Eder strike sinks France as Portugal claim title

In the six games leading up to the final of Euro 2016 the Portuguese had barely used Eder. The big striker had spent thirteen minutes on the pitch at the tournament, with two substitute appearances the sum total of his contribution to Portugal’s run to the final. In the four matches before the final he had been an unused substitute, watching on as his teammates did the work. But in the final he got his chance, and he cemented a very special place in history by scoring the goal which delivered Portugal their first ever victory at a major tournament.

The Lille frontman came on with around ten minutes remaining in normal time, with the score tied at 0-0. He made an impact almost immediately, using his height and strength to great advantage as he won plenty of free kicks in dangerous positions. He was the player Portugal needed in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, the side’s captain, talisman and best player. Ronaldo was the hard luck story of the final, injured early on following a tackle by Dimitri Payet and unable to continue. He left on a stretcher after a valiant attempt to play out the match, crying in despair as he was carried down the race. The injury had left Portugal without a strong aerial option, a void which Eder could easily fill.

The French were strong favourites to lift the trophy in front of their home fans, and in the early stages they began to assert their authority. Antoine Griezmann, already a shoo-in for the golden boot with six goals, looked dangerous early and continually found himself in good positions. He could have had a seventh when he was in a perfect position to receive Payet’s nonchalant ball over the top, but Portugal survived. The header was perfectly placed, and had Rui Patricio failed to tip it over the bar it would have found its way into the top corner.

As the game wore on, the French became less threatening. They were still very confident, but they were content to pass the ball around the back and never really looked like penetrating the organised Portuguese front. France were not able to get their stars involved in the game, and while Moussa Sissoko looked very dangerous his contemporaries did not. They continued to pass the ball around the back, and in doing so they allowed Portugal to gain a solid foothold in the match.

The first half ended without much goalmouth activity, and the second half did not bring about a noticeable change in energy. Neither side was really injecting much pace into the game, and neither side was willing to take a chance. The French were on top of possession, but they were not using it effectively and were unable to pressure the Portuguese defence. Griezmann should have scored after he received a perfect cross from Kingsley Coman, but the header was just over the bar. The game remained scoreless.

As the second half drew to a close the game was still level, and neither side really looked like clinching it. Portugal had a great opportunity after Nani’s cross was palmed away by Hugo Lloris in the direction of Ricardo Quaresma, but the bicycle kick, while impressive, was ineffective. France had some great chances as the half drew to a close, and Andre-Pierre Gignac should have scored in injury time after he beat Pepe in the box to find the ball in an excellent position. His shot ran through Patricio’s legs as it made its way towards the goal, but it rebounded off the post and bounced past Griezmann, who was unable to retrieve it in time. The Portuguese cleared, and extra time was inevitable.

Eder started to find his feet in the first period of extra time, getting into good positions and using his physical superiority over the French defence to win plenty of the ball and plenty of fouls. He had a great chance as the half came to a close, with a close range header from Quaresma’s corner forcing Lloris to make an excellent save. The Portuguese had finished the first half of extra time on top, and they were able to turn that into something tangible just after the break. Raphael Guerreiro came close early on when he hit the underside of the bar with his free kick, and the goal followed moments later.

Eder took three fairly clumsy touches to control the ball when he received it outside the box. He had played well after replacing 18-year-old wunderkind Renato Sanches, but nothing he had done in half an hour on the pitch suggested what was about to happen next. He shot from range, placing the ball into the bottom corner with plenty of power. It was too much for Lloris, who was unable to reach it as it buried itself in the back of the net.

Eder’s goal left France in a state of panic, and they tried in vain to play at a faster pace. They were too young and inexperienced, and they did not have the presence of mind that they needed to overcome the deficit. The Portuguese were content to waste time whenever they were given the chance, and they looked in complete control as they held the hosts at bay. For the first time this tournament France did not have an answer, and Portugal were the ones left celebrating after clinging on to hoist the trophy at the Stade de France.

Saint-Denis – Stade de France
Portugal 1 (Eder 109)
France 0 (a.e.t)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Eng)

Portugal (4-1-3-2): Rui Patricio – Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; William Carvalho; Renato Sanches (Eder 79), Adrien Silva (Joao Moutinho 66), Joao Mario; Nani, Ronaldo (Quaresma 25).
France (4-2-3-1): Lloris – Sagna, Koscielny, Umtiti, Evra; Pogba, Matuidi; Sissoko (Martial 110), Griezmann, Payet (Coman 58); Giroud (Gignac 78).

UEFA Euro 2016 Final Preview – Portugal vs France

Portugal vs France, Stade de France, Saint-Denis


Road to the final

Portugal

Portugal 1 (Nani 31), Iceland 1 (B Bjarnason 50)
Portugal 0, Austria 0
Hungary 3 (Gera 19, Dzsudzsak 47, 55), Portugal 3 (Nani 42, Ronaldo 50, 62)
Croatia 0, Portugal 1 (Quaresma 117)
Poland 1 (Lewandowski 2), Portugal 1 (Renato Sanches 33) (a.e.t, Portugal won 5-3 on penalties)
Portugal 2 (Ronaldo 50, Nani 53), Wales 0

France

France 2 (Giroud 57, Payet 89), Romania 1 (Stancu 65 pen)
France 2 (Griezmann 90, Payet 90+6), Albania 0
Switzerland 0, France 0
France 2 (Griezmann 58, 61), Republic of Ireland 1 (Brady 2 pen)
France 5 (Giroud 12, 59, Pogba 20, Payet 43, Griezmann 45), Iceland 2 (Sigthorsson 56, B Bjarnason 84)
Germany 0, France 2 (Griezmann 45+2 pen, 72)

Top Scorers

Portugal

3 – Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo.
1 – Ricardo Quaresma, Renato Sanches.

France

6 – Antoine Griezmann.
3 – Olivier Giroud, Dimitri Payet.
1 – Paul Pogba.

Team News

Portugal

Pepe missed the game against Wales with a thigh injury, and while he is still in doubt he is likely to start in the final. William Carvalho is also set to return after he was suspended for the semi-final, with Danilo most likely to make way in the centre of midfield.
Likely team (4-1-3-2): Rui Patricio – Cedric, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; William Carvalho; Joao Mario, Renato Sanches, Adrien Silva; Nani, Ronaldo.

France

The French have been in strong form throughout the knockout stages, and Didier Deschamps is unlikely to make any changes to the team that beat Germany 2-0. They have no injuries or suspensions to deal with, and they will be hard to beat.
Likely team (4-2-3-1): Lloris – Sagna, Koscielny, Umtiti, Evra; Pogba, Matuidi; Sissoko, Griezmann, Payet; Giroud.

Key Duels

William Carvalho vs Antoine Griezmann

Griezmann is almost certain to claim the golden boot after scoring a brace against Germany in the semi-finals, and the Atletico Madrid star will look to be at his best again in the final. He has been incredibly effective playing in between attack and midfield, where he has been able to find plenty of space and has been able to attack at great pace. Griezmann has become the life of the French attack, and if Portugal are to win Carvalho will need to reduce his impact by restricting the space that he has to work with.

Renato Sanches vs Paul Pogba

The game could well hinge on this match-up. Sanches has been a revelation at this tournament, and in the final he will come up against Pogba, who is one of the best players in the world. Sanches is strong and pacy, and he has developed into one of Portugal’s biggest individual threats. Pogba will look to deny him the ball and will look to force him into defensive positions where he cannot make an impact on the break. For his part, Sanches will need to put plenty of pressure on Pogba, and he will try to find plenty of the ball.

Pepe/Jose Fonte vs Olivier Giroud

Giroud has been in excellent form throughout the tournament, and he can beat most players in the air. The Portuguese centre backs will be left with the difficult task of containing the Arsenal frontman, who has provided plenty of chances for Griezmann and Dimitri Payet with his ability to play the ball past the defence into open space. Both Pepe and Fonte will need to match him in the air, and they will look to keep him out of the game by removing him from the contest.

Joao Mario vs Patrice Evra/Bacary Sagna

Portugal tend to run most of their play through Mario, who roams around behind Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo and attempts to set up chances. He is not the most effective crosser, but he has been given plenty of space throughout the tournament and he consistently finds the ball in dangerous positions. Sagna and Evra will need to be at their best to ensure that Mario does not have a big impact on the match, and they will attempt to do this by closing off the space he has at his disposal. If the French can shut down Mario life will be very difficult for the Portuguese, who use him in almost all of their attacks.

Tactics

Portugal

The Portuguese will look to control possession and deny France the opportunity to involve Griezmann, Payet and Giroud. They tend to attack slowly while using plenty of width, and they are likely to put in plenty of crosses against the French. Nani and Ronaldo will be given plenty of freedom, and they could cause plenty of issues for the French defence.
Read my pre-tournament assessment of Portugal here

France

The French like to stay in control, and they will be content to play the ball around the midfield and keep it away from the Portuguese. They will look to do this to gain more space for Griezmann and Payet, who attack quickly and skilfully. Giroud will look to provide plenty of opportunities with his ability to hold up play, and the French will be comfortable to play on the counter-attack.
Read what I wrote about France pre-tournament here

Prediction

This game will be a good one, and in the end the team that can control the midfield will probably lift the trophy. The French pairing of Pogba and Blaise Matuidi are more experienced and stronger, and they should be able to play the game on their terms. Payet, Griezmann and Giroud form an incredibly dangerous combination, and they could well prove the difference between the sides. France 2-0.

Portugal outclass directionless Wales

Cristiano Ronaldo rose over Neil Taylor to meet Joao Mario’s looping cross. The ball had come in high, passing over most of the bodies who had amassed in the box and leaving Ronaldo with a perfect match-up at the back post. The Portuguese star had already played a strong game, but he was about to leave his mark on the match. His header into the top corner was just the beginning, and it kicked off a short period which booked Portugal’s spot in the final of Euro 2016.

Over the course of a few minutes Ronaldo transformed the semi-final between Portugal and Wales from an enticing contest into a foregone conclusion. The Portuguese captain scored and provided an assist to put the Welsh two goals down and out of contention. They recovered from a group stage defeat against England, and they recovered after going behind against Belgium, but they would not recover from this. It was over.

