We are two thirds of the way through EURO2016 and despite scoring being down it has been quite entertaining. This is the first Euro tournament that started with 24 teams compared to the usual 16 and despite the fears of dilution, the so called underdogs have more than held their own. So as we approach the quarterfinals let’s take a look a quick look at the top stories that have emerged and what to expect the rest of the way.
When GOOOOOOAAAALLLL meets ice
Rather than stating, “He shoots, he scores!” like one does in hockey, a soccer announcer has a simpler task by just saying, “Goal.” Mind you, for many South American announcers that one word can last up to 3 minutes. In the last few days, the unknown announcer from Iceland, just one upped them. In their very first soccer tournament, Iceland has advanced to the quarterfinal stage. However, more memorable than their record in the group stages and more memorable than their knockout victory over England will be their host announcer. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know what he is saying you just see his excitement and know that he is expressing what 300,000 fans back home are feeling. To see the happiness that this Cinderella team has already brought their country is why we all fell in love with sports to begin with.
Antonio Conte 1 @PapaDart 0
I hate to admit when I am wrong, but I am a big enough man (yes, physically too) to do so. I thought Antonio Conte did a poor job in who he selected for the Italian team. I even went so far as to say the Azzurri were doomed http://fredi.ca/azzurri-doomed-as-conte-fails-history/ Now, I didn’t call them the worst Italian National team in the last 50 years as some media did, but I didn’t expect to see what they have already accomplished. They easily won their group after two games and had the hardest task in the Round of 16 having to face Spain, winners of the last two European Championships. The Italians played a masterful, tactical game outplaying ‘La Rojas’ for most of it. Kudos to Conte for the 2-0 victory and for picking the right players and formation that outclassed the Spaniards. Italy played so well as a unit that they even made defence look beautiful. Regardless of what happens against Germany, the Italians have already had a very successful showing and I was completely wrong about Conte.
Soccer is the new basketball
The old joke was that all you need to do is watch the last five minutes of a basketball game as that determines the victor. Besides that being far from the case in this year’s NBA playoffs with so many lopsided wins, the end of games at Euro2016 has become must watch TV. During the group stages, almost 30% of the goals have been scored after the 85th minute. The goals were of great significance too because in all but two of those matches, it was a one goal game. These types of stats further encouraged teams to press knowing that a late goal was possible and it provided the necessary drama for fans to jump out of their seats in excitement or cover their heads with their hands in desolation. Soccer is the beautiful game but she can be cruel, so so cruel.
My (Laugh all you want) Predictions
Poland vs Portugal – Portugal hasn’t played up to their potential all tournament so they are due for one decent game… aren’t they? I think their experience gives them a slight edge over Poland.
Wales vs Belgium – After losing to the Azzurri, the Belgians have showed why they are so highly ranked and why they have the most expensive team. Belgium’s offence has gotten better as the tournament progressed and will be too much for Gareth Bale and the Welsh.
Italy vs Germany – Italy has knocked out Germany the last few times they met in the World Cup or the Euros including the semi-final match at Euro2012. Having said that, this has been a crazy tournament and although I think Italy can win, I think zee Germans finally beat them.
France vs Iceland – If you were not born in France, you are cheering for the underdog Iceland. Such a great story, they have accomplished so much and although France hasn’t played to their best yet, I think playing at home is enough to defeat Iceland.
In the semi-finals I see Belgium denying Ronaldo an opportunity to get to the finals and I see a well-organized Germany team defeating the hometown French. In an exciting match between Germany and Belgium in the finals, I think Germany will be the second team in a row (and the 3rd in history) to win the Euros after winning the World Cup as France did it in 2000 and Spain in 2012… or… go ahead and kick me when I’m down, Italy will surprise everyone and win Euro2016 making me an even greater fool. Come to think of it, I would be pretty cool with that result, pretty cool indeed.
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