I've watched most of the matches in the Euro 2016 mens' soccer tournament these past two weeks, and the past couple days I've seen every match of the knockout rounds. And, given that I love to hear the sound of my keystrokes echo off the back wall of the digital void, I've decided to write my thoughts here. These are a random collection of opinions, tactical analysis, moments of genius and simple joy of football.

Saturday, June 25

The day of boring matches.

Switzerland 1 - 1 Poland (Poland win on penalties)
  • Switzerland looked the better team for most of the match. Poland started better but seemed to be content to play defense in the second half. Kuba (Blaszczykowski) has looked like the only goal threat for Poland the entire tournament, Lewandowski sadly misfiring.

  • Shaquiri's goal was spectacular and clutch, something Switzerland haven't really had in important situations. However, Shaquiri couldn't quite create good chances for his teammates and overall the Swiss never looked like they were going to score even after the equalizer.

  • Sadly, this was the best game of the evening. If I had slept last night instead of watching football, I really would not have missed much.

Wales 1 - 0 Northern Ireland
  • A really excellent matchup because it's been so long since any country in the UK other than England have been anywhere near a big competition, much less into the knockout rounds.

  • An incredibly dull first half. Neither team seemed to have the skill necessary to get past the other's defence, and neither team tried too hard to do so. Probably the most boring first half of football I've seen in the past few weeks.

  • Wales do look like a team unit, but honestly most of the game was like watching two crappy FIFA players with a 3 star team (NI) and a 3 and a half star team (Wales) battle it out. Wales were the better team and deserved to win, but it did take an own-goal for them to score.

Croatia 0 - 1 Portugal (After Extra Time)
  • Truly an atrocious match. There were no shots on goal from either team in the first 90 mins of the match, which is a Euro first, and something that hasn't happened in the World Cup in 50 years. It was pretty dire.

  • Remember the two FIFA players from the Wales-Northern Ireland analogy? For this game, they were still there, except they got high in between matches and decided they were really worried about their players getting too tired so they didn't use the sprint button at all. I'm not sure that either team deserved to go through.

  • One reason this game was so pedestrian was that the rest both teams got between their last group game and this one was minuscule: Croatia had 3 days rest, Portugal had two. This meant the players were lethargic by the middle of the second half, and really points to a serious oversight in the way the draw was structured for the knockout round.

  • Really though, this game was bad. Modric didn't have much of an influence, Ronaldo couldn't do much, the player with the most goalscoring chances was the Croatian defender, Vida, and the goalies were pretty much paid spectators. The crossing was so bad it looked like they'd been watching Jordan Henderson for tips.

  • The most effective players were Vida, Strinic the Croatian left-back, and Quaresma, who brought invention, energy, and pace to the game. Renato Sanches also played well without distinguishing himself.

Sunday, June 26

Much more exciting!

France 2 - 1 Ireland
  • No revenge for the Irish. They took the lead in the 3rd minute and held on into the second half, but it was a only matter of time until the French equalized. After that, Ireland was mostly hanging on.

  • France looked a bit suspect at the back, but I don't think Ireland had enough talent to exploit that. England or Iceland will look to attack the space behind the pressed-up fullbacks, especially with Kante suspended for the next match and no drop-in replacement in the team (Diarra :( injured).

  • Overall a pretty easy game for France once they scored the first goal. Ireland pressed reasonably well but their defensive organization was a shambles for the goals and the red card for Duffy. It was disappointing defending and let France off the hook a bit. Griezmann should have had a hattrick but wasted a couple of chances.

  • France will miss Rami and Kante, suspended because they both picked up their second yellow cards in the tournament. Rami's only direct replacement is Mangala, with Sagna as backup, and there is no other player similar to Kante in the French squad.

  • Well done Ireland, you fought and lost to a better team. No shame in that.

Germany 3 - 0 Slovakia
  • Not much to say; Germany dominated the entire game. Slovakia had a few chances, Germany had a lot of chances. The better team won and goes through. Slovakia were average, playing about as well as they did against England, but Germany were in excellent form.

  • To be honest, I didn't see a lot of this game because I was watching beginning photography videos on Youtube. The Germans were attacking enough that their wastefulness was boring instead of exciting.

  • Draxler and Gomez played well, no-one on Slovakia played particularly well. Germany looked strong enough to win the tournament. After watching the French struggle, they're now my favorites.

Hungary 0 - 4 Belgium
  • Finally, a really exciting game!

  • Both teams attacked as much as they could throughout the whole game, and both were undisciplined enough in the middle that the attackers had plenty of space. The ball went back and forth around the pitch.

  • If I could replace swap Hungary into Portugal's place in the quarter-finals, I would. Hungary actually looked up to playing a game of attacking football. They were involved in consecutive games of 4 goals or more and were joint-highest scorers in the group stage. Football, however, is gleefully unfair and Belgium played the best game of the tournament today.

  • Eden Hazard is amazing. he dribbles in an original and brilliantly effective way. He somehow looks faster than Messi when he's accelerating, and like Messi, almost never loses the ball. Today was his game. A goal and an assist in the second half were stats to back up his excellent performance in the first half. He controlled everything for Belgium and took cruel advantage of Hungary's massive defensive lapse for Batshuayi to score. His goal was powerful and controlled but the lax Hungarian defense looked tired as they lost their shape. Hopefully he continues to play this well because I love watching it.

  • Hungary had several shots Courtois had to save and several chances that probably should have been goals. It sounds odd to say it when he let in four goals, but Kiraly, the 40 year old Hungarian goalie, played reasonably well too.

  • This is the promise Belgium has hinted at for the past two years. If they can perform around this level for their next two games they'll easily make it to the final.

  • Witsel had a good game in possession, De Bruyne didn't do too much with the ball but made lots of important runs to pull defenders away from Hazard.

General Stuff
  • The pitches are bloody awful. They're all overwatered so the players are sliding all over the place. It seems to be unnecessary, but maybe they need to do it because of the summer heat?

  • This whole "staying up all night to watch football" is taking a small toll on my health, and I'll actually be glad when it's over so I don't feel the need to stