Category Archives: Euro 2016

France crushes Iceland to meet Germany in Euro semi-final

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European Championship quarter-final

France 5-2 Iceland

France progresses to the semi-finals

France dazzlingly ended Iceland’s fairytale run in the European Championship to set up a mouth-watering encounter against Germany in the semi-finals of the tournament.

The host nation was comfortable throughout the match and appeared to have rediscovered their best form after several stuttering performances.

12 minutes passed from the starting whistle when the first goal came for France. Blaise Matuidi curves a fine pass over the top to Olivier Giroud, who strikes a low ball into the net with a first-time shot. Paul Pogba then doubled it 7 minutes after with a header.

Then two more goals before the break swiftly vanquish any hopes for a trademark Icelandic comeback. Dimitri Payet scored with a precise low strike, before Antoine Griezmann chips it past Hannes Halldorsson. It was 4-0 to France before half-time, a stroll in the park for Les Blues.

But the Icelanders, having shown spirit throughout, were not done. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson stabbed home at the near post from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross. Intent on snuffing a spark before a flame spreads, Giroud heads in a free-kick to restore the four-goal lead for France, restoring their four-goal advantage.

Thus, it was nothing more than a consolation as Birkir Bjarnason heads in Iceland’s second with six minutes left.

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One last Hurrah: Icelandic players team-up with their fans for the final Viking chant in Euro 2016.

In many sense, and aside from Wales’s progression to the semi-finals, France’s victory appears to be a sign that natural order is being restored; a genuine contender wrestling away what little budding dreams the small island nation had been allowed to grow throughout the past few weeks.

However, Iceland have every reason to be proud; with barely over 330, 000 under their flag they had won over the hearts of so many under so short a time.

It was a slightly disappointing note in which to end their happy run, but as their fans’ Viking chant defiantly echoed at Stade de France long after the final whistle, anyone can tell that it was not over for the little country. And none could ever take away the sheer immensity of their achievement.

Portugal beats Poland by penalties to reach semi-final

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Euro 2016 quarter-finals

Portugal vs Poland 1 -1

(Portugal wins 5-3 on penalties)

Portugal defeated Poland by penalties to become the first team that reaches the semi-final stage of the 2016 European Championship.

This time around, Fernando Santos’s team made themselves out to be the better team deserving of a win.

They were not quite in the game when their opposition’s star captain Robert Lewandowski struck the first goal in normal time. The striker had his usual clinical finishing at the ready when Kamil Grosicki’s found him with a low cut back after just 100 seconds.

Portugal remained courageous amidst adversity, with Cristiano Ronaldo getting two opportunities to equalize. First he was found open by a Nani pass but shot the ball straight to Lukasz Fabianski, and then should have a penalty when Michal Pazdan charged into him.

But Portugal finally rested doubters about them being a one-man team. 18-year-old Renato Sanches equalized 12 minutes before normal time break with a thumping left-footed shot from the edge of the area, which took a deflection off Grzegorz Krychowiak.

He then followed up act by nervelessly stepping up and converting his team’s second penalty.

After Nani pulled Portugal ahead by 4-3, Rui Patricio dived far to his left to block Jakub Blaszczykowski’s effort with one hand. Ricardo Quaresma was next, and while Fabianski got his fingertips to the effort, the Polish keeper failed to keep it out, thus sealing Poland’s fate and sparking delirium amongst Portuguese supporters.

“It was enormous pressure and I had an entire country in my hands,” Quaresma said after. “But I stayed positive and I knew I was going to score. I was very confident. We’re on the right track and we’re going to continue.”

Still, many would remark on how Porgual reached the last four without winning a single game in normal time after three draws in a group in which they finished third, and triumphing over Croatia in extra time in the last 16.

No side has ever got this far without winning a match within 90 minutes, and Portugal also only led a match for 22 minutes during the whole tournament.

In comparison, Poland had not trailed behind for a single minute.