Ronaldo’s goal put all the pressure back on the Welsh, and minutes later he provided the sucker punch. This time Ronaldo was the creator, even if he did not intend to be. The Portuguese moved forward in numbers as they looked to counter-attack, and Ronaldo found himself in a good position to shoot. The effort was straight at Wayne Hennessey, but Nani was there and he deflected the shot past the Welsh keeper into the back of the net. The ball rolled over the line, and with it went Wales’ hopes of playing in their first ever major tournament final.

In truth, the Welsh were playing from behind right from the word go due to the unfair suspension of Aaron Ramsey, the player who linked everything together for them. Joe Allen looked lost, Ashley Williams had no-one to pass to and Gareth Bale seemed to be responsible for both setting up goals and scoring them. Unsurprisingly, he couldn’t do both at the same time.

Portugal were on top from the start, but the Welsh were well organised defensively and were not letting anything through. James Collins had Ronaldo covered, and Bale looked more dangerous than the Portuguese despite his relative lack of possession. He looked quick, explosive and powerful. He looked too good for Portugal. He looked too good for anyone. If only he had more of the ball.

The first half passed without too much action, with Bale providing most of the exciting moments. He provided the highlight of the half when he ran 70 metres down the right wing with an explosive burst of pace, but it came to nothing when his shot was drilled at Rui Patricio, who made the easy save. Then the second half began with Portugal’s rapid-fire goals, and the game was all but over.

Bale was working harder than anyone else on the pitch, but he couldn’t do it. He challenged Patricio with powerful long shots and created some great chances which he himself would have converted. He was good enough to penetrate the Portuguese defence, but Sam Vokes and Simon Church were not and he was needed elsewhere. The game trundled on towards its inevitable conclusion until Jonas Eriksson blew his whistle to signal a thoroughly deserved win for the Portuguese. They were more organised, more skilful and more composed, and they have a great chance of winning Euro 2016.

Lyon – Parc Olympique Lyonnais
Portugal 2 (Ronaldo 50, Nani 53)
Wales 0
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Swe)

Portugal (4-1-3-2): Rui Patricio – Cedric, Bruno Alves, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; Danilo; Joao Mario, Renato Sanches (Andre Gomes 74), Adrien Silva (Joao Moutinho 79); Nani (Quaresma 86), Ronaldo.
Wales (5-3-2): Hennessey – Gunter, Chester, Collins (J Williams 66), A Williams, Taylor; Allen, Ledley (Vokes 58), King; Robson-Kanu (Church 63), Bale.

Top 5
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Ronaldo had an excellent game up front, getting himself involved in the action and looking dangerous throughout. The Portuguese captain scored one goal and set up the other, and was the best player on the ground. He was at the top of his game and will be a massive threat in the final.
2. Gareth Bale (Wales)
Bale worked very hard up front and caused plenty of problems for the Portuguese with his mobility and explosive pace. He never gave up and was still a threat when the final whistle blew. He had an excellent game and can hold his head high.
3. Joao Mario (Portugal)
Mario was poor against Croatia and Poland but he was back at his best against Wales. He was clinical in his ball use and he made plenty of dangerous runs. He assisted Ronaldo’s goal and was continually getting into dangerous positions in attack, nearly scoring on a couple of occasions.
4. James Collins (Wales)
Collins was responsible for shutting down Ronaldo early on, and he did a fairly good job. He was never beaten in the air and he was able to shut down plenty of Portuguese attacks. He was substituted in the second half as Wales looked to come back, but he played well and can take some comfort from his performance.
5. Nani (Portugal)
Nani scored Portugal’s second goal with a clever deflection, and he complemented Ronaldo well in attack. He caused plenty of issues for the Welsh with his pace and ability to get into dangerous positions, and he was one of the best players on the field.

UEFA Euro 2016 Knockout Stage Preview – Germany vs France

Germany vs France, Stade Velodrome, Marseille


Match Log

Germany

Germany 2 (Mustafi 19, Schweinsteiger 90+2), Ukraine 0
Germany 0, Poland 0
Northern Ireland 0, Germany 1 (Gomez 30)
Germany 3 (Boateng 8, Gomez 43, Draxler 63), Slovakia 0
Germany 1 (Ozil 65), Italy 1 (Bonucci 78 pen) (a.e.t, Germany won 6-5 on penalties)

France

France 2 (Giroud 57, Payet 89), Romania 1 (Stancu 65 pen)
France 2 (Griezmann 90, Payet 90+6), Albania 0
Switzerland 0, France 0
France 2 (Griezmann 58, 61), Republic of Ireland 1 (Brady 2 pen)
France 5 (Giroud 12, 59, Pogba 20, Payet 43, Griezmann 45), Iceland 2 (Sigthorsson 56, Bjarnason 84)

Top Scorers

Germany

2 – Mario Gomez.
1 – Jerome Boateng, Julian Draxler, Shkodran Mustafi, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger.

France

4 – Antoine Griezmann.
3 – Olivier Giroud, Dimitri Payet.
1 – Paul Pogba.

Team News

Germany

Mario Gomez and Sami Khedira are both ruled out with injuries, and Bastian Schweinsteiger is in serious doubt with a knee problem. Furthermore, Mats Hummels picked up a second booking against Italy and is suspended, leaving Joachim Low with some serious selection issues. The Germans are likely to revert back to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Julian Draxler and Mario Gotze returning to play on the wings and Emre Can replacing Khedira. Thomas Muller should fill the void left by Gomez up front.
Likely team (4-2-3-1): Neuer – Kimmich, Howedes, Boateng, Hector; Can, Kroos; Draxler, Ozil, Gotze; Muller.

