By some distance, the best performance at the championship so far – no matter how willingly Turkey appeared to roll over and take a pummelling.
1) Spain ▲3
The third goal was a beauty, even if Jordi Alba was a yard offside before teeing up Álvaro Morata. The move involved all outfield players apart from Gerard Piqué, and featured 21 passes. Same old Spain, then. Yet there was also a lingering sense that they can raise their game to another level. They toyed with Turkey for long spells and it does not bode well for the rest that Andrés Iniesta is on form, their oft (and incorrectly) criticised defence has barely allowed an opportunity, and Jordi Alba and Juanfran are insatiable at wing-back.
2) Italy ▼1
They listed in attack for long spells against a weak Sweden but, similarly to France, still found a way to win when not on top form. Antonio Conte has been told over and over that this is the worst Azzurri squad in years. Maybe that is the case, but they still possess the best defence in the tournament and, to paraphrase Alex Ferguson: “Lads, it’s Italy”. This is a side that may not pulverise teams into submission but will chip away and chip away, frustrating opponents to the extent where errors seem near inevitable. They might not have enough to go all the way, but no team will defeat them easily. With a last-16 berth already sealed, it would be no surprise to see Conte rest at least a couple of the five players on a yellow card against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday.
3) France ▼1
Are the hosts paralysed by pressure? Didier Deschamps’ brave gamble to drop Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann against Albania backfired, but the replacements were hardly weaklings and a fear of failure seemed to engulf the team early on. Olivier Giroud must be the next closest to being benched by the manager – in a tournament where no striker has yet stood out, he has missed more chances than any other. The cheers as he departed in Marseille were harsh, but the Arsenal man must do better if his country is to reach the final. Still, Les Bleus found a way to win, becoming the first team to assure their place in the knockouts. Facing Switzerland with less pressure should be a helpful tonic.
4) Germany ▼1
A first 0-0 draw in a Euros since 2008 and, more pertinently, the first time the tournament’s structure has been genuinely called into question since the games began. With both sides having won their openers, and four points likely to ensure progression, the meeting with Poland became the dullest game of the competition to date. Yet Germany undoubtedly have issues that need to be ironed out – in defence and attack. They conceded numerous cheap opportunities, most notably to Arkadiusz Milik, and the lack of a prominent striker meant that, for all their pretty midfield play, a lack of penetration at the top of a blunt formation has become a growing concern. But this is Germany and, when it boils down to decisive moments, they will find a way.
5) Croatia ▶
So impressive and in total control against Czech Republic, until everything went pear-shaped. A draw was very much undeserved. First Luka Modric hobbled off with an injury – he is expected to miss the group closer against Spain, denying fans the opportunity to witness one of the (if not the) tournament’s best midfield battles. Then the Czechs pulled one back before a portion of Croatian fans kicked off, placing them in hot water with Uefa and also, quite possibly, distracting their players to the extent where they conceded a penalty in injury time to lose two points that looked assured. They will still progress from the group but this draw means they will tread a tougher path in the knockout stages.
6) Belgium ▲6
That was better. Could the terribly off-key recital against Italy have been a one-off? Were the reports of widespread unrest in the squad and a near revolt against the manager, Marc Wilmots, overblown? Maybe – but it would be excessive to say Belgium are completely out of the woods, despite an entirely convincing win over the Republic of Ireland. It was dominant enough to give Spain v Turkey a run for the most one-sided match and, in terms of build-up play for a goal, the Red Devils got one over La Roja by stringing together 28 passes for their second. On this form they should have too much for Sweden, but can they keep it up?
7) England ▼1
Nothing if not contrary, England drew the game they played well in and won the match they stuttered through. Roy Hodgson deserves credit for his half-time substitutions, turning the game around by ditching the conservatism, but he would probably not have made those swaps if the game was scoreless at the interval. The most fascinating thing will be to see if Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, both ineffectual, are benched from the start against Slovakia – word now is that Daniel Sturridge will replace the former. The points accrued already will be enough to see them through, but victory remains a must to ensure top place and an easier last-16 tie.
