With 24 games played out of the 51 scheduled, we’re already nearly half way through Euro 2016! Match day 2 hasn’t had as many off-field antics as match day 1 did, which is good news, but it has had a few more exciting games with a shed load of late drama.
Even though there have been two nil nils in MD 2, even they have been pretty entertaining! Despite this the number of influential substitutions and late goals has been remarkable.
The above figure from UEFA.com shows that football really is a game of two halves! So far we’ve had a grand total of 47 goals – 14 of these have come in the first half and 33 in the second half, including 16 goals in the last 15 minutes! Late goals have certainly become a ‘thing’ of this tournament and with that in the heads of defenders, and more importantly the attack-minded players, we’re likely to see a few more.
Just before I expand on England and Spain’s performances let’s have a look at the updated low-down so far.
Best Team Performance: Northern Ireland or Spain (compliments to Albania)
Stand Out Player: Kyle Walker
Best Goal of MD 2: Either of the goals from Alvaro Morata
Most Improved: Northern Ireland or Belgium
Surprise Package: Czech Republic coming from 2-0 behind.
Most Disappointing: Ukraine
Movers and Shakers in the Betting Stakes: The three teams who are already through are now the three favourites for me: France, Italy and Spain. Germany drew 0-0 against Poland and didn’t look great. Anyone who thought Ukraine were an outside bet have been proved catastrophically wrong.
England – Roy Hodgson: Genius or lucky?
I’m tending for something somewhere in the middle of the two. I’ve read about the performance against Gareth Bale FC and listened to discussion on the radio and I’m leaning towards giving Roy Hodgson credit. Many are saying: “Well, he chose the wrong team in the first place and that was a mistake. He brought the players on he should have started with and got lucky.”
I disagree with this, I don’t think it was the ‘wrong’ team. I wanted him to start with the same team as I thought we totally dominated Russia and were pretty unlucky to draw the game, therefore the same players should start. Again against Wales we completely dominated the first half but did not have the cutting edge to score. Raheem Sterling without doubt should have put England 1-0 in front, but somehow missed, and he just looked devoid of any productivity. Harry Kane just wasn’t at the races. Before England knew it they were heading back to the changes at half time 1-0 down due to a good Gareth Bale strike and a pair of weak Joe Hart wrists.
With things not working Roy had to make what to many was an obvious decision. To think it is one thing but to do it is another. The previous night Didier Deschamps had a similar decision to make when Albania were causing serious frustration. He brought Paul Pogba at half time, then Antoine Griezmann later on who scored the 90th minute opener. Such decisions still takes balls. Not many managers make two substitutions at half time but off came Sterling and Kane and on came Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. Ten minutes later Vardy had marked with his golden touch. Unfairly, the game was heading to a draw but Roy was vindicated when Sturridge stabbed in a very late winner. What a boost that is going to be for the team heading into the final game against Slovakia. Marcus Rashford didn’t look half bad when he came on either.
Spain – Back to their best or one-off performance?
It’s hard to tell with Spain but they are crafting a very good winning mentality (again), with great thanks to that creative genius and King String Puller, Andres Iniesta. This time out they put Turkey to bed 3-0 courtesy of two goals from Alvaro Morata and one from my main man from Sanlúcar de Barrameda – Nolito!
Spain are now already through to the knock-out alongside Italy and France after securing 6 points out of 6. It was an accomplished performance from the reigning champions: plenty of goals scored and never threatened in defence. It also seems like they have more to give, which is cause for concern for the rest of the teams in the tournament.
Last time we had Graham Hunter providing the summary, this time we have Jacob Steinberg….