STARTING TO PICK UP
Well what can I say? The Euros is finally here having been postponed by one year due to the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. The tournament has certainly lived up to expectations as far as I’m concerned. The group stages provided some moments that we will remember for years to come, such as Scotland’s performance against their old rivals England. Although the game ended in a goalless draw, you have to admire the way the Scots attacked and created chances after chances (some might argue that England were lucky). We also cannot forget Christian Eriksen, the Danish international who suffered a cardiac arrest in the Denmark vs Finland game.
Thankfully, Eriksen survived the ordeal which has since inspired his Denmark team mates as they progress further in the competition. We enjoyed the France vs Portugal game which ended in a 2-2 draw. We have witnessed Portugal captain Ronaldo become the greatest international goal scorer as he sits at the summit along with Iran’s Ali Daei on 109 goals for their respective countries. The Azzurri (Italy) also impressed under the stewardship of one Roberto Mancini during the group stage and will definitely be full of confidence. Belgium looked good also as they are spearheaded in attack by Lukaku in a team that boasts abundant talent.
The group stage certainly does wet the appetite for more thrills and spills. However, it is the knockout stage I look forward to the most. At this stage there are no second chances. Either you come with your A game or find yourself on the nearest bus or plane home……..the tournament holds no prisoners as quite a few teams found out this past week. This is where the drama unfolds and heroes and legends are forged. A chance for players, managers and teams to write their names in the history books (only the bravest and the strongest survive).
The round of 16 games brought about the elimination of Wales and Gareth Bale’s hopes of glory as they were beaten 4-0 by a resilient Denmark side who seem to be playing for Eriksen (hopefully they continue the positive steps they are taking). Italy were victorious against Austria as the game ended 2-1. Austria were unfortunate not to get more from the match because they really played well and definitely deserved more. Czech Republic advanced into the quarter finals having defeated the Netherlands by two goals to nil. The Netherlands will rue some of the chances missed but will be back better and stronger in the future. The toughest game on paper was quite possibly the Belgium vs Portugal match. Belgium were victorious as they won 1-0 against Portugal (current cup holders). They just had too much quality for the Portuguese to contend with (nevermind Ronny, the World Cup is only around the corner).
Monday unleashed a night of back to back entertainment as Croatia were eventually beaten by Spain 5-3. The match was end to end but Spain did just about enough to see them over the line. Commiserations to team captain, Modric and Croatia. The biggest shock or upset of the Euros so far has to be France’s exit from the tournament. The world champions were knocked out by Switzerland. Going a goal behind in the 15th minute of play, France were able to dig deep and exercise their quality as they equalised and raced to a 3-1 lead. However Switzerland pushed back and tied the game 3-3 after extra time. The match was won on penalties as Mbappe missed his effort and the rest is history (well done Switzerland and very well deserved too!!).
The final games of the round of 16 matches saw England FINALLY overcome a 55 year old hoodoo as they beat long running nemesis Germany. Southgate’s men should be supported and credited for their performance (especially Raheem Sterling) against Germany. Sterling was able to break the deadlock in the 75th minute before England captain sealed victory for the nation in the 86th minute. Chants of “its coming home….its coming home” could be heard all over the Country (I’m sure the staff at Buckingham Palace got in on the sing along also hehehe!!). The 3 Lions progress to the quarter finals of the tournament and will be in confident mood for sure. Ukraine ended Sweden’s hopes win a 2-1 victory after extra time. Sweden have showed a lot of promise in the tournament and should be proud of their accomplishment (Forsberg….what a player). The game itself was an absolutely classic, nothing but share attacking football on displays. Well done boys.