Summer of Soccer–Euro 2016 Group Stage to Semis
As I looked ahead to the summer of 2016, I just couldn’t believe all the soccer would be on. The addition of the Copa America Centenario and the expanded Euros created a month of wall to wall coverage that surpassed even the World Cup in terms of soccer coverage.
I take the Euros event very seriously. Ever since I bought the pay per view package for Euro 2000, this has become one of my favorite tournaments. In previous years, I would watch at work but due to the move and new job, this is not a luxury afforded me.
After reviewing the groups and the schedule, I decided to focus on Group D—Spain, Czech Republic, Croatia and Turkey—while catching highlights and games when I could. The tournament started off with a bang as Payet struck late to give the hosts all three points. The first weekend was a snoozefest for the most part but was highlighted by Wales starting off with three points against Slovakia, England surrendering a late goal to Russia, and Modric’s wonderful goal against Turkey.
Late goals were a theme of the tournament, highlighted by the first full week where England stunned Wales, France escaped against Albania and the Czech Republic salvaged a draw with Croatia. Surprise packages presented themselves as Italy secured passage to the next round with a game to spare and Iceland, Hungary and the home nations proved they were not in France just to make up the numbers.
The second weekend saw drama but not too many goals. Belgium thrashed Ireland and Iceland and Hungary played out a draw, which gave each of them a chance of advancing. Scoreless draws between
Portugal and Austria and Switzerland and France did little to lift spirits, although Albania’s 1-0 win over Romania provided great scenes.
Final games in the rest of the group matches finally provided the desired tension. England changed up their team and failed to beat Slovakia which allowed Wales to win the group. Northern Ireland lost to Germany but still managed to move on. Croatia stunned Spain with a late goal from Perisic and won the group. Hungary and Portugal played out a thrilling 3-3 game, with Ronaldo’s late goal allowing the Portuguese to advance. Iceland’s late goal saw them move on. In Group E Ireland got a late goal from Robbie Brady to advance.
The Round of 16 was a real mixed bag. Saturday was awful. Poland scored early against Switzerland and then went very negative. Shaqiri scored a goal of the tournament contender to equalize but Poland moved on after penalties. Wales and Northern Ireland played out a passionate if not technical match, with the Welsh advancing on an own goal. Croatia against Portugal was super disappointing. Croatia showed none of the incision of previous games and were knocked out when they fell asleep, allowing Quaresma to score at the end of extra time.
Sunday was better with goals scored and statements made. The Irish won an early penalty against France but faded in the second half, losing 2-1. Germany destroyed Slovakia 3-0 and it could have been worse. The day ended with Belgium ending the Hungarian dream. Hazard looked quite good and Hungary couldn’t convert their chances, eventually being punished in the last 15 minutes as they searched for an equalizer.
Monday I had to go back to work as Spain played Italy and England faced off against Iceland. I watched the tweets go by during the day and I couldn’t believe it. I went home trying to wrap my head around the results. Match of the Day opened with the England defeat and, based on the highlights and commentary, the Three Lions were quite poor. Shearer, Ferdinand, Jenas and Lineker were quite harsh. As for the Italians, Conte builds teams and Italy took a bunch of parts and made a real go of it.
The Quarter Finals had everything. Portugal knocked off Poland as Renato Sanches made sure everyone knew his name. Wales sent Belgium packing by tearing apart an inexperience back line. For Germany against Italy I went to Der Biergarten in downtown Atlanta to watch with German fans. After a slow start the match moved through the gears, culminating with the best/worst shootout ever. France ended the Icelandic dream with a scintillating performance.
I took the afternoon off for the Portugal/Wales Semi Final. After the first half I was regretting that decision as almost nothing happened and I was thinking about taking a second nap. However, Portugal came to life after halftime, scored two quick goals and then saw out the rest of the match. The France/Germany game was weird. France came out guns blazing and then Germany put their foot on the ball and really should have killed off the game as Les Bleus couldn’t even get out of their own half. But just before the interval, Schweinsteiger inexplicably put his hand up and the French converted the penalty to go 1-0 up. France pressed their advantage but again couldn’t score. Then another German mistake and, with 15 minutes to go, the hosts were up 2-0. Germany created several good chances but Lloris answered the call, setting up a France/Portugal Final.
Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.