The Benchwarmer Report: Euro 2016: The End is Near…

The 2016 Euro Cup has been as exciting a tournament as ever! Football fans across the world have been watching, and it’s been a treat so far, full of the expected… and the unexpected. The semifinals are to be played this week, ahead of Sunday’s final. Here’s a look at what’s to come, and what has been for the final four of Euro 2016.

Semifinal #1: Portugal v. Wales

On Wednesday July 6, Portugal kicks off against Wales in Lyon. On paper, neither team would normally be expected to have made as far as the semis in any major tournament. Despite the presence of Christiano Ronaldo, Portugal is not nearly as strong as they have been in the past. They needed penalties to get past Poland in the quarters—and the Poles certainly gave them a run for their money on the field. Ronaldo et al. will need to be firing on all cylinders to go through to the final. Plus, they will need better defense than they had against the Poles. If they make it through, it seems unlikely that they’d be any match for traditional powerhouses like Germany or France…

As for Wales, they upset the heavily favoured Belgians in their quarter final, winning 3-1, after conceding the first goal. This was after they upset England in the Group stage to take first overall in Group B. For the Welsh, it’s already been a phenomenal Euro Cup debut. But does the buck stop here? The main problem facing the Welshmen is yellow card accumulation: Two of their most valuable starters (Aaron Davies and Aaron Ramsey) will not be allowed to play after each man picked up his second yellow in the quarters. Davies’ defense will be sorely missed, while Ramsey helped set up the eventual game-winner in the Belgium upset. Indeed, this could give Ronaldo and Portugal a significant advantage.

Semifinal #2: Germany v. France

A day later, Germany faces off against host and fellow powerhouse France at Marseille. It a shame one of these two teams has to go out in the semis, as this would make a juicy final. Nevertheless, it is what it is – but one thing is certain – this will be the most exciting match of the tournament.

The Germans squeezed out of a highly tactical, defensive match against archrival Italy, finally annihilating the voodoo of never having beaten the Azzurri in an international match. They needed 9 rounds of penalties to finish the job, going on to win it 6-5 behind solid play from renowned keeper Manuel Neuer. Defender Jonas Hector was the hero in the nail-biting penalty contest. The score after regulation time was 1-1, with Italy getting their goal on a penalty courtesy of German defender Jerome Boateng. It is fitting that Germany came out on top in this one, being the only ones to score a goal the right way, if you take my meaning.

Meanwhile, the hosts made short work of underdog Iceland in their quarterfinal match. At a score of 4-0 at halftime, France was in control while it still mattered. The final score would go on to be 5-2 after 90 minutes. The last time France hosted the Euro in 1984, they went on to win it… but can they repeat that feat in 2016? They should not be counted out, particularly given the stellar play of forwards Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, sitting 1st and 2nd respectively in the race for the Golden Boot. These two fellas put on a clinic on how to read defense in their semifinal. The Germans will need to be just as sharp defensively as they were against the Italians. That being said, the French made it all too easy for Iceland to poke a couple through, something the defending World Champs will easily take advantage of, should the opportunity arise.

Likely Final: Portugal v. France.

Likely Champion: France.


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