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EURO 2016 Roundtable: From Iceland to Portugal, moths to Three Lions

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It was about a month in duration, and some of the games felt just as long, but overall EURO 2016 gave us several storylines we’ll remember for a while.

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Some of ProSoccerTalk’s writers bantered back and forth over the moments, and here’s what we said.


Late dramatic goals, Ronaldo’s moth, violence, even boredom… What will be your enduring image(s) of this tournament?

Joe Prince-Wright: “I think it will be Iceland’s players and fans celebrating together in Nice after they beat England. The Viking Clap is incredible and to witness that live gave me chills. Even as an Englishman you have to hold your hands up and congratulate Iceland. They got their tactics spot on and they inspired not only their tiny nation but millions around the globe.

“A close second was seeing Ronaldo cry on the pitch in the final as he went down injured. You feared it was another moment of misery for a superstar named Ronaldo in the Stade de France. Then his tears of joy at the end were even better.

“Overall, yes, there weren’t a whole bunch of goals and exciting moments we’ve seen in other tournaments but some of the tactical battles and the rise of 3-5-2, plus Leicester City style counter attacking (looking at you Iceland, Portugal, Poland and many others) was interesting to see.”
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 10: Dimitri Payet of France celebrate his team's win with his child after his team's 2-1 win in the UEFA Euro 2016 Group A match between France and Romania at Stade de France on June 10, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Kyle Lynch: Dimitri Payet in tears after scoring a late winner for France against Romania in the opening match. In front of a home crowd, it was a special moment.”

Kyle Bonn: “For me, it has to be Payet’s late goal to start out the tournament, and Eder‘s late goal to end it. Story of the event.”

Nick Mendola: “Short-term, it’s hard for me to think it’ll be anything other than Ronaldo’s tears as he left the field. He cut a pretty sympathetic figure, and as the game went on and he returned to the bench we got a rare glimpse into why his teammates seem to swear by him despite his outward glow.

“And the moths! Landing right on Ronaldo’s eyes, as if it wanted to drink his magical tears and gain the ability to hit outrageous free kicks in the Premier League of Moths.

“Finally, Hungary and its sweatpants-wearing goalkeeper were a sight for sore eyes. Admittedly I have a bit of Hungarian blood running through me, but they finished ahead of Iceland, Portugal and Austria despite being given little chance to do anything.”


Which players impressed you the most?

Nick Mendola: “The Polish back line was a revelation, and most of the other players who impressed me were already close to household names. Nani and Aaron Ramsey were both influential, but Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern has to be considered the breakout player of the tournament.

“Also, cheers to Pepe. The vilified Portuguese defender showed us just how valuable he’s been to Real Madrid’s success as well. And Antoine Griezmann showed us that he’s legitimately elite.”

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Aaron Ramsey of Wales celebrates after scoring his goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group B match between Russia and Wales at Stadium Municipal on June 20, 2016 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Kyle Lynch: “Aaron Ramsey was one of the best players in the tournament, and his suspension in the semifinal really hurt Wales. I was also impressed by Luka Modric and the Croatian side, who were unfortunate to get bounced so early.”

Kyle Bonn: Dimitri Payet was the best player there. Iceland’s teamwork was stunning. Aaron Ramsey was the unsung hero.”

Joe Prince-Wright: Graziano Pelle had a great tournament for Italy and that obviously sealed his big move to China. Aaron Ramsey was superb for Wales and he was their star man. Antoine Griezmann’s finishing was sublime and his movement electric. Leonardo Bonucci was a stud for Italy in defense. Plus, Pepe was a beast for Portugal. If he wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t have been anywhere near winning the tournament.”


Which players failed to live up to expectations?

Joe Prince-Wright: “Maybe a little harsh but Robert Lewandowski didn’t really get going. He scored against Portugal but he seemed to be snatching at chances. Obviously Wayne Rooney underperformed once again but Harry Kane was the real disappointment for England. He looked jaded and lacking in confidence which is worrying for Tottenham’s fans. Like most of those young England players, you don’t know how a shock exit like that could scar them mentally.”

SAINT-ETIENNE, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Wayne Rooney (L) and Harry Kane (R) of England are seen on the bench prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 Group B match between Slovakia and England at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on June 20, 2016 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Nick Mendola: “For a while, it was going to be Ronaldo, but we see how that turned out. Thomas Muller was ‘off’ the whole tournament.”

Kyle Lynch: “After Harry Kane’s season at Tottenham, he was very poor for England. You also have to mention Thomas Muller, who never got off the mark for Germany.”
Kyle Bonn: “Had to be Paul Pogba. The kid is a wonder at his best, but he’s failed to come out strong on multiple big stages now, and its becoming worrysome. To be fair, the expectations are practically unattainable, but he’s still struggling where he should be shining. Harry Kane was also a serious disappointment, and Thomas Muller disappeared into thin air.”

