Multiple heroes emerge to help hosts to Euro 2016 final

Euro 2016

Take a bow, Antoine Greizmann.

The great Greizmann

The French striker deservedly did so when substituted in the last minute of his country’s 2-0 semi-final victory over Germany, as he produced a man of the match performance and scored both goals to send Les Bleus through to the final of Euro 2016.

Whilst the role Greizmann has played in France’s run to the final cannot be underestimated, neither too can the contribution made by several of his team mates, who despite not making as many headlines as the Atletico Madrid player, have emerged as heroes in their own right for Didier Deschamps’ side.

Prodigious Payet

The first player to do so was Dimitri Payet. With France labouring to a 1-1 draw in their opening game of the tournament against Romania, the 29-year-old West Ham United playmaker scored a brilliant last minute winner, to transform the mood inside the Stade de France from one of frustration to jubilation.

Whilst Payet’s superb goal endeared him to the French supporters, so too did his emotionally charged celebration. Immediately after that Payet was substituted by Deschamps so as to receive a standing ovation from the French faithful.

Subsequently in addition to scoring in France’s second group stage game as Les Bleus beat Albania 2-0, Payet found the net in his country’s 5-2 quarter final win over Iceland.

Defiant defensive unit

During that game the centre back pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti defended unconvincingly but recovered to form a wonderfully solid partnership in France’s semi-final win over Germany, with Hugo Lloris also performing heroically to keep a clean sheet against the World Champions.

Lloris has been in inspired form throughout the finals, producing great saves at vital moments. That has been all the more commendable given that the French captain has not otherwise been overly busy during his country’s games. As such, Lloris’ ability to pull off outstanding saves has testified his superb levels of concentration and focus, which manager Deschamps demands be displayed by the entire French squad.

Sissoko’s successful emergence

Another key member of that is Moussa Sissoko. Despite being overlooked for a place in France’s first XI at the beginning of the tournament by Deschamps, who instead chose to play N’Golo Kante in midfield alongside Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba, Sissoko started and performed excellently as Les Bleus emphatically beat Iceland 5-2.

The Newcastle United midfielder was afforded the opportunity to do so since Kante was suspended for the match after picking up his second yellow card of the finals in the previous round against the Republic of Ireland. Deschamps retained faith in Sissoko for the semi-final with Germany, which the 26-year-old handsomely repaid with another assured display, to put forward an extremely strong case for starting France’s final against Portugal.

Collective excellence

Absolutely certain to do so, barring the emergence of any unforeseen circumstances are Pogba, Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna, who have been ever present and performed consistently well in the French campaign, during which Matuidi has enhanced his reputation as being one of the best box-to-box midfielder‘s in Europe.

Whilst Les Bleus progression to the final has owed much to the goal-scoring and creative talents of Greizmann, it has also been inspired by a cohesive and well disciplined team effort, which has been powered by many members of their squad including the unheralded quintet of Koscielny, Lloris, Payet, Sissoko and Umtiti.


Deschamps delighted with France in Euro 2016 final

didier deschamps france manager

France booked their place in the Euro 2016 final after beating Germany in Thursday’s semi-final clash at the Stade Velodrome, and manager Didier Deschamps was delighted with his players for finally winning against Germany in a knockout clash.

“There is quality in this German team. And when they don’t have the ball it gets even more complicated. We had the best team in the world opposite us. We had to suffer but never gave up and that’s great for me. This is a great story – the players wrote history by knocking out Germany,” he said.

France have limited time before Sunday’s final against Portugal at the Stade de France, losing one day’s preparation compared to their opposition, but Deschamps has a strong squad more than capable. The likes of N’Kolo Kante can come into the midfield if there’s fatigue from others, while Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial are further attacking options.

“We have three days before the final, it’s very short so we have to savour this victory. It’s an important step forward but the most important step is Sunday. We’re going to do everything in our power to go in to Sunday’s game in the best possible condition,” added the France manager. France go into the final as favourites given their squad and home advantage, especially after dispatching of the World champions.

It had been 58 years since France beat Germany in a knockout game, but France defender Patrice Evra believes a friendly victory in November last year helped Les Blues to believe. “As soon as we beat them in a friendly, it gave us a lift. Of course they were strong, of course they were the favourites and they had good ball possession. But we told each other we would never give up. And that’s why I’m proud of my teammates,” he said.

No side had scored past Germany in open play until the semi-final, and given their trio of attackers have scored and created 18 goals between them in the tournament, Portugal will be fearful. They haven’t been too full of goals themselves so their plan will be to try and stifle France by not leaving many gaps to be exploited. France have pace and power and the ruthless finishing in the final third hurt any team, so Portugal could find themselves blown away if not careful.

