What a tournament Euro 2016 was!
In this article, AFEfootballnews takes you down memory lane (a four week memory but still!) and takes a look back at the moments of the tournament that will be remembered for many years to come.
Dimitri Payet’s goal vs Romania
Your country is drawing against a team they really should be beating and the game is heading towards its final minutes, what do you do? well, if you’re Dimitri Payet, then you score a beautifully hit goal and gift your team all three points. Seeing him leaving the pitch in tears just added to the passion didn’t it?
Lorik Cana’s ridiculous handball
What’s the worst thing that could happen in your country’s debut game at a major tournament? probably losing, but having your captain sent off isn’t all that great either. When Albania played their first ever match at the Euro’s against Switzerland, they may have been expected to go all out and try to gain at least a point from the occasion, but they went 1-0 down within 5 minutes when Fabian Schar towered above their defense and nodded home for the Swiss.
To make matters worse (and far, far more embarrassing), Cana decided to try and deny Switzerland a break through on goal by producing what can only be described as a moment of pure madness. He flew along the floor like a fish out of water and handled the ball like an NBA player to see his second yellow of the game and be sent for an early shower. Disaster. Watch it if you dare …
Xhaka vs Xhaka?!
Just when you thought Cana’s antics were enough to confuse you, it turned out that Switzerland and Albania had players with the same last name. Brothers Granit (SWI) and Taulant (ALB) Xhaka were pitted against each other in their opening Euro 2016 match and it was fair to say that they didn’t hold back. Their mother was even seen wearing a half and half Albania/Switzerland shirt in the crowd.
Upon research, it turns out that their other brother has opted to play for Kosovo now, good luck with that one then mum!
Shirts ripped/ball pop in Switzerland vs France
This match may have ended in a 0-0 draw, but it didn’t half put a smile on people’s faces for all the wrong reasons. The ball popped following a Valon Behrami tackle on Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba was seen being piggybacked by Breel Embolo at one point too, nuts!
As well as that madness, Behrami, Granit Xhaka, Admir Mehmedi and Embolo (all Switzerland) had their shirts ripped during the match to which fellow Swiss midfielder, Xherdan Shaqiri was hilariously quoted after the game, as saying “Thank god Puma don’t make condoms!”.
Wales’ first win at the Euro’s
The Welsh nation had high hopes for this tournament, despite never qualifying before, and it seems that the players and fans alike were all right to dream.
Just 11 minutes into their Euro’s debut against Slovakia, Welsh wizard Gareth Bale rifled the ball in with a fine free kick that flew past Jan Kozacik. 1-0 and Wales were in euphoria. Slovakia began to kick back in the second half and it wasn’t long before substitute Ondrej Duda equallised with a fine finish that fooled the defense. But, just when it looked like the Welsh might have had to settle for a draw, it was time for their substitute, Hal Robson-Kanu, to shine on the big stage, netting the winner with 6 minutes to go.
Wales sat top of the group at this point, after England drew against Russia in the game that followed that night. Well in, boios!
England 2-1 Wales
Just to put the dampeners on the Welsh, the Three Lions decided to really show up for this one, in a match that will go down in history as the first time these two rivals faced off at a major tournament.
Wales took the lead once again through a Gareth Bale free kick, this time from 35 yards or so out, with a shot that Joe Hart could only tip onto the post and into the net. England equalized not long after the break through Jamie Vardy (who may or may not have been offside at the time). Daniel Sturridge broke Welsh hearts with the very last kick of the game, to send England to the top of the group and almost guarantee them a place in the last 16.
Wales top the group after beating Russia 3-0
Just when you think group B was all done and dusted … it really wasn’t.
