Portugal vs. France
After a month of play, we have finally nailed it down to two teams. Portugal and France will compete on Sunday for the coveted Euro cup trophy. Arguably, both of these countries have successfully made it to the final undeservedly. France had a relatively easy route to the final from day one, with their only real competition arriving in the form of Germany in the semi-final. Portugal, on the other hand, have only won one of their six games in 90 minutes. Both other semi-finalists, Wales and Germany were much more deserving teams, but as history has told us, sport doesn’t always work that way.
France have had moments of absolute excellence in this tournament. Going forward, the French are nothing short of tormenting for their opposition’s defence. The Euro’s leading goal scorer, Antoine Griezmann, has played his team into the final on home soil and let’s not forget, the last time they were in this position, they won it. France has delivered unity to a country that was struggling to find its identity in recent months. Between terror attacks and major labour protests, France has found hope in the form of their national football team.
This match will be the battle of the number sevens. What can Griezmann and Ronaldo create for their respective teams? Portugal’s main source of attack is crosses into the box looking for Ronaldo or Nani, whereas France have a lot more diversity in their attacking movements. Defensively, France have been unorganized throughout the tournament and in their semi-final versus Germany they were lucky not to go down three-nil in the first half. In the second half, we caught glimpses of actual communication between the French back-line and there was a sense of determination that had previously been lacking. If France can bring that same intensity to Paris they will be able to keep Cristiano Ronaldo and friends out.
On their ridiculous run to the final, I have consistently said that Portugal do not deserve to be here. That being said, I can no longer dispute the position they have maneuvered themselves into. Portugal’s performance in their semi-final against Wales was tactically sound and their place in the final has been earned fairly. Beating the Welsh wasn’t an easy job. The game consisted of three minutes of great play by Portugal and a whole lot of gamesmanship after the two goals. I have no doubt that Portugal will bring another frustrating strategy to the table against France. It is my prediction that Portugal’s ability to slow down the game will play in their favour. The French will go forward with pace, but will struggle to get the same chances that they have been gifted in previous games with the reluctant style of football that Portugal like to play.
France will do their best to rise to the occasion on home soil, but they will fall just short. Portugal will win the 2016 European Championship on penalties.
Final score: Portugal 1 France 1 (Portugal win on penalties)
The 2016 European Championship is nearing its end. After three weeks of competition we have seen it all. There have been upsets of epic proportions, spectacular goals and heartbreak. In a few days’ time we will have a winner, and one of the four remaining countries will lift the Henri Delaunay trophy. The road to the final will not be an easy one for the two teams that prevail in their semi-finals, but it is bound to be thrilling.
Wales vs. Portugal
Let me start by saying that Portugal do not deserve to be in this position. They have made their way into the semi-finals without winning a single game in 90 minutes. Portugal have drawn four out of their five games, winning their round of 16 game in extra time and beating Poland in the quarters on penalties. That being said, the Portuguese have managed to put themselves into a Euro semi-final for a second consecutive time. Portugal have a decent squad and superstar captain Cristiano Ronaldo. They will also look to outstanding youngster Renato Sanches who equalized for them against Poland. If Portugal can play with more attacking finesse than previously, they still stand a chance. More likely however, they will play for a draw again, which will do them no favours against the unwavering Welsh.
Wales are living a dream right now. But unlike other fantasies, they have the ability to make this dream a reality. Since the beginning, the Welsh have taken one game at a time, never allowing themselves to think too far into the future. This pin-point focus will play in their favour, as Portugal will feel pressure to deliver after their shout-out exit to Spain in the 2012 semi-final. The Welsh will be a little bit worse for wear without midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who will miss this match due to too many yellow cards. Although Wales have superstars on their team – namely Gareth Bale – they do not rely on them to win the game. The Welsh are the hardest working team in the tournament. They work for each other, and it is that work ethic that will help them make history by making it to the final in their first appearance at this tournament.