8) Poland ▼1
If only Arkadiusz Milik was able to finish. Poland looked the happier of the two sides after the draw against Germany, but it should have been three points. Still, progression to the second phase of a Euros for the first time is in their grasp, and top spot could be theirs if they manage to knock a few past a desperate Ukraine, while Germany play a now buoyant Northern Ireland. For that to happen, Robert Lewandowski will need to be more prominent. He has sacrificed himself for the team up to now – dropping deep often and nearly playing as a No10, albeit very well. Considering the obvious frailties in Ukraine’s defence, could Tuesday evening be the moment he – to plunge into football parlance – arrives at the tournament?
9) Hungary ▲1
Bernd Storck’s team, unfancied and unheralded before this tournament, are almost certain to reach the knockout rounds, even if a third place finish could still come to pass if Portugal win on Wednesday. Their group – the pool of draws – may be the weakest but the Magyars are the only ones with a win and it looks like being decisive. Utterly dominant against Iceland, such is the wonderful oddness about this tournament to date, there was still an element of luck about their equaliser, an 87th-minute own goal. But who can deny one of the most historical football nations a piece of long-awaited glory?
10) Portugal ▲1
Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo has endured a horror show in France – encapsulated by his penalty crashing off a post against Austria and an offside goal soon after – but Portugal must still be the favourites in Group F despite having drawn both games. There may be a lack of cohesion and unity in comparison to other teams in the group but their level of talent outweighs that of those rivals. A win over Hungary in Lyon should see them top the group – though Iceland could end up level on points. Qualification may not yet be assured but already the main talking point seems to be how far Portugal are capable of going in the knockouts with the continent’s best player in a major sulk.
11) Switzerland ▼2
Conceded a first-half penalty to Romania but came back strongly to equalise through another set piece and a smashing strike from Admir Mehmedi. From that point on, they were best placed to grab a winner, creating a healthy 19 opportunities overall. Xherdan Shaqiri showed a bit more than against Albania, Granit Xhaka looked good in the centre, and Breel Embolo again looked lively off the bench. Four points means they will, barring a complete shock, make it out of the group but Vladimir Petkovic’s team may need a little luck to progress to the quarter-finals.
12) Wales ▼4
The timescale of events in Lens on Thursday may suggest Wales were unfortunate but, really, Chris Coleman’s team performed poorly. Simply, they are better than that. A side set up to defend were riddled with errors, most strikingly from the captain Ashley Williams. He erred in the opening stages to almost allow Harry Kane in, headed the ball into Jamie Vardy’s path for England’s equaliser and was fended off by the Leicester striker with ease for Daniel Sturridge’s late winner. Gareth Bale’s brilliance and Aaron Ramsey’s workrate are not enough when the team drop so deep. Thankfully for Wales, they cannot sit back against Russia. Against one of the worst teams in the tournament, they should still get the result required to advance.
13) Iceland ▲3
Of all the late concessions in this tournament to date, Iceland’s to Hungary was the most heartbreaking. They will have been crestfallen considering the manner in which they let two points slip to Hungary but Heimir Hallgrimsson and Lars Lagerback, the joint managers, must take heart and drum it into their players that a win (maybe even a draw depending on results elsewhere) against Austria on Wednesday will be enough to prolong this most wonderful fairytale and reach the last 16.
14) Northern Ireland ▲10
The contrast could hardly have been greater. Limp and ineffective against Poland, Michael O’Neill made five changes for Ukraine, took off the defensive shackles that weighed them down, and got his team playing. How handsomely it all paid off. Third place secure, that win on Thursday may be enough to make them one of the four third-placed teams to make the last 16. Now, with goal difference potentially decisive, O’Neill must decide whether to take on Germany or sit back and soak up the pressure. Either way, Lyon will go down in Northern Ireland history.
15) Slovakia ▲7
It is just as well Marek Hamsik is on good form. The Napoli captain set up the first against Russia with a delicious pass and scored a wonderful second before some strange substitutions from Jan Kozak – notably bringing on the striker Michal Duris for the midfielder Robert Mak with 10 minutes to go – welcomed an awful Russia to attack. Slovakia almost threw a comfortable 2-0 lead away, clinging on desperately in the final moments, but four points from six augurs well before facing England on Monday. Third place looks most likely but they could finish in any of the four spots.
