in his tracksuit bottoms, he does look quite comfy at all other times.

The game started with Portugal having most of the possession, moving the ball through midfield quite quickly. A very organised Hungarian back four did well to prevent any of the Portuguese strikers having a clear shot on goal. When Hungary won the ball back they weren't afraid to go forward, with the number nine, Szalai, being the obvious target for long range passes.

After a fairly uneventful 17 minutes, Hungary won a corner which was cleared, but only as far as Zoltan Gera who teed up a magnificent left foot strike, low into the bottom corner of Rui Patricio's goal.

After this, I think everybody watching the game expected to see Portugal move through the gears and pin Hungary back into their own 18 yard area, however this failed to materialise. But for a poor shot, straight at the keeper on 23 minutes from Akos Elek after a great run by Szalai, Hungary would've been two goals up before Portugal had got going.

Ronaldo had a chance to draw his team level, when a poor challenge on Gomes resulted in a free kick from 35 yards. He struck the ball well, however Kiraly was equal to the task, and pushed the ball wide. The rest of the first half was played mostly in the Hungarian half of the field, with Portugal unable to find any space to play through. A combination of poor passing and robust defending looked like preventing Portugal from finding a way through until Ronaldo threaded a wonderful ball to Nani inside the penalty box, whose shot left the keeper with no chance.

1-1 and Portugal were back in the game, and back in the tournament.

Hungary went back in front on 46 minutes after a wicked deflection on a Dzudzsak free-kick completely wrong footed the keeper. Once more Portugal were staring at the exit door.

A quick response was badly needed, and it was predictably provided by Ronaldo. A cross by Mario from the right hand side was met by Ronaldo, his movement across the defender was excellent, and a cheeky finish with the heel of his boot brought the travelling Portuguese fans to life.

Unbelievably, Dzudzsak put Hungary back in front after another free kick was blocked by the wall, the Hungarian number 7 picked up the loose ball, drove into the box and blasted it into the net.

3-2, with only 54 minutes on the clock. Could Portugal come back from the dead for a third time in this crazy game?

From that point on, the shape of the game disintegrated completely. Portugal had to push forward at every opportunity, with Hungary constantly snapping at their heels. After 61 minutes Portugal equalised again through Ronaldo. A whipped cross from the left hand side was met with a prodigious leap, the powerful header once again leaving Kiraly with no chance.

3-3, and no way of telling what the final score might be. A draw should be good enough to see Portugal through, but sitting back and hoping to keep Hungary at bay was too risky, so they kept on attacking, and Hungary kept on breaking downfield, causing panic amongst the Portuguese section of the crowd.

In the last 20 minutes of the game  Hungary visibly began to tire, with the massive physical effort put in by every player inevitably having an effect. This, coupled with Portugal's intelligent substitutions made for a tense end to a thrilling encounter. Sanchez and Quaresma roamed menacingly around in the Hungarian half, stretching the defence and creating space for Ronaldo, who seemed determined to drag his team singlehandedly through to the knockout stages.

3-3 was the final score in what I believe has been the best game of the tournament so far. On balance, it was probably the right result, although it could have gone either way. Having said that, it would've been cruel if Hungary had lost, as their team spirit and monumental work-rate deserved a reward. And what a reward: top of the group, from where they can now relax with a beer in front of the TV and find out who they'll be battling it out with in Toulouse next week for a place in the quarter finals.

After 30 years in the football wilderness, with long distant memories of legends from a bygone era still haunting the dressing room, Hungary once more have a team to be proud of.

Back to run the show, it's the Return of the Mag.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Croatia v Spain Match Analysis

Spain's place in the last 16 of Euro 2016 was already confirmed before they kicked off against Croatia thanks to 2 wins from their previous 2 games. Croatia sat on 4 points from their 2 games but were not guaranteed a place in the top 2. Vicente Del Bosque kept faith the same team that has served him well in the 2 previous games. Meanwhile Ante Cacic made 5 changes to his Croatia team with Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic not risked due to minor injuries.

