After the group stage featured too many teams playing passive soccer so as to not hurt their goal differential, we kept telling ourselves that when the knockout rounds began things would open up. That certainly did not happen Saturday. Northern Ireland and Wales played what you would have thought was the worst game you’ve ever seen, until an hour later when Croatia and Portugal kicked off. That game made the Northern Ireland Wales one look like Hungary vs. Portugal’s 3-3 thriller earlier this week by comparison. Just an ugly day all around.
1) Biggest winner – Poland.. by default
There really were no winners today. Poland and Switzerland played to a very predictable 1-1 draw and then that turned out to be the best game of the day. Poland still need Robert Lewandowski to get going but they have to like their chance against an overrated Portugal side in the quarterfinals rather then a good Croatia team.
2) Standout performer – Anyone who did something outdoors today
The knockout round was supposed to bring on more entertaining soccer as the games became win or go home. That didn’t exactly happen. In fact, we may have even seen some of the worst games of the tournament. There were really no standout performers on the field so this is going to the people who went out and enjoyed the day Saturday. It’s the first official weekend of summer, the weather is beautiful, if you decided to go outside and enjoy the beautiful day then good job by you. You didn’t miss anything. If you want an actual player, Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was pretty good in the second half and extra time to keep the game tied.
3) Biggest loser – everyone who watched Wales vs. Northern Ireland AND Croatia vs. Portugal
The fans in this game were tremendous, but that’s about the only positive thing I can say about Wales vs. Northern Ireland. Scoring chances were few and far between and the awful game was fittingly decided by an awful own goal. The best part about this game was that the late own goal meant we didn’t have to watch an extra 30 minutes of it. Against all probability, it wasn’t even the worst game of the day. Nope, Croatia vs. Portugal took that honor by playing 117 minutes without even getting a shot on target. Luckily Ricardo Quaresma eventually put us out of our misery.
A Wales-Northern Ireland knockout game seemed like a nice idea at one point.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 25, 2016
4) Best tweet
— Copa90 (@Copa90) June 25, 2016
Remember when Shaqiri scored that goal and we all thought sports were good. We were so young and innocent then.
— Mike L. Goodman (@TheM_L_G) June 25, 2016
5) Biggest surprise – Ivan Perisic’s hair
There really wasn’t a lot going on on the field today so Perisic’s interesting new haircut certainly stole the show.
— Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) June 25, 2016
6) Worst moment – Portugal’s tactics
Portugal’s tactics were pretty clear right from the start. They were going to hound Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric every time they touched the ball in the middle of the field. They weren’t vicious so they didn’t get into trouble in terms of cards, but they certainly disrupted everything Croatia was trying to do, leaving us with a sloppy game that didn’t see many chances.
7) Best goal – Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)
A bicycle kick from the top of the box off the post to tie the game? Words will never be able to describe how incredible that is so I won’t even try. Simply put, you are not going to see many nicer goals then that one.
8) Extra time
Not be beat a dead horse but this was not a banner day for the Euros. Two of the three games were absolutely awful. There was one positive that came out of it, and that was all of soccer twitter managing to unite in their hatred for the Portugal vs. Croatia match. That’s probably the first and last time you’ll ever see that on twitter.
9) Sunday’s games
The action and hopefully there is some action continues Sunday with the hosts France taking on the Republic of Ireland at 9 am ET. At noon we’ll get Germany taking on Slovakia, and it all wraps up at 3:00 pm ET when Hungary take on one of the tournament favorites in Belgium.