The day that completed the first week of matches in Euro 2016 gave us a dramatic finish in favor of England against Wales, a stunning performance by Northern Ireland against Ukraine, and a disappointing draw between Germany and Poland.
The results of today assure us that England will finish in the top 3 of their group (and probably better) while Ukraine, after two 2-0 losses, are out of the contest for qualifying into the group stage, making their final match against Poland a matter of protocol, and simply getting in the way of the Poles, if they able to.
England 2 Wales 1: A thrilling encounter in Lens, as England came back from a long range Gareth Bale free kick, pretty much the only time Wales made something happen in the first half. Roy Hodgson realized his mistakes, introduced Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy, and the rest is history. Vardy scored 10 minutes after coming on, as a Sturridge cross bounced off a Welsh head, leaving Vardy in a perfect position to score. After long minutes of pressure, some more mayhem in the Welsh box allowed Sturridge to make his way through and score the 92nd minute winner.
Ukraine 0 Northern Ireland 2: The side with the most well-heard fans in the tournament bounced back from their awful opener against Poland and played an inspiring match against a side that has two wing players who have no one to share their talent with. The first goal came in the 49th minute, as a Steven Davis cross landed on Gareth McAuley’s head, pretty much the only way they could score. Ukraine never did anything that made Northern Irish hearts skip a beat, and in stoppage time, Niall McGinn took advantage of a poor save by Pyatov to complete the stunning victory, complicating things in Group C.
Germany 0 Poland 0: A match that promised so much and ended up being the disappointment of the tournament so far. Poland probably are the slightly happier side with the draw, but Germany looked stuck a lot of the time, with Thomas Muller lost on the wing, and no one up front to give Germany a finishing touch in the box. Both teams can qualify with just a draw in their final match, ensuring a top two finish.
Group B Table
|1||England (X)||2||1||1||0||3||2||+1||4||Advance to knockout phase|
|3||Slovakia||2||1||0||1||3||3||0||3||Possible knockout phase based on ranking|
(X) Assured of at least third place; may still qualify as one of the top two teams or as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Group C Table
|1||Germany (X)||2||1||1||0||2||0||+2||4||Advance to knockout phase|
|3||Northern Ireland (X)||2||1||0||1||2||1||+1||3||Possible knockout phase based on ranking|
What did we learn
- England’s best quality is their strikeforce, which makes you wonder why Roy Hodgson starts with just Harry Kane. Luckily for the side, he realized playing with two, especially Vardy and Sturridge, is the way to go.
- After all the trash talk and despite his goal, Wales and Gareth Bale looked like a small team defending for their life, and puts them in a position they hoped they wouldn’t be in on the final day
- Ukraine are out, deservedly so, not scoring a single goal in the opening two matches, and failing to create something meaningful against one of the weakest teams in the tournament
- What can you say about the Northern Irish? Guts & glory, along with wonderful, noisy fans, and an incredible chance to do something many thought impossible: Make it into the round of 16
- Germany overcame the Joachim Low scratch & sniff drama only to find out he forgot what to do with Thomas Muller. So far, they don’t look like a side good enough to double up on the World Cup
- Poland found enough opportunities to embarrass Germany, only didn’t take advantage. Funny to say, but their biggest underachiever so far is Robert Lewandowski
- Dimitri Payet (France), Bogdan Stancu (Romania), Gareth Bale (Wales): 2 goals
- 27 different players with one goal each