In the early stages of the game it looked like the 5 Croatian changes would haunt Ante Cacic. Spain were at their sparkling best culminating in David Silva coasting a delightful ball across the box to Cesc Fabregas who lifted the ball over Daniel Subasic in the Croatia goal for Alvaro Morata to tap into the empty net. Spain didn't build on the promising start with some sloppiness creeping into their play. David De Gea made an uncharacteristic mistake taking too long to pass the ball and when he finally did he passed it straight to Ivan Rakitic who nearly made a fool of the Manchester United keeper with a audatious chip. Luckily for De Gea the bar and the post spared his blushes. On the cusp of half time the Spanish number 1 was finally beaten with Nikola Kalanic getting on the end of Ivan Peresic's ball from the left to beat De Gea with a super finish to make it 1-1. Kalanic did what Mario Mandzukic couldn't do in the last 2 games, run in behind the opposition defence and make the most of the the creative talents of the players around him.

The second half was a rather dull affair up until the the 70th minute when David Silva was brought down by Sime Vrsalijko. Unusually Sergio Ramos stepped up to take the penalty but was unable to convert with Daniel Subasic saving well to his right hand side. Big questions really do need to be asked as to why a central defender was taking a penalty when Spain have so many gifted players who could take a penalty and would take better penalties. Spain were made to pay for that penalty miss when Ivan Peresic stormed up the pitch into the box and beat David De Gea at his near bost to make it 2-1 to Croatia. The dark horses of the competition announced themselves with a fantastic win over the competition holders.

The win was even more impressive for Croatia considering the changes made to the team and the fact they were missing their best player Luka Modric. Winning the group has enabled Croatia to be in the same side of the draw for the Quarter finals as Belgium and Wales who are the only real threats to them not going far in this tournament. As for Spain, their lacklustre performance has cost them. Finishing second in the group has booked them a last 16 game with Italy who have been the best team of Euro 2016 so far. Should Spain get past Italy they have the prospect of facing France, Germany and England in the latter stages. One poor performance has made Spain's route to the final a real hurdle and for a team not playing at their best and playing frankly really lacklustre van Gaalesque football they go into these games against their fellow contenders as underdogs.

Northern Ireland vs Germany Match Analysis

Northern Ireland played Germany at Paris in their final match in the group stage and while the Germans required anything other than a loss to go into the next round, a win was pretty necessary for the Northern Irish to avoid the third place qualification troubles.
Northern Ireland kicked off the first half, and right off the bat seemed promising, they beat the lines and pulled Neuer out of his box, but it was all useless in the blink of an eye though, the Germans showed why they were the world champions by countering ever so well. It did not have much of an effect, but Michael O'Neill's men seemed to take a step back to understand how the Germans were lining up, not a good move.

It wasn't much of a surprise to see the Germans constantly subjecting the opposition with attack after attack, so much so that by the 10th minute, they should've been up by 2 goals, credit given to the Northern Ireland goalkeeper, who was in top form and stopped both from ending up behind the net. Germany exploited the fact that the the Northern Irish had taken a step back early on in the game and simply dominated the half, the ball rarely ended up in their half and it was pretty surprising to see them goalless, of course, the goalkeeper, who was constantly being worked, did very well, but the overall finishing of the Germans (especially Mario Gotze) was far from impressive.
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It was around the half hour mark when Thomas Muller, who was denied about three times, ran through the defence into the box and when McGovern advanced, he passed the ball to Mario Gomez, who finished it quite well into an open goal. While conceding a goal is a boost to several teams, Northern Ireland's condition did not improve. They were constantly stuck between wanting to attack and leaving spaces because any left were being exploited already. The half ended at 0-1 and while the Northern Irish boss had a lot to talk about, I believe all Joachim Low said to his team was "a little more of that with some proper finishing please".
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As it happened, Germany followed that, well, most of it at least. Their domination did not seem to take a break and they started the half with two chances again, both to Mario Gotze, but again, McGovern saved the day. It wasn't long before the scorer of the goal that won Germany the world cup was subbed off for the man that provided the assist, Andre Schurrle, it would be interesting to see if Low would start Gotze in the knockout stages. 
Northern Ireland did seem to improve a little as well, they were slightly more confident moving forward as Steven Davis made a good run to call the German defence into action, but it wasn't much of a problem for them. The real boost in confidence came when Kyle Lafferty was subbed on for Washington, who didn't contribute to the attack as much as he would've wanted to. Perhaps Germany realised the threat and took a small step back, they were faster on the counter so it wasn't much of a problem anyway.
The game then returned back to its original state, with Germany attacking and Northern Ireland defending, McGovern made a few good saves again, Mario Gomez was perhaps the most active of all, but it all came down to that one goal, not what we were expecting.
Overall, Germany were well organised, they were tactically ahead, faster and smarter in general, while the defence was quite solid and the midfield was at its best, the attack looked slightly off with some poor finishing, they must work on that to reach far in the competition.
Northern Ireland on the other hand, had a disastrous game, Michael McGovern was their best player on the field and while the defence was good, the midfield could not seem to put a decent long ball in, and the attack was unable to make an impact in the game. They were tactically weak and weren't able to cope with the pressure put on them by the world champions, it would be nice to see them advance in the tournament, but if they are to play like this, it shall only end in disappointment. 
Manchester United Player Focus
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger (GER) : He was subbed on for Sami Khedira in the 69th minute which made him the most capped German player in a European Championship. He did not have much of an impact on the game other than a few crosses here and there, of course, we cannot expect him to dominate every match right after returning from injury, but he does seem promising for the season to come. 
  • Paddy McNair (NIR) : On the bench, did not play.
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Slovakia vs England match analysis:

