Poland beat Switzerland (unsurprisingly for me). And even though Shaqiri’s goal left me speechless, it wasn’t enough to bail them out.
Then a Gareth-Bale-inspired Wales leapt over the line against Northern Ireland. I wouldn’t have predicted at the start of the tournament that they’d be the last nation from the British Isles standing. But they are, thanks in part to a certain Woy’s decisions. We’ll get to that in a bit.
There was Portugal. Were they inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo? I beg to differ. I think the “inspirer” was Fernando Santos, who finally awoke to the reality that pairing Carvalho with Pepe was a ticking time bomb. *Round of applause for you gaffer*
I wasn’t at all surprised with Germany’s or Belgium’s showings. They showed what meeting a tournament heavyweight earns you: a straight ticket back home!
France were a scam until Griezmann bailed them out, (with help from Giroud. You know what I mean).
Which brings me to Italy and Iceland, the biggest winners of the round. They displayed to the world that team spirit trumps individual quality no matter how much the talent abounds in a team (Hello England!).
With each of the 8 games in the second round, there was one case or the other. Case studies if I may.
Let’s see Case1:
MISSION: Eliminate Defending Champions and Avenge Final loss.
It seemed impossible from the word go. Conte and the Italian camp tried their best to maintain expectations, but then we all know Antonio Conte. He always has an ace up his sleeve and there was one in Saint-Denis, the collective.
He himself admitted that talent-wise, they were never going to match the Spaniards. But talent hadn’t exactly stolen the show in France.
From the blast of the whistle, they went toe-to-toe with Spain for everything. The farce of Spain keeping the ball so their opponents wouldn’t hurt them was what it was. Then came the goal… and the Red Fury never recovered.
It was the kind of goal that knocked them out. They tried to come back. Pull one back. Draw level. The closest they came was from Gerard Pique, who drew a masterful reflex save from the great Gigi Buffon (who was in awesome form).
Add to Buffon the wall of defense akin to the Great wall of China that La Roja encountered. Defensive organization unrivalled. This wasn’t parking the bus. It was the Italian defense. It brought back the old saying that Catenaccio is the solution to the famed Tiki-Taka, whose remains were definitely extinguished on the day.
Italian greatness aside, Don Del Bosque also handed the initiative to the Italians. Italy’s 3-5-2 would have suffered had Hector Bellerin started in Juanfran’s stead. Besides, I still don’t understand his aversion to Koke. His decision to go with the tested and trusted, instead of switching things up, failed him again and all this could have been avoided.
Decisions like dropping Isco and Saul, the former whose case in particular was disheartening. Besides, Aritz Aduriz would have offered more in attack than the ineffective and uncertain Pedro who has looked shorn of confidence since leaving Barcelona.
He did give Lucas Vazquez a chance, but it was too sudden, especially for a kid who isn’t used to playing against the brute force of an Antonio Conte-inspired team; a team led by a coach whose energy is so amazing (and contagious), it made him jump on the top of the dugout after Graziano Pelle landed the knockout blow.
So much passion inside one man. Chelsea players had better prepare. Dear Klopp, you now have a touch-line-drama-acting competition.
MISSION UPDATE: Mission Accomplished
MISSION: Eliminate Woy’s Bunch of Jokes
This has got to be the best thing to happen to Euro 2016. Don’t get me wrong. Payet’s goal and that 3-3 scoreline were beautiful but… the elimination of one of the saddest and shambolic teams in the tournament? Awesome!
What most don’t know is, England practically got knocked out the day the draw was made. Upon realisation that they’d face Wales, all focus was on the game in Lens. Come squad announcement time, Roy Hodgson announced his squad with that game in mind, dropping more reliable options in favour of injured and unfit players.
It was going to come back to haunt him. And it did. They drew against teams they should have beaten: bottling it against Russia before failing to solve a puzzle called Slovakia. Sandwiched in between, they had won the only game they came to France to play. They had beaten Wales.
Considering the Dragons are in the Quarter finals and the Three Lions are back at Heathrow wondering where it all went wrong, that’s an achievement innit?
From #Brexit to #Eurexit. What a week to not be an Englishman.
They somehow agreed to throw away the favour that the god of football bestowed upon them after Iceland finished second rather than Portugal. Or… could it be that when you have screwed with fortune, it screws you back?
Great credit to the Icelanders by the way who don’t have great football facilities that the Manchester City alone can boast of.
This should be a time of reflection for the FA. The failure began when they appointed Roy Hodgson. He led them to three major tournaments, all ending in Heartbreaks. Who remembers Euro 2012? Brazil?
In reality, England lack the mentality to win football tournaments. It says a lot that since 1966 when they won the World Cup on home soil, they have only won seven knockout games. No wonder, they sulked to stupor and behaved like babies when they lost the bidding rights to the 2018 World Cup.
They can learn from the team that eliminated them though. Team spirit and the right mentality will conquer mountains. Just ask Lars Lagerback and his co-coach. It’s not the first time Lagerback would engage in such co-coaching skills. He did likewise at Euro 2004 with Sweden, where they eliminated Italy in the group stage.
It’s his blueprint. France would only be wise to beware, because even if they have overachieved, they can sense something special. It would be their driving force when they take to the pitch on July 3. So much for beating England.
MISSION UPDATE: Mission Accomplished
On a final note, I hope to see some Quarter final upsets, Italy knocking out Germany on Saturday, Wales edging Belgium on Friday. Now is Ronaldo’s time to step up and lead Portugal like a real leader, because Poland could be wasteful, but Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik could just find their scoring boots.
Then there is France on Sunday. As much as I’d love to see Iceland win, I’d rather keep my fingers crossed. This, really, is Les Rendez Vous
Tosin Adesina is an ideal young man, a soccer aficionado. He prefers being called Fijasewa Arogunyo because that’s who the world would grow to know. He is a disciple of Pep Guardiola, a follower of Jurgen Klopp, a lover of Jose Mourinho, an admirer of Cholo Simeone, a fanatic of Carlo Ancelotti and an avid fan of Antonio Conte. You can connect with him on Twitter @teetunez