Final score: Wales 2 Portugal 0
France vs. Germany
France have been a tournament favourite since day one. As the host nation, they have responded to the pressure with gumption. France have proven that they have fire power up front. However, they are unstable and weak in defence. The lack of organization at the back will be their Achilles heel. The French will do their best to rise to the occasion in this match, looking to make it to another Euro cup final. The last time France hosted the prestigious tournament, they won it. I have no doubt that France will put out a fantastic performance in this match.
Germany are the team to beat in this tournament. The reigning World Cup champions have been nothing short of perfect so far. Despite a bad handball from Boateng against Italy, Germany have been excellent at the back. Up front, they have power and finesse. Özil has shown composure for the Germans when it matters most and will be key in their attempt to make it to the final.
This game will be played with high intensity and passion. France and Germany will both press hard up front, which could leave them vulnerable at the back. Germany are more organized at the back, but France have a more successful goal-scoring ability. This game will be decided down to the wire, and Germany will prevail in extra time.
Final score: Germany 3 France 2
photo sourced via www.independent.co.uk
The next four days will see the quarter-finals of the Euros decided. These games will be all on with some exciting match-ups, however the first quarter to be played will be less than thrilling.
Poland vs. Portugal
First of all, this game absolutely should have been Poland vs. Croatia. Portugal have ridden through their games on luck and a whole lot of complaining by captain Cristiano Ronaldo. Now that they are in the quarter-finals, Portugal will have to step up their game. We have seen Ronaldo produce the magic his team needs before, but against a resilient Poland, the rest of the team will have to show up as well. The most exciting thing about Portugal so far has been 18-year-old midfielder Renato Sanches. Sanches brings pace and tenacity to a boring Portugal side, and will be vital if they hope to progress to the semi-finals.
Poland have been strong defensively throughout this tournament. However, their attack has been unimpressive and average. The Polish can string together plenty of passes but that does nothing for them if they can’t put the ball in the net. Poland’s games have not been exciting to watch thus far, and I predict that this game will be a bit of a turn-off as well. Poland’s central fire power Robert Lewandowski has not produced the goals that his country requires. Lewandowski appears to be too nice on the field and must be selfish if he hopes to carry his team to the next round.
This game will be decided in extra time or penalties, and somehow, god only knows, Portugal will once again come out of the match alive.
Wales vs. Belgium
For me this game is hard to call. I would absolutely love to see another upset that would take Wales farther into the dream they are living in. However, Belgium are a categorically world class team.
Wales will bring everything they have to the pitch, emotion, energy and excitement. They have nothing to lose and an army of Welsh fans supporting them. Gareth Bale is the tournaments leading goal scorer with three goals and one assist. I have no doubts that Bale will produce something special in this game. Bale’s combinations with midfielder Aaron Ramsey are on point, and Ramsey is yet another threat that the Belgians will have to shut down.
Belgium will win this game. In order to do so, they must play as cohesively and relentlessly as they did in the final 20 minutes of their round of 16 match-up against Hungary. Belgium have proved that they can deliver, but consistency will be key. Belgium will move on to play Portugal in the semi-finals next week.
Germany vs. Italy
It is safe to say that I have thoroughly underestimated what Italy would accomplish at the Euros this year. The Italians, led by theatrical manager Antonio Conte, have been fantastic. Italy easily has the most organized team in the tournament. They are tactically perfect. Their defensive line is almost impenetrable, with the exception of Irish hero Robby Brady heading a late winner for Ireland, Italy shut out the rest of the competition in their other games.
Germany, the reigning World Cup champions, are the next most strategically sound team to play in the Euros this year. Not only have they been exciting to watch, but they too have not conceded a single goal in this tournament. Jerome Boateng leads a powerful back line for Germany, and is a threat in the box on set plays as well.
I may be underestimating the Italians again, but I don’t see how they can beat the robust German squad. Germany possesses depth and talent that is still one league above Italy. This game should be a fire cracker; Germany will score a last minute goal to win and progress to the next round.
France vs. Iceland
On paper France should win this game. I have said since the beginning that France produce performances on home turf and that they have the capabilities to go all the way. Between Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann they have goal scoring power and finesse. The only consequential issue with the French team is their shaky defensive line. However, so far, the French have shown that they can rely on their goal scorers to get them back into games when they are down.