France’s front three Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Dimitri Payet have all scored three of more goals in the tournament. Portugal’s duo Luis Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo the same. As a result, their final on the weekend should be a good contest.

Eden Hazard to stay at Chelsea following Euro 2016

eden hazard chelsea

Chelsea winger Eden Hazard looks set to stay at Stamford Bridge after this summer’s European Championships, according to his brother Kylian. “”He will stay at Chelsea, he is happy at Chelsea. He loves London. It is good for him there and he says the facilities are great. It is one of the biggest teams in the world. He will be special again for them next year,” he said.

Hazard’s future has been in doubt after a poor season with Chelsea that saw manager Jose Mourinho sacked. However, his form return in the last couple of months with Chelsea, and he impressed this summer in Euro 2016 too, so he’ll go into the following campaign in great shape to shine for his new boss Antonio Conte.

And with the Blues having signed Belgium teammate and Olympique de Marseilles striker Michy Batshuayi, Kylian added how good Chelsea has been for the Belgian players in the squad. “Chelsea is a great team for Belgians at the minute. You see it with another Belgian arriving in Michy Batshuayi as well as Thibaut Courtois. Batshuayi will work with Eden well just as they did for Belgium. They know each other now,” he added.

Real Madrid were one club among many linked with Eden Hazard in a deal that could have well broken the transfer record, but the 25-year-old has never spoken out about wanting to leave Stamford Bridge even during his troublesome campaign. Paris Saint-Germain were also mentioned as a potential suitor, but Chelsea didn’t see the benefit in selling such a talent given his age and how well he’d performed up until 2015/16.

Hazard has endured a career setback, but his form over the Euros proved his true ability. And if he can start the new season in a similar fashion, Chelsea have a player capable of scoring and created 30 goals a season. Conte will be very keen to work with the Belgian international, and his brilliance could be the difference in the title race. With Manchester City managed by Pep Guardiola and Manchester United managed by Jose Mourinho, the two rivals are expected to finish in the top four come May 2017.

Chelsea will breathe a sigh of relief that Hazard looks set to commit his future as the squad is more than capable of leading an assault for major honours. Hazard is world-class on his day, and showed in the European Championships that he can turn a game on its head when in the mood.

Germany impressive despite Euro 2016 semi-final defeat to France

Germany suffered a 2-0 defeat to France at the Stade Vélodrome in Thursday night’s Euro 2016 semi-final, courtesy of a brace from Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann. However, it was Die Mannschaft who were left with regret over the result given the performance they put against Les Blues.

With close to 70% possession in the game, and having created more chances over the 90 minutes than their opponents, Germany manager Joachim Loew believes his men deserved more from the clash. “We were the better team. We put in a lot of effort, showed good body language, got forward and were good in one-on-ones,” he said.

The timing of the first goal Germany conceded went against them too with France scoring from a penalty on the stroke of half-time. It meant they were having to chase the game despite playing well, and surprisingly couldn’t breach the ageing France defence. “We were unfortunate to concede a penalty a minute before half-time, that was bad luck. We had our chances but didn’t score. Today we didn’t have the luck we needed,” Loew added.

Germany were without centre-back Mats Hummels, midfielder Sami Khedira and striker Mario Gomez. They lost Jerome Boateng to injury during the game too, and their substitutions failed to swing the game their way. While dominant in the second-half, Germany could breach the impressive Hugo Lloris in the France goal. Despite the likes of Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller coming within inches of levelling the game, somehow France held out.

“Today we were better than the French but for the goals and result. The side did everything I told them, showed a lot of courage so there’s nothing to reproach them for. This was a good tournament for us. I haven’t seen too many errors from us. Overall, we have a great side. We tried everything in the second half. We put them under big pressure and we had chances towards the end. But this is football,” Loew admitted.

Germany were joint-favourites with France to win the tournament ahead of their semi-final clash, but their absences from the squad saw Les Blues being much more fancied. And so it proved with the attacking threat of Didier Deschamps powerful side getting one over the World champions. Germany didn’t have a focal point going forward and it meant their attacks had to be better constructed. In truth, poor finishing cost Germany at the Stade Vélodrome, while France’s defence deserves more credit than they’ve been given.

Brilliant Griezmann inspires France to Euro 2016 final


France are in the Euro 2016 final and will face Portugal on Sunday after defeating Germany 2-0 thanks to two Antoine Griezmann goals.