England went into their final group game against Slovakia knowing that a win would see them top the group, but anything less (and a Wales win) would see them second. Roy Hodgson decided to rest a few key players in that match (Rooney and the like) and his side drew 0-0 despite having 27 shots on goal. Cue Wales win …
The Welsh subsequently tore Russia limb from limb, with Aaron Ramsey’s cool chipped finish, Neil Taylor getting his first international goal and Gareth Bale (no seriously) scoring to see them finishing top of group B. Revenge is sweet I guess …
Modric’s goal vs Turkey
Many critics had fancied Croatia as underdogs before the tournament had begun and they introduced themselves in the finest way possible during their opening group game against Turkey. Have a look at this beautiful volley by their little Madrid magician, Luka Modric …
Crowd trouble at Czech Rep. vs Croatia
Croatia found themselves 2-0 up with 15 minutes left of this match, but for some reason their fans weren’t all too happy, as they started throwing flares onto the pitch and booing their own players (no pleasing some!) which exploded right by where the stewards were standing, with one even being taken to hospital. Referee Mark Clattenburg was briefly forced to stop play and bring the players into the middle of the pitch – as fights broke out among Croatian fans.
In a fine example of karma, the Czechs fought back to 2-2 after Milan Skoda headed one in and a late penalty was netted by Tomas Necid after Domagoj Vida had handled the ball in the area.
The video of the fan trouble is below (viewer discretion advised).
Croatia beat Spain 2-1
You just can’t hate the Croats can you? one minute their throwing flares, the next they’re beating the current Euro champions!
Spain had taken the lead in just the 7th minute of the game as their top scorer, Alvaro Morata, who had three goals at the tournament netted, before Niko Kalinic equalized for Croatia just before half time. Both teams had played well, but you just got that funny feeling that Spain could crumble … and they did when in the 87th minute, winger Ivan Perisic, who had been great throughout got his thoroughly deserved goal.
2-1 and Croatia had surprised everyone by topping the group. 2016 is surely the year of the underdog isn’t it?
Italy 0 vs 1 Ireland
Ireland went into their final group game needing a win to stand any chance of finishing in third place and progressing thanks to the new “best performing third placed teams” rule/nonsense.
They were highly unfancied against Italy (despite Italy resting a few players having already qualified for the last 16). However, they put in the performance of a lifetime to produce a stunning 1-0 win with Robbie Brady scoring a brilliant goal in the last few minutes of the game.
Luck of the Irish, I suppose!
Iceland hold Portugal to 1-1 draw
Iceland were making their Euro debut this year too and it’s fair to say that they became everyone’s favourite underdog. The journey started out against Portugal, in a game that many believed that they would lose heavily.
They proved everybody wrong however, as Birkir Bjarnason’s goal cancelled out Nani’s opener and set Iceland on their way to making the quarter finals of the tournament. The nation of just 330,000 people have earned so much respect worldwide following the tournament. It’s the stuff of dreams!
Hungary 3-3 Portugal
Arguably the game of the tournament, in which the result saw Portugal finish behind Hungary and Iceland in group F.
Hungary took the lead through 37 year old former West Brom midfielder Zoltan Gera’s half volley flew in, but Nani swiftly equalized before half time. Two deflected Balazs Dzsudzsak (which is very hard to spell by the way) strikes twice restored Hungary’s lead early in the second half, only for a clever Ronaldo flick and header to level the score on each occasion. Three times Portugal came close to going home, but three times they replied.
The game was also significant as Ronaldo’s goals in the match meant that he was the first player to score in four different European Championship finals tournaments.
Shaqiri’s goal vs Poland
I’ll be honest, not many goals have had me jumping out of my seat in ovation quite like this one did!
Pure brilliance from the Stoke City man saw him pull off an incredible bicycle kick to pull Switzerland back into the game with just 7 minutes to go, before they eventually crashed out on penalties. Here’s the awesome strike …
McAuley’s cruel own goal
For Northern Ireland, getting into the last 16 was a huge achievement, after many had predicted they’d finish bottom of their group (which consisted of Germany, Poland and Ukraine).
They met fellow British country Wales in the round of 16 and harshly crashed out after defender Gareth McAuley had turned a Gareth Bale cross into his own net.
Boateng’s goal vs Slovakia
Volleys seemed to be a bit of a theme in France this summer didn’t they?
German centre back, Jerome Boateng isn’t particularly known for his shots on goal, but I’d imagine, that he will be remembered for this one for years to come …
Italy 2-0 Spain
It’s always a big deal when the current champions get knocked out of the tournament and both of these teams were coming into this match having lost their final group games, so redemption was important.
On the day, Italy totally outclassed Spain, who up until the match had dominated possession in games, but the Italian defense completely closed them out. Goals from Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle saw the Italians progress to the quarter finals where they would meet Germany.
England 1-2 Iceland
Quite possibly one of the shocks of the tournament, yes England hadn’t been great up until this one but you’d have still expected them to beat Iceland regardless of previous results.
England had taken the lead through Wayne Rooney’s penalty, only to lead for 2 minutes or so before dreadful defending allowed Ragnar Sigurdsson to head in and equalise for Iceland. It got far worse for Roy Hodgson’s team when Kolbeinn Sigthorsson forced a shot past Joe Hart from the edge of the area, despite the fact that he probably should have stopped it.
After that, Iceland were rarely threatened by England in truth, and England manager Roy Hodgson quickly resigned after the match. Embarrassing.
Portugal make it to semi’s without winning
This stat is utterly ridiculous but 110% true … Portugal didn’t win a single game on their way to the Euro 2016 semi-final match against Wales.
Well they did of course, but just not in normal time of a game, following 3 draws against Austria, Hungary and Iceland in their group, an extra time win against Croatia and a win on penalties against Poland.
Wales 3-1 Belgium
They couldn’t possibly go any further could they? Wales’ journey to the quarter final was truly astonishing and they were up against a Belgium side who they had previously drawn against and beaten 1-0 in qualifying for Euro 2016.
Radja Nainggolan’s beautifully hit shot flew in past Wayne Hennessey to hand Belgium the lead early on and from there on out it looked as though it was going to be a very tough night for Wales. But there’s just something about the Welsh that Belgium cannot seem to handle…
A brilliantly worked corner routine saw captain Ashley Williams equalize just before half time. But the true moment of magic came in the second half, when Hal Robson-Kanu was the hero once more when he took the ball down well and Cruyff turned the defense, sending Fellaini, Meunier and Lukaku the wrong way, before slotting the ball home. Wales’ defense stood strong against a flurry of Belgian attacks and they rounded the game off when they broke on the counter attack and Sam Vokes scored a fine header to seal an unbelievable 3-1 win for Wales, four minutes from time.
SEMI FINALS FOR WALES. Incredible!
P.S. Hal’s goal was later voted “Goal of the Tournament” by fans.
Germany and Italy’s awful penalty shoot-out
If ever you’re feeling down or you need a good laugh, just type “Simone Zaza penalty” into Google and you’re guaranteed to feel better about yourself. As you can imagine, Youtube never held back …
France 5-2 Iceland
Arguably, the game that everyone started to realise that there may have been hope for France after all!
Many had thought (and hoped) that the underdogs would strike again, but they were all so very wrong, as France utterly destroyed Iceland and made their way into the semi-final on home soil.
THE FINAL …. zzzzzzzzz….. wait what?!
Let’s be honest, we all overhyped this one didn’t we?
90 minutes of utter bollocks meant that extra time was needed for this one and just when it looked like it was heading for extra time, up pops Eder … EDER, with the winning goal! It summed up football in 2016 really, the year of the underdog (no matter how poor that underdog may have been throughout the tournament as a whole).
One things for sure, this tournament will stay long in the memories of many fans across Europe and probably the world too, as it showed us that even the smallest of nations can make it to the big stage and impress. That fans can behave (and misbehave if you’re Russian) and that no matter how bad you are at football you can still actually win a major tournament.