The first night for a long time with no footy, so let’s reflect on an intriguing and unpredictable Group Stage…
Group A: A Dmitri Payet-inspired France topped the group, relying on late goals to beat Romania and Albania and drawing 0-0 with Switzerland. The Swiss were also unbeaten, getting a win over Albania and drawing with Romania. Albania didn’t make it into the top four third placed teams, although they recorded a historic win over Romania in their first international tournament, and Romania were disappointing, crashing out with just a point from three games.
Group B: England were faced with three tricky defences to overcome, and only managed to get the better of one, beating Wales 2-1, however they were held by Russia and Slovakia so only came second. Wales won their two other games and were very impressive, being one of the only teams to win by a big margin so far. They deservedly topped the group. A plucky Slovakia side scraped through in third, but Russia were very poor, their ageing defence struggling against the pacy attacks of their opponents.
Group C: Germany and Poland were both excellent, and both unbeaten, each winning against Ukraine and Northern Ireland and drawing with each other. The World Champions had perhaps higher expectations than 7 points and some unconvincing performances, but they will be satisfied by their exploits so far. As will Poland, who have been a surprise package so far, and if it wasn’t for some wayward Arkadeus Milik finishing they could’ve done even better. Northern Ireland recorded a historic 2-0 win over Ukraine that was ultimately enough to take them through to the Round of 16 in third, but Ukraine were very disappointing, not picking up a single point or goal and looking hopeless throughout.
Group D: Croatia’s 2-1 win over Spain proved enough to take them through as group winners, and they are much fancied to go far as the dark horse, which is great stuff because I got them in my class sweepstake and I’ve heard rumours there is a box of chocolates for the winner! However, Joey got Spain and they aren’t to be underestimated – they beat Turkey comfortably and after their first two games (before the De Gea howler) they looked the best side in the competition – and they are on the ‘easy’ side of the draw. Turkey disappointed, and despite their win over the Czech Republic they will still be heading home as one of the worst 3rd placed sides. The Czechs were poor, only picking up a solitary point following a late, perhaps undeserved, equaliser against Croatia.
Group E: This group was very tight, with Italy and Belgium both on 6 points (Italy ahead on goal difference). The heavily-criticised Italians looked like a great team in their first two games, and defeated Belgium. The Belgians were much-fancied, and after a disappointing start against Italy in which they didn’t turn up, they responded and finally put in decent performances against Sweden and Ireland. Ireland also progressed in third thanks to a late winner over table toppers Italy, but Sweden (Zlatan FC) were poor as they finished bottom.
Group F: If the last group was tight, this was even tighter, with Hungary and Iceland on 5 points at the top of the pile. Hungary, in first, had an unbelievable tournament, and as the favourites to finish bottom, their performances were fantastic. In the most exciting game of the group stages, they drew 3-3 with Portugal, who had a poor tournament, drawing every game and only just making it through to the next round. The fact that Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t played very well until the Hungary game just goes to show how much they rely on him. Iceland have been the story of the tournament, coming second after some incredible results… for a country with just 300,000 population – the same amount as Coventry! However, AlabAustria were rubbish, only picking up one point and finishing last.
So, now a look ahead to the round of 16…
On one side of the draw:
- Switzerland v Poland
- Croatia v Portugal
- Wales v Northern Ireland
- Hungary v Belgium
The winner of match 1 plays that of match 2, and likewise with 3 and 4. Then, the winners of those two matches play in a semi-final and the winner of that progresses to the next round.
On the other side:
- Germany v Slovakia
- Italy v Spain
- France v Ireland
- England v Iceland
And the same rules apply… So my predictions for the quarter final matches:
- Poland v Croatia
- Wales v Belgium
- Germany v Spain
- France v England
Then the semis…
- Croatia v Belgium
- Germany v France
And the final:
Belgium v France, which France will win!
So it looks like England have a very hard side of the draw, whereas the likes of Wales, Northern Ireland, Croatia and Belgium have quite easy matches up until the final!
Goal of the Tournament So Far:
Goal 1 – Dmitri Payet vs Romania
Goal 2 – Gareth Bale vs Slovakia
Goal 3 – Luka Modric vs Turkey
Goal 4 – Marek Hamsik vs Russia
Goal 5 – Zoltan Gera vs Portugal
Goal 6 – Cristiano Ronaldo vs Hungary
Player of the Tournament So Far: