What we’ve learned from Euros so far

What we have learnt so far in France

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE -

We’re nearly half­way through what has been an in­trigu­ing cou­ple of weeks of foot­ball at Euro 2016. From the pas­sion on the pitch to sup­port­ers fight­ing off it, there’s cer­tainly been plenty to talk about the group stages in France. We look back and pick out the key find­ings so far...

1. DON’T RE­WARD MEDI­OCRITY

Giv­ing more na­tions a chance to make the big stage may tick UEFA’s CSR boxes but the for­mat of let­ting third-place teams through to the knock­out stages is merely re­ward­ing medi­ocrity.

The four best per­form­ing third­place teams out of the six groups qual­ify. So, North­ern Ire­land, with one win, two loses and just two goals, are through. North­ern Ire­land may have earned their place in the en­larged cham­pi­onships, but they haven’t earned the right to ad­vance.

The group win­ners the third place teams will face vir­tu­ally get a bye in the last 16 as there is lit­tle chance of a shock re­sult given the teams are so woe­ful. UEFA needs to go back to a 16-team for­mat. That will mean some na­tions don’t make the cut.

But this isn’t a school sports day where every­one’s a win­ner just for tak­ing part, the goal is to find the best team in Europe.

2. LOTS OF FIGHT­ING TALK

You can com­mend the pas­sion on the pitch by many teams, but in the stands and away from the sta­di­ums, the dark days have re­turned to Euro­pean foot­ball. The Hun­gar­ian Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion (MLSZ) were the lat­est as­so­ci­a­tion in hot water at Euro 2016 af­ter they were fined €65,000 fol­low­ing trou­ble af­ter the draw with Ice­land. Other na­tions also fined so far in­clude Croa­tia (€100,000) and Rus­sia (€150,000), while UEFA has on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into fans from Ro­ma­nia, Al­ba­nia, Por­tu­gal, Bel­gium and Turkey. The be­hav­iour by some Rus­sian fans is not the great­est ad­vert for a coun­try that will host the next World Cup.

3. DARK HORSES?

Be­fore the start of the tour­na­ment every­one was rav­ing about Ger­many and France, but the one team that have im­pressed al­most every­one at 7DAYS Tow­ers are Croa­tia. Boast­ing per­haps one of the strong­est mid­field pair­ings in the world in Ivan Rakitic and Luka Mo­dric, th­ese two have or­ches­trated some great mo­ments. No doubt Rakitic and Mo­dric are world-class play­ers, but it has been Ivan Perisic who has been the Croat’s star player. The In­ter mid­fielder scored a su­perb win­ner against Spain to se­cure top spot for Croa­tia in Group D and op­po­nents must be wary of the trio in the knock­out stages.

4. TALE OF TWO CHAM­PI­ONS

Two-time de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Spain were vir­tu­ally writ­ten off be­fore the Euros with many say­ing the team was too old, not good enough... etc.

The Spa­niards, how­ever, have shown some of their old form, but as they proved against Croa­tia, they are beat­able. Also when you have play­ers like David Silva and An­dres Ini­esta on the pitch, why did Ser­gio Ramos step up to take a penalty? Had he scored maybe Spain would not have to now face the Ital­ians in the last 16.

Ramos’ penalty miss could re­ally come back to haunt them.

World cham­pi­ons Ger­many pro­gressed to the last 16 with two wins and a draw from their three group games. What is quite scary for the rest of the na­tions is they have not hit any­where near top gear. And can you be­lieve that Thomas Muller has still never scored at a Euros? Surely, that will change this year, won’t it?

5. SO, WHO IS GO­ING TO WIN?

The team here at 7DAYS had a mixed bag of pre­dic­tions in the run-up to Euro 2016. One went for Ger­many, one for Bel­gium and two said France.

Fol­low­ing the group stage it seems that we are none the wiser on who will win the tour­na­ment.

With Italy and Croa­tia added to the mix, one thing that is ob­vi­ous is how open this tour­na­ment re­ally is - which bodes well for the next few weeks.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Think you know who will win Euro 2016? Tweet us @7DAYSSPORT or send an email to sport@7days.ae

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