France

N’Golo Kante and Adil Rami are back from suspension, and it is likely that Samuel Umtiti and Moussa Sissoko will make way to accommodate their returns. Didier Deschamps has no other injury or suspension concerns, and he is not likely to make any big changes after a convincing 5-2 win over Iceland.
Likely team (4-3-3): Lloris – Sagna, Rami, Koscielny, Evra; Matuidi, Kante, Pogba; Griezmann, Giroud, Payet.

Keys to success

Germany

The Germans are likely to make three forced changes to the side that beat Italy on penalties, and the replacements will need to step up. The midfield will lose some of its solidity in the absence of Khedira, and the defence will need to be ready to deal with the step-up in pressure. With so many big outs the Germans will rely on Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller to step-up and get them through, and these players have to fire.

France

The French were in top form against Iceland, and they will be looking to play even better against the Germans. Dimitri Payet, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann have formed an incredibly dangerous combination, and they will look to keep up their excellent form. Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi looked very good against Iceland, and they will look to assert themselves over a relatively weak German midfield.

Prediction

This game is shaping up as a thriller, and it is very hard to see who will come out on top. The German defence is likely to face their toughest challenge yet from the French attack, and without Hummels they could struggle. The French are likely to gain the supremacy in midfield, but the Germans are clinical in possession and have the ability to hurt at the other end while keeping France at bay. Germany 2-1.

UEFA Euro 2016 Knockout Stage Preview – Wales vs Portugal

Wales vs Portugal, Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon


Match Log

Wales

Wales 2 (Bale 10, Robson-Kanu 81), Slovakia 1 (Duda 61)
England 2 (Vardy 56, Sturridge 90+2), Wales 1 (Bale 42)
Russia 0, Wales 3 (Ramsey 11, Taylor 20, Bale 67)
Wales 1 (McAuley 75 og), Northern Ireland 0
Wales 3 (A Williams 31, Robson-Kanu 55, Vokes 86), Belgium 1 (Nainggolan 13)

Portugal

Portugal 1 (Nani 31), Iceland 1 (B Bjarnason 50)
Portugal 0, Austria 0
Hungary 3 (Gera 19, Dzsudzsak 47, 55), Portugal 3 (Nani 42, Ronaldo 50, 62)
Croatia 0, Portugal 1 (Quaresma 117) (a.e.t)
Poland 1 (Lewandowski 2), Portugal 1 (Renato Sanches 33) (a.e.t, Portugal won 5-3 on penalties)

Top Scorers

Wales

3 – Gareth Bale.
2 – Hal Robson-Kanu.
1 – Aaron Ramsey, Neil Taylor, Sam Vokes, Ashley Williams.

Portugal

2 – Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo.
1 – Ricardo Quaresma, Renato Sanches.

Team News

Wales

Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies picked up suspensions in the win over Belgium, and both of them will have to be replaced. Davies can be easily replaced by James Collins, but greater issues surround Ramsey, who dominated against Belgium and is in great touch. Jonathan Williams and Andy King are in line to replace him, and it is unclear which one Chris Coleman will pick. Hal Robson-Kanu had an excellent game after replacing Sam Vokes and should keep his spot.
Likely team (3-5-2): Hennessey – Chester, A Williams, Collins; Gunter, Allen, Ledley, J Williams, Taylor; Robson-Kanu, Bale.

Portugal

William Carvalho is suspended, and his place in the centre of the park is likely to be taken by Danilo. The other concern for Fernando Santos surrounds Pepe, who is in doubt with a thigh complaint. If he fails to get up then Ricardo Carvalho should regain his place and partner Jose Fonte in the centre of defence. Raphael Guerreiro and Andre Gomes have returned from injury and could retake their places in the starting line-up.
Likely team (4-1-3-2): Rui Patricio – Cedric, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; Danilo; Joao Mario, Renato Sanches, Adrien Silva; Nani, Ronaldo.

Keys to success

Wales

With Ramsey out suspended Gareth Bale and Joe Allen will have to step up to replace the Arsenal star, who has been in top form at this tournament. The defence will need to hold firm against a Portuguese side with plenty of attacking talent, and they will look to exploit the Portuguese on the break when they go forward. Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor have big roles to play in both defence and attack, and both Robson-Kanu and Bale will be expecting good delivery from the wing-backs.

Portugal

The Portuguese have been lucky to make it this far and they will need to markedly improve if they are to beat the Welsh. Their delivery for Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo has been abysmal, and if they are to win they need to be much better at translating possession into goals. Ronaldo was silent against Croatia in the round of 16, and while he sparked up against Poland he was unable to take any of the brilliant opportunities that were handed to him. He will need to improve, and fast.

Prediction

Wales are missing one of their star players in Ramsey, but they still have enough talent about them to do well. The Portuguese are in need of improvement after poor efforts against Croatia and Poland, but all signs suggest that they are unlikely to change. Wales 2-1.

