The awesome football continues

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The awesome football continues!

Just over a week ago I wrote about the opening round and how refreshing it was to go through a round with no goalless draws. Wigga took me on about the quantity of goals in a brief discussion on twitter but I think secretly even he had to concede that the quality of goals in the opening round and the fact that there were no boring draws speaks volumes about the football that was on display.

There were some nil-nil results in the interim but I feel there were many more memorable games than forgettable ones in comparison to previous tournaments, FIFA World Cups included.

Austria will be one of the teams most disappointed with their final’s performance. They qualified unbeaten with 9 (nine) straight wins but couldn’t win a single match in group F. In fact a goalless draw with Portugal will be their only solace on the short flight back across the Alps.

Portugal are the only team to play three consecutive draws, the most memorable, a 3-3 with Hungary, who had already qualified and were only jostling for positions in the top or bottom half of the draw. With the result of the other match in the group known, the Hungarians literally passed the ball back and forth for the final few minutes while Portugal watched.

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Ronaldo scores for Portugal against Hungary, 3-3 in round 3 of the group stages

The underdogs are having quite a grand tournament with Northern Ireland advancing from Group C and Iceland from Group F where they have stolen the show! A tiny country with a population of under 330,000 (total), of whom approximately 8% are rumoured to be in France supporting the team. If you thought their opening match draw with Portugal was luck riding on adrenaline, you’d be hard pressed to describe the draw with Hungary as a fluke. In their final group F match they not only beat the more fancied Austrians, they played them off the pitch and survived a soft penalty miss. They face England next, a match they are quite capable of winning.

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Austria’s Dragović hits the post from the penalty spot in 2-1 loss to Iceland

Christiano Ronaldo continues to break records, and microphones, while his nemesis Messi scores almost at ease in the Copa. He finally broke his duck in the 2016 Euros with 2 goals against Hungary, his 17th European Championships appearance.

Wales, another of the underdogs, basically Gareth Bale and 10 mates from down at the pub,  qualified first from group B despite losing to England. Wales thumped Russia while England spluttered along against Slovakia. Roy’s tactics and selections questionable yet again. The point sees Slovakia through but Russia are on the way home, another failure for Putin, hot on the heels of the ban for doping handed to Sharapova and the athletics squad. 

Some of the favourites aren’t having things all their way either. Germany stuttered to a one-nil win over little Northern Ireland and in possibly the worst game of the tournament so far, drew nil-nil with Poland in what can only be described as a footballing non-event. It should be added that the Germans dominated the match with the Irish so much that Özil managed to record unbelievable stats:

Belgium aren’t convincing either. They lost the opener and then crushed Ireland. Their third match was against the worst side at the Euros, Sweden. Not even Albania went through their opening two matches without a shot on target.

Sweden’s talisman somewhat bizarrely chose to announce his retirement from international football before the third match. For Swedish fans this may yet turn out to be the highlight of their summer as the football was nothing short of dismal. Belgium devastated any hopes the Swedes had of progressing with a late goal and there ends Zlatan’s international career.

Defending champions, and recently de-throned World Champions, Spain not only conceded their first goal at a European Championship in what must feel like years to their opponents, they were thoroughly beaten by Croatia. The Spanish finish 2nd in the group and are added to an already impressive line-up in the bottom half of the draw.

On a side note, who the hell thought throwing up on a shirt would be an acceptable national team shirt for Spain?

The Croatians are arguably the surprise team of the tournament. Many will claim they are the real dark horses but we shouldn’t be surprised by their results, they are full of quality. They almost let it slip after leading by two against the Czechs when an incident with flares rattled them and they conceded two in quick succession. The Croatians quite possibly have the easiest path to the finals after topping their group with all the heavy-weights in the bottom half of the draw. 

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Perišić scores in the 87th minute against Spain for Croatia to go top of the group

The weekend ahead

On Saturday it gets serious with the first knockout rounds. Switzerland have a mountain to climb against Poland. Wales get to battle fellow Brits Northern Ireland, while Portugal, fortunate to qualify with 3 draws, have Croatia waiting for them.

On Sunday it’s  France against Eire, Germany against Slovakia and Hungary against Belgium. Belgium will need to get their act together to beat the plucky Eastern Europeans.

Monday night we have possibly the game of the round with Spain playing Italy, both flattering to deceive so far. The match in the round will see the neutral’s favourite, Iceland up against England. Both teams will fancy their chances and I can’t wait!

If that’s not enough for you, there’s a small matter of the 100th Copa America Final on Sunday night between Argentina and Chile to look forward to as well!

Images & Videos: Twitter

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