Well, that was quite a few days, wasn’t it? I had the good fortune to be on the golf course on Friday and so missed the immediate aftermath of the referendum. Politics and sport have never been the best of bedfellows so I will refrain from further mentioning it here, other than to say that we are all up to our necks in it and need to pull together to make this transition as painless as possible.
Glastonbury Lite is reaching a conclusion later. I happen to enjoy listening to Adele and Coldplay, but it is something of a surprise that they were/are headlining this particular festival. Last evening I had three screens on the go watching the acts from Worthy Farm, the Euros, and the Anthony Joshua bill from the O2. The three matches in France provided mixed feelings, and these carried on into today.
Before the football kicked off us Anglos had the morning in front of the screen watching the England rugby union team create history with a third test triumph in Australia. It was gripping entertainment which could have swung either way until Jamie George’s late try. The final score in Sydney was a remarkable 40-44 to the tourists who had never won a series down under before, never mind a clean sweep.
In the first of the round of sixteen fixtures Jakub Blaszczykowski put Poland ahead against Granit Xhaka’s Switzerland six minutes before half-time. Xherdan Shaqiri’s sublime overhead kick from 18 yards gave the Swiss parity and extra-time could not separate the two. In the penalty shoot-out only one man missed from the spot, sadly the Gunners new man, otherwise impressive again in normal play. Hopefully a holiday will ease his disappointment and enable him to put in a solid pre-season with the club.
On to the meeting of Northern Ireland and Wales, and the ditty that will surely be runner up to “Will Grigg is on fire” in the chant of the tournament vote. “We voted remain, we voted remain, we aren’t stupid, we voted remain”. Those witty Irish, eh? Their wit didn’t save them on the pitch against a Wales driven forward by Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, although it took a late Gareth McCauley own goal to decide the contest. The Irish can be very proud of their performance to that point however, and won many friends on a rare showing at a major tournament.
The final match of the day was, even given the fact I had it on mute, a very dull and uninspiring affair eventually won by Portugal three minutes from the end of extra-time. Croatia bowed out to a Ricardo Quaresma header into an empty net from two yards. Thankfully, although also silent, Chris Eubank jr and Anthony Joshua provided much more watchable entertainment.
So to earlier today. The sport started with a match that would not finish. Sri Lanka batted first against England at Bristol, and the umpires and players deserve credit for them completing their innings despite the showers that fell on Bristol, or Brizzle as we prefer to say in this part of the world. England’s response was limited to just four overs before the showers became more persistent and forced an abandonment.
The football portion of the day started with the Republic of Ireland coming off second best to Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud’s France. The match had started well for the boys in green though, with Robbie Brady converting a second minute penalty after Paul Pogba was adjudged to have brought down Shane Long in the box. The Republic’s rearguard action stayed firm until four crucial minutes around the hour mark. The impressive Antoine Griezmann, who nodded in the equaliser before driving in the winning goal from Giroud’s sublime flick. The partnership prompted much wishful thinking on Twitter but Griezmann has only this month signed an extension with Athletico Madrid. Dream on.
Favourites and current world champions Germany cruised past Slovakia in the second match. Mesut Ozil was in good fettle save for succumbing to the curse that makes Arsenal midfielders miss from the penalty spot. On the day it mattered not. Jerome Boateng gave the Germans an eighth-minute lead with a superb 25-yard strike before Mario Gomez slotted in the second, and rumoured Arsenal target Julian Draxler made it 3-0 with a near-post volley after the break. They are surely the team to beat now?
I’m closing this piece with Belgium a goal to the good against Hungary after twenty minutes in Toulouse. Could it be the Belgians are finally starting to fulfil the potential they undoubtedly have, but seldom display?
A word too for Alexis Sanchez who, if recovered from a knock received in training, will line-up for Chile against Argentina in the Final of the Copa America for the second successive tournament. Here’s hoping Chile can overcome the favourites again.
And so the wait for tomorrow, and England facing the surprise package of the tournament so far, Iceland. I’m predicting nothing. Exiting Europe twice in four days would be excruciating.
I hope you have had a good one, ‘holics.