Fairytale ends as France pile on the goals

Iceland’s dream run through Euro 2016 has ended at the hands of France, with the hosts scoring four goals in the first half to book a semi-final against Germany. The French were in control early, tapping the ball around, and they took the lead in the twelfth minute after a wonderful ball from Blaise Matuidi found Olivier Giroud over the top. The central midfielder played it from inside his own half, and it penetrated the Icelandic defence to put Giroud one-on-one with Hannes Halldorsson. Giroud’s shot passed through Halldorsson’s legs as it rolled easily into the back of the net, with the Icelandic keeper left powerless. It was a goal that had come out of the blue, and it put Iceland on the back foot. France went back to their calm, controlled tempo, and soon they doubled their lead with Paul Pogba’s first international goal since 2014. Dimitri Payet’s corner was perfectly placed, and the Juventus star beat Jon Dadi Bodvarsson in the air to send a thunderous header into the back of the net. France led 2-0, and the game was all but over.

Bodvarsson had a stunning chance to pull a goal back for Iceland after one of Aron Gunnarsson’s trademark long throws, but he was unable to direct Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s flick-on header into the back of the net. The game died down again, and France regained control. Then, with three minutes left in the half, they sealed the deal. It started with Payet. The ball was distributed wide to Bacary Sagna, whose cross was headed down for Antoine Griezmann by Giroud. Griezmann passed it back to Payet, who made his way onto his left foot and drilled it into the bottom corner. It was a great goal, worthy of the set-up work which led to it. Then came the fourth. Pogba’s ball from deep in midfield was flicked on effortlessly by Giroud, allowing Griezmann to get in behind the Icelandic defence. Halldorsson came out, and the Atletico Madrid star responded by chipping him. The ball hung in the air a long time, but Ragnar Sigurdsson was never going to get there and France could celebrate.

The fourth goal was the final nail in the coffin for Iceland, who had fought hard but had been undone by some excellent pieces of play. The French were content to keep the ball as the second half kicked off, and they passed around the back with ease. Payet and Pogba had chances, but France had taken the pace out of the game and didn’t look like losing the ball. Iceland began to find their footing as the half progressed, and after a number of set pieces they were able to score. Gylfi Sigurdsson provided the spark with a brilliant ball into the box, and Sigthorsson was there to volley it past Hugo Lloris into the back of the net. The joy would not last. Giroud scored again when Payet’s long-range free kick was expertly placed in behind the Icelandic defence. The Arsenal striker was too strong for Sverrir Ingi Ingason in the air, and he headed it past Halldorsson to find an open goal. Iceland kept pushing hard, and Lloris made an incredible save to deny Ingason’s close range header, but there was no real action. The energy of the game had left, and it was not coming back.

Iceland scored again with a few minutes to go through Birkir Bjarnason, whose header was too good for Lloris as it found the back of the net. It was scant consolation for Iceland in a massive defeat, but they will hold their heads high after a remarkable campaign. As for France, they go on to face Germany in what is sure to be a thrilling contest.

Saint-Denis – Stade de France
France 5 (Giroud 12, 59, Pogba 20, Payet 43, Griezmann 45)
Iceland 2 (Sigthorsson 56, B Bjarnason 84)
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Ned)

France (4-2-3-1): Lloris – Sagna, Umtiti, Koscielny (Mangala 72), Evra; Pogba, Matuidi; Sissoko, Griezmann, Payet (Coman 80); Giroud (Gignac 60).
Iceland (4-4-2): Halldorsson – Saevarsson, Arnason (Ingason 46), R Sigurdsson, Skulason; Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, G Sigurdsson, B Bjarnason; Sigthorsson (Gudjohnsen 83), Bodvarsson (Finnbogason 46).

Top 5
1. Dimitri Payet (France)
Payet finished with a goal and two assists, and he was everywhere for the French. His ball use was good and he showed excellent skill as he caused huge trouble for the Icelandic defence. He played very well, and will hope that the incredible form he has showed throughout this tournament can translate to the game against Germany.
2. Antoine Griezmann (France)
Griezmann was full of energy throughout, and he was excellent when given space to move. He became the top scorer of the tournament with his classy chip over Halldorsson, and he looked to be at the top of his game.
3. Olivier Giroud (France)
Giroud scored twice and was a strong presence up front for the French. He provided a great assist for Griezmann with a perfectly timed flick in behind, and he will look to continue his strong form against the Germans. He was strong in the air, and he caused massive problems for Iceland.
4. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland)
Gunnarsson was Iceland’s best in a losing cause, and he can hold his head high after a strong performance. He was solid in midfield and caused plenty of issues with his long throws into the box. He was able to stay in control throughout, and provided a cool head for Iceland as their system fell apart.
5. Paul Pogba (France)
Pogba was a calming influence in the centre of the park, and he was able to use the ball effectively throughout the game. He showed his incredible physical ability with France’s second goal, and he put in a strong performance. He seems to be finding his form at the right time, and he could put in his best effort yet against Germany.