The opener at the death of the first half was a penalty- but it was a controversial one as Patrice Evra’s header in the German area was adjudged to touch Bastian Schweinsteiger’s hand, it did but was it a harsh decision? Man of the moment Griezmann was up against probably the best goal keeper in the world in Manuel Neuer, Griezmann’s shot sent the German the other way and France erupted.

Germany went in at half time a goal down but just how this came to be will take a lot of soul searching from within the team. Because they quite simply dominated the first half. Germany were irresistible, near magnificent, closed down their opponents and were making France look very ordinary. There seemed like there would be only one winner. But the penalty and at the time it came seemed to wind the Germans some.

The second half started much as the first half had been- with Germany seeking possession, but it was becoming all to evident what their problem was: They had in this tournament no killer instinct and no striker. In previous competitions going back to when they last won the Euro’s in 1996 they could count on Oliver Bierhoff, Miroslav Klose dominated the front line in the 2000′s and Thomas Muller was mostly quite frankly superb. They still had Muller and at Euro 2016 he was mostly quite frankly abysmal. Strange from coach Joachim Low that he refused to part ways with a striker that simply wasn’t having a good tournament, the ball was his enemy and his gift of the gab had clearly left him. Germany had no answer- and then they did the unthinkable and played like an amateur Sunday team in defence to gift the French and Griezmann the second goal which killed the game off.

As for France they grew more confident and bold as the game went on- finding more space in midfield and controlling it too. Paul Pogba shone, Patrice Evra rolled back the year’s, Hugo Lloris IS the goal keeper of this tournament and made some vital saves as Germany threw everything at the French in the final frantic moments and Samuel Umtiti the 22 year old Lyon player was an absolute monster.

France will face the other Ronaldo at the Stade de France in a major final just like they did when they hosted the 1998 World Cup. That night they played against a Brazilian who should have been in a hospital bed not on a football pitch. On Sunday they will face a player on top of his game. For tonight the Stade Velodrome in Marseille and indeed the whole country of France is awash in the tri colours, Viva France!



Five players whose stock unexpectedly rose drastically at Euro 2016

Group E Belgium vs Italy

International tournaments are being watched by millions of football fans, but also by every important human being in every club management. It is therefore one of the best ways for a player to put himself in the spotlights.

A bunch of internationals made their stock rise during Euro 2016, but the following five did so in an unexpected and drastic way.

Emanuele Giaccherini (Italy – Sunderland)

Italy weren’t expected to do much in France, but the Azzurri beat Belgium in their opening game of the tournament and went on to beat Spain before losing to Germany on penalty’s in the quarter-finals. Emanuele Giaccherini was a key player in Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 formation and has seen has stock rise dramatically.

The 31-year-old failed to live up to the expectations at Sunderland and played on loan at Bologna last season. He’s set to depart the Black Cats and even Chelsea have called. Giaccherini is most likely to end up in Serie A, but his goal against Belgium, endless work rate en timely forward runs have made him an unexpected wanted man this summer.

Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales – free agent)

“Without doubt, running down my contract at Reading was the best decision of my life. Reading wanted me to stay, but I felt it was the right time to move and take my future in my own hands. I always believed in myself,” Hal Robson-Kanu said after scoring a Cruyff-like goal in Wales’ quarter-final win against Belgium, as reported by the Daily Mirror.

The 27-year-old striker is a free agent after Reading let him go, and scored twice for the Dragons at Euro 2016, as he also hit the net in a group stage encounter with Slovakia. Robson-Kanu is hunted by many clubs, including a couple from the Premier League, and will make his decision soon. One that nobody could have imagined a couple of weeks ago.

Balazs Dzsudzsak (Hungary – Bursaspor)

It took Hungary play-offs to make it to France and nobody expected them to quality from Group F with Portugal, Austria, and Iceland. But they did, as Hungary even won the group with five points. The Hungarians drew against Iceland and Portugal, and beat Austria. Their star player, Balazs Dzsudzsak, found himself at the heart of their success.

The 29-year-old scored a beautiful brace against Cristiano Ronaldo and co, while showcasing his speed, creativity, and work rate in midfield. The former PSV player left Russian Dinamo Moscow for Bursaspor last summer, but he’s primed to jump to a bigger league like the Bundesliga due to the interest by a number of German clubs.

Marko Pjaca (Croatia – Dinamo Zagreb)

You must have done something right when Juventus, AC Milan, Napoli, and Borussia Dortmund are engaging in a bidding war for your services. That is the case for Marko Pjaca, who showcased his speed and dribbling skills on Croatia’s wing during games against Spain and Portugal.