Following England’s heroic last-gasp winner in stoppage time against Wales, hopes were high ahead of a match with Slovakia, where a win of any kind would be enough to secure 1st place in the group and ensure that we would be facing a third placed team in the last 16. Although on paper it seemed like a straight forward win for England, this would not be the case, as despite a match long assault on the Slovakian goal, Roy’s boy’s were unable to find the back of the net, meaning that yet again English fans were left disappointed, with top spot in Group B being stolen from our grasp by the Welsh whom recorded a straightforward 3-0 victory which sent Russia crashing out of the tournament (I doubt they’ll be missed).

Hodgson had rung the changes for this final group game, with there being six changes from the line up against the Welsh, both full backs were replaced, as well as Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson coming into the midfield, with Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge also coming into the side following their goals in the previous outing. The match itself started very promisingly with England dominating and keeping the ball in the Slovakian half, although this was to be a trend for the entire 90 minutes. Jamie Vardy was the first Englishman to squander a glorious chance as following an exquisite ball in behind by Jordan Henderson, he found himself in a position in which he routinely scored from for Leicester throughout the season however in this case with his nation watching on in anticipation Vardy fired straight at the keeper wasting a golden opportunity. Henderson, Lallana and Sturridge would also be among the plethora of players who failed to convert chances laid on plate for themselves, however it would be full back Clyne who had England’s chance of the half as following a terrific run up field he would only see his shot deflect off keeper Kozacik and sail harmlessly over the bar. However despite their sheer dominance it at one point looked like England had thrown all of their hard work away, as following a moment of hesitance from Three lion’s keeper Joe hart and centre back Chris Smalling, Slovakian forward Robert Mak was left with simplest of chances, but thankfully he failed to make proper contact letting Hart and Smalling off the hook, this moment does however raise questions over England’s frailties at the back, as it was the defence that had been seen as our main weakness pre tournament.

The second half proved to be very much more of the same for England, with the ball predominantly staying in the Slovakian half, substitute Delle Alli saw his half volley cleared off the line, when it seemed almost impossible for the ball not to end up in the net. Despite our dominance and attacking substitutions England were only able to must up one other clear scoring opportunity, as following a ball over the top by Eric Dier, forward Daniel Sturridge somehow managed to miss the ball when attempting to shoot, this chance came just yards away from the Slovakian goal. The last 10 minutes were filled with ridiculous time wasting from the Slovakians, with players constantly going down injured and bringing a pause to proceedings as a result, even though it seemed as if they had no injury at all.

This all meant England fans would yet again be left feeling frustrated after watching their country, as despite great chances and 30 shots on the Slovakian goal the match ended in 0-0, meaning England could be left with last-16 tie against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal next Monday. Roy Hodgson has an entire week to prepare his players for their first (and perhaps last) knockout match of the tournament and to hopefully help his strikers find their shooting boots, as if he fails to do this the game next Monday may prove to be Roy Hodgson’s final outing as England manager.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Wales v Russia Match Analysis

It was simple for Wales, beat Russia and guarantee qualification for the last 16 of Euro 2016. It was also a precarious position for Wales who could even have finished bottom of the group had results gone against them. However, it's not in the makeup of this Wales team to hide when they have to get the job done and wow they sure got it done in real style.

