Tag Archives: round of 16

CR7 keeps Portugal In Euro 2020 as Benzema powers France in a riveting contest!

A challenge pitting the might of France against the class of Portugal surely deserved the final outcome of a 2-2 draw amid plenty of drama and a pulsating heartbeat.

Yes, a packed Puskas Arena in Budapest welcomed the European Champions and the World Champions as the fans in attendance expected nothing less than a riveting contest.

Afterall, one surely can’t find games of this magnitude coming along every day as a sea of Les Bleus fans mixed with the maroon brigade of Portugal was a sight to behold.

Boy, did this challenge of epic proportions live up to the hype with two ex-teammates at Real Madrid lighting up the fixture as few would.  A Cristiano Ronaldo first nullified by a Kareem Benzema equaliser and then a Kareem Benzema second nullified by a Cristiano Ronaldo equaliser.

Wow, talk about role reversals here!

So, as both these powerhouses sealed their place in the last 16, lets dissect this game of stardom, performance, drama and skill:

Ronaldo and Benzema share the spoils in the first 45

Despite beating France in their own backyard to win the European Championship in 2016, Portugal entered this contest as slight underdogs’ having only won this bout in their last 13 matches against the Les Bleus with 11 losses and one draw.

Well, for me the underdog status wasn’t much of a concern as CR7 looked ready for this showdown having already scored a brace against Hungary in their first outing.

Credit – Reuters

And ready he was, as only in the 6th minute, the 36-year-old footballing institution created Portugal’s first opportunity on goal with a header that was comfortably gobbled by the experienced Tottenham and French Captain, Hugo Lloris.

The attack minded French side created a brilliant opportunity of their own in the 16th minute as they opened up the Portuguese defence with a mouth-watering through ball by Paul Pogba to Mbappe who extracted a rather brilliant save from Rui Patricio.

With a chance created at either end in no time, surely this contest looked to have goals aplenty.

The goal would come for Portugal in the 30th minute courtesy a penalty after Lloris had rammed into Danilo trying to clear the ball away from a long cross. Not the ones to be given a penalty on albeit the referee thought otherwise along with soaring the French captain misery’s courtesy showing him a yellow.

Thanks to this lucky break, CR7 bent in his 108th strike for Portugal.

Credit – Reuters

One would agree, football is a funny game as what goes around comes around.

Portugal this time were at the receiving end of a penalty, seconds before the end of the first 45 as Mbappe on this occasion collided with Portuguese defender Semedo and fell on the ground trying to receive a long ball in the Portuguese D. Again, it didn’t seem like a penalty but was still given as Kareem Benzema slotted it in to draw France level at the stroke of halftime.

Credit – Reuters

As time was called on the first half, surely it seemed there was more drama instore.

The drama of the ex-Madrid teammates continued in the second 45

To say this game was dramatic was an understatement.

Yes, as soon as the second half unfolded, it was France’s turn to go a goal up, courtesy Kareem Benzema again. The Real Madrid star made no mistake in slotting the ball in after he was fed with a crucial long ball by who other than Paul Pogba. The French midfielder was at his skilful best in controlling the midfield and aided the forwards with sumptuous long balls. The decision did go to VAR to check Benzema being off-side, albeit the goal was given.

Credit – Reuters

In a sheer turn of fortunes, the French now led 2-1 courtesy Benzema’s brace.

Portugal and CR7 had all to do to as their very place in the tournament was at stake.

Well, creating opportunity in the face of adversity is Ronaldo’s forte as the Portuguese talisman earned yet another penalty for his side. The ball hit the hand of the French defender, Kounde in the D, as the third spot-kick of the game was given, the highest for a European Championship fixture.

The result, Portugal drew level as expected. CR7 struck his 109th to go level with Iran striker Ali Daei as the joint highest scorer in the history of international football. Wow, what a feat by remarkable Ronaldo!

Credit – Reuters

France almost got their third in the 68th minute as Pogba fired a shot from the edge of the Portuguese penalty area with Rui Patricio again doing superbly well to keep the ball out and then saved the rebound effort from Griezmann. Truly fantastic!

The game was completely on a knife edge with my heart-rate fluctuating every moment.

Well, when I thought things couldn’t get more dramatic, I was up for a huge surprise, as France almost managed yet another penalty in injury time of the full 90 as Coman was brought down by Bruno Fernandes in the penalty area.

