From Manchester United’s Bastian Schweinsteiger frustrations, to the tigerish tackling of Arsenal new boy Granit Xhaka and the rising star of Dimitri Payet, TEAMtalk discusses 10 talking points to emerge from the weekend’s opening round of matches at Euro 2016.
Perfect Payet worth every penny
Anyone who had seen West Ham play this season would not have been surprised by the midfield masterclass put on by Dimitri Payet against Romania in the Euro 2016 opener.
The Hammers midfielder capped a fine season at Upton Park by being rewarded with a new deal and also claiming a ‘shock’ win in the TEAMtalk Soccers’ Signing of the Season award.
But it wasn’t just his breathtaking winner on Friday night that caught the eye, it was his all-round display that easily saw him stand out as Les Bleus’ creator in chief and underlined exactly why West Ham have reportedly slapped an eye-watering £60million fee on the 29-year-old’s head.
In addition, it not only justified Didier Deschamps’ decision to start the West Ham star, it also proved the old adage that you should never give up on your dreams.
This clothes store video promotion footage shows Payet back in 2005 when, as a then 18-year-old, he was struggling to make the breakthrough at Nantes. Safe to say you wouldn’t see a £60million-rated player doing that now to make ends meet…..
Xhaka can – but probably shouldn’t
Arsenal have started this summer’s transfer window in rather unfamiliar fashion. Not only have they quickly identified their targets, they’ve also got one of them wrapped up already with the capture of Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchendgladbach.
The midfielder has vowed to bring a mean streak to the Arsenal midfield next season, with the player arriving in the Premier League with quite a reputation for playing the game hard.
Switzerland’s opening match at the Euros, a 1-0 win over Albania – which interesting provided a rather interesting sub-plot given his brother Taulant lined up for the opposition – gave Arsenal fans an early glimpse at what their new signing would be like as he put himself about the pitch and lunged into a couple of meaty early challenges.
And his record in the Bundesliga gives Arsenal another indication of the type of player they are signing:
- Only two players committed more fouls in the Bundesliga in 2015/16 than Granit Xhaka (73):
- Only one player has earned more red cards than Xhaka (five) over the last three seasons in Europe’s top five leagues (England, Germany, Italy, Spain, France)
- Tackles win ratio (79%)
If Xhaka adapts quickly to his new surroundings in the Premier League, Arsenal may just have landed themselves a £30million bargain. But time a few of those tackles wrong – and the Gunners may find they’ve signed a player who’ll spend more time in the stands than he will on the pitch.
Bale brilliant – but others stepped up for Wales too
Gareth Bale was always going to carry Welsh hopes on his shoulders such is his reputation as a player. The nation’s retoric for the final is ‘Together Stronger’ so it will have come as some relief as much as anything that some of their other players also put on a performance in Saturday’s 2-1 opening victory over Slovakia.
The likes of Ashley Williams and the lesser seen Jonny Williams also delivered excellent performances, while Aaron Ramsey was often dominant in midfield as Wales laid down a marker in Group B.
However, it was the impact of Hal Robson-Kanu off the bench which will have also caught Chris Coleman’s eye and stoked Welsh belief that they can make the last 16 of the tournament at least.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 11, 2016
We’ve all scatched our privates in public and taken a sniff right?!
Over to you, Joachim Low…Ah the sweet smell of success!
Yeah so Joachim Low touched his bellend and smelt it during a game. Who hasn’t done that pic.twitter.com/XXUgc3Ubn9
— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) June 12, 2016
Dier learnt off the best from an early age
So go on, how many of you were screaming at the TV hoping Eric Dier wouldn’t take the free-kick that fires England ahead in Saturday’s clash with Russia? (No? Just me then….)
Either way, Tottenham were very quick to hail the midfielder’s efforts, whose all-round game in Marseille was worthy of praise.
If this photo of a then 10-year-old Dier with David Beckham doesn’t make you smile today, then probably nothing will….
Two great free-kick takers of our time. 😜 😂 pic.twitter.com/jv2FEPSHwq
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) June 12, 2016
Modric the best midfielder around?