Wales have started their previous 2 games at Euro 2016 quickly and they continued in that vein against Russia with the midfield and forward players pushing high up the pitch against an aging Russia team. The positivity of the Welsh was soon rewarded with the energetic Joe Allen feeding the ball through to Aaron Ramsey who delightfully chipped Igor Akinfeev in the Russia goal to make it 1-0 to Wales and ease the pressure. It would have been understandable for Wales to sit back after taking the lead but this fearless team wanted to qualify for the last 16 in style. The formation of Wales caused Russia all sorts of problems with the wing backs getting in acres of space when Wales won the ball and countered quickly with the Russian team playing incredibly narrow. It was another one of those devastating Wales counter attacks that again unlocked the door. Gareth Bale surged forward and was actually robbed of the ball but it fell to Neil Taylor steaming forward into the box to slot the ball home to make it 2-0 to Wales. The stuff of dreams for Wales who were cruising to the last 16.

It was important for Wales to keep the momentum going in the second half and not let Russia back into the game. That is exactly what Wales did. There was no let up from the Welsh with Russia not learning from the mistakes of the first half. Gareth Bale became a bigger influence in the second half with several powerful runs at the Russian defence causing havoc but just not a quite finding the finishing touch to finish off Russia. Bale soon got his moment to finish off the Russians with a move of real style culminating in Aaron Ramsey finding Gareth Bale who poked the ball past Akinfeev and it was 3-0 and job done for Wales.

England's 0-0 draw with Slovakia means Wales top the group and go through as group winners with arguably the best performance of any team at Euro 2016 all be it against a shambolic Russian team but you can only beat what is in front of you and that was how to win a game. Many tipped Wales for exit at the group stage and believed Wales were happy just to be there. That is not the philosophy of Chris Coleman or these Welsh players who are the surprise team of the tournament. They are always aiming as high as they can and have finished at the very top of their group. Now Wales wait to see who they will face in the last 16 but one thing for sure is that this team will go into the game with no fear and will be together stronger.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

France v Switzerland - Match Analysis

Both teams sit with different feelings within their camps, hosts France sit with two wins from two and will most likely cruise to another when they kick off at 8pm tonight. Whilst the Swiss so far will be searching for something more to kick start their campaign, only scraping a draw and win against the two outsiders of the group.

Didier Deschamps rang the changes to his squad, with a safety net of points and anything from a draw upwards will confirm the top spot as West Ham's Payet and Manchester United's Anthony Martial take to the bench along with French talisman Oliver Giroud. Andre-Pierre Gignac, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko come into a team that looks set to take the point.

From the draw against Romania coach Vladimir Petković makes one change to the starting line up, Haris Seferović drops to the bench and in comes highly-rated FC Basel forward Breel Embolo, who is currently linked with a move to Manchester United. Wide men Mehmedi and Shaqiri keep their places as they look to offer service to the young front man.

As kick off looms, L'equipe can't be confident of their performances so far, although the pressure of hosting may have some part to play, solo feats from Payet in particular have saved face. Maybe against a Swiss side that need the win to be sure of second place qualifier, the game will open up and suit the wide men of both teams.

Whilst the squad was changed, the intensity of Moussa Sissoko seemed to add urgency to the midfield, it seemed France had been lacking in previous games. Many have slated the starting eleven as substandard, but talent is evident in depth. Switzerland this tournament have the quality but miss the clinical aspect of the final ball. A big chance for the Swiss from a corner, Pogba facing the ball up to his own goal, covered by Lloris, but still worrying for the French defence.