16) Republic of Ireland ▼3
That they were outclassed by Belgium was not a major surprise but the 3-0 defeat makes their retreat when leading against Sweden, to chuck away two points, all the more exasperating. A victory there would have put them in a good position to progress in third. Now they must defeat Italy in Lille on Wednesday. Even if Antonio Conte reshuffles his team and rests key players (with top place in the group already assured), it will be a tall order. The biggest concern for Martin O’Neill is where a goal can come from – Shane Long has not shone as brightly as many had hoped.
17) Romania ▲3
Resilient and dogged once more, a draw with Switzerland has given Romania a chance of creeping through if Anghel Iordanescu’s team can win against Albania on Sunday night. Four points should be enough to seal one of the four-best third place spots and, if they can beat Albania by more than one goal – no easy feat on the evidence thus far and blatant shortcomings in attack – while France defeat the Swiss, second would be in their grasp too. By no means the prettiest team on show but quietly effective.
18) Czech Republic ▼1
The slowest, leggiest team in the tournament somehow, aided by the opposition’s unruly supporters, contrived to earn a point from a match in which they were completely outclassed. And now Czech Republic should reach the last 16 with a win over ramshackle Turkey. Quite the turnaround after an hour of being played off the park by Croatia, following 90 minutes of barely getting a touch in their opener against Spain. A poor team that would be little more than target practice for any team they could meet in the knockout stages.
19) Sweden ▼5
Two games in and still no shot on target. Erik Hamren’s side do, however, have a point courtesy of an own goal, and retain a slim chance of progressing. A victory against Belgium on Wednesday night will be required but, on current evidence, that seems almost implausible. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been handled with ease in both games and, while an argument could be made for a lack of service towards the striker, he has been quite a letdown. Of course, that tees him up to score a hat-trick against Belgium.
20) Russia ▼1
Insipid against England and, up until the final moments in Lille on Thursday, even worse against Slovakia. Defending that should be soundtracked by the Benny Hill theme, midfield play that looked better suited to Hackney Marshes and, in Artem Dzyuba, a beanpole striker that must be considered among the most ineffective in the tournament – something will need to change dramatically for Leonid Slutsky if Russia are to win against Wales on Monday night.
21) Albania ▲2
Based on their performance level and effort, this may seem quite harsh on one of the tournament debutants. They would have taken hope from a battling defeat to Switzerland after spending the majority of it without Lorik Cana, the captain sent off for two yellows, but to hold the hosts at bay until the final moments with a doughty defensive display only to have all the work undone by two late goals must have been heartbreaking. Albania will make things difficult for Romania, who need a win to stand a chance of progressing, and with nothing to lose Gianni De Biasi’s side may also show more attacking intent. A big win could see them progress as one of the four third-placed teams, but that is hugely improbable.
22) Austria ▼4
First the good news. Austria kept their first clean sheet at a major tournament in 14 matches and their first since 1982 (v Algeria) against Portugal. Then the bad. None of their last 32 shots at the European Championship have been converted. And then the worse news: they must beat Iceland in Paris on Wednesday evening to creep through, and even then it will be in second or third. So much for tournament dark horses. They have had a stinker.
23) Turkey ▼8
The standout moment came midway through the second half against Spain when Arda Turan, wide on the left, was met by a vicious chorus of jeers from the Turkey supporters. But the manner in which their heads dropped, an act of blatant surrender, when Álvaro Morata opened the scoring late in the first half said much more. “Today our national team threw in the towel,” the manager, Fatih Terim, said at full-time – and it was difficult to disagree. “You can be sure that I will never accept this. On behalf of my team I am deeply upset. I will do the necessary thing.” That, one suspects, would be wholesale changes and a renewed effort against Czech Republic.
24) Ukraine ▼3
Suffered the humiliation of being the first team to be knocked out of a tournament where only a third of the sides go home after the group stage. After defending moderately well but ultimately succumbing 2-0 to Germany in their first game, Mykhaylo Fomenko’s outfit needed to come out and attack Northern Ireland in what, from the outset, appeared to be a shootout for third place. They lost with barely a whimper in a bland show of nothingness, which must be considered a huge disappointment for a country with a football-mad population of 45.5 million up against a minnow with a population of 1.8 million and the regular threat of players joining the Republic. Ukraine were poor four years ago when hosting the Euros, but this was really insipid for a team containing a Europa League winner, plenty of talent and much more depth than opponents who, more importantly, had more desire and hunger.
This article was written by Alan Smith, for theguardian.com on Sunday 19th June 2016 09.26 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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