Euro 2016 Heroes and Villains of Matchday Three

Ben Wills takes us through the heroes and villains of Matchday Three.

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1) Aaron Ramsey (Wales)
Gareth Bale may be the undoubted star of the Welsh team, but Aaron Ramsey is just behind him, and it was the Arsenal midfielder who guided the Dragons to round two as Group B winners.

Ramsey dinked Wales in front against Russia after just 11 minutes, and proceeded to dominate the midfield in Toulouse for the rest of the contest.

It was the iconic Bale that sealed the 3-0 win, but it was Ramsey who supplied the clever through ball, sending Wales partying long into the night.

2) Michael McGovern (Northern Ireland)
Northern Ireland knew that if they could avoid a trouncing at the hands of the world champions, they would qualify for the second round, and they managed it thanks to a terrific goalkeeping display.

Northern Ireland did fall to a 1-0 defeat against Germany, but Michael McGovern, currently a free agent after leaving Hamilton in the summer, made save after save to keep the score low and the Green and White Army in the competition.

Thomas Müller, Mario Götze, and Mesut Özil were all denied by McGovern as Michael O’Neill’s men set up a British derby against Wales in the Round of 16.

3) Ivan Perišić (Croatia)
Croatia are so often considered the dark horses going into tournaments, but this year, the bridesmaid might actually become the bride.

An assist and a late, late goal from Ivan Perišić earned Croatia a shock 2-1 win over holders Spain that sent Vatreni (the Blazers) to the top of Group D on the final matchday.

Portugal in the second round will not be easy, nor will a potential quarter-final against Switzerland or Poland, but it is better than Spain’s draw against Italy and then possibly Germany.

4) Arnór Ingvi Traustason (Iceland)
Group F was a smorgasbord of underdogs, and the smallest of the lot, Iceland, sent shockwaves across Europe when a goal 25 seconds from time earned them a spot in the last 16 as the second-placed finishers.

Iceland had scored and survived an Austrian penalty already, but Portugal’s 3-3 draw with group toppers Hungary meant the country with a population of 323,000 had to live with being one of the four best-ranked third placed teams.

That was until Arnór Ingvi Traustason popped up to tuck in from a counter-attack that sent one particular Icelandic commentator completely potty, and rightly so.

5) Robbie Brady (Republic of Ireland)
Was it the Luck of the Irish? Maybe. Were they helped by Italy fielding a weakened side? Certainly. Will they care? Absolutely not.

Ireland went into their do-or-die clash against Italy knowing a win would see them through, whereas Italy were already confirmed as group winners, and therefore made eight changes.

The Republic profited, just in time, as Robbie Brady glanced in a cross from Norwich teammate Wes Hoolahan to book a tie with hosts France, seven years after ‘that’ Thierry Henry handball. Time for revenge.

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1) Ciprian Tătărușanu – Romania
Romania must be wondering how different Euro 2016 could have been had they played a goalkeeper who could claim a cross.

Their opening match against France saw them go 1-0 down when Olivier Giroud seized on a goalkeeping error by Ciprian Tătărușanu to head in from a cross, and the yellows were left ruing their keeper again as they were dumped out the competition by lowly Albania.

Another inswinging cross, another headed goal, this time by Armando Siduku, and another loss for Romania, who finished their campaign with one miserly point. Watford’s giant Costel Pantilimon must be miffed.

2) Manufacturers and Grounds people – France and Switzerland
Let’s face it, France as a host nation has not worked out.

Off-the-field fights have stopped – a good start – but events during the 0-0 draw between France and Switzerland bordered on farcical.

The pitch was a state, one of the balls exploded when Antoine Griezmann stood on it, and away from France, the Swiss kits designed by Puma were falling away at the seams, as three players had to change their kit. Next time, you will have to play in your pants.

3) Roy Hodgson – England
A group of Wales, Russia, and Slovakia should have seen England top it. It didn’t. And now the English are going to pay for it.

England’s 0-0 draw with Slovakia allowed Wales to leapfrog the Three Lions and see themselves in a kinder half of the tournament table.

Spain losing to Croatia did not help either. England, Germany, Spain, France, and Italy are all on the same half of the draw, while arguably the only big hitters on the other side are Belgium. Big chance missed by manager Roy Hodgson.

4) David De Gea – Spain
David De Gea is an excellent goalkeeper, one of the best, but that near post of his remains a crippling weakness.

Spain had a goalkeeping crisis at the 2014 World Cup when legend Iker Casillas’ career as a top class goalkeeper wilted before our very eyes, and De Gea has since cemented his place as Spain’s number one.

However, if he keeps on getting beaten at his near post, like he was twice in Spain’s 2-1 loss to Croatia, then he may see his position under threat quicker than he anticipated.

5) Zlatan Ibrahimović – Sweden
As the old saying goes, Zlatan Ibrahimović is Marmite – you either love him, or you hate him. He certainly loves himself, but his big ego has outdone him this summer.

Ibrahimović failed to score a single strike for Sweden as his home nation crashed out with just one point from a possible nine, and their only goal being an own goal by Ireland’s Ciaran Clark.

Sweden’s 1-0 loss to Belgium was the last international of Ibrahimović’s career, and it was a humbling night for one of the sport’s biggest personalities.

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Follow Ben on Twitter @_BenWills


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