The group stages of the Euro 2016 tournament has come and gone with the top two teams in each group and the four best third placed teams already decided.Portugal clawed their way out of danger by coming back thrice to draw 3-3 and qualify as one of the best loosers while Wales topped their group impressively with Gareth Bale the architect of their success.Belgium also bounced back from their opening game loss to Italy while Spain lost their first match since 2008 after falling to a 2-1 loss to Croatia. While we wait for the quarter finals which starts on Saturday, here are the ten things we learnt from the group stages.
- The British Teams Are Improving;
England are used to be the dominating force of British football and they still are, even with the fact that they do not dominate on the world stage. We all know Wales have got Bale and Ramsey but no one would sure have expected Wales to even qualify for the tournament talk less of going as far as topping their group. Republic of Ireland have also been quite impressive as just when you think they are down and out with just one point from two games, they spring up a surprise performance from nowhere and defeat Italy in their last group game to qualify for the quarter finals. Where did Northern Ireland come from? They were meant to be the underdogs in their group but scaled through after an impressive victory over Ukraine which came from nowhere. They were quite good prior to the tournament, going about ten games undefeated but no one expected them to get to the level they are right now. I definitely shouldn’t be wrong when I say British football is ‘currently’ on the rise or is this just a fluke? Time will tell.
- Lars Lagerback Is Working Wonders At Iceland;
Shotout to all the Godsons, Innosons, Bensons in Nigeria because now we know where your root came from. The fact is the only team whose names ends with ‘son’ in the world is Iceland and the most popular right now are Gudjohnson and Sigurdsson but where did all these guys, assembled by former Super Eagles coach Lars Lagerback come from? Dogged, disciplined, tenacious is what I would describe this bunch of players who put in tireless performances throughout the entire duration of games. They not only qualified for the quarter finals, they qualified, topping the group. For a country of just 300,000+ people, not up to Alimosho Local Government in Lagos, this is quite Insane.
- Payet’s Jolly Ride Continues;
Do anyone still have any doubt about Dimitri Payet? I was definitely one of the people who refused to rate him when he started dazzling in the premier league earlier in the 2015/16 season but I gradually grew into him and knew he had the talent.His eye for pass, his dribbles, his ability to shield the ball, his shots, you do not even want to debate his free kick prowess. He has definitely been one of the revelations of the tournament after his inspiring performances and sure would have laid to rest, doubts about him being the real deal or just a one season wonder.
- Spain: If TikiTaka Is Not Working, What Next?
There was a time between 2008 and 2013 when the Spanish National team became invicible and you just couldn’t play them but it doesn’t seem to happen again. I watched their game against Croatia and they weren’t convincing. They scored a beautiful goal and from thence all they did was probe the Croatians for 90 minutes without getting the end product. They almost drew against Czech Republic but had to rely on a late goal to go through. Losing to minnows Georgia prior to the tournament has not helped matters. Against Croatia, it was a different ball game and against Italy, it would even be tougher and the question is, What if tikitaka is not working, what next? Spain seriously needs to find a Plan B .
- Watch Out For Croatia;
They were many people’s dark horses if there was going to be a surprise winner of this tournament and now I know why. The Croatians are good. It’s not just because they defeated Spain but they did it without their mercurial midfielder, Luka Modric. Their performance was also enticing, one for ages. They also put up an impressive performance against Turkey in the first game when they won 1-0 and crumbled after their fans pelted fireworks onto the field in the second game to draw 2-2 with Czech Republic. They face Portugal next and all I can say is, that game will be interesting with two attacking teams having a go at each other.
- The Germans Have Not Showed Champions Stuff ;
The thing about the Germans is they do not need to play beautiful to win, they just get the job done and the fact right now is, they are grinding out results in a rough way. Teams are not easy, yes, but the German team that went on to win the World Cup in Brazil gave us some sweet football. In this tournament so far, they’ve been average and have not shown stuff of champions. Maybe because they’ve not been able to replace Lahm at right back but the biggest gap has got to be the ability not to get a top forward in the mold of Klose. The Germans would need to step up their game if they are to go far in this tournament.
- Chelsea Fans Should Be Excited About Conte’s Arrival;
He is a man who likes his players to stick to his principles, absolutely ruthless and picks players not by talent but by desire to buy into his principles. He has showed that his achievements with Juventus is no fluke and has brought joy back to the Italian National team. Their first game against Belgium was a glimpse of what Chelsea fans should expect as his team exhibited maximum discipline, same in the match against Sweden before his team lost to Ireland in his first loss as their manager since he took over. Chelsea fans will keenly be watching their game against Spain. So far, I’m very sure the Chelsea fans would have a positive expectation about his arrival at the Bridge.
- Zlatan Finally Bows Out;
He is a legend of the game and has obviously done a lot to put his country’s name on the map. During 2006 World Cup qualification, Ibrahimović scored four goals in a 7–0 victory away to Malta which made it the maximum he scored in one match for his country. All in All he scored a whopping 69 goals in 127 appearances for his country making him the highest goal scorer ever for his country. He also won league titles all over the world in the clubs he has played. Ibrahimovich will definitely be missed on the international scene but football fans will be glad he is not yet ready to ready from club football. Interestingly, he would be gracing the premier league, the only top league he hasn’t played in. Fantastic.
- Arsenal Fans Should Be Excited About Xhaka;
The news broke just some days before the Euros began that Arsenal had completed the signed of Swizz midfielder Granit Xhaka for a whopping 33 million pounds and Arsenal fans were worried. The question now is Are Arsenal fans still worried? I do not think so. The thing is, Xhaka has been one of the bright sparks so far at the Euros, putting in some displays including nice passes and strong tackles and his style of play seems to look like what will suit the Premier league. He has power, he has strength, he puts in a type of tackle that made his shirt tear twice in the game against France. Arsenal fans should be very excited about their new born midfield destroyer.
- Ronaldo Finally Arrives;
And he did when it mattered most. After watching the first game which Portugal played against Iceland, you will be forgiven to say Ronaldo has an off day as he had chances to win the game but just continually fluffed his chances.He was horrible and trust internet whips, he was whip real hard. And just when you think it was a one-off, his performance against Austria was even as bad.Toiled and toiled all night without getting the breakthrough. His night was summed up when he missed a 79th minute penalty.It put Portugal in a tight edge but then, he woke up from his slumber in the third game but had to be whipped first to wake up.He assisted the first goal for Portugal to equalize and then got two goals to help Portugal claim a vital draw which was enough for them to advance.The fact is, Portugal depend so much on Ronaldo and he needs to repay their faith.Who wouldn’t depend on him if you had him in your team???.