VAR luckily for Portugal saw it otherwise as the game finally ended amid drama aplenty at two apiece. The most befitting result to be honest as both teams were assured of their round of 16 berths.

Portugal have a tougher task ahead than France

So, as the two teams march into the pre-quarters, France as the leaders of Group F have a fixture that’s relatively easier against Switzerland vis-à-vis, the likes Portugal would face against another European superpower in Belgium.

Yes, having finished third in this group behind France and Germany, Portugal would surely need to bring their A game when they lock horns with the Red Devils. A contest which would be as exciting as their French excursion.

Lots to look forward to as the Championship enters its business end.

And before I forget, My Dear England be ready for the German challenge, a team that has found their lost mojo and how!

Super Sterling powers England into the Round of 16 with crucial win over Czech Republic

In my previous article, I had emphasised a conspiracy theory to justify England’s sub-par performance in the 0-0 outing against The Scots.

The theory was simple, England didn’t plan to top their group to avoid locking horns with the powerhouses of European football in the next round in either of France, Germany or Portugal. Having said this, the fan in me surely hoped for a marked improvement in their next fixture against The Czechs to only keep this as a theory.

Boy, did the fan defeat the theorist with a determined 1-0 showing by The Three Lions to not only beat The Czechs but also top Group D.

With this win, England also reached a small landmark of mounting ten goals and conceding only two in four games contested against The Czechs at their fortress, Wembley.

In truth, I was more than delighted to be rightfully proven wrong on my conspiracy theory!

So, without further ado lets dissect this much-needed shot of confidence, The Three Lions earned heading into the business end of the competition.

Raheem Sterling lights up the first 45

England started this fixture with two key players not in the squad in Mason Mount who was isolating and Phil Foden who was excluded as he sat on a yellow to allow him to be available for the round of 16.

Well, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, and in England’s case it was two, as Arsenal’s young midfielder Bukayo Saka was brought into the playing XI along with Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish in place of Mount and Foden.

And boy, did they make an immediate impact, as only in the 12th minute, Saka hit an overhead cross into the Czech D which was kept alive by Jack Grealish on the left corner as he fed Sterling with a great chip, and the Manchester City forward made no mistake in nodding it in.

Credit – Reuters

The Three Lions were a goal up in no time, a remarkable improvement from their previous fixture where the full 90 couldn’t get them on the score sheet.

As time marched on, England would mount their second effort, this time through captain and talismanic forward Harry Kane with Czech keeper, Vaclik deflecting the ball away.

Credit – Reuters

Moments later, the Czechs had their first attempt on target as Jordan Pickford dived to his left to push the strike away.

Kane would fire his second attempt on target minutes before half time as the shot was again kept out by the resilient keeper, Vaclik.

With no further uncertainties, the first half ended as England led 1-0.

The second 45 fails to excite

One could be excused for taking a break from watching the second half as this contest all but lacked excitement up until the 86th minute when England substitute and Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson drilled one in, only to be adjudged off-side.

England and Henderson were convinced that the goal should have been allowed as the ball was played back to the Liverpool man through a Czech player albeit VAR was firm on its decision to rule it otherwise. Had the goal stood, the Liverpool skipper would have scored his first for the national team in 60 appearances.

Credit – Reuters

As a Liverpool and English fan, with a heavy heart had to accept the no goal.

With this being the only action of any significance in the second 45, England deservedly were the victors with a steady display as time was called on the game.

A tough outing awaits England in the pre-quarters

As a die-hard English faithful, I would have to say England’s performance so far in the group stage has been anything but exciting.

With the solitary two strikes from Sterling leading to two victories, The Three Lions have failed to light up the tournament with goals galore contrary to what was expected with a strong forward line boasting the likes of Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and one of the best centre forwards in world football, Harry Kane.

Speaking about Harry Kane, our captain has looked all but lost in the opposition D this far. I am not sure where the problem is but his finishing has lacked the skill we usually associate with this English talisman.

Yes, our defence has looked solid with no goals conceded and has received a further boost with a fully fit Harry Maguire who played the full 90 yesterday albeit what worries me is the lack of goals scored upfront.

With either of France, Germany or Portugal up next on the 29th, The Three Lions need to be far more decisive and complete to mount the goals we have come to expect of them.

Remember my Dear England, you are now just four games away from lifting the elusive Euro Championship.

Surely this is motivation enough to witness the mighty roar of The Three Lions contrary to the tame meow we have had to bear this far!