Day 4 at the Euro’s saw the holders Spain put their disastrous 2014 World Cup performance behind them. They left it until late but they came away with the three points. Meanwhile Italy upset Belgium while Ireland and Sweden played out a very entertaining 1-1 draw. Let’s take a look at the day that was in France.
1) Biggest winner: Italy
There was so much narrative surrounding Group E heading into the tournament but the biggest one was everyone giving Sweden and the Republic of Ireland a chance while counting out Italy. It was widely accepted by nearly everyone that this was the worst Italian team to be competing at a tournament in quite some time, and they’d have to open up against one of the favorites in Belgium. But Italy did what Italy have done time and time again over the years. They found a way to once and were ready to hold on for a classic Italian 1-0 win, before Graziano Pelle sealed the win in injury time.
The win gives Italy one foot in knockout round after just one game.
2) Standout performer: Petr Cech (Czech Republic)
It took Spain 10 minutes to get into the game but once they did the Czech’s struggled to even get the ball out of their own half. Despite being under siege the entire for nearly 80 minutes, Cech was so outstanding that it took 87 minutes for the Czech’s goal to finally be breached. This game easily could have ended 4 or 5-0 if it wasn’t for the brilliance of Cech. Despite his age, Cech that he still has a lot left in the tank.
3) Biggest loser: Republic of Ireland failing to close out Sweden
With the top four third place teams from the group stage advancing to the knockout round this year, three points may be all you need to advance. In a group with Italy and Belgium, the match between Ireland and Sweden would present both teams their best chance of getting those three points. Ireland dominated the first half and were unfortunate to not score in the first half. While they were under a bit of pressure following their goal, Sweden ultimately needed an own goal from Cieran Clark to draw level. If Ireland fail to get through they’ll only have themselves to blame.
4) Best tweet:
Let’s be honest, carrying around speakers blasting ABBA is a great way to prevent violence. Who can resist stopping to belt out all the lyrics to Dancing Queen when that comes on? Nobody.
5) Biggest surprise: Belgium’s ineptitude
Surprise is probably the wrong word. Well, the world and the pundits may be surprised that Belgium fell to Italy but for those that looked closely at Belgium could have seen this coming. They’re wildly overrated, and the number two ranking certainly doesn’t help. They’re dealing with injuries and while they have very talented players, Kevin de Bruyne is the only one of them that’s on form. They played well two years ago with no pressure, this time around there’s a lot of pressure on them and they did not handle it well in their first game.
6) Worst moment: Marouane Fellaini’s hair
So majestic. pic.twitter.com/GV1XL2HFol
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) June 13, 2016
There wasn’t really a terrible moment per say today. There were still some concerns over fan violence in France, especially with the Russians coming out in support of their fans. That was not good but I’m choosing to go down a lighter path. Literally.
But what in the world was Fellaini thinking by doing this to his hair? Is he trying to rival Aaron Ramsey for the worst hair in the tournament because that’s probably the only explanation that makes sense.
I'm just going to say this now. If there are in fact soccer gods out there, there's no way they let #BEL win due to Fellaini's hair
— 32 Flags (@32flags) June 13, 2016
7) Best goal: Wes Hoolahan (Republic of Ireland)
Ireland spent the first half knocking on the door but couldn’t find their breakthrough. Just after halftime right back Seamus Coleman got the ball on the right flank and after making a great move to get into a dangerous position, lofted a cross to the top of the box. At first it looked like it was a cross to no one, but then appeared Wes Hoolahan, running away from the goal he was able to smash it in on his weaker right foot.
8) Extra time
While the slate of games looked great heading into Monday it didn’t turn out the best day of soccer. The Czech Republic were very poor against Spain, only keeping it close due to the heroics of Petr Cech. As was expected it was the middle game that delivered the goods, with both the Republic of Ireland and Sweden coming out trying to get three points, it’s just unfortunate neither of them could get it done. The late game featured the Italians and their very stingy defense. The first half was a bit slow but things did open up considerably in the second half. At the end of the day it was the old Italians teaching the young Belgians a lesson about tournament football.
9) Tuesday’s games
There are only two games Tuesday as only Group F is left to play to round out each team’s first games. Therefore you’ll actually be able to be productive and get some work done in the morning. The action kicks off at noon ET with a boarder battle between Austria and Hungary from Bordeaux. Then a 3:00 ET we’ll get our first look at Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal when they take on Iceland in Saint-Etienne.