Euro 2016 has been off to a great start. Be it Payet stunner, or Bale’s amazing free kick, or Russia’s last minute equalizer breaking England’s hopes of opening matches win, to Modric’s wondergoal for Croatia, or Schweinsteiger’s winner for Germany, or Pique’s header cruising through Czech’s (or I say Cech’s) wall, or Italy overcoming favorites Belgium, or Hungary upsetting Austrians the competition hasn’t disappointed in terms of entertainment and excitement. However, an interesting fact is that no team has scored more than 2 goals. Most Defensive competition? Maybe, but it is only Match Day 1 and lot of surprises are yet to be discovered.
However as a Gunners fan, I am very encouraged by Arsenal players’ performances in the Euros. All of the Gunners have performed admirably, in terms of scoring goals or assists or clean sheets or match winning displays. So let’s have a brief summary of our Gunners’ performance in the Euros so far:
Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny(France)
Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny started for the France team on the opening day against Romania and both played full 90 minutes. Koscielny had a sound game and had not much to do in the first half, but French attack was disappointing as Giroud, and Griezmann missed rather easy chances. However, in the second half, when Payet crossed from his weaker foot from the right side, Giroud latched his head quickly to the ball and broke the deadlock for France and EUROS 2016 as well. Scoring Euros 2016 opening’s goal should provide lots of confidence to Giroud who was recently being booed by French fans themselves. But later, Romania did equalized through a Stancu penalty. As end was approaching near, everyone thought that Euros will start with a draw. However Payet had other ideas. He scored an absolute stunner from his weak foot eventually winning the match for France. It was sad for Romanians as they deserved a draw but Payet snatched it in last gasp.
Our new signing Granit Xhaka quickly completed a big money move to Arsenal so that he won’t stay distracted during the competition and fully focus on the Euros. He started and completed for Switzerland game against Albania, which got the special attention of everyone as it was based on the fact that Granit would be facing his native brother Taulant Xhaka playing for Albania. But Granit did overcome the battle as he displayed match winning performance. He had 129 touches vs. Albania, a new record for a Swiss player at a Euro tournament. He also recorded six defensive actions helping his team maintain a clean sheet. However, Fabian Schar’s headed goal in the opening stages won the game, but Xhaka won the MOTM for his team. If he continues the same way, he will already impress the Gooners without even playing for them.
Aaron Ramsey started for his team and played 88 minutes against Slovakia. He didn’t show amazing performance but was decent and tidy in his passing and maintaining the possession for Wales. However, he was more impressive in pressing higher up the pitch and in his defensive area as well as he is known for stamina and endless running. In the first half, Bale scored through a direct free kick achieving the lead for Wales. However, Slovakia equalised at 61st minute courtesy of a beautiful finish from Duda. But Robson-Kanu appeared as a late substitute and Ramsey assisted him to score the winning goal.
Jack Wilshere came on as a late substitute for Wayne Rooney and played 12 minutes against Russia. He didn’t have much to do as he was given the job of maintaining the possession for England preserving a 1-0 lead scored by amazing Eric Dier free kick. Everything seemed positive for England until the last minute when their defence failed to win an aerial header and Russia scored through Berezutski tap-in in the last minute of stoppage time. It was disappointing for both Jack Wilshere and England having so much possession and earning a hard earned goal but they couldn’t enjoy a win.
Wojciech Szczesny, currently on loan at Roma, started in goal ahead of former Gunner Lukasz Fabianski and played 90 minutes against Northern Ireland. He didn’t have much to do as Poland dominated the game throughout and Northern Ireland were more found defending in their own half and did the regular job for his team. He maintained a clean sheet as Poland won the game thanks to Milik who scored shortly after half time.
Transfer Update: Roma who took Szczesny on a season-long loan have been impressed by his performances and are interested in extending the loan further for one more year. Reports suggest Arsenal and AS Roma are both happy with the deal. However Szczesny says “I’ll only think about other things once the competition is over.”
Mesut Ozil started the match vs Ukraine and completed 90 minutes. It wasn’t an eye-catching performance rather Ozil wasn’t playing good in the first half but so were the other attackers. This was clearly observed by the fact that Germans took the lead through centre-back Mustafi’s header from a pin-point delivery by Toni Kroos. However Ukraine did step up their game in closing stages of the first half but Neuer’s saves and Boateng’s athletic clearance thwarted any chances for an equaliser. Ukraine finally admitted defeat as they became vulnerable to German’s quick counter attack in the injury time as super-sub Schweinsteiger, who had injury doubts earlier, latched on to another pin-point delivery from Ozil. It wasn’t a great night for him but a winning assist should give him some confidence. And we wouldn’t mind anything if FIFA 2014 winner does win the Euros as well.
Petr Cech (Czech Republic) and Hector Bellerin(Spain)
Petr Cech started in goal for the Czech Republic and completed 90 minutes enduring a tough defeat against Spain. He was impressive for the Gunners in club colours as he won the Golden Glove for maintaining 16 clean sheets in EPL. And similarly, he continued his performance in the Euros as he made saves after saves to stop Spain’s attempts to break the deadlock. It was mostly Cech’s saves in the first halves that kept Czech in the game. In the second half, Czech defenders also joined him and worked hard to stop Spain from registering any goal. It did look that Czech can record a clean sheet against Spain’s attack and win a deserved point, but all their dreams were shattered by Pique who went against all odds and broke Czech’s defensive wall with his header in the 87th minute delivered by Spanish Maestro Iniesta. On the other hand, Hector Bellerin was an unused substitute in Spain’s win.
It is only Matchday 1, but so far Gunners have mostly impressed with their performances in the competition so far. And I wish they continue the same throughout the whole competition.