What’s your take on Iceland’s surge?

Kyle Bonn: “Iceland’s organization cannot be exaggated. It was superb. The ultimate showing of teamwork. I was blown away. I hope they continue to be effective as a unit. Both Sigurdssons were standouts.”

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 03: Iceland players and staffs pose for photographs in front of their supporters after the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between France and Iceland at Stade de France on July 3, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Nick Mendola: “The Leicester City comparisons are inevitable, and it’s almost a shame the two underdog stories came so close together. It’s funny how quickly the viral Hungary clap turned into the Iceland clap.”

Joe Prince-Wright: “As I mentioned before, they stunned the world. I spoke with Iceland’s fans in Nice and they were very confident they would beat England and maybe we underestimated them. They got past Holland, Czech Republic and Turkey in qualifying and have been on the up for a while. Still, they had the whole package with the fans, the players and the belief.”

Kyle Lynch: “Iceland were impressive in qualifying and showed confidence on the big stage. Following Leicester’s run in the Premier League, Iceland was a great story and they could be in line for a World Cup appearance.”


What’s your take on England’s stumbles?

Nick Mendola: “Expected (although not to Iceland). The side was missing a playmaker, and asking Harry Kane to take corner kicks was a silly risk that backfired. No one’s going to want to hear this, but England’s best choice would’ve been to play a more defensive formation and let Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy destroy teams on the rush.”

NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Wayne Rooney of England (2nd R) walks toward Dele Alli (3rd L) to console after the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Kyle Bonn: “They played the opposite of Iceland, parts greater than the whole. Very disappointing. At no point did they look like they belonged on the big stage.”

Joe Prince-Wright: “Sigh. I’ll pass… Seriously though, it never gets easier. The expectations haven’t even been as high as they were in the past and it seemed too much for the players to handle.

“They had the youngest team at EURO 2016 and dominated all four games they played in but only managed to find the finishing touch against Wales, in stoppage time. The most worrying thing was in the game against Iceland they looked panicked. They were feeling the pressure and you could see it, plus captain and talisman Rooney had his worst ever game for England at a time when they needed him most. It’s time for fresh faces and another rebuild under the new manager, whoever that is. I’d go for Sam Allardyce to mix things up a little.”

How high does Portugal’s win lift Cristiano Ronaldo’s reputation all-time?

Joe Prince-Wright: “He was already going to go down as one of the best of all time but this lifts him into the soccer pantheon of greats alongside Maradona and Pele. He may not have scored buckets of goals but he was an inspiration for that team on and off the pitch. Portugal’s players wanted to do it for Ronaldo so much after he came off injured. His place in history will be assured when his career is done. Over to you Lione… Oh wait. He retired. Checkmate Ronaldo.”

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal holds the Henri Delaunay trophy to celebrate after his team's 1-0 win against France in the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Nick Mendola: “Into another stratosphere. I cannot overstate how impressed I was with his dogged play when Portugal went down. He’s still a step back from Messi in creativity and inimitability, but there’s no doubt he’s, at worst, 1B for his generation.”

Kyle Lynch: “I think his legacy is already set as one of the all-time greats, but winning a trophy with your national team always gives you that little edge. Even though he wasn’t at his best at the tournament, Portugal was still his team and he will be remembered for giving his country a European Championship.”
Kyle Bonn: “It’s huge. The role he plays on that team is that of a player/coach. He has something Messi may never achieve, and he was vital to achieving it.”

Which team or person lost the most from EURO 2016?

Nick Mendola: “As a team: England. As a player? Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Sweden was far too focused on their star, and for once the striker couldn’t deliver much.”

Kyle Bonn: “Biggest loser has to be Roy Hodgson. I know him well from his Fulham days, and he has always played a more defensive, organized style, and it works for an underdog – like Fulham in their Europa League run. This tournament made it clear to me he still has not learned to play as the better team, which is what brought him down at Liverpool. It’s a massive flaw in his managerial skills.”

Joe Prince-Wright: “Austria team wise. They were woeful and should’ve done much better but so many silly errors. Player wise, maybe Anthony Martial? He had such a promising season with Manchester United but was barely used and looked a shadow of the player we saw in England.”


What’s your take on the fan violence? Is it a cultural thing? Over-amplified by ever-present social media? Something that will always exist?

Joe Prince-Wright: “Unfortunately it was a perfect storm for the most extreme violence we saw in Marseille. Hot weather. Huge crowds. England. Russia. Two countries with hooligan elements in a city which didn’t forget what happened when the English last came to town in 1998.