The 21-year-old played just 103 minutes at Euro 2016, but made his mark in a big way. He’s primed to leave Dinamo Zagreb and is already being compared to Germany’s Julian Draxler. Milan look to have to upper hand for now, but Pjaca’s performances in France have nearly doubled his market value.

Michael McGovern (Northern Ireland – Hamilton Academical)

Only three goalkeepers made more saves at Euro 2016 than Northern Ireland’s Michael McGovern, who had 17 as his country made an astonishing run which ended with a 1-0 loss to Wales in the round of 16. Those three keepers were Poland’s Lukasz Fabianski (19), Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois (20), and Iceland’s Hannes Halldorsson (27).

The 31-year-old was the highest-rated goalkeeper of the group stages, according to Opta statistics. He was most impressive during Northern Ireland’s encounter with World Champions Germany, which they lost only 1-0. McGovern made a series of superb saves against the Germans, making his search for a club this summer a lot easier.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo desperate to atone for past failure in the European Championships

cristiano ronaldo portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo scored one and assisted the other for Portugal in a 2-0 win over Wales in Wednesday’s Euro 2016 semi-final clash at the Stade des Lumières. And with Portugal now in the final of the European Championships for the first time in 12 years, the Real Madrid attacker revealed after the game how determined he is to make amends for their past failure.

Portugal will be underdogs going into the game as they’ll face a tournament favourite in France or Germany, but Ronaldo is full of confidence in his side. He believes Portugal can overcome any obstacle put in front of them, and lauded the team with praise after finally winning a game in Euro 2016 in 90 minutes.

“The team did a marvellous job to reach the final. It’s what we have dreamt of since the beginning. We knew it would be a long road and we’re still in the tournament. I hope on Sunday you’ll see me crying with joy. I always said I wanted to win something with Portugal. We’re closer to doing it and I believe that we’ll win. I’ve been at the highest level for 13 years. The statistics never lie,” he said.

Portugal’s route to the final has been interesting given they hadn’t won a game in normal time prior to the semi-final victory over Wales. Fernando Santos’ men finish third in Group F with just three points from a possible nine, despite having a group featuring Hungary, Iceland and Austria. Nevertheless, they proved their credentials by doing enough in the knockouts to dispatch of the much-fancied Croatia and Poland.

It took an extra time goal from Portugal to put Croatia to the sword in the last-16, and they went to penalties against Poland in the quarter-finals. Fernando Santos’ side can only beat what has been put in front of them, and with the second-most clean sheets in the tournament going into the final, Portugal are perhaps deserved of more credit in truth.

Cristiano Ronaldo has had a topsy-turvy tournament, missing a host of chances in games, but always looking the most likely to get on the scoresheet for his country. He’s enjoyed playing up front with former Manchester United teammate Luis Nani, and the chemistry of the two players has led to three goals scored each from five games, as well as three assists in total. Ronaldo, for all his criticism, was key to Portugal’s victory against Wales and could be the difference in the final.

France manager Didier Deschamps wants to rewrite the history books ahead of Euro 2016 semi-final clash with Germany

didier deschamps france manager

Ahead of tonight’s Euro 2016 semi-final clash against World champions Germany, France manager Didier Deschamps says he’s desperate for his side to make history by finally beating the Die Mannschaft when they lock horns at the Stade Vélodrome later today. “We can’t change past history, but we’ve got our own page to write. It’s the players who have to write this page because for the moment it’s blank.”

France haven’t beaten Germany in a knockout game since 1958, but they come into their last-four clash as favourites given home advantage and the manner of their quarter-final win over Iceland. France have been the tournament’s top goalscorers, while Germany boast the tournament’s best defence. Something has to give at the Stade Vélodrome, and Deschamps has faith in his players.

“We’re facing the best team in the world, but the lads have to believe and we want the fans to believe in us too. We need to score goals. This is a team that doesn’t concede a lot of goals. Germany take command of their games and they dominate possession but we can’t go into this match thinking we’re going to defend, then hit on the counter-attack. With all the respect we have for Germany, we have a great chance and we’re going to take it with both hands,” the France manager added.

France will have key players back fit for the Germany meeting. Centre-back Adil Rami will return from his one-game suspension, as will midfielder N’Kolo Kante, which could make a big difference against a Germany side missing key players from their starting eleven. Centre-back Mats Hummels, central midfielder Sami Khedira and striker Mario Gomez are all out for the semi-final fixture.

Both sides are unbeaten en route to making the final. France topped Group A with seven points, beating Romania and Albania, while drawing with Switzerland. Didier Deschamps’ men dispatched of the Republic of Ireland and Iceland in the last-16 and quarter-finals respectively, scoring a total of 11 goals in the five games. As for Germany, the 2014 World Cup winners finished top of Group C with seven points. Joachim Loew’s side beat Northern Ireland and the Ukraine, while drawing with Poland.