Iceland, on the other hand, have been the joy of this tournament. Never without a plan, the seemingly underestimated team has been impossible to beat. Entering into this game undefeated, Iceland have also proven that they can, and will respond when goals are scored against them. France will have a tough task getting the ball through Iceland’s 11-man defensive line.
Iceland have nothing to lose, a roaring Haka-esque clap from their fans, and goal scoring ability on perfectly planned counter attacks. Iceland will win this game with the upset of the tournament and join Germany in the semi-final.
The group stage is over and with that, the first stage of arguably the most thrilling Euros yet is in the books. UEFA’s decision to expand this year’s tournament from 16 to 24 teams has allowed underrated countries to shine. Iceland, Hungary and Northern Ireland to name a few, had the odds stacked against them in pool play, but they were quick to show that no matter the size of their country, they could compete with the best.
The first round of 16 games begin on Saturday, and there is bound to be more drama going forward.
Switzerland vs. Poland
The Swiss look to be in good form heading into this game. A 0-0 draw against France shows that they can hold their own against top teams. However, Poland are highly organized and efficient on the pitch. Poland’s swift movement both on and off the ball will help them to beat Switzerland and progress to the Quarterfinals.
Croatia vs. Portugal
Croatia have been a pleasure to watch. Luka Modric has delivered this small country to the world stage in superb fashion. Even without Modric on the field, Croatia were able to beat Spain in their final group game. Portugal, on the other hand, have looked lackluster. Having tied all three of their group stage games, Portugal finally got their momentum against Hungary. However, it was not enough as that game also ended in a draw. Portugal barely qualified for the next round and will need big names Ronaldo, Sanchez and Nani to turn it up a notch if they hope to beat this impressive Croatian team. Croatia will win this game with the help of their organized defensive line, which will keep Ronaldo out of goal scoring contention.
Wales vs. Northern Ireland
In order for the Welsh to keep the Northern Irish at bay, they will have to break their spirit. Both countries have come to the Euros with an impressive set of fans and an underdog determination that has allowed them to be competitive against preeminent teams. Northern Ireland beat the Ukraine 2-0 with only 35 per cent of the possession; they will likely rely on their strong counter attack against Wales on Saturday. Wales have a deeper squad and talented midfielders that move the ball with speed and precision. This game will be a battle of passion, but I believe Wales will have no problem progressing to the next round over Northern Ireland.
Hungary vs. Belgium
Hungary have shown beyond doubt that they are not just a country that are there to fill a spot as previously projected. Having finished top of their group, ending on a remarkable 3-3 draw against Portugal, Hungary have become the dark horse team to watch in this competition. Hungary’s opposition, Belgium, are formidable and a tournament favourite. Although Belgium have not produced the results they were predicted to deliver, on paper they have arguably the most adept team at the Euros. This game will be tight and will likely be played into extra time or penalties. Hungary possess the ability to upset Belgium, but Belgium’s finesse should carry them through to the quarter-finals against Wales.
Germany vs. Slovakia
Slovakia is another underdog nation that has surpassed expectations. Led by Liverpool centre back Martin Skrtel, Slovakia’s confident back line will be complex for the Germans to break down. Additionally, this fiery team has the capability to threaten Germany upfront as well with Duda always poised to attack. That being said, Germany has brilliant goal scorers in the likes of Özil, Müller and Götze – to name a few. The reigning World Cup champions can dismiss Slovakia’s efforts if they play their game. We have seen them at their best in this tournament against the Ukraine, and looking weaker as they drew with Poland. Germany must take the chances they get and be aware of Slovakia’s counter attack. If they stay tactically sound, they will triumph.
Italy vs. Spain
For me this game is a toss-up. Originally, I predicted that Italy would finish bottom of their group. In recent history the Italians have flopped at major international tournaments, failing to deliver the results their country has come to expect. However, so far they have done nothing but impress. Even a loss against the Republic of Ireland will not be viewed as negative, as they were guaranteed to finish top of their group and rested much of their starting line-up. The Spanish have won the last two European championships and are chasing a record third in a row. They have everything to play for, and have one of the best Spanish rosters of the last four years. Spain should win this game on paper, but as the Euros have proved time and time again, we cannot count out upsets. Both teams are highly organized and efficient, but Spain will come out on top narrowly and look ahead to their game against Germany in the quarter-finals.
