Euro 2016: Last 16 Review – Tournament Heavyweights into the Last Eight

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Germany and France both progressed to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 but the hosts were made to work hard for their victory in Lyon.



One of the pre-tournament favourites, Germany, eased into the last eight of Euro 2016 with a comfortable win over Slovakia. Joachim Low’s team controlled the match from start to finish and after Jérôme Boateng had given his country the lead with his first ever international goal after only eight minutes, the result never looked in any doubt. Mario Gomez doubled the Germans lead shortly before half-time to make the second-half pretty academic, despite Arsenal play-maker Mesut Ozil missing a penalty just before the interval. Julien Draxler put the icing on the cake on 63 minutes to cap off a wonderful personal performance and answer his critics in the best possible way. The 22-year-old Wolfsburg midfielder had been dropped for the group stages, but he got the vote over the mis-firing Mario Gotze for the last 16 clash in Lille. Now it seems as though the Bayern Munich man will be surplus to requirements in the quarter-finals, as the Germans await the winners of the Spain v Italy game at the Stade de France on Monday.



It was never meant to be this close in Lyon on Sunday afternoon, as the hosts France made heavy weather of overcoming a plucky Republic of Ireland side. The unthinkable happened after only two minutes when the men in green were awarded a penalty by Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli; Robbie Brady kept his nerve to fire the underdogs ahead and leave the stadium stunned. Now the gloves were off but despite incessant pressure from Les Bleus, they could not break down the door to the Irish goal. At half-time, head coach Didier Deschamps replaced Ngolo Kante for the more attacking Kingsley Coman and the whole match was turned on its head in a chaotic three minutes just before the hour mark; as Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezman scored twice in quick succession to put the hosts firmly into the driving seat. When Shane Duffy saw red for the Irish just five minutes later for a synical foul on Griezmann, the contest was effectively over and Deschamps’s men could breathe a huge sigh of relief. After the final whistle, the head coach told reporters that; “I knew it was going to be a difficult match, and when Ireland took the lead it made us a bit more uncomfortable in the first half. They showed a lot of enthusiasm but we had to dig deep, get through the situation and get in front”. Having been praised for his tactical switch at half-time Deschamps explained that; “I made it to get more presence up front. Ireland were quite deep so we wanted to get Griezmann closer to Giroud, bring on some pace with Coman and use the wings a bit better. But above all, to get more presence up front – the four attacking players all created chances”.  They now await England or Iceland in the last eight.



Steve Mitchell @barafundler