It finally seems that having heart built of strong will and determination can take you further than having money ever will. England’s embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Iceland on Monday night highlighted the fact that passion can sometimes overshadow talent when it comes to taking center stage at a major tournament.
The likes of Wales, Hungary and Iceland have been the talk of the towns all over Europe in recent weeks due to their incredible team spirit, thus meaning that there’s no place for talk of the under-performing giant nations such as Portugal and France.
But what about those Premier League primadonnas? How are they fairing? AFEfootballnews gives you the lowdown …
Albania, Hungary, Russia, Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey don’t have a single individual playing in the Premier League and therefore don’t feature in this article, however one would suspect that there may be one or two Hungarians making their way to bigger leagues after their impressive Euro campaign which saw them reach the last 16. What is perhaps most shocking is that no Croatian’s are currently gracing the fields of the top flight, despite the fact that they performed well at the tournament and have many big names playing for them, although some are now being linked with moves, Ivan Perisic to Arsenal and Marko Pjaca to Liverpool to name just two of the many rumors.
Host nation FRANCE have 10 Premier League players in their squad, namely; Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Dimitri Payet (West Ham), Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United), N’Golo Kante (Leicester), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) and Anthony Martial (Manchester United).
West Ham’s player of the season and one of the major surprise player’s of last season, Dimitri Payet, was in fine form in the group stage, bagging an absolute worldie against Romania and the winner against Albania too. Lloris, Koscielny and Sagna have all featured in every game so far, but haven’t looked entirely reliable at times. Olivier Giroud has scored once at the tournament, whilst Leicester’s engine in midfield, N’Golo Kante, has cemented his place in the first team too and United’s promising youngster, Anthony Martial, has appeared off the bench.
The hosts made a slow start, with scrappy late wins against Romania and Albania and a dismal 0-0 draw against Switzerland in the group. They then just about saw off the Republic of Ireland 2-1 in the last 16. They will now face underdogs Iceland in their quarter final match on Sunday.
You’d think it’d be easy to be first choice goalie for Romania right? Well you’re wrong! As Costel Pantilimon (Watford) found out when he failed to feature in any of the squad’s three group A games, with Fiorentina’s Ciprian Tatarusanu being preferred between the sticks. They bailed out in the group stage, finishing bottom of the group.
The Swiss side have two Premier League players in their squad, Valon Behrami (Watford) and summer signing Granit Xhaka (Arsenal). Both featured regularly for the side and the Gunners new signing Xhaka looked impressive throughout, picking up two man of the match awards (against Romania and Albania). Having said that, he did then go on to miss the crucial penalty in his side’s last 16 shootout loss to Poland (5-4) … ouch.
The full England squad play their football in the Premier League (no surprises there then!), but received many critics throughout the campaign, even before their unlikely exit on Monday.
Joe Hart was at the center of the storm after the Iceland match, as he couldn’t prevent Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s tame shot from going into the back of the net, many have also criticized his pre-match attitude in the tunnel too, as he was often seen shouting (and swearing) on live TV. Overall, the whole defense looked shaky throughout the group stage, especially when they conceded a dramatic last minute equaliser against Russia. City winger, Raheem Sterling, was constantly booed by fans whenever he got on the ball as he rarely seemed to do anything with it and became an increasingly frustrated character for the side. He may have been top scorer in the Premier League last season for Tottenham, but during the Euro’s, Harry Kane seemed an entirely different man, looking very exhausted and didn’t manage to find the back of the net.
On a positive note for the Three Lions, Tottenham right back, Kyle Walker, looked to be in great form for his country, tearing defenses apart down the wing and creating chance after chance for the strikers, who unfortunately were not on their game at all. Fellow Tottenham player, Eric Dier, was equally as impressive in his first ever major tournament, scoring a memorable free kick against Russia.
Another bitterly disappointing performance in a major tournament for England has seen manager Roy Hodgson resign and left the future of the national side looking very uncertain yet again. The fact that Vardy, Sturridge, Rooney and Kane only managed to score 3 goals between them speaks volumes when analyzing where it all went wrong.
Here’s their full squad:
Fraser Forster and Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Joe Hart and Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Harry Kane (all Tottenham), Nathaniel Clyne, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, James Milner and Daniel Sturridge (all Liverpool), Chris Smalling, Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney (all Manchester United), Tom Heaton (Burnley), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), John Stones and Ross Barkley (Everton), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) Jamie Vardy (Leicester).
Center back Martin Škrtel (Liverpool) is the only Slovak currently playing in the Premier League. He captained his country at the tournament as they got out of the group consisting of themselves, Wales, England and Russia, in third place. Booed by Wales fans in the first group game due to his over the top and rather rough challenges, there was no doubting his commitment to his side’s progress at the Euro’s. Skrtel and Slovakia’s journey came to an end, when they were humbled 3-0 by Germany in the last 16.
Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Danny Ward (Liverpool), Ben Davies (Tottenham), Neil Taylor and Ashley Williams (both Swansea), James Chester (West Brom), James Collins (West Ham), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Joe Ledley and Jonathan Williams ( both Crystal Palace), Joe Allen (Liverpool), Andy King (Leicester), Sam Vokes (Burnley).
What an incredible fairy tale story it has been for the Welsh squad so far.
They head into tonight’s quarter final match against Belgium, having beaten Slovakia 2-1, Russia 3-0 and Northern Ireland 1-0 (there’s also that 2-1 loss to England, but we won’t get too much into that one!) at their first ever European Championship tournament. Most the talk has of course been about their two main players, Real Madrid’s superstar Gareth Bale and Arsenal’s midfield maestro, Aaron Ramsey, but in truth the squad as a whole has been phenomenal at times.
Ashley Williams played on through injury against Northern Ireland and Ben Davies‘ goal line clearance in just the third minute of the match against Slovakia gave them confidence to go on and win the game. Joe Allen’s assist for Ramsey’s goal against Russia was sublime, and even left back Neil Taylor managed to find the back of the net for the first time in his international career. Johnny Williams has been a breath of fresh air whenever he comes off the bench and Sam Vokes has shown his dominant physical presence up front, which I’m sure we’ll be seeing him use time and time again for Burnley next season.
They’re the last surviving British team at Euro 2016 and AFEfootballnews’ wishes them the very best of luck for tonight’s game, come on Cymru!
The Germans only have three Premier League players in their squad, all midfielders; Emre Can (Liverpool), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United).
Ozil has been a major creative threat in midfield as per usual and Schweinsteiger managed to bag himself a goal in their opening game against Ukraine, while Can has played well in midfield too. Following their 3-0 walk in the park against Slovakia in the last 16 last week, the world champions will now go on to face Italy in the quarter finals on Saturday.
The Northern Irish defense consisted of 3 Premier League players, Craig Cathcart (Watford), Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley (both West Brom), whilst Paddy McNair (Manchester United) also made an appearance off the bench. Steven Davis (Southampton) captained his country as always and guided them to the last 16 where they rather unluckily lost 1-0 to Wales, thanks to a Gareth McAuley own goal (He’ll never live that down you know).
Will Griggs was not on fire however, as he didn’t even make an appearance!
All 3 goalkeepers selected by Poland for their Euro 2016 squad play in the Premier League. Wojciech Szczęsny (Arsenal) was expected to be first choice for his country, but an injury prevented him from starting their opening game against Northern Ireland and so, Łukasz Fabiański (Swansea) has found himself deputising in every game since then and he has performed well. Artur Boruc (Bournemouth) was the other goalkeeper who was selected. Poland were unbeaten as they reached the last 8, but crashed out on penalties to Portugal last night.
Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky (both Arsenal), had a tough group on their hands, coming up against Croatia, Spain and Turkey. Their highlight was coming back from 2-0 down to 2-2 in the last few minutes of a crazy game which was marred by fans throwing flares onto the pitch. Rosicky also got injured in that match (typically) and therefore missed their 2-0 loss to Turkey which then saw the Czechs finish bottom of their group.
Many had suggested that Spain could lift the Euro trophy again this summer, but alas it wasn’t to be.
David De Gea (Manchester United) was ever present for them in goal and after being criticized for his mistakes in Spain’s 2-1 loss to Croatia, he was superb against Italy, pulling off save after save, but still couldn’t prevent them from losing the game. David Silva (Man City) and Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) were magical in midfield as they so often have been, ever since the days of Euro 2008 when they dominated possession and won the tournament. Surprisingly, Hector Bellerin (Arsenal) did not feature and Cesar Azpilicueta and Pedro (both Chelsea) were substitutes.
The Spaniard’s went out of the tournament last week when they were defeated 2-0 by a determined Italy side.
The Belgians have 11 Premier League stars in their squad; Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Dembele (all Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Christian Benteke and Divock Origi (both Liverpool), meaning that they have the highest number of Premier League players in a squad at the tournament (for a non British country).
Romelu Lukaku has two goals to his name (both against Ireland), whilst Alderweireld and Hazard both have a goal each too. City star Kevin De Bruyne has ran the show in midfield and Vertonghen has looked solid at the back.
