In the past four days, 16 teams competed with each other for 8 spots in the quarter-final, we saw some big surprises and a few scares, England and Spain are out while Iceland are through. Here are the 10 things we learned from this round:
- France are giving their all
The French national team hasn’t played the best football so far in Euro16 but they surely are the ones giving their best on the pitch. The hosts have survived a few scares and left it late to win their games. They seem to a lack a bit in team play but it seems that all players are on the same page in terms of confidence and motivation. The French will have a tricky game against Iceland and they are highly likely to qualify but if they face one of Germany or Italy, they need to be at their best.
- England are overrated
Another failure at an international tournament for the English. The native players of ‘The World’s Best League’ or ‘The Richest League in The World’ failed to get past Iceland, a country with a tiny population and an amateur league. England’s failure this year coupled with failures of English clubs on the European level is definitely a worrying sign for English football and perhaps it’s time to reflect upon both clubs’ and national team’s strength.
- Spain’s best years are past them
Spain has failed to defend both their World Cup and Euro titles, early knock-outs from their last two international competitions is further proof that the golden generation that had the likes of David Villa, Carles Puyol, Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso and Xavi Hernandez is long gone. La Furia Roja looked unsettled during its four matches at the competition and the players seemed to be incompatible with each other.
- Italy is more than just defending
Many labelled this year’s Italy side as the worst in many years. The team relied on a powerful back-line with average names up front such as Eder and Graziano Pelle but the Italians have been creating plenty of chances from the back, building up play and controlling the tempo. Two convincing wins against Belgium and Spain can give the Italians hope ahead of their next match against Germany.
- Iceland are the new Leicester City
Iceland pulled a surprise when they managed to hold Portugal to a draw, they went on to qualify from the group stage as second in their group and yesterday they eliminated England. No one wants their fairytale story to end, can they defeat the hosts France in their next game?
- Portugal’s luck could just take them to the final
Portugal are yet to win a match in four in regular time, they drew all three games in the group stage, unconvingcingly, and scored in extra-time to eliminate Croatia on Saturday. Their road to the final is easier than that of Iceland, France, Italy or Germany. They face Poland in the quarter-finals and assuming they get lucky and manage to win, they face either Belgium or Wales. The Portuguese may have an average team but they might just rely on their luck.
- Germany Remain the candidates to win
Germany are yet to concede a goal in four games. They have been quite strong up front creating plenty of chances every game but up next they face Italy. In case Die Mannschaft defeats the Italians, they will have all the momentum they need to reach the final and win it.
- Belgium are gaining momentum game after game
Belgium lost their opening game against Italy but they went on to win the next three. They scored eight goals in the past three games and Eden Hazard has put the miserable season behind him as he’s focusing on the national team only. The team is made up of very good individuals and their route to the final could have been tougher. Up next they face Wales.
- Lewandowski needs to step up his game
Poland are among the final eight contestants but they need their best player Lewandowski to step up his game if they are to get past Portugal. The striker scored five goals in one game for Bayern Munich but he has been a shadow of himself for his national team. The next game is decisive for Poland and without Lewandowski on form, they have little chances of going through.
- Bale is just not enough
Gareth Bale has guided his team all the way to the quarter-finals something England and Spain failed to do. However, the Welsh team may not be able to deal with Belgium in the next round and ‘Bales’ need to be more than a one-man team if they are to reach the semi-finals.