Euro 2016 – Review of Week 1

Thoughts on the Championships so far;

It feels like a whirlwind. Or perhaps that’s just the combination of late nights and assortment of lagers but the last week of football has well and truly delivered. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had quite such a variation of emotions like I did during the ENG vs WAL game. Whilst travelling the globe you come across a plethora of people, I haven’t yet found anyone in Sydney who watched that game and wasn’t captivated from start to finish; pure emotion.


So we are more than a week into the Championships now. What’s happened so far?

Winners so far;

Albania – They came, they played their hearts out and can easily walk away with their heads held high. Briefly catching the highlights from their victorious last group game against Romania, they look very promising indeed.


Iceland – Fair bloody play! They might receive some criticism, but not from me. Clearly well drilled and prepared to hit the ground running. They believed they could get something against Portugal, and they did. Sounds like sour grapes Cristiano!

France – Okay I’ll take some flack, I put the classic commentators curse on them with my previous article. But, France have flattered to deceive so far, at certain points they have shown snapshots of how dangerous a force they could well be. I’m still saying watch out Europe!

And now for the Losers;

Germany – I’ll try not to take too much enjoyment in this one. Die Mannschaft aren’t quite clicking at the moment. A 0-0 draw against Poland isn’t what Germany want to be remembered for at Euro 2016, then again neither is Joachim Löw’s ‘sniffing-gate’.


Belgium – How many journalists predicted after the previous European Championships in 2012 and then the World Cup, that this would be the tournament where ‘The Golden Generation’ established themselves as a world force? As starting line – up’s go, Belgium’s is like a night at the Oscars. One High profile character after the next. Didn’t turn up against Italy, then took ROI apart 3-0. Very temperamental side. If Wilmots can get it right, Belgium should skate to the semi’s. Big If mind.

You may have noticed that I have barely touched on a certain team. Yes that’s right let’s talk about England. We all knew it was going to happen at some point during the article. As I sit here now trying to re-capture every emotion which was experienced during Friday morning’s pulsating game with Wales. (God bless Sydney and their Casino 24 hour drinking laws!) I feel torn between criticising ‘Woy and praising him.

With 45 minutes left to save his European adventure, Hodgson had no choice but to go for broke with Daniel Sturridge and the main man himself Jamie Vardy. Obviously what happened after that was pure escasty for any patriotic Englishman.

But why did it have to get to this stage before a change was made? So there I was enduring Half Time with a rather smug Welshman next to me, crying into a Carlton Dry. (recommend!) Wondering where it all went wrong. ‘But we were undefeated in qualifying’ springs to mind. Quickly followed by ‘Why the chuffing hell isn’t Jamie Vardy on the pitch!!’

After scanning the Beeb (BBC) tonight, I see Roy is supposedly planning on making up to 6 changes to the team that started against Wales. Vardy has to start, and yes through the middle too.

In my opinion, Wilshere should have started against Wales, in the first half unfortunately Alli received a bit of a lesson at the hands of Ramsey. I think Jack, *touch wood * fully fit would have dominated that midfield which included a 50% fit Joe Ledley.

I must admit I was critical of Walker starting ahead of Clyne, but it’s worked superbly in the first 2 games so far. What an outlet. Kyle is becoming a key player for England purely for his gizelle like speed and acceleration. Although he is still the type of player on FIFA or FM that you would be putting on ‘Intense Training’ for crossing…
In all realistic terms England should breeze through tonight’s game against Slovakia and guarantee themselves Top of The Group, but then again this is England we are talking about.

Heart Says 3-1 to ENG

Head says 2-1 (Vardy Winner)

Yeah that’s right let’s all get on the Jamie Vardy bandwagon.

Thanks for reading,

Tom

 

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Euro 2016: Time for France to Deliver 

So here we are then. A continuous football feast is upon us, Hallelujah. Who knows what lies ahead for the twenty four teams participating in this month’s European Championships. Can Northern Ireland or Turkey emerge as dark horses and cause some surprises? Will it be the Zlatan show? Do England really stand a chance under Roy?

All questions will be answered in good time.

One thing that is for sure is that the hosts France; are a force to be reckoned with this time round. A decade has passed since Les Bleus last creditable performance in a major tournament losing on penalties to Italy in the 2006 World Cup Final; Head’s gone for Zidane!

Didier Deschamps will have been in charge of the National Team for 4 years in July, here’s why in my opinion he could well be celebrating in style.


