Euro 2016: Road to Quarterfinals
The UEFA Euro 2016 has finally reached its quarter final stage. The best eight teams of the tournament will clash and will be three matches away from the top prize. As things move into the business end of the tournament here is a look at the top eight teams and how they fared in the last round and what awaits them in the quarters.
A round up of the Round of 16
The first match saw Poland face off against Switzerland, Poland took the lead but an spectacular overhead bicycle kick from Shaqiri brought the Swiss team level. Bot teams failed to covert even after 30 minutes of Extra time and it was up to penalties to decide who goes through. Poland were on the target scoring all their 5 penalties,
Switzerland missed out on one when Arsenal bound Xhaka fired a wayward penalty to make way for Poland to reach their first quarter finals of the European Championships
The second match of Round of 16 saw tournament dark horse Wales take on Northern Ireland, in an grueling end to end match Wales came out victorious courtesy of an own goal by Ireland defender Gareth McAuley.
Croatia took on a Subdued Portugal who have neither won nor lost in this years competition, the match was long and at times boring as both teams tried to find the opening.
The match saw a display of not only mental but also physical strength of the teams. On a relatively warm night in France the match went into added extra time as both teams failed to break the deadlock in normal time.
Finally it was in the 117th minute when the first shot on target came and as expected it was Cristiano Ronaldo whose shot was saved by Croatian Keeper Danijel Subasic but he could not hold it and Quaresma was left with a simple follow-up. And Portugal went through even as some may say that Croatia deserved more.
In the 4th match it was the hosts France taking on Minnows Republic of Ireland. However against all odds Ireland took lead in the 2nd minute of the match as Robbie Brady coolly converted a spot kick. And Ireland defended and defended to go into the half time with a 1-0 lead. France were starting at defeat what could be biggest upset of the tournament however Deschamps pep talk in the half time break along with inspirational substitutions did the trick for France. Griezmann scored a brace to make it 2-1 in within 15 minutes of the second half. To add misery Shane Duffy was sent off for the last man foul and France went on to hold the lead against 10 men Ireland.
World Champions Germany were in no mood to take it easy against Slovakia and fired 3 goals. Julain Draxler being the major tormentor for the German side. the German side took the lead in the eight minute after Boateng fired home a spectacular volley from outside the box. The lead could have been doubled had Ozil converted from the spot. However the miss did not matter much as Draxler first created a goal for Gomez and then Fired home a third for his team to win it convincingly.
Belgium even though being the highest ranked team in the Euros was nowhere close to their best before Sunday. They taught the Hungarian side a lesson scoring four goals past them in what was the biggest win in the tournament till date. Goals came at regular interval and at will to which Hungary had no answer.
Eden Hazard who has been a shadow of him in the past one year was the main architect of the win and this will come as a major boost for Belgium as he along with Kevin Du Bryne can take their team to cup glory.
In a replay of last years finals defending champions Spain took on Italy. The match was not only a test of two experienced teams but also of two seasoned tacticians in Vincent Del Bosque and Antonio Conte. Italy had the perfect answer to Spains possession football and had it not been for heroics of David De Gea the score line could have been much worse for Spain.
The match in a way saw the end of the golden generation of Spain which saw them winning two Euros and a World Cup, the cracks were visible since the World Cup Debacle but an early exit in Euros will sure put up question mark on Vincent Del Bosque’s role and selections.
And the culmination of the round of 16 was England taking on Iceland. In what was a deja vu England again choked and were beaten by Iceland even after taking the lead. Iceland a country with a population of just over three lakhs came saw and conquered. England took the lead in the fourth minute captain Wayne Rooney neatly converted a penalty from the spot only for Iceland to come back withing 2 minutes and add another in the 18th minute. England tried their best but were not able to come up with anything despite dominating the game for most of the match.
England manager Roy Hodgson called it a day following the debacle thus taking the responsibility for the loss. But fans world over were left stunned as to how England can possibly do that year after year. The joke of the day was England is the only country who can exit Europe twice in one day Brexit and now Euro.
Portugal continue their luck as they will face Poland in the quarterfinals. Ronaldo will have to come good and they have to take the match from the start rather than wait till the end they cannot be lucky each time. Poland will look to keep it simple and hope that Robert Lewandoski will break his duck in the tournament there wont be a better time than this.
Wales taking on Belgium will be two young sides with quality players with tremendous potential. One a tournament favorite the other the dark horse, who so ever wins it a win for football.
Germany taking on Italy will be a classic. Will the Italian defense and counter attacking football be able to take on the total football of Germans will be on display. It will a battle of benches as well with Conte wanting to score over Low to show that he is still the best in the game.
Iceland will take on hosts France, a match which will be high on emotions. Both the sides will have a massive support base in the tournament will Iceland’s fairy tale continue or will it be France all the way.
The fixtures of the tournament have been so perfectly stitched even if one would have fixed then also to have such fixtures will be very difficult. The Euros 2016 even with lesser goals than previous edition has surely not lacked the entertainment with small nations doing so well it has been a delight to watch and one hopes that the quarter finals will only add to it.