Euro 2016 marches on and further 6 games took place in the last two days. I’ll take a look at 3 of these, simply because the other 3 weren’t nearly as interesting.
Germany 2-0 Ukraine
Like with the hosts, the first thing that instantly draws your attention to the German team sheet is a lack of fit central defenders. Hummels isn’t fit enough to play (yet), Rudiger suffered an injury prior to the tournament and Mertesacker’s playing days for the NT have been over for 2 years. All of this meant Mustafi started at centre-back alongside Jerome Boateng.
Another problem is that Germany has only one out-and-out striker in Mario Gomez, who started the game on the bench. Two years ago they at least had Miro Klose to fall back on, this time around the veteran wasn’t at hand. And so Joachim Low started a wide man, Mario Gotze, as a false nine, with Draxler and Muller either side of him. I wonder whether Muller would have been a more natural fit as a forward, but hey, both wide men still contributed a great deal.
The game started with an unexpected great chance for Ukraine, but Konoplyanka’s goal-bound effort was parried by Neuer in great style. After that the match settled in Germany’s pass-pass-pass routine, which created the air of confidence around Low’s men, but was largely ineffective. It took a set-piece on the 19th minute for Mustafi to break the deadlock, having headed home Kroos’ erm, cross.
Some ten minutes later Ukraine finally got into the game and created a flurry of chances, only to be denied by Neuer or Boateng, who looked more assured than his centre-back partner. He also managed to clear one off the line.
Germany cranked up the pressure after half-time, however they had to wait for the 2nd goal deep into injury time, having been unable to outmanoeuvre Pyatov, albeit Muller, Khedira and Draxler did their best. Die Mannschaft could have even conceded the equalising goal after Mustafi’s header to Neuer caught the latter off guard. In the end substitute Schweinsteiger smashed home Ozil’s low cross and sealed the deal for the Germans.
Arsenal watch: Mesut Ozil. Ozil started the game in his preferred number 10 role, however he has largely been unable to influence the proceedings. His passing percentages were close to 90% as always, but, had it not been for that late assist, one could have said Ozil didn’t impress on the whole but the assist was a thing of beauty/
Spain 1-0 Czech Republic
With no Diego Costa, Paco Alcacer and Fernando Torres, it seems Alvaro Morata will be leading the line for Del Bosque’s men for the duration of this tournament. I’m not yet sure it’s a criticism: Morata hasn’t exactly had a mare of game, he had a couple of decent chances well-saved by our pal Petr Cech, but I got the feeling his overall contribution was kind of meh. The striker was hauled off on the hour to give way to Aduriz, which speaks a lot about Del Bosque’s take on Morata’s showing.
The pattern of the game was pretty predictable, with Spain dominating the ball and territory after the initial attempt from Czech Republic to put pressure on La Furia Roja. It still made me a bit sad Czech opted for a more cautious approach. Despite still representing a major force on international stage, Spain doesn’t look as formidable as they did 4 years ago, at the peak of their powers. Deserved elimination from the group stages at the World Cup in Brazil goes some way to show that. Think a more proactive approach from Czech Republic may well have stood them in good stead. As it is, they’ve succumbed to a late goal from Pique and are now facing an uphill battle against Turkey and Croatia.
Arsenal watch: Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky. I came to see Hector Bellerin, his omission allowed me to wholeheartedly support Czech Republic with two Gunners playing a prominent role in it. Also, let’s face it, should one really support a team with Ramos, Fabregas and Juanfran in it?
Anyway, I thought both our players did well, with Cech unlucky not to keep a clean sheet for all his heroics. He really did make some wonderful saves, while also being commanding in the air and calm with his distribution. Could do little about the goal.
Rosicky, meanwhile, was a livewire among a set of players intent on sitting back and absorbing wave after wave of Spain’s positional attacks. The captain fought a losing battle and it was genuinely depressing to see him sad after the game. Here’s hoping his team will turn the screw in the remaining games and at least make the last 16.
Belgium 0-2 Italy
I was looking forward to this game the most and it didn’t disappoint. Alright, it did at the inception, with Nainggolan’s shot about the only highlight of the first 30 minutes, but on the 31st Bonucci’s well-placed pass found Giaccherini and the Italian put the ball into the back of the net with just two touches. It was on.
Italy could have doubled the lead almost instantaneously, but Cortois parried Candreva’s shot for a corner and Pelle nodded the resulting cross just wide with the goal at his mercy. The whistle for the first-half came soon after this double chance.
Less than ten minutes into the 2nd half Belgium should have drawn level. Lukaku was sent clean through on the counter, Buffon raced out of his goal to meet him and the Belgian managed to slice his shot wide. Italy could have punished Wilmots’ men moments later, only for Cortois to parry Pelle’s headed effort.
Lukaku was subbed off 20 minutes from time and his counterpart Origi had a chance to cement his place in the starting line-up. For that he only needed to convert one of his two gilt-edged chances. However he managed to fluff his lines twice, when scoring seemed the easier option. Conte responded by introducing Immobile and Chiro made a tangible impact.
However it was Pelle who stole the show late on. Immobile won the ball back in the opposition half, found Candreva in the box and the latter crossed the ball to Pelle, with Cortois taken out of the game by that pass. Pelle smashed the ball in on the volley and Clattenburg gave the whistle moments after, realising there was no way he could have restored things back to normal.
Overall it was a great game with chances for both sides and a deserved win for Italy, who has been more clinical and created more chances overall, but you have to ask questions of Wilmots. He has a wonderful set of players at his disposal: Cortois, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Mertens, Mirallas, De Breyne, Hazard, Cassasco, Witzel, Dembele, Lukaku, even Origi and Vermaelen. However the team as a whole looks way off being a dark horse with a genuine chance of winning the whole thing. It pales in comparison with Italy, who themselves haven’t been tipped as favourites alongside teams like Germany and France.
Alright, that’s it from me for now. Doubt I’ll be able to watch any football today, but I sure as will do so tomorrow, so expect me to be back on Thursday with a fresh batch of games to dissect.
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Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.