“It was horrendous and there’s no place for it. For me, I think it’s thrown up some huge question marks about Russia 2018. Especially given the facts that gangs of organized hooligans flew all the way from Russia to partake in that. Unfortunately it’s difficult to stop all the violence around the game but even in the stadium there were policing issues, flares and fireworks thrown around and people running on the pitch. That has to get better.”

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 11: An England fan is arrested after clashing with police ahead of the game against Russia later today on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France. Football fans from around Europe have descended on France for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Nick Mendola: “What kills me is how often it was discussed leading up to the tournament, and nothing could be done to stop it. Not a great time for our sport.”

Kyle Lynch: “The presence of social media definitely made this tournament’s problems more prevalent, but I think it’s something that’s hard to handle. If a team was actually suspended from a major tournament, then changes might come.”
Kyle Bonn: “Fan violence is a massive problem to me, but the bigger issue is stadium security. France should be ashamed of how much they let happen with lazy security. Fireworks flat out shouldn’t make it into stadiums, and they seriously dropped the ball.”

How would the United States men’s national team have fared in the tournament?

Nick Mendola: “Jurgen Klinsmann would’ve played this the same way Hungary, Iceland, and Ireland did, but it depends on their group. Given the absurdly easy path to the knockout rounds, I see them there and maybe winning a game.”

Kyle Lynch: “With the new format, a lot of teams were able to sit back and not risk much while still advancing to the knockout rounds. The U.S. could be able to get out of their group, and a decent draw could have seen a possible quarterfinal appearance.”
Kyle Bonn: “Like they do in most major tournaments, they would have sneaked out of the group, then lost a close game to a better opponent early in the knockout stage.”

Joe Prince-Wright: “May have ground a few results out and then went out in the quarters. Probably would’ve finished third in a group a la Portugal. Minus the run to winning the trophy…”


Which player from the tournament would you like to realistically see playing for a North American club?

Nick Mendola: Sebastian Larsson from Sweden. He’d be able to turn around an attack the way Sacha Kljestan did for the New York Red Bulls.”

LEIRIA, PORTUGAL - MARCH 29: Portuguese forward Nani during the match between Portugal and Belgium Friendly International at Estadio Municipal de Leiria on March 29, 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
Joe Prince-Wright: “Bearing in mind I’m all for seeing younger DPs in MLS, someone in their prime who would be a real draw in MLS, plus realistic to join, is Nani. Obviously he’s just signed for Valencia but looking at how much he’s moved around recently, maybe MLS makes a move for him next summer? He’d still be under 30 if they did. Pace, power, tricks and sublime crosses and long range shots, when he’s on his game not many can stop him.”

Kyle Bonn: “I think Ragnar Sigurdsson would become one of the better defenders in MLS. That is, if he doesn’t get snatched up by a European side first.”

Fernandez scores twice as Portland wins thriller in Seattle (video)

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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The game in 200 words (or less): Brian Fernandez has made the most of his first two-plus months in MLS, undoubtedly capped off by a star’s performance in his Timbers-Sounders rivalry debut on Sunday. The Argentine scored both of Portland’s goals in a 2-1 victory at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, all while managing to annoy anyone and everyone in Rave Green with his pest-like antics.

Fernandez’s first came after just 20 minutes. His second came barely 20 seconds after Raul Ruidiaz drew Seattle level in the second half. With the result, Portland climbs to within two points of the Western Conference’s seventh and final playoff place. Seattle, meanwhile, misses out on a chance to leapfrog LA Galaxy for second.

[ MORE: Pity proves his point as Atlanta tops DCU late (video) ]

Three moments that mattered

20′ — Fernandez slams home after Moreira smashes the crossbar — Jorge Moreira’s initial blast deserved to hit the back of the net, but he’ll surely settle for Fernandez cleaning up the mess and bagging the opener.

50′ — Ruidiaz passes into an empty net for 1-1 — Steve Clark was trying to… hmm, you know what? Not really sure.

51′ — Fernandez answers right back and it’s 2-1 — It was the deftest of touches, but it’s all that was required seconds after Portland conceded down the other end of the field.

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Man of the match: Brian Fernandez

Goalscorers: Fernandez (20′, 51′), Ruidiaz (50′)

Red Bulls escape Orlando with three points (video)

AP Photo/John Raoux
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The game in 200 words (or less): The New York Red Bulls needed a little help from the woodwork to escape Orlando with a victory on Sunday, and they got it — not once, not twice, but three times in the second half. After scoring the game’s only goal just past the half-hour mark, Luis Robles and Co., held on for dear life as Orlando City SC attacked with wave after wave of pressure. Robles made four saves, while the posts and crossbar made three more for him. Brian White scored the goal, assisted by Kaku, his seventh of the season. The victory sees the Red Bulls climb past New York City FC for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, now just a point back of D.C. United in third and two back of Atlanta United in second.

