5 things we learnt from the Euro 2016 Quarter-Finals

In anticipation of even more footballing, Oisin McQueirns gives his views on some of the best and worst kicking of balls in the Quarter-Finals of Euro 2016.

When the going gets tough, the Belgian’s get eliminated:
Let’s kick things off with Friday night’s game between Wales and Belgium. Marc Wilmot’s men were the heavy favourites going into the tie. The nation’s ‘Golden Generation’ on the right side of the draw and just three games away from fulfilling their unquestionably high potential. The Red Devils took the lead after only 13 minutes and everything was going swimmingly. That was until, Ashley Williams equalised for Wales and turned the game completely on its head. In the second half the Welsh looked much the better side, while the Belgian’s confidence seemed to dwindle as each moment passed. Wales scored two second half goals to see off their shaken opponents 3-1. Just like in 2014, Belgium were tipped by many to impress in this major tournament, but once again they lacked the necessary steely determination needed to succeed. Many will blame manager Marc Wilmots, while others may look at the lack of a real leader in the absence of Vincent Kompany. Either way it’s a major disappointment for Belgium’s golden generation.

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Marouane Fellaini, pictured here attempting to personify the Belgium ‘Golden Generation’ through his hair and head.

 

Portugal still haven’t won a game in 90 minutes:
You really have to hand it to the Portuguese. Despite failing to beat any of the five teams they have faced in 90 minutes, they have still somehow managed to reach the last four of the competition. It took the dreaded lottery that is the penalty shootout to see off their most recent foes, Poland, in Marseille on Thursday night. They had stayed true to their new gimmick and registered a 1-1 draw in normal time, and frittered away an extra 30 minutes of their, and our, time. They looked impressive at times against the Poles and in Renato Sanches they have a real gem of a youngster at their disposal. However far too often they lacked a cutting edge (even with a certain Cristiano on the field) and when extra time came they seemed content to hold out for the draw. It’s a bizarre way of reaching a tournament semi-final but credit where credit’s due, Portugal have proven themselves to be notoriously hard to beat, and when push comes to shove, be it extra time or penalties, they always seem to get the job done. The Welsh await in the semi-finals on Wednesday night in Lyon. Draw anyone?

Coaching staff have been training Ronaldo to balance balls on his head like a performing dolphin in return for raw fish treats. Much of Portugal's incompetence may stem from this.
Coaching staff have been training Ronaldo to balance balls on his head like a performing dolphin in return for raw fish treats. Much of Portugal’s incompetence may stem from this.

Simone Zaza has made himself famous:
It’s highly unlikely that most unassuming, casual Euro 2016 fans would have heard of Italy striker Simone Zaza before Saturday night. The 25 year-old Juve man is actually quite a good footballer; strong, quick, good in the air- all the attributes needed to be a top level striker. A top level striker with the perfect platform to show off his talents to the world. It’s the quarter-finals of the European Championship’s and Zaza is brought on in the last minute of extra time for the ensuing penalty shootout. Unfortunately for the Italian number 7 however, it wasn’t exactly his talents that the world was talking about after this game. In what was undoubtedly the highlight of the match, and maybe even the tournament itself, Zaza channelled is inner Johnny Wilkinson and slowly and bizarrely, kind of tip toed up to the ball and hilariously blazed it over Manuel Neuer’s bar and far into the Saint-Denis night.  This immediately sent the internet into overload and turned little old Simone Zaza into an overnight sensation. It may be for all the wrong reasons, but you’re not likely to forget the name Simone Zaza for a long time.

Simone Zaza obliterates the hopes of a nation
Simone Zaza has since been approached by Michael Flatley to appear as a celebrity guest in Riverdance.

The French have arrived:
It took three weeks and a game against a fatigued Icelandic side, but Sunday night, Les Blues finally turned it up a gear on home soil. A first half display of power, movement and clinical finishing, blitzed Iceland and ended the game as a contest within 45 minutes. Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet continued to look sharp while Paul Pogba, playing in a deeper role in the absence of N’Golo Kante , looked very much like the mercurial midfielder many believe him to be. Yes, in the second half they understandably took their foot off the gas and allowed Iceland to come into the game a little, but this was without question the best they’d looked in any of their previous 4 games. With the World Champions Germany next up in the semi- finals, Didier Deschamps men may have picked the perfect time to come good.

A herd  of French footballers training.
A herd of French footballers training.

Hal Robson-Kanu is the best football player in the world:
When Johann Cruyff invented the Cruyff turn in the 1980s he could have never dreamed that someday Welsh striker Hal Robson-Kanu would use it to simultaneously end the lives of the majority of the Belgian backline while also sending his country to the semi-finals of the European Championships. Don’t you dare try to tell us that Shaqiri or Payet’s goal was better. We’re not going to listen to you. Here it is for all those unfortunate enough not to have seen it already.

 

Oisin McQueirns

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