Still, there is little room for error for Portugal next as they either face Belgium or Wales next.

Gerard Pique admits Spanish reign may be over

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Spain’s Gerard Pique competes with Italy’s Graziano Pelle for the ball.

UEFA EURO 2016 Round of 16

Italy vs Spain (2-0)

Italy progresses to the quarter-finals

Gerard Pique admitted that Spain no longer have the standard that won them two consecutive European Championships (2008, 2012) and the 2010 World Cup.

La Roja’s domination in major championships were shaky since their group stage exit in the 2014 World Cup, but their defeat at the hands of Italy marks a definitive end to their tournament winning form.

It was easy to say that Italy looked the stronger team in the match. Not only were they able to suppress the tiki-taka style that had been the backbone of Spain’s dominance for so long, they were also convincing in offence. If not for the lack of a superior finisher up front and David De Gea’s miraculous saves, the Azzurri could have ended the match a lot earlier.

Just after the half-hour mark, Pique fouled Graziano Pelle near the edge of the area. The resulting free-kick caught De Gea and the entire Spanish defense unawares, and although the Spanish No. 1 managed to keep it out he could not hold on to it.

Sensing vulnerability, the Italians were quick to pounce on the rebound – and after a brief struggle against the United keeper, Giorgio Chiellini slots it home.

After warding off a much stronger Spanish offense in the second half, Pelle volleyed in Italy’s second in the dying minutes of the game to seal his team’s victory.

Pique issued the need for a “big reflection” following Spain’s defeat.

“I think it’s lots of things, not just the level of the players. I think [there is] the style of football, even though we’re doing the same thing,” he said.

“We are not as effective as we were in the way we thought we had to play. It’s a bit of everything,” he added. “I think we have to undertake a big reflection, both in terms of style and level, and face up to the next two years.”

“Obviously, the first thing is that we have to qualify [for the 2018 World Cup], but we have to raise our level if we want to have a chance of winning big competitions.”

 

Roy Hodgson: ‘I don’t really know what I am doing here’

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UEFA Euro 2016 Round of 16

England vs Iceland (1-2)

Iceland advances into quarter-finals

Roy Hodgson told a media conference in Chantilly “I don’t really know what I am doing here.”

Earlier, the England team he led into the European Championship knockout stages suffered their worst humiliation since they were knocked out of the 1950 World Cup by USA in Brazil as Iceland stunned them with early goals to win 2-1.

Wayne Rooney converted a fourth-minute penalty for an early English lead but Iceland immediately equalized not more than a minute later with a trademark long throw which Ragnar Sigurdsson bundled home.

Then Iceland won the game as a defensive failure allowed Kolbeinn Sigthorsson a shot within the area, but it went into the net only thanks to another blunder by England keeper Joe Hart.

Changes were quickly made to enforce England’s attack, but Iceland dug in to keep them out. Even then, the nation, ranked 37th in the world and with just a population of 330,000, was able to create significant chances to end the game early.

It was a landmark win for the islanders, which they commemorated – led by their team captain Aron Gunnarsson – with their trademark clap-chant alongside their supporters.

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A mesmerizing Iceland team celebrated alongside their supporters with their clap-chant.

Hodgson had previously announced his immediate resignation as England’s coach during the post-match conference after the match.

“I don’t really know what I am doing here. I thought my statement last night was sufficient,” he said.

“I’m no longer the England manager, my time has gone but I was told it was important that I appear here.”

Although his four years in managing yielded nothing but disastrous defeats in major tournaments, Hodgson said he appeared before the media because he did not want to give the impression that he was “frightened.” However, he added that he did so in reluctance.

“I was not forced to come here. I did so because I have never shirked a press conference, because I have never run away from anybody,” he said.

“So much is going to be written about our failure to get to the quarter-finals that nothing I can say would do anything other than fuel the flames, possibly.”

This much was true as the match approached its end; fans chanted out in hurt and despair to every English player in general “you’re not fit to wear the shirt!”