[ MORE: Pity proves his point as Atlanta tops DCU late (video) ]

Three moments that mattered

32′ — White finishes Kaku’s curling ball — Brian Rowe is unlucky not to make the save, but it would have been a grave crime against brilliance for this ball from Kaku not to result in a goal.

60′ — Ascues hits the crossbar — Woodwork.

77′ — Kljestan smashes the post — Woodwork again. The follow-up accidentally hits Robles as he’s lying on the ground.

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Man of the match: Luis Robles/posts and crossbar

Goalscorers: White (32′)

Sevilla score late winner to beat Liverpool in Fenway friendly

AP Photo/Mary Schwalm
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BOSTON (AP) Alejandro Pozo scored in the 90th minute on an assist from Munir El Haddadi to give hard-fighting Sevilla a victory over crowd favorite Liverpool at Fenway Park on Sunday in a game that was friendly in name only.

The Spanish side finished with 10 players after Gnagnon Joris violently kicked the legs out from under Liverpool midfielder Yasser Larouci in the 76th minute; he crashed to the turf, remained down for several minutes and was taken off on a stretcher.

Despite temperatures in the mid-90s, nearly the entire 37,000-seat ballpark was full for the friendly, with most of them dressed in red to support Liverpool. The Champions League winners and the Boston Red Sox, who make their home at Fenway, are both owned by groups led by financier John Henry.

The field was laid out from the third-base side to right field, with the home team bullpen removed to make room. The teams had their benches in front of the iconic Green Monster, the 37-foot wall in left field. Much of the baseball diamond itself was covered with sod; the pitcher’s mound was sawed apart and shoveled off after the Red Sox finished their homestand on Sunday.

After the U.S. national anthem, the fans serenaded the Reds with the traditional “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

To deal with the heat, the game was stopped once each half to give the players a chance to hydrate; the Fenway grounds crew also came out with hoses to wet down the infield, and sprinklers took care of the outfield.

The fans didn’t get to see many of their favorites, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino all resting from international tournaments, along with goalkeeper Alisson. With Liverpool’s top four goalkeepers unavailable, Andy Longergan, who spent the last season at Middlesbrough, got the start in goal.

Liverpool dominated early, but it was Sevilla that scored first when a ball deflected in the penalty area to Nolito, who made it 1-0 in the 37th minute. Divock Origi tied it in the 44th minute when a header deflected to him at the post and he buried it.

The players on the field – at least those in Sevilla’s white kits – didn’t seem to be persuaded that the game was only an exhibition. A tough tackle in the 12th minute resulted in a foul on Ever Banega, and it was upgraded to a yellow card when he slammed the ball into the ground in protest.

Liverpool midfielder Harry Wilson left just before the half after apparently getting poked in the eye. But that was nothing compared to the straight red card given to Joris. He seemed to be the only person in the stadium who disagreed with the call, arguing with the referee while Larouci was attended to.

The teams substituted liberally at halftime, with every Liverpool player except Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced by a substitute. Four Sevilla players stayed in to start the second half.

Red-hot Revs beat FC Cincy, make it 10 games unbeaten (video)

AP Photo/Steven Senne
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The game in 200 words (or less): Statistically speaking, no other team even comes close to rivaling the New England Revolution as the hottest team in MLS. With a 2-0 road victory over expansion side FC Cincinnati on Sunday, Bruce Arena’s side hasn’t lost in 10 games (nine of which have been played since he was named head coach) and now sits above the playoff cut line in the Eastern Conference. At present, two points separate them and fourth-place New York City FC. Carles Gil has been a revelation as a new signing last winter, and Arena has gotten so much more out of the rest of the remaining roster than Brad Friedel did during his 15 months in charge. Gil scored what turned out to be the early winner on Sunday, followed by an insurance goal (set up by Gil) from Antonio Delamea early in the second half. It was as routine as a road victory can be in MLS, which is as much of an indictment of Cincinnati as it is a compliment to the Revs.

[ MORE: Pity proves his point as Atlanta tops DCU late (video) ]

Two moments that mattered

9′ — Gil cleans up a mess and makes it 1-0 — Sometimes, if not most of the time, Cincinnati defends exactly how you would expect an expansion team to defend.

55′ — Delamea heads home for 2-0 — Headed goals don’t come much easier, or less contested, than this one.

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Man of the match: Carles Gil

Goalscorers: Gil (9′), Delamea (55′)