Euro 2016 First Thoughts

Notwithstanding the shambles that FIFA has become, there is just something about the tournament format that Football does well. The Football World Cup definitely rivals the Olympics for best sporting event in the World. The European Championships would have to be close to 3rd place although the Superbowl, Rugby World Cup and Cricket World Cup would have something to say about that.

Italy vs Belgium - Photo by Nazionale Calcio - CC-BY-2.0

Italy vs Belgium – Photo by Nazionale CalcioCC-BY-2.0

At any rate, I absolutely love International Football Tournaments and June 2016 is the perfect storm of sporting events. For Australians there are the following on at the moment:

  • Euro 2016
  • Copa America
  • NRL
  • State of Origin
  • AFL
  • English Rugby tour of Australia
  • Welsh Rugby tour of NZ
  • Cricket tri-series between Australia, South Africa and the West Indies in the Caribbean
  • NBA Finals
  • NHL Finals
  • MLB

I would say it is a sports overload but it clearly isn’t. BTW, I won’t pretend I watched every game because there just isn’t enough time in the day for that. Sleep deprived though. Australian fans know this feeling very well around tournament time. Here are my early thoughts on Euro 2016:

France vs Romania

  • Very nervous start by France, especially at the start of both halves (except Paul Pogba’s hair which is never nervous) and they weren’t entirely stable at the back all night either.
  • Romania were frisky and defended stoutly for the most part. They were way better than I thought they would be. They had their moments, especially at the start of both halves but France controlled most of the rest of the match. Romania were definitely not overawed.
  • Dimitri Payet was playing on another level and his form from the EPL has definitely translated to this tournament. He was best on ground all day and central to anything good the French did all game. Crossed for the first goal and what about his goal to win the match.
  • If you watch a lot of EPL there is definitely something comforting about listening to Martin Tyler and Alan Smith. Also France has many familiar names from the EPL including Olivier Giroud, Payet, Hugo Lloris, Laurent Koscielny, Moussa Sissoko and Anthony Martial. Something comforting about that too.
  • Paul Pogba is definitely increasing in stature and will become one of the best player’s in the World at this level but he didn’t stamp his authority on this game. I was very surprised that Didier Deschamps hooked him from the field but that ended up being a great tactical decision as Payet played more centrally which yielded the last goal.
  • Giroud was wasteful but came up trumps when it really counted. Very Olivier Giroud though. Arsenal fans nodding.
  • Definitely going to watch more Champion’s League next season.
  • You know you are getting older when you have seen one of the coaches actually play back in the day. 

Wales vs Slovakia

  • Just destiny for Gareth Bale to score a goal from a set piece.
  • Absolutely brilliant to see Wales in the Finals, especially after such a long absence.
  • I can’t believe that they haven’t played in a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup. In that tournament Wales escaped their group with 3 draws, won a play-off against Hungary 2-1 and were knocked out 1-0 by Brazil in the quarter-finals. The goal was scored by Pele. Wow! That is some history.

England vs Russia

England vs Russia - Photo by Nazionale Calcio - CC-BY-2.0

England vs Russia – Photo by Nazionale CalcioCC-BY-2.0

  • England’s first half was very bright without the finish to cap it off. I like the attitude of this English squad but they missed their chances. Just couldn’t get that clinical finish they desperately needed. Profligate is the word.
  • Wayne Rooney’s composure in the midfield facilitated England’s attack magnificently. I think that was the right move.
  • Didn’t really like Harry Kane taking corners. Pretty much the whole world didn’t like that though.
  • It was the most English of games. England were clearly better all game. They just couldn’t score. Eric Dier’s magnificent free kick looked like it had rightly rewarded England’s dominance. Russia apart from the start of the second half were dominated in possession but hung in there. Some of their last ditch defending was top notch.
  • Couldn’t believe Russia stole a point at the end but Football is very much like that, especially English Football. That is why their fans always look so nervous.
  • Rooney being removed was a brave move but I think the right one.
  • In the end England was wasteful.
  • I would start Jamie Vardy. He is an irrepressible force who has no fear. He just finds goals when he is on the pitch.

Final Thoughts 

  • Italy just seems to reboot every couple of tournaments. They are never ever significantly rebuilding. They just retool and fire up again. Amazing.
  • Germany are looking just as strong as Italy and all things being equal, they will meet in the quarter-finals. Bit of a shame that the 2 best sides will meet in a quarter-final. Winner of that game will most likely meet France in the semi-final. Wow. Definitely strongest half of the draw. Pools B, D and F (Wales, England, Russia, Slovakia, Croatia, Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Iceland and Portugal) will provide the other finalist. They must be overjoyed.
  • I think Belgium might be the European Ivory Coast. I think they suffer a bit from a lack of cohesion. None of them really play much together. I get the feeling that they were all so talented so young that they wouldn’t have played together at youth level or come from the same system like those that graduate from Ajax or Bayern.
  • Portugal and especially Ronaldo looked very frustrated against Iceland. Kind of the story of his international career really.
  • England v Wales – Great half time changes from Hodgson. Jamie Vardy just makes things happen. He opened up the game making Wales defend right across the park. Rooney was great again. The Bale set piece was masterful but Hart probably should have stopped that. Maybe the shot in the arm England needs to kick on now. Just destined to get knocked out by a penalty shoot out though. Just saying.
  • Dimitri Payet continues to be the player of the tournament. France continues to leave it to the last minute.

Some Bonus Copa America Thoughts 

  • Brazil knocked out by a blatant handball. What the? The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen cannot believe video review isn’t mandatory in FIFA tournaments. Neither can I. Yes it is a traditional game but even Cricket uses video technology and it is a more traditional game than Football! It doesn’t ruin the game.
  • I love the Copa (I am sounding distinctly Barry Manilow now). It is the Football equivalent of a Superleague of European Countries thrown together with Asia. 

What is sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • I think I already mentioned the tsunami of sport at the moment. 

What isn’t? 

  • Football violence. Just pointless.
  • Getting very frustrated with the officiating and the decisions coming out of the NBA in the Finals as is every Dubs fan I guess.

NRL Tips – Week 15

Rabbitohs (+1.5) vs Eels – Eels.

Dragons vs Storm (+6.0) – Storm

Warriors vs Roosters (+7.5) – Warriors

Titans vs Sea Eagles (+6.5) – Titans

Week 14

4/8

Season so far

50/107 

Stay Tuned

Next exciting episode will be on Thursday, 23 June 2016 titled ‘Do yourself a favour and get along to the MCG’.

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