France vs. Ireland
Although Italy played with a vastly altered line-up against the Irish, Ireland have the ability to create magical upsets. We saw it in qualifying, and now we’ve seen it in their first ever progression to the knock out stages in a major tournament. As much as it would be incredible to see Ireland create another historical moment, France have a home-field advantage. The French have a consistent ability to create victories on home turf. Drilled forward by the weight of their nation, France will rise to the occasion in the knock-out round. France will win this one easily, likely with a goal created by Dimitri Payet.
England vs. Iceland
Finally, in the last match up of the round of 16, we have England versus Iceland. These two teams have arrived in France with a horde of fans behind them. Iceland is estimated to have 10 per cent of its entire population (roughly 30,000 people) cheering on their country in France, while England has seamlessly packed stadiums wherever they go. Iceland will have an advantage going into this game as they have nothing to lose. They have already beaten the odds to finish second in their group, and their fans have nothing but adoration for them. England on the other hand have once again “failed” to meet the never ending high expectations of their country. For England, this game is a must win. A defeat in the round of 16, let alone a defeat against Iceland will be seen as unacceptable by their fans. Likely, it would cause manager Roy Hodgson to lose his job. England can get the job done if they stay composed. With more movement from their forwards up front, the English will win this game to face France in the quarters.
From late goals to missed penalties, from underdog upsets to disappointing draws, from fantastic finishes to passionate passes and everything in between, the 2016 Euros have been nothing short of entertaining.
The tournament has been full of drama since the first whistle, but this exciting event has been marred by fan violence from day one. Fans have been clashing with each other and French police since the beginning of the Euros. These clashes have caused 5 countries to be officially charged by UEFA.
Russia has already faced a large fine, and could be disqualified from the tournament if their fans continue to cause trouble. Meanwhile, Croatia’s fate will be decided on Monday with some of their players fearing they could be sent home, due to their fans throwing flares on the field during their match against Czech Republic. Belgium, Hungary and Portugal have been formally charged as well.
For me, and many around the world, soccer is an international language. It is a sport that has the ability to bring people together for the simple love of the game. Soccer (football) is one of the most widely followed sports in the world and the Euros this year are a perfect of example of pride and passion, with 24 countries competing. Some people were skeptical of the expansion to 24 teams this year, but the level of play that some smaller countries have brought with them has been a pleasure to watch. When you get the opportunity to watch Iceland tie Portugal in their first ever major tournament, that is special.
So let me say this bluntly; I don’t care what country you support, which players or which club. I care that you respect your fellow fans who are there to support the same sport you claim to love. To the fans who have caused violence in the streets and stadiums of France, you have no place being there. To the fans who have been wrongly affected by this violence, I am sorry.
If you are willing to risk the athlete’s safety, the safety of fans around you and the integrity of the game for the sake of your own rowdy experience, you are not a true fan. The game of soccer is loved and respected all around the world, to demoralize it with violence is simply unacceptable. You have altered the experience of other fans who have travelled from close and far to be there. You have altered the experience of the players who you claim to support.
For many of these players, it has been their dream to compete on this stage. They are there, they are ready. Will you stand with them or will you continue to disgrace them?
For the love of the game, stop the violence.
he 2016 European championships promise to be full of drama, with this years 24 team expansion leaving the playing field wide open. Out of the 24 teams, I predict that four countries, France, Belgium, Germany and Spain have a strong shot at winning the coveted Henri Delaunay Trophy, although dark horses can never be completely ruled out.
Group play predictions:
For me this one is easy. The French are sharp on attack, and are playing on home soil. The last time France hosted the Euros in 1984, they won. French fans are resilient and the players will use that adrenaline to fuel their campaign. France's key weakness however, is their back line. Their defence needs to move as a unit, with more communication between them in order to keep out competitors. For France, this tournament is about so much more than football, this tournament is about unifying a nation in turmoil and if any team can do it, it's this French squad.