Pogba for the most part found a lot of space and forced a top save from Bundesliga keeper Sommer who nearly dropped it into his own net. Once again Sommer denied Pogba after great determination on the edge of the box. For all of the games so far, this has been the most intense and fast paced game yet. The swiss struggled to pick up the french midfield and became overrun, and this was the main reason Embolo struggled to create anything up front, with little support and Shaqiri having little or no impact. The half fizzled out as Switzerland settled into their passing rhythm after 30 minutes of disarray.
Sad to say the highlight early on in the second half was the ball popping, something many had never witnessed before and became a talking point, embarrassingly. Swiss having finished the half strongly in possession seemed more than happy to carry that over, interesting to see whether Deschamps will rest the key stars and settle for the draw. Griezmann looking to open his account after a fabulous bit of play with Gignac, only to fire straight at the keeper, throwing his fists disappointingly. 

One note for the french side will be looking to improve is their defending from set pieces, missing a real leader at the back seems to effect the organisation. As Rio Ferdinand stated in the half time analysis, France aren't generally gelling as a team so far, but can win games on pure individual talent the game became sparse of ideas, whilst both just seemed happy to settle for a point each, making no real difference to the standings. Enter Payet. As previously mentioned, Sissoko made a thought for food with a stunning run to set up Payet at the back post, who struck the crossbar on the volley. 

Being a 0-0 final result, reflecting on the way the game started many would be shocked, considering how much action there was in the face of goal. Both teams walk away happy, along with Albania winning 1-0 in the other game in Group A, Romania will be the team going home. Plenty for both managers take away from that game, regardless of the changes made.

Portugal vs Austria Match Analysis

Portugal faced Austria in the final match of match day 2 and while the latter had won their match against Hungary and could do with even a point, the former needed a desperate win to qualify for the knockout stages
The Portuguese started the first half quite well, with Nani getting a few chances early on, but nothing came of them. The first quarter of the match was mostly back and side passing by both teams but it picked up its pace by the 17th minute as Portugal got very close to scoring again, they seemed to be a threat every time they launched an attack but thanks to some poor passing up front, nothing really developed. Meanwhile Austria were constantly on the defensive, they were well organised and that helped them overcome the threat of the Portuguese attack, which seemed quite simillar to that of an energetic Manchester United. 
The rush ended by the half hour mark and it seemed to be back to normal, both teams introduced the ball to the keepers' gloves again, but thanks to some lousy attacking by the Austrians and poor set pieces by the Portuguese, nothing ended up in the net. The closest Portugal got to scoring  in the half was from, in fact, a set piece in the 28th minute when Nani hit the pole, a pole that was bound to see a lot more than that. 
The Austrian goalie, Robert Almer, must be praised for this draw though, he played very well and made some crucial saves later in the half to keep the scoreline at 0-0 till the break.
Austria kicked off the second half, and right off the bat they took the ball all the way to Rui Patricio (the Portuguese goalie), who saved Arnautovic's long ranged shot, personally, I thought, Austria had decided to put their foot on the gas but Portugal had different plans. From the 50th to the 69th minute, they dominated the game, and by dominated I mean the ball didn't go in their half more than twice. The tempo was high, the passing was better and the only thing missing was a decent finish or a mistake by Almer, the latter was more likely to happen to be honest, as Austria's chemistry wasn't at its very best. They seemed to be searching for a counter, got none and ran back to defend to secure at least the point that they had. 
Even when the Portuguese's tempo had gone down, Austria seemed scared to attack, they were constantly oscillating between attack and defence, and that wasn't really working out for them. It all seemed to come to an end in the 77th minute when Ronaldo was offered a penalty, only it didn't as he missed it.
Yes, you read that right, Christiano Ronaldo missed a penalty
He did try to make up for it as he scored from a header only to be shown the offside flag. To be fair to him, he worked really hard and probably deserved a goal, but it just wasn't his day. In the dying moments of the game, Portugal launched a series of attacks but Austria stood strong.
The game ended at 0-0, the second of the tournament
Overall, the Portuguese mid and defence look very solid, but they need to work on their finishing if they want to be taken seriously. They face Hungary next and are yet to win a match. At two points, it would be very tough to guarantee a spot in the knockout stage, but it is totally possible. As far as Austria are concerned, this game was quite different from the one against Hungary in several aspects, they need to work on their chemistry and need to have a solid game plan, if they do, they need to implement it. Their qualification is almost sealed as they face Iceland in their final match of the group stage it all comes down to match day 3 for group F.

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