They got off to the worst start imaginable, losing 2-0 to Italy in their opening game. They then turned it around, with a 3-0 demolition of Ireland and a 1-0 win over Sweden which saw them progress to the last 16. They then destroyed Hungary, who up until that game had been superb, 4-0. They now face Wales in the quarter final match tonight.
Italians are a rarity in the Premier League, but the national side is proving all their critics wrong in at the Euro’s. Both Matteo Darmian (Manchester United) and Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham United) have made just the one appearance for their country at the tournament. However, Graziano Pelle (Southampton) has been their main man in front of goal, scoring twice two late goals, one against Belgium in the 92nd minute and recently against Spain in the 91st.
Italy won two of their group games, 2-0 against Belgium and 1-0 against Sweden, before unexpectedly losing 1-0 to Ireland. They then beat Spain 2-0 in the last 16 to set up a mouthwatering quarter final clash against Germany on Saturday night.
Golden oldie Shay Given (Stoke) was selected for Ireland’s squad for the Euro’s, but didn’t start a game as Darren Randolph (West Ham) was preferred in goal. Seamus Coleman (Everton) and John O’Shea (Sunderland) featured in every game at the heart of the defense, while Premier League newbie, Stephen Ward (Burnley) also featured at left back. Aiden McGeady (Everton) was a substitute in every one of Ireland’s group games, whilst James McClean (West Brom), Glenn Whelan (Stoke), James McCarthy (Everton) and Shane Long (Southampton) all featured regularly for the side. David Meyler (Hull) did not feature, but Jonathan Walters (Stoke) started their opening game against Sweden.
None of their Premier League players managed to score though, as last season’s relegated side, Norwich’s boys were the hero’s with Wes Hoolahan scoring in their 1-1 draw against Sweden and Robbie Brady netting the winner in the memorable win against Italy and a consolation penalty goal in their 2-1 last 16 loss to France.
Only one Swedish Premier League player featured at the Euro’s (excluding Ibrahimovic who’s on his way to Manchester United). Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland) played in everyone of his country’s group games, but they failed to make it through adn finished bottom of group D.
Many experts had predicted that Austria could be one of the underdogs for the tournament this summer, but boy were they wrong. The Austrians crashed out in Group F, failing to win a game, drawing 0-0 with Portugal, losing 2-0 to Hungary and 2-1 to Iceland, in what was a truly embarrassing campaign for them.
Arguably one of the signings of the Premier League last season, Christian Fuchs (Leicester City), captained his country at the Euro’s and therefore played in every game. Sebastian Prodl (Watford), played twice, in Austria’s 2-1 loss to Iceland and 0-0 draw against Portugal. Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City) also featured throughout, but was massively unimpressive, despite having a blinding 2015/16 season. Kevin Wimmer (Tottenham Hotspur) did not feature.
The tiny nation’s heroics have been a joy for many to watch (unless you’re an England fan of course!) and they’ve surprised so many people already, to unbelievably find themselves in the quarter final stage of Euro 2016.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea) had been a vital part of their qualifying campaign for the tournament and has inevitably played a huge role in the actual tournament itself too, working his socks off in midfield and scoring a penalty in their 1-1 draw against Hungary.
They drew their first two games 1-1 against Portugal and Hungary and then went onto dramatically beat Austria 2-1 in the closing stages of the game. They then beat England 2-1 in the last 16 round and will now go on to face the tournament hosts France on Sunday. They couldn’t possibly do it again could they?
Both Cédric Soares and José Fonte (both Southampton) did not feature in the group stages. However, Fonte made an appearance in the last 16 extra time 1-0 win over Croatia and then played the quarter final game against Poland last night, which Portugal won on penalties. Cedric also played in the game last night.
Remarkably, Portugal have managed to make it all the way to the semi-finals of the tournament without winning a game in normal time. They drew 1-1 with Iceland, 0-0 with Austria and 3-3 with Hungary in the group stage. Then they beat Croatia 1-0 in extra time and last night beat Poland on penalties, it’s a mad coincidence, but they’re through nevertheless. They will now face either Belgium or wales in the semi=finals.
So the Premier League boys have had a mixed bag when it comes to the Euro’s, if you’re Gylfi Sigurdsson or Aaron Ramsey, you’ll be feeling proud of yourself, if you’re Mesut Ozil or Eden Hazard, you’ll be believing that this is your year, and if you’re Marko Arnautovic or Harry Kane, you might well just be wondering why you even bothered getting on the plane in the first place!
The tournament currently looks like this:
Poland 1-1 Portugal (Portugal win 5-4 on pens).
Wales vs Belgium
Germany vs Italy
France vs Iceland
Germany/Italy vs France/Iceland
Portugal vs Wales/Belgium
Exciting times ahead then!
All photos belong to Google images.