Football Nerd – Euro 2016 – Monday 13th June

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see any of the Spain-Czech Republic game but from what I have read it seems like the Czechs provided stern resistance and managed to keep Spain at bay until Pique’s late header sealed all three points for the holders.

I felt that Ireland were a little bit unlucky not to hold out and beat Sweden after a decent first half performance and then taking an unexpected lead early in the second half. For the most part they managed to keep Zlatan quiet, but it was inevitably the new Manchester United signing that forced an equalizer when his cross was headed into his own net by Ciaran Clark; it is easy to suggest that the defender should have left it but in the heat of the moment he obviously felt he was under more pressure than he actually was. Both teams would probably be happy with a point but both will also feel that they perhaps should have got more out of the game. However Belgium’s surprising loss to Italy might indicate that there are points up for grabs in that particular group.

Belgium had been one of the fancied teams going into the tournament, just as they had been before The World Cup two years ago. The assessment of Italy seemed to be that while they would always be strong defensively and tactically organised they might well be lacking in firepower up front. The game last night however contradicted those assessments; a collection of talented players as Belgium are they seem to be lacking a team structure and organisation and perhaps as a whole add up to less than the sum of their individual parts. Italy on the other hand certainly had a threat going forward and scored two good goals through Giaccherini and Southampton striker Graziano Pelle. The Italians solid defensive base and somewhat cynical tactical fouling meant that they were able to see the game out fairly comfortably. It could also be said that Belgium lacked options from the bench that would have allowed them to vary their approach, with Origi seemingly a similar player to Lukaku.

This evening sees the culmination of the first round of group games, first up Austria face Hungary, with both teams largely unknown entities it will be interesting to see how that one shapes up. After that we have the chance to run the rule over Portugal and new boys Iceland; the Portuguese should have enough in that one, but whether Cristiano Ronaldo is fully fit or not may well determine their progress in the tournament.

So far in the tournament France, Germany and Italy have looked the most likely, although Spain at least got the job done in their opening match; the onus in the second round of matches will be for the other fancied teams to step their performance levels up.

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