While Arsenal fans are thinking of what Granit Xhaka can bring to their midfield in the 2016/17 season, Spurs fans were probably left reminiscing about what they’ve lost with not just Bale stepping up, but also Luka Modric showing exactly why he’s remains one of the top midfielders in world football.
That dipping volley he struck to sink Turkey on Sunday divided opinion with some suggesting he didn’t catch it cleanly. But if you’re picking fault with a goal like that, then you probably won’t be getting much enjoyment from the football on offer so far in France….
Modric was quite simply brilliant on Sunday and was at the hub of everything brilliant Croatia did on Sunday, showing exactly why they aren’t a team to be taken lightly in France. Much like England the night before, they weren’t clinical in the final third, but unlike England the night before, they showed how to close a game out, with former Manchester City and Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka (still only 30 by the way!) showing his battling qualities to help his nation over the finishing line.
Will Grigg’s on fire – and all that ****
Northern Ireland’s performance on Sunday might not have set pulses racing, but there’s no doubt their fans are determined to enjoy every minute of their time at their first-ever European Championships. Having not played at a major tournament in 30 long years, Michael O’Neill’s side know they’ll have a tough time in progressing through a group that contains Poland, Ukraine and world champions Germany.
Nonetheless, that won’t stop their fans enjoying the party in France, with regular renditions of Will Grigg’s On Fire being heard from their travelling green army throughout.
Just a word, however, about O’Neill’s 5-4-1 formation in the game, which while clearly designed to negate their opponents, also stifled their own attacking hopes. The Irish failed to touch the ball in their opponents’ penalty area in the first half, and while it improved with some positive substitutions in the second half, why don’t Northern Ireland simply go for it against Ukraine and then Germany?
With little expectation on their shoulders, and with their fans enjoying the atmosphere regardless, what have they got to lose….?
As for Grigg himself, the man who has suddenly risen to superstardom didn’t even make his way off the bench…..
Will Grigg’s heat map against Poland. pic.twitter.com/joJisd2etB
— Phunkin_El (@Phunkin_El) June 13, 2016
Marseille violence doesn’t bode well for 2018 World Cup
There’s already been plenty written about the shameful scenes in Marseille which have seen running battles between England and Russian fans, together with some less than subtle methods of tackling it by the French authorities.
For what it’s worth, I think UEFA are exactly right to take a hardline approach – kicking the nations out of the tournament might be an extreme measure, but is it one that will make the perpetrator’s think twice? Somehow I doubt it….
One question / doubt / genuine concern that will be raised, however, is how UEFA, FIFA (whoever) plans to do about these ugly scenes when the World Cup heads to Russia in 2018? If their ‘supporters’ have managed to cause this much chaos and destruction in a foreign country, what will they be capable of in their own back yard?
Milik to outshine Lewandowski?
Poland went into Euro 2016 as second favourites to progress from Group C, with much of their hopes resting on the shoulders of Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.
But Poland, as Northern Ireland found out to their cost on Sunday, also have another in-form striker to call on, with Arkadiusz Milik always looking the far more likely to punish their opponents.
The Ajax striker was included in our six players to watch at the European Championships, and on the evidence of his performance on Sunday, the player’s inclusion in our list was certainly justified.
He was also tipped up as a decent outside bet to be top scorer at the competition too, and he could well thrive if defenders opt to keep a closer eye on his strike partner than they do on him….
You Schwein! Bastian efforts show Man Utd what they’re missing
It’s safe to say his debut campaign at Manchester United didn’t exactly set pulses racing, but the way in which Bastian Schweinsteiger busted a gut to run half the length of the field before finishing with a well-taken half-volley against Ukraine, at least reminded their fans what the midfielder is capable of.
A stop-start season at Old Trafford was eventually brought to an end in mid-March when the player succumbed to a season-ending injury in the derby win at Man City. But Man Utd fans, and Jose Mourinho in particular, will be hoping Schweinsteiger can return to form in France and hit the ground running next season….