Final standings for group A: France, Switzerland, Romania, Albania
This group will definitely be one to watch. England is coming in with a well rounded squad and high expectations, but they are renowned for not showing up when it counts. That being said, if England arrive this year, they have the capability to go very far in this tournament. Russia have been building through the qualifying phase and will look to their strong midfielders to hold the play against their opponents. Slovakia have qualified for the Euros for the first time as an independent nation and although they are likely to be the weakest team in this pool, they have the entire nation behind them. Finally we have Wales. We have seen magic from the Welsh team in qualifying and in international friendlies. But that cannot take away from the fact that this is there first ever Euros as well, to play on a stage this big could be daunting for some of their players. Gareth Bale will lead the way for Wales, and if his team follows his example they could be very threatening.
Final group B standings: England, Wales, Russia, Slovakia
Group C also appears to be a no brainer. Germany, the reigning World Cup champions, are a force to be reckoned with. Although their recent games haven't gone as planned for the Germans, losing to England in March and Slovakia just over a week ago, unlike England, Germany always shows up to a tournament. For me, it is a toss up between Northern Ireland, Poland and Ukraine. All three of these countries have proven that they can compete with the big guns, but their inexperience could hurt them.
Final group C standings: Germany, Poland, Northern Ireland, Ukraine
Spain are my favourite to win the Euros this year. The two time reigning champs have a roster that is a head above the competition. The majority of the Spanish squad play in La Liga, which dominated club soccer this year - just look at the number of their teams that made it to the late stages of the Champions League. Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey are all exciting teams, but the have yet to be truly tested. That being said, with 16 teams advancing to the next round, one of these countries could still surprise me.
Final group D standings: Spain, Turkey, Czech Republic, Croatia
Republic of Ireland
Okay, I'll be honest. ANYTHING could happen in this group. Belgium have been building since a strong first World Cup appearance in 2014 and are also a favourite to win this tournament. Italy are coming off a much weaker streak, but we have seen the Italians come back time and time again. The Republic of Ireland competed at the European championships in 2012 but lost all three of their group games. This year, they face the group of death, but if any dark horse country can defy the odds, it's Ireland. They proved that when they beat Germany 1-0 in qualifying. Finally we have Sweden... No, sorry, we have Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Sweden has a good roster that completely revolves around this man, and rightfully so. He is a class act and one of the best football players of all time. Winning this group is still any of these country's game.
Final group E standings: Belgium, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Italy
The final group is going to come down to Portugal's ability to score goals. Similar to Wales and Sweden who revolve around their big name players, Portugal needs Ronaldo to deliver goals if they hope to be a contender this year. That being said, they should win this group despite the three dark horse teams that they will compete against. Iceland is my dark horse team pick to watch this year, they have a lot of talented players and a lot of speed up front. An upset would not be beyond their capabilities.
Final group F standings: Portugal, Iceland, Austria, Hungary
The 2016 Euros will have their favourites and expectations, but if nothing else, this year is a year for upsets.
There are less than 10 days left until the start of the 14th UEFA European Championships, and as an avid soccer player and fan, I decided that I will be analyzing pool play and individual games on my blog during this years tournament. This is a great opportunity for me to work on my writing, as well as to provide some game analysis to other fans! Please check back here on June 10th for the first post about the 2016 Euro's!
A few days ago, I was faced with a situation I hoped I would never have to be in.
During my three years at university, I have had access to the student accessibility services. This service has allowed me take my tests in a quiet room, with extra time and a computer if needed.
This has been a true life saver for me on many occasions. I have had dyslexia for as long as I can remember, which was unfortunately made worse after my concussions. A couple years ago I was also diagnosed with severe test anxiety. And yes, it sounds silly. But, going into an exam I often feel shaky, out of breath and sweaty. I have been lucky to barely experience any of those feelings in the last couple years by writing my tests in a separate room.
However, on Friday, when I walked into the exam centre to write my first exam, I was informed that I was not on the list.
It was a nightmare.
I felt absolutely deflated.
Either there had been a mistake in the system, or somehow I had completely forgotten to book my final exams.
With only 5 minutes until my exam started, I had to attempt to process that I wouldn’t be writing my exam with my accommodations, and that I needed to run across campus to make it to where the rest of the class was writing.
