First round of matches at Euro 2016 ended with a draw between Portugal and Iceland and somewhat fittingly, for an OCD person, the second round of matches also finished with a draw as Portugal and Austria played out a goalless stalemate. Here are our learnings from second round of matches in France (RESULTS | STANDINGS)
Crowd trouble continues unabated
Early on in the tournament, it was England and Russian fans who were spread havoc on the streets of Marseille and soon that transcended to Lille as well. But as the tournament has gone on, more fans have been violent – inside and outside the stadium and more football associations are coming under the scanner. None more so than the Croatian fans who attacked each other and lit flares even though their team led 2-1 against Czech Republic. The cause for that is more deep rooted than ‘regular’ fan trouble. More recently, Hungary, Belgium and Portugal have also been charged for crowd trouble. The point remains that French authorities and UEFA in itself has handled security poorly at the tournament and a pitch invader running up to Cristiano Ronaldo post the Portugal-Austria game is an example of that.
Late winners – thrilling or heartbreaking?
‘Fergie time’ had a certain thrill to it as far as Manchester United fans and neutrals were concerned. For the unaware, it is when a late goal – mostly in stoppage time – is scored by a team. But the thing with late winners and their excitement is that it is few and far between. Something that cannot be said for Euro 2016. There have been a staggering 13 goals scored after the 87th minute with Iceland the latest team to face the heartbreak of such a goal. Although, Hungary and their fans, might disagree! (For the stats junkies, 14 goals have been scored in the first half)
Let’s not patronise Iceland then
When Iceland held Portugal to a 1-1 draw, many presumed it was an anomaly and a ‘one time thing’. So much so, Cristiano Ronaldo questioned their ‘small time mentality’ (and was rightly shunned for it) but the minnows weren’t going to go away without a fight. In fact, against Hungary, they defended resolutely and almost eked out a win. They led until the 87th minute but that is when an own goal shattered their dreams. Irrespective of the eventual outcome from this group, Iceland are by no means going out without ‘doing anything’ as Ronaldo claimed.
Dimitri Payet – the hot property
English Premier League fans have seen what West Ham’s Dimitri Payet is capable of with his sumptuous free kicks. World audience got to witness that in France’s first two games. In the first he scored a sublime left footed winner and in the second he provided the match-sealing goal from inside the box. All-in-all, he’s created multiple chances for Les Blues to come close to the magic of a certain Zinedine Zidane (or is that too soon?).
Good lord Ronaldo!
After the poor show against Iceland, and more ego bruised in post match comments, Cristiano Ronaldo had plenty to do – for himself and for Portugal. He became the most capped Portuguese player against Austria, surpassing Luis Figo, and continued to chase a record of scoring at four different European Championships. He came close in the first half with a shot going slightly wide and then his header was saved in the second half. But the biggest chance, almost on a platter, came in the 79th minute. Portugal won a penalty and no better than Ronaldo to take that, right? Right? Wrong! He stepped up, kept his shot down, went the opposite direction of the keeper but the ball came off the upright. Add to that, his free kick taken count rose but the conversion rate stayed unchanged – 0% in last 36 free kicks. Although, brownie points to Ronaldo for coming to the aid of the pitch invader being chased by security and taking a selfie.
Bigger is … better
ICC has been contesting fans and players’ demands of allowing more teams at the World Cup – something UEFA have no qualms with as the then president Michel Platini pushed for a 24-team tournament as against the 16-team format in use earlier. There were apprehensions that the ‘smaller’ teams will not be able to match the ‘bigger’ teams in terms of technique but those questions can be put to rest. Northern Ireland’s win over Ukraine, Iceland’s draw and almost win and Albania giving France a run for their money are prime examples of that.