It’s no secret that France as a nation is struggling at the moment. With the constant threat of terrorism which has left the country on red alert since the tragedy in Paris last November.

As a passionate Englishman it is of course built into my DNA to not want France to succeed at Euro 2016. But as a Human concerned with the safety of others, I hope that the French put in some solid performances in the group games. Of course footballers are not miracle workers, but a strong campaign at Euro 2016 might help to unite a broken nation.

As hosts of the Championships, France have been placed in Group A alongside Albania, Romania & Switzerland. This is not a group of death, France should be topping the group with ease. Antoine Griezmann could find himself with the Golden Boot before the next round has even begun.

Right then, now that I have touched on the serious aspect as to why it would be good to see France succeed. Let’s get into the pure footballing reasons why France should go far over the next month.

Deschamps is expected to set his side out in a 4-3-3 formation allowing for upmost flexibility and creativity. I’ll discuss Griezmann, Payet et al later on, France’s strength lies in their midfield so that’s where I’ll start.

There isn’t any other team at this summer’s Championships which has an engine room quite like France. The talent is staggering, the list is endless. Use whatever superlatives you like.

Matuidi, Kanté and of course Pogba are all tough tackling colossal players on the pitch. They dominate games from the first to the last minute, it would also appear that they have an unlimited energy source too (Jealous!). So IMO it’ll be 2 out of 3 who start . Recently Deschamps had been starting Cabaye as a defensive midfielder who can spot a pass and help pull creative strings sitting behind Pogba & Matuidi.

It would be very easy for the national manager to stick to arguably the best midfielder in world football at the moment in Pogba and the very reliable Matuidi. So credit must go to Premier League winner Kanté for having the season of his life and playing himself into Deschamps plans.

‘Polpo Pogba’ (Paul The Octopus) as he is affectionately known back in Italy to the Juventus supporters, is on the verge of having the tournament of his life. He is one of the most complete midfielders France and Europe have seen in a decade, since the retirement of Zinedine Zidane. With his explosive nature, he’s capable of turning defence into attack within seconds, either with extraordinary vision or just with the ball at his feet. He is undoubtedly a weapon and will only continue to get better with experience. The architect of the French National team for the next 10 years.


I briefly touched on Antoine Griezmann earlier on but the Madrid front man is clearly a striker bang in form. 44 goals in the past two seasons with Atlético shows he’s a Forward France can depend on during the Euros.


Who joins Griezmann in the front 3 is up for debate, personally I would like to see a Front 3 of Martial and Payet on the wings with Griezmann played through the middle. This would obviously lead to Oliver Giroud being demoted to the bench, which in this current climate would be the preferred decision from many of Les Bleus fans.

With a three of Payet, Griezmann and the ever impressive Martial it would allow a Front 3 to continuously interchange with one another for the full game pulling opposing players out of position and creating space. In my opinion, Giroud wouldn’t benefit the team, he’s a superb target man for the French but it doesn’t allow completely free flowing football when he’s in the team.

On a side note too, with Payet in the team they have arguably one of the most dangerous men in World Football from a dead ball situation. Some of the free kicks Payet has scored over the last year have been sensational, I’m sure given the opportunity he’ll continue his hot steak at the Championships too.

We won’t have long to wait to see how the French line up against Romania on Friday evening and more importantly how they deal with a expectant French crowd. I feel this time, they might deliver.

Thanks for reading,

Tom

United’s New Red Devil: Hit or Miss?

So here we are, Finally. The most discussed story in football over the last 6 months has been put to bed. José Mourinho’s next challenge awaits him, and it’s a big one. Restoring the once well oiled machine that is Manchester United to its former glories.

It’s been no secret that Manchester United have been keeping tabs on José since his departure from Stamford Bridge. Sometimes almost coming  across like a Year 7 school disco, with both parties flirting with the idea without any actually formal offer. But that’s in the past, we now know that José Mourinho has been unveiled as Manchester United’s new manager on a 3 year contract.


This news is sure to bring smiles to United fans all across the globe, and of course why wouldn’t it? It comes with the almost reassurance that Manchester United will be restored to winning ways sooner rather than later. Better believe that, José is a born winner.

It also adds to the list of heavyweight managers now in the Premier League next season, players had better  watch out they won’t be the star attraction anymore! Of course it reignites one of Sports’ best match ups in José Vs Pep, who will rule Manchester? I imagine The Special One has already planned his tactics and revenge for when he takes his United team to Stamford Bridge too.