I made it over to where the exam was taking place, my face covered in tears, and took my seat. I spent the first half an hour of the test trying to stop crying and taking deep breaths, while getting weird stares and glances from other students.
Finally, once I had calmed down I was able to finish the test. Although, I did not do as well as I hoped, I did overcome the anxiety to some degree. No matter how many times I have been told that I have anxiety, and no matter how many times I have felt anxious before a test, I never understood how all-consuming it can be.
Some people deal with anxiety, like I experienced on Friday, on a daily basis. I truly hope that the stigma surrounding anxiety of all kinds will continue to be broken down the more we talk about it. Knowing what it can feel like at the worst moments and talking about these moments, is the only way we can break down those barriers.
I grew up in a nice neighbourhood, I had a loving family and the best friends I could ask for. I had pocket money and I had access to community sport. My parents were able to give me every opportunity to thrive and be happy as a child. But I still ended up depressed.
My depression set in in high school, and throughout my life I have associated it with my history of concussions. I am happy to report that I am almost completely off my anti-depressants, and I haven’t experienced a severe concussion symptom in at least two months (although headaches do happen occasionally). I have come out the other side, stronger and wiser.
But, there is one thing that has stuck with me over the years.
“You have everything, why are you sad?”
This is what my mind would tell me, day after day. I am privileged, I have money for university, for sport. I was never abused, and my experiences with trauma were minimal.
“There is someone out there who has it worse.”
I would repeat this like a mantra in my mind over and over until I felt that my problems were so small and insignificant. I told no one about them.
It took me a long time before I admitted to myself that I needed help. I talked to my mom about it and my family doctor, and finally I started to see a therapist. I went on meds, and the fog started to lift (after a long adjustment period).
So, why, after all of this time – when I consider myself in good mental health – does the idea that someone had it worse than me still haunt me?
I often forget that mental health stigma is not just in the mind of observers, but it festers in the mind of the hurting as well. Convincing myself that I was better off than other people who were experiencing similar things ended up harming me more than aiding me. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t people in harder situations. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t have amazing things in my life that should have been making me feel happy.
It only means that we are all different. Every mental health case is different, and everyone experiences emotions differently.
This stigma that my problems must be unimportant perpetuated my depression. I think it brings up important questions about how we deal with mental health patients. Acknowledging different upbringings, backgrounds and gender is so important. But, we cannot compare them.
We must not.
My first blog post comes with a heavy heart, as a week and a half ago my friend and mentor Kaya Firth passed away in a tragic kayaking accident. When I received the news, I was consumed by sadness and anger. How could someone who was such a light in this world be taken from us? I didn't know how to express my feelings about this situation, and I wanted nothing more than to be able to have more time with her. Time I felt that I didn't have nearly enough of to begin with. I experienced emotions that felt out of control, I felt sad, angry and guilty for feeling that way when I knew that there were other people who knew her better than I did, and I couldn't even begin to imagine the emotions that they were feeling. I have been looking for a way to say good-bye to Kaya, and the only way I know how is to write.
They say that you don't know how special a person is to you until they are gone. I never understood that statement until now. I only knew you for a short time, and not nearly as well as I would have liked to, but you inspired me. I showed up to the first Ontarion volunteer meeting in September, excited about journalism, but with little experience under my belt. You told me not to worry and offered me advice anytime I might have needed it. I am sorry it took me a month and a half to write my first article, but thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for encouraging me to keep going even when I said I was too busy with other things. Thank you for putting your trust in me when you offered me the Canadian Press gig for the football game. Thank you for teaching me that I can be a writer, and I can be a journalist. Journalism is a career path that I had never really considered until I started working with you. Thank you for sending me your pitches when I couldn't make it to meetings. Thank you for always giving me constructive criticism and advice on my pieces. I know I have a long way to go with my writing, but thank you for inspiring me. I wish I could have gotten to know the person so many people were lucky to know. I wish I could have told you that I want to go to journalism school after Guelph and most of all I wish I could have thanked you for everything you have done for me.
I hope I can continue to honour you through writing,