Euro 2016 chaos to continue Saturday with round of 16 through Monday
By The Rex Factor
The writing has been on the wall since Tuesday evening for these 2016 European Championships – the cut from 24 to 16 teams for the knockout round is overshadowed by a ludicrous and asinine turn of events that put all of the longtime continental powers on one side of the bracket.
The top half of the field features eight teams with a combined two finals played and no titles. Meanwhile, the bottom half is stacked with 10 former champions and 16 former finalists. Counting World Cups, the bottom half has 21 trophies while the top half has none.
The bracket is shaped this way because of just the right amount of upsets in the right spots in group play. France did its job by winning Group A, but Wales pipped England to win Group B. This sets up France/Ireland and England/Iceland in the Round of 16 at the bottom of the bracket, and a very good chance that England and France meet in the quarterfinals on July 3.
Germany did its job by winning Group C and will meet Slovakia in another round of 16 match in the bottom. But Croatia’s late goal by Ivan Perisic stunned Spain in the final group game, 2-1. This moved the Croats to the top half, while Spain gets stuck with a round of 16 matchup with Group E winners Italy. The winner of Italy/Spain will likely meet the Germans in the quarterfinals.
Up top, things are much less chaotic. The Croats draw Portugal in an intriguing round of 16 game; the Portuguese played to two lifeless draws against Iceland and Austria before drawing shock group F winner Hungary 3-3 in the last group stage match. Portugal finished third and the last-second goal by Iceland against Austria sent Portugal to the so-called easier top half. They took a competition-high 69 shots on goal in the group stage and had more possession than any side (61 percent) except Germany.
The winner of that match will play Poland or Switzerland, two teams that finished second in their groups, respectively.
The world’s top-ranked team only a few months ago, Belgium finished second in Group E thanks to a 2-0 loss to Italy in the group stage lidlifter. The reward for the Belgians is Hungary, which tied for Wales for the most group stage goals thanks to an aggressive, go-for-broke style that very few teams employed when knowing two-thirds of the teams in the event were going to progress. Wales lost to England but won Group B and drew third-place side Northern Ireland in the other round of 16 fixture; the winner faces Belgium or Hungary.
While the 24-team format was largely panned by many as a “money-grab” by UEFA, it did provide some inspired performances from underdog sides Iceland, Hungary, and the Republic of Ireland. The tight nature of the competition thus far has seen the average goals per match at just 1.92, which is down from the 2.5 at Euro 2012 and the 2.83 in the 2014 World Cup.
There has been a lot of late action; 13 goals have been scored from minutes 76-90, with seven more scored in stoppage time as most teams scrapped and clawed to the death. Ukraine was the only side that failed to find the net, and the eastern European side join neighbour on the sidelines now as the most disappointing sides in this event. One other miscellaneous statistic to take forward is goals allowed – only Germany and Poland are yet to concede. The host French, Switzerland and Italy have just conceded once in the three group stage games. Round of 16 action runs from Saturday through Monday, with quarterfinal play running from June 30- July 3.
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