Of course compared to Van Gaal, Mourinho looks like a gift sent from the God’s, and like previously mentioned he comes with an aura of someone who will deliver trophies. But at what cost?

Manchester United over the years have always prided themselves on playing the ‘Manchester United way’. The list of illustrious players who have graced the treasured turf of Old Trafford is endless; The Busby Babes, The Holy Trinity (Best, Law & Charlton), Class of 92′ and in more recent times Ronaldo and Rooney.


IMO ‘The Manchester United way’ is attack, attack and then attack some more. A relentless force hammering the opponents goal with everything they have until the final whistle. During Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure he used to pride himself on his teams fighting till the end of games.

One of the contributing factors in Van Gaal’s dismissal was his ‘style of play’, it’s here you are reminded that Mourinho has previous with Van Gaal working as his assistant.


In the past this hasn’t been Mourinho’s style with an all out attack formula, but will he deliver success to Old Trafford even if it takes another route to the summit to the one fans expected? Will fans settle for an compromised style of play in return for more success on the pitch?

Before writing this article I did some research on Mourinho reading some articles, posts and blogs previously written on the man’s tactics, formations and philosophy. Some ideas I agreed with, some I didn’t. Everyone to their own opinions.

But there was one topic which was discussed suggesting that Mourinho would prefer going into games as the ‘under dog’ – ultimately taking the pressure off the team. (His poor record against bottom of the table teams would prove this to be a valid point – can’t have two underdogs in the same match)
How would United fans feel about going into a game knowing that your manager thinks your the underdog? Does it send the right image of an English power house?

I grew up in a time when Manchester United were all dominating in The English Premier League and Europe. Title after Title, Double after Double. I wouldn’t be suprised if they had the Open Bus on retainer from one year to the next. This is the United I remember, the all conquering side who would go head to head with Europe’s elite. Not a side who might get a result as an under dog.


It did of course work for Mourinho, guiding his Inter side past the irresistible Barca and Ancelotti’s attack minded Chelsea en route to winning the Champions League.

It’ll be interesting to see what sort of profile Manchester United have under Mourinho.

Mourinho – The Tactical Genius

Here’s one for you to quiz your mates with in the pub over a cold one.

How many different leagues has Mourinho set a record point tally in? 1? Maybe 2? (Okay, you probably got Porto) But the answer is actually 3! (Portugal, England and Spain)

Which makes the next part so bizarre, if you asked someone on the street what do you think to Mourinho’s playing style? A large proportion would reply with ‘Boring or not exciting’.

How Chelsea went about claiming the title in the 2014/15 season wasn’t boring or uncreative. Winning games 1-0 or 2-1 may have come across dull, it was actually incredibly clever tactics from The Special One.

Okay, bold statement. Let me explain why IMO the tactics implemented were canny and clever. For the next paragraph or so I’m going to need you to remember one buzz word (god dammit, I love a good buzz word!) The Buzz word is -MED (Minimum Effective Dose). This means the minimum someone or a team has to do, and still get the desired outcome.

Football seasons are a long arduous slog, the quote ‘It’s a marathon not a sprint’ springs to mind. Mourinho recognised that if his side played to their full potential from the start of games, they would often have a lead by half time. Often during the 2014/15 season, Chelsea by 50-60 minutes into a game would switch into a training ground routine. Thus saving their legs in preparation for the next game, whilst the opposition would run themselves into the ground chasing down Chelsea’s keep ball. Mourinho always thinking ahead to the next opponent. Classic MED signs.


United fans in the past have been spoiled with excitement until the final whistle blows, how will they like a more conservative and tactical Manchester United side?

In terms of Mourinho’s preferred formation at United, it’s hard to look past 4-2-3-1. Everyone knows he loves a 4-2-3-1 he’s used it both times at Chelsea, with Madrid and at times with Inter too. IMO it’s a great tactic and it got used repeatedly on FM whilst growing up (granted with a lot less success than Mourinho has had with it!)


It isn’t just a basic 4-2-3-1 with Mourinho though, going forward in attack it develops into almost a 4-3-3 perfect for those fast counter attacking moments whilst still allowing a solid foundation at the back.

Remember those days of Duff and Robben terrorising defenders on the break..?

Times are changing at Manchester United.

Welcome Back José.
Thanks for reading,

Tom