In the last-16they comfortably beat Slovakia, but took penalties to get past Italy in the quarter-finals. Tonight’s game at the Stade Vélodrome is sure to be a tight affair, but France are full of confidence with their firepower, given Germany have a conundrum over who will lead the line for them today.

Can France finally beat Germany in a knockout game?

Did Wales look tired in Euro 2016 semi-final defeat to Portugal?

Wales were denied a place in the Euro 2016 final after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Portugal at the Stade des Lumières in Wednesday night’s semi-final, and after the game manager Chris Coleman admitted his players looked fatigued. While Wales had plenty of days to prepare for the encounter, it was clear from the performance that something wasn’t right with the side.

“It hurts that we lost the semi-final, the players are gutted, but they need to look back and see they have done their country proud. They could only give what they had and we looked a bit tired tonight. We never really found our momentum when we had possession, but you have to give Portugal credit, they defended deep and killed our space,” said Coleman.

The Dragons relinquished possession so cheaply, looked nervous to collect the ball in dangerous areas, and were making silly mistakes that almost led to Portugal taking an earlier lead. Wales certainly missed midfielder Aaron Ramsey from the side, and the players on the pitch looked mentally tired. Ultimately a three-minute crumble proved costly to the outcome.

“That first goal was going to be crucial. We just lost our concentration for five minutes and when you are up against quality in the semi-final of a tournament like this, Portugal unfortunately capitalised on that. We’ve done plenty of winning. Tonight it is our turn to lose, but congratulations to Portugal and I hope they go on to win the tournament,” added the Wales manager.

It took a monumental effort in the quarter-finals to earn victory over the much-fancied Belgium, but their clash against Portugal appeared to be one step too far for Wales. Gareth Bale tried valiantly to create chances, but he fell short at the Stade des Lumières. Midfielder Andy King, who came in for Ramsey, came close to converting a couple of chances, but didn’t affect the game as he would have liked.

“I think anybody is going to miss Ramsey, especially the way he has been playing. But it is about the squad. I was delighted with King. We were a little bit tired tonight. Balo (Gareth Bale) is a human being. He worked his socks off and tried everything to get us back in the game. I’m proud of all of them. Sometimes we don’t get what we want in terms of performance, but we also have to look at the opposition, because the opposition played very well,” said Coleman.

The Wales manager was keen to add how the journey isn’t over for the players, and hopes they can go on to fulfil their dreams of trophy success on the international stage. They certainly lit up the Euros.

Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger to start against France in Thursday’s Euro 2016 semi-final

Joachim Loew Germany

Germany lock horns with France at the Stade Vélodrome on Thursday night for the second Euro 2016 semi-final. The World champions are missing a number of players ahead of their meeting with Les Blues, but manager Joachim Loew has revealed one player who will be coming in to deputise in place of their injured star.

Centre-back Mats Hummels, midfielder Sami Khedira and striker Mario Gomez are all out of the semi-final clash with France, and long-serving captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has been confirmed to replace Khedira in the midfield. Loew says the 31-year-old will start without doubt against Didier Deschamps’ men, as he believes the player’s experience will be vital after losing so many players.

“I have the team in my head and Bastian Schweinsteiger will definitely start. I always said that if he trains 100 per cent without complaints then he will play. He trained this morning and had no complaints. The injury is cured and he showed against Italy he’s got the strength to play from the start, and I believe he’s very, very important, particularly in such a game – his experience is very valuable,” said Loew.

“We have three players – Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira and Mats Hummels – who we have to replace, which is not easy, and this is why it is important that an experienced player like Bastian starts. If he’s not strong enough to last the whole game, then we’ve got alternatives to come on later,” the Germany manager added. Schweinsteiger is coming off the back of a bad year with Manchester United but has looked more at home with the national team.

The 31-year-old has made four appearances in this summer’s European Championships, all from the bench, scoring one goal for his troubles. He’s been called upon by his manager to see games out and help the side retain possession in the latter stages of the match, but will now be required from the off. The 140 minutes of game time afforded to him is sure to help, but Schweinsteiger might be the one brought off late in the semi-final clash.

Germany could look to Julian Weigl, Mario Gotze and Joshua Kimmich as potential options for Schweinsteiger in the midfield so they wouldn’t be threadbare in his absence. With Toni Kroos to start against France, Schweinsteiger and Kroos could reprise their partnership from their Bayern Munich days. Can Germany get a result against host nation France on Thursday night?