Seven games to go and four City players still standing. Euro 2016 is really hotting up…
Club journalist @markbooth_mcfc examines what we learned from the Round of 16 and what we can look forward to in the last eight – all with an MCFC spin…
2016: Year of the Underdog?
In keeping with the club season we’ve just witnessed, Euro 2016 has been a tournament for the underdogs upsetting the traditional powers.
England were the latest to succumb to a team in Iceland which became more than the sum of its parts, thanks to defensive solidity, organisation and a collective spirit which charmed the continent.
Will this trend continue now we’re entering the real business end of the competition?
While a couple of the nations you would expect to be in the last eight are there in France, Germany, Italy (although…), the likes of Poland, Wales and even Iceland themselves will be dreaming of “doing a Greece” and going all the way to the final at the Stade de France on 10 July.
Allez Les Bleus
The hosts will be the next to try and end the Iceland story once and for all when the teams meet in Paris on Sunday.
There’s a sense that France haven’t quite lived up to their billing as pre-tournament favourites in their four games so far, with Didier Deschamps’ men needing to come from behind to beat Ireland in the Round of 16.
Bacary Sagna was a big part of the reason why Les Bleus managed to eventually negotiate this green hurdle, providing the assist for Antoine Griezmann’s unerring header which levelled matters after the interval.
From there on, France looked more like a side with serious credentials for winning yet another tournament on home soil as they did in 1984 and 1998 but they will do well to learn from England’s “example” on Monday night.
Pre-tournament focus on France
Eliaquim Mangala has had to be patient in waiting for his major tournament debut.
An unused substitute throughout World Cup 2014 in Brazil, the City defender has again been cast in the role of understudy for France so far in 2016 – until now?
Adil Rami has started alongside Laurent Koscielny throughout but, with the Sevilla defender suspended for Sunday night’s game, Eliaquim will be doing everything he can in training to convince Deschamps he’s the man to step into the breach.
Providing competition will be Samuel Umtiti of Lyon who has yet to win a cap for the national team.
KDB: Star of Euro 2016?
The stats speak for themselves: Kevin De Bruyne is emerging as a strong contender for Euro 2016 Player of the Tournament.
No player at the competition has created more chances for teammates than Kevin’s 22, while the five clear-cut chances he’s created is also a tournament-high number.
De Bruyne, who turned 25 yesterday, has scored or assisted 11 goals in his last 12 games for the Red Devils and six of Belgium’s seven goals have been created by either De Bruyne (3) or Eden Hazard (3).
With their two key men coming looking in peak form for Friday’s showdown with Wales, Belgium will be dreaming of their first semi-final at a major tournament since 1980.