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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.”

FIFA propose salary cap, transfer fee talks

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino has proposed talks with leagues across the globe about potentially implementing a salary cap and limits on transfer fees as the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The leader of soccer’s world-governing body released a lengthy video statement Saturday, in which he also asked league associations to work together to find the best solutions for the club and international calendar moving forward.

Last week he said FIFA wanted a ‘common sense’ approach to players who are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and that players showing messages of support should be ‘applauded and not punished’ despite FIFA’s previously strict rules around players sharing political, religious or personal messages during games.

FIFA are working on a financial package which they hope to discuss with members and finalize in their next council meeting later this month but recent talks with associations across the globe have suggested a salary cap or transfer fees limit could work.

Here is what the FIFA chief had to say specifically when it comes to soccer adapting to the changing financial environment.

“On the financial and governance aspects, I also heard some interesting proposals on a wide range of topics,” Infantino said. “From salary caps to transfer-fee caps or other taxation mechanisms, to the possible obligation for governing bodies, competition organisers and clubs to build reserves or to contribute to a reserve fund which can be of assistance in hours of need such as now.

“I personally advocate for clearer and stricter financial regulations, imposing full transparency and good governance principles, and not only limiting this to the transfer system, but to the entire football ecosystem. FIFA is doing already a lot of work on this area, even if we face some strong vested interests who fight against our plea for a better global governance in our sport.

“Dear friends, we will need your full support and commitment to move to the next level of good governance in football globally. I think that these and other measures, projects and ideas should be discussed at all levels. I know that this is something that will spark intense debate, but debate is healthy, and we should speak about it all together – as we stand together during this difficult period.”

Quite how a salary cap or a limit on transfer fees would work remain to be seen but given the huge financial burden places on clubs during the coronavirus pandemic, it is a very plausible solution to help stop clubs from going out of business.

With governing bodies such as UEFA placing strict financial fair play rules on clubs to stop them from spending beyond their means, FIFA doing something similar would be possible.

Would clubs, leagues and associations sign up for these new rules? In the short-term, probably. Long-term, it would be tough. Nobody knows how long sports, and society, will be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and even if a vaccine is found and fans can return to stadiums and things go back to relative normality, the financial implications of the past four to five months is likely to be felt for years to come.

The salary cap system will not work for every league or even every region but as we’ve seen in Major League Soccer, it can bring stability and certain leagues need that across the globe.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that there were zero positive results out of 1,195 COVID-19 tests taken on Thursday June 4 and Friday June 5.

The last three rounds of testing has now seen one positive result as Tottenham Hotspur confirmed the individual that tested positive earlier week was one of their players or staff.

With the sixth round of testing now completed in the Premier League, a total of 6,274 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 13 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as full contact training is now up and running and a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full on the latest result:


The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 4 June and Friday 5 June, 1,195 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.
Round 4: 28-29 May – 1,130 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 5: 1-2 June – 1,197 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 6: 4-5 June – 1,195 tested, with zero testing positive


Watford season restart preview

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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they are at ahead of the final nine weeks of the season as Watford are up next.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Focusing on Nigel Pearson’s Watford, they have battled back from an awful first half of the season (which included having three different managers) to drag themselves out of the relegation zone as things stand. However, there is plenty of hard work ahead for the Hornets as they try to preserve their Premier League status.

[ MORE: Every PL season restart preview ] 

Let’s take a closer look at all things Watford when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Watford were rock bottom and looked doomed heading into December but the turnaround since Nigel Pearson arrived has been remarkable. They won once in their opening 17 Premier League games of the season as first Javi Gracia then Quique Sanchez Flores were sacked, and Nigel Pearson arrived to bring organization and defensive stability. He has done more than that as home wins over Man United, Aston Villa, Wolves and Liverpool has breathed new life into their season. Now, Watford are still only out of the relegation zone on goal difference (one goal, to be exact) and if Aston Villa win their game in-hand they are back in the bottom three. That said, any Watford fan would have bitten your hand off in December had you offered them this scenario heading into the final nine games of the season. Their home form should see them over the line but there are plenty of tetchy games coming up between now and late July for Watford. If Troy Deeney can return to training and action, that will be a big boost, but losing Gerard Deulofeu to a serious knee injury just before the suspension was a cruel blow as he’d been the catalyst to turn their season around.


Tactical analysis: There’s no doubt Watford have the talent to be further up the table, just as it showed last season when they were battling in the top half for most of the campaign (before their famed second half of the season slump hit) and reached the FA Cup final. Putting players in the right positions is key and Abdoulaye Doucure has been vital to their turnaround in form. His surging runs from midfield were not impacting play enough earlier this season but Pearson has moved him into almost a No.10 role and he’s flourished. With Etienne Capoue and Will Hughes in deeper central midfield roles behind Doucoure, they have found the right balance in the engine room. The French midfielder causes havoc and has defenses dropping off, which allows the wingers and forwards around him to find space. Defensively, Ben Foster has been great all season in goal and Pearson is very good in setting up his teams to be tough to break down in two solid blocks and then lethal on the counter. Ismaila Sarr has settled down in his first season in the Premier League (Liverpool know all about that) and he will have a big say in their battle against the drop as he will cut in from the right flank. Watford are now sturdy and if Andre Gray can hold the ball up in Deeney’s absence, Sarr and Doucoure will give him plenty of support in attack.


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Foster —–

— Feminia — Cathcart — Kabasele — Masina —

—- Capoue —- Hughes —- 

— Sarr — Doucoure — Pereyra —

—– Deeney —–


Remaining schedule:
Home: Leicester, Southampton, Norwich, Newcastle, Man City
Away: Burnley, Chelsea, West Ham, Arsenal

Predicted finish: They don’t have the easiest run-in but given the fact they’ve beaten Man United and Liverpool, we know this Watford side under Pearson has a shock up their sleeve. Wins against relegation rivals Norwich and West Ham will be key and they will likely need two more wins from their other seven games to have a chance. That is doable and I think with Bournemouth and Aston Villa having a very tough run-in, Watford will just stay up. Just. No matter what happens, Pearson has done a fine job to organize them and he is a master at orchestrating great escapes against relegation.

Dortmund beat Hertha on day of Bundesliga protests (video)

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Borussia Dortmund beat Hertha Berlin 1-0 in a hard-fought encounter at the Westfalenstadion, as Saturday saw Black Lives Matter protests and messages of support take place across the Bundesliga in Germany.

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Dortmund and Hertha led the protests, as players and staff from both teams knelt as one before kick off to show support for the movement sweeping across the USA, Europe and now the world.

After Bayern Munich’s players wore armbands which read ‘Black Lives Matter’ and had warm-up shirts which called for an end to racism, while Dortmund had warm-up shirts on which read ‘No Justice, No Peace’ among other messages of support after widespread protests in the USA.

As for the action once the game started at Dortmund, Jadon Sancho (who last weekend paid tribute to George Floyd) went close on several occasions throughout but a battling and in-form Hertha came close to taking a shock lead in the second half but Alexander Esswein dragged his shot inches wide.

Moments later Dortmund finally broke through as Sancho clipped the ball into Julian Brandt who nodded down for Emre Can to calmly slot home and seal all three points.

The victory means Dortmund are steady in second place but are seven points behind leaders Bayern Munich with four games remaining. Hertha lost for the first time since the restart but remain well in the hunt for Europa League qualification.

Below are videos of the protests from both clubs, plus the game-winner for Can which just about keeps Dortmund in the title race.