UEFA Euro 2016 Knockout Stage Preview – France vs Iceland

France vs Iceland, Stade de France, Saint-Denis


Match Log

France

France 2 (Giroud 57, Payet 89), Romania 1 (Stancu 65 pen)
France 2 (Griezmann 90, Payet 90+6), Albania 0
Switzerland 0, France 0
France 2 (Griezmann 58, 61), Republic of Ireland 1 (Brady 2 pen)

Iceland

Portugal 1 (Nani 31), Iceland 1 (B Bjarnason 50)
Iceland 1 (G Sigurdsson 40 pen), Hungary 1 (Saevarsson 88 og)
Iceland 2 (Bodvarsson 18, Traustason 90+4), Austria 1 (Schopf 60)
England 1 (Rooney 4 pen), Iceland 2 (R Sigurdsson 6, Sigthorsson 18)

Top Scorers

France

3 – Antoine Griezmann
2 – Dimitri Payet
1 – Olivier Giroud

Iceland

1 – Birkir Bjarnason, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Arnor Ingvi Traustason.

Team News

France

Adil Rami and N’Golo Kante picked up suspensions in the match against Ireland, and Didier Deschamps has some tough decisions to make to find replacements. Yohan Cabaye should come in to replace Kante in midfield, and Samuel Umtiti should get the nod over Eliaquim Mangala to start in defence. Antoine Griezmann is looking for a move inside, but Olivier Giroud is likely to remain at centre forward, keeping the Atletico Madrid star on the right wing.
Likely team (4-3-3): Lloris – Sagna, Koscielny, Umtiti, Evra; Pogba, Cabaye, Matuidi; Griezmann, Giroud, Payet.

Iceland

Iceland have no worries when it comes to injuries and suspensions, and they should name an unchanged team for the biggest match in their footballing history. The game represents a big step up in quality for Iceland, but they will be well equipped to handle the pressure.
Likely team (4-4-2): Halldorsson – Saevarsson, Arnason, R Sigurdsson, Skulason; Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, G Sigurdsson, B Bjarnason; Bodvarsson, Sigthorsson.

Keys to success

France

The French gave away a penalty early on against the Irish, and they will need to start with more confidence against Iceland, who will be harder to break down than Ireland. France looked incredibly dangerous in the round of 16, and if Griezmann, Giroud and Dimitri Payet can combine as well as they did in that match France should come out on top. Deschamps will be hoping that Paul Pogba can find his best in the centre of the park, and he will look for a solid effort from the defence.

Iceland

Iceland played brilliantly to beat the English, and they will need to show the same spirit that they have showed throughout this tournament. The defence has been very solid, and they will need to up their game to deny the French. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aron Gunnarsson have been in excellent form in the centre of the park, and they will look to stand up as Iceland’s best players. Iceland have been strong on the counter-attack, and they will be looking for a solid attacking performance.

Prediction

Iceland have surprised many by making it this far, but the dream run should come to an end at the hands of a very dangerous French team. Payet, Griezmann and Giroud combined to devastating effect against Ireland, and they could break the Icelandic defence. France 2-0.

Germany do it tough, but they find a way

Germany have progressed to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 after a shootout which saw four penalties missed and another three saved before Jonas Hector was able to slot home the winning penalty. His effort squeezed past Gianluigi Buffon, who guessed correctly but could not make the save. The contest was much anticipated, and when Germany attempted to match Italy by playing a three-man defence it was clear that it was going to be a very even game. The first half was intriguing, with the two sides feeling each other out. Germany were in control of possession, but the Italian defence were holding firm. The Germans were wary of Italy’s danger on the break, and the Italians were trapped inside their own half.

The game started to open up as the first half drew to a close, and Thomas Muller had a great chance when he received the ball in a brilliant scoring position. Toni Kroos passed wide to Joshua Kimmich, whose cross towards the middle found Muller in a great position. It was a brilliant chance, but the shot was weak and Buffon made an easy save. The Italians had a great opportunity moments later when Emanuele Giaccherini was played through by Leonardo Bonucci, but his cross was deflected away from Alessandro Florenzi by Jerome Boateng. Stefano Sturaro had a chance with a follow-up shot, but Boateng made another deflection to put the ball out for a corner. The second half eased back into the same slow rhythm of the first half, but Germany still had control and would have scored had it not been for some spectacular defensive work from Florenzi. Muller’s shot was past Buffon, but Florenzi deflected it away in mid-air with an outstretched leg. It was an incredible piece of defending, and it kept the scores even.

Mesut Ozil put Germany in the lead shortly after thanks to some good lead-up play from Mario Gomez and Hector. Gomez ran down the left wing before playing the ball through for Hector, who had pushed up the field well. The cross took a deflection from Bonucci to land at the feet of Ozil, who did not have much to do to beat Buffon. Italy were down, and the game looked very different. Germany played in the same way they had before, and they dominated possession, but now Germany’s slow build-up play looked like a bad thing for the Italians. They had to score, but they couldn’t get the ball. Gomez was brilliantly denied by Buffon after a perfect ball from Ozil played him through over the top. The Italian keeper pushed it over with his fingertips, and Italy survived. It still didn’t look as if they were good enough to score, however, and Germany remained in control. Then came the equaliser. The penalty came from nowhere, a rare mistake from Boateng with serious consequences. Florenzi put a cross into the box for Giorgio Chiellini, who had Boateng bearing down on him. Boateng’s arms were inexplicably raised, and Chiellini’s header did not miss them. The penalty was awarded, and Bonucci stepped up to take it. He stopped halfway through his run-up to leave Manuel Neuer flat-footed before drilling it past him into the bottom corner. Neuer guessed correctly, but it didn’t matter as the ball was too well struck.

Extra time was inevitable, and it seemed unlikely that either side would break the deadlock. Julian Draxler came close when his bicycle kick flew just over the bar, but that was the closest either side would get. Then came penalties. Lorenzo Insigne converted, as did Kroos. Then Simone Zaza stepped up. The Juventus striker was subbed on for the express purpose of taking a penalty, and he looked confident as he pranced in. He pranced in slowly, giving Neuer plenty of time to think, and he drilled his penalty into the stands. It was a horrendous effort, and it put Italy in a bad position. Then Buffon saved Muller, and it didn’t matter anymore. Italy took the lead when Ozil hit the post, but they were unable to capitalise as an exhausted Graziano Pelle rolled a weak effort wide of the post. Then Neuer made a brilliant save to deny Bonucci, who chose to kick the other way and found the German keeper ready to stop it. Bastian Schweinsteiger just needed to put it into the back of the net to end it, but his penalty was spooned over the bar and the shootout dragged on. Suddenly both teams had found their scoring boots, and the game rolled on until Neuer saved Matteo Darmian. The penalty was low to the right, and Neuer saved it brilliantly to give Germany the ascendency. Hector hit his penalty home, and Germany were through.

Bordeaux – Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux
Germany 1 (Ozil 65)
Italy 1 (Bonucci 78 pen) (a.e.t, Germany won 6-5 on penalties)
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hun)

Germany (4-4-2): Neuer – Howedes, Boateng, Hummels, Hector; Kimmich, Khedira (Schweinsteiger 16), Kroos, Ozil; Muller, Gomez (Draxler 71).
Italy (3-5-2): Buffon – Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini (Zaza 120+1); Florenzi (Darmian 86), Sturaro, Parolo, Giaccherini, de Sciglio; Pelle, Eder (Insigne 108).

UEFA Euro 2016 Knockout Stage Preview – Germany vs Italy

Germany vs Italy, Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux


Match Log

Germany

Germany 2 (Mustafi 19, Schweinsteiger 90+2), Ukraine 0
Germany 0, Poland 0
Northern Ireland 0, Germany 1 (Gomez 30)
Germany 3 (Boateng 8, Gomez 43, Draxler 63), Slovakia 0

Italy

Belgium 0, Italy 2 (Giaccherini 32, Pelle 90+3)
Italy 1 (Eder 88), Sweden 0
Italy 0, Republic of Ireland 1 (Brady 85)
Italy 2 (Chiellini 33, Pelle 90+1), Spain 0

Top Scorers

Germany

2 – Mario Gomez
1 – Jerome Boateng, Julian Draxler, Shkodran Mustafi, Bastian Schweinsteiger

Italy

2 – Graziano Pelle
1 – Giorgio Chiellini, Eder, Emanuele Giaccherini

Team News

Germany

Germany put in a dominant performance to beat Slovakia in the round of 16, and Joachim Low is unlikely to make any changes to the team that won 3-0. There are no injury or suspension concerns, and Julian Draxler should keep his spot over Mario Gotze following a man-of-the-match performance against Slovakia.
Likely team (4-2-3-1): Neuer – Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Hector; Khedira, Kroos; Muller, Ozil, Draxler; Gomez.

Italy

Daniele de Rossi injured his hip in the game against Spain, and Antonio Conte faces a difficult task in replacing him. A like-for-like replacement is out of the question with Thiago Motta suspended, and Stefano Sturaro is likely to come into the team to replace the veteran midfielder. Sturaro is set to play on the right, with Marco Parolo shifting into de Rossi’s position in the centre. Antonio Candreva is still injured, and Mattia de Sciglio should hold his place as a result.
Likely team (3-5-2):
Buffon – Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Florenzi, Sturaro, Parolo, Giaccherini, de Sciglio; Pelle, Eder.

Keys to success

Germany

The Germans were dominant in their 3-0 victory over Slovakia, and they will look to play with the same ruthlessness as they did in that game. They need to assert themselves early by gaining plenty of possession, and they will try to create plenty of opportunities up front by using the ball-playing skills of Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil. The Germans will need to be wary of the Italians ability to counter-attack, and they will try to keep as much of the ball as possible.

Italy

A key feature in Italy’s run to the quarter-finals has been Conte’s tactical nous, which has allowed the Italians to beat sides who look much stronger on paper. Italy took the Spanish by surprise when they started the game on the front foot, and they may try to take the game to the Germans instead of sitting back and absorbing pressure. They will need to be at their best defensively, and the all-Juventus back three will be looking to maintain their strong form.

Prediction

Italy surprised many with their tactics against Spain, and Conte may play a similar game when his side takes on the Germans. Germany will be looking to assert themselves in the middle through Kroos and Sami Khedira, and they should be able to get the upper hand. It will be difficult, but the Germans are in good touch and should go through. Germany 2-1.

Wales come from behind to take out Belgium

This tournament has been one in which underdogs have flourished, and Wales are now one game away from the final of Euro 2016 after a 3-1 victory over Belgium in Lille. Belgium came into the match in great form following a 4-0 thrashing of Hungary, and they asserted themselves in the opening stanza. Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne were both closely checked by the Welsh defence, and Yannick Carrasco was able to flourish on the right wing, finding plenty of space and creating some excellent chances. Belgium should have scored early on after a chaotic piece of play in which three shots were blocked by the Welsh in rapid succession. Carrasco started it when the ball fell to him out the back, but Wayne Hennessey was ready to make the save. Up stepped Thomas Meunier, whose shot passed Hennessey only to be blocked by James Chester, who was sitting in the goalmouth with plenty of support from his teammates. The danger hadn’t passed, and Neil Taylor was forced to deflect Hazard’s attempt over the bar for a corner.

The Welsh were under pressure, and soon they cracked. It was Radja Nainggolan who scored the goal with a thunderous one-time strike from long range, but it was Hazard who was at the centre of the set up play. The midfield maestro drove Joe Allen back towards the box before playing a look away pass to Nainggolan, who had plenty of space available to him. The shot found the top corner, and Hennessey could only manage to get his fingertips on the ball as it found the back of the net. The Welsh regrouped and consolidated, but all they had to show for it was an excellent volley from Taylor which Thibaut Courtois had done very well to save. Gareth Bale had been kept quiet, and the Belgians still looked in control. Then Ashley Williams scored, and the game was turned on its head.

The goal came from a corner, with Aaron Ramsey putting an excellent ball into the centre of the box for Williams, who converted easily. Jordan Lukaku was caught out of position as the ball sailed over his head, and the Welsh captain did not have to do much to drive his header past Courtois into the back of the net. The Welsh were back on level footing, and they looked far more comfortable as the first half drew to a close. Ramsey was everywhere, and his run around the ground was putting Belgium under plenty of pressure. Belgium wrested control back away from the Welsh after the break, and they soon had the defence on the back foot. Meunier looked dangerous when he pushed forward in attack, and Romelu Lukaku was unable to capitalise on a perfectly placed cross from the Belgian right back. Hazard threatened to score when he weaved through the Welsh defence to find space, but his shot was drilled across goal. Then Wales scored again, taking the momentum away from Belgium and putting the underdogs firmly in the driver’s seat.

The goal came out of nowhere, with Ramsey the catalyst. Bale’s long ball from inside his own half found Ramsey on the wing, and the Arsenal star took a brilliant touch to control the ball. He looked inside and crossed for Hal Robson-Kanu, who twisted and turned to put himself one-on-one with Courtois. He worked Meunier out of the contest, and Jason Denayer ran past him in an attempt to win the ball back. Marouane Fellaini was out of position, and Robson-Kanu was able to beat Courtois with ease.

Belgium pushed for the leveller, but the Welsh defence was very effective and the leveller was not going to come. Fellaini had some great chances after some strong set-up play, but he was all bark and no bite, promising much but failing to deliver. The Welsh put the icing on the cake with less than five minutes to go through Sam Vokes, who connected with a brilliant cross from Chris Gunter to guide the ball into the back of the net. It was a brilliant victory, one that was hard-fought but classy at the same time. The Welsh played with determination and had the skill to back it up, and they thoroughly deserve their spot in the last four, underdogs or not.

Lille – Stade Pierre-Mauroy
Wales 3 (A Williams 31, Robson-Kanu 55, Vokes 86)
Belgium 1 (Nainggolan 13)
Referee: Damir Skomina (Svn)

Wales (3-5-2): Hennessey – Chester, A Williams, Davies; Gunter, Allen, Ledley (King 78), Ramsey (Collins 90), Taylor; Robson-Kanu (Vokes 80), Bale.
Belgium (4-2-3-1): Courtois – Meunier, Alderweireld, Denayer, J Lukaku (Mertens 75); Nainggolan, Witsel; Carrasco (Fellaini 46), de Bruyne, Hazard; R Lukaku (Batshuayi 83)

Top 5
1. Aaron Ramsey (Wales)
Ramsey provided two assists and was the life of the Welsh team, buzzing with energy for ninety minutes and causing plenty of problems for the Belgians. He was at the centre of one of the greatest injustices of the night when he was booked for an innocuous handball, and while he will miss the semi-final because of the booking he can take some comfort from his brilliant performance.
2. Ashley Williams (Wales)
Williams was very solid at the heart of the Welsh defence, and he showed great leadership in continually warding off the Belgians. He scored the equaliser for Wales and he proved to be a huge threat for the Belgian defence, getting into dangerous positions and finding space at set pieces. He played well, and will continue to add strength to the Welsh defence in the semi-finals.
3. Thomas Meunier (Belgium)
Meunier played an excellent game from right back, pushing forward well and asking plenty of questions of the Welsh with his probing crosses. He was able to drift between attack and defence effortlessly, and he was Belgium’s best on the night. He was mostly solid from a defensive standpoint, and he didn’t let much through.
4. Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales)
Robson-Kanu was a big threat throughout with his pace and ability to find space in dangerous positions. He outmanoeuvred three Belgian players to score the goal that put the Welsh ahead, and a goal was just reward for a very strong effort throughout the game. He played well, and should keep his place for the semi-finals.
5. Kevin de Bruyne (Belgium)
De Bruyne had a strong game in attacking midfield, and he was at the centre of Belgium’s attack. He created some excellent chances through his set pieces, and he was able to open up plenty of space for both himself and his teammates. He played well, and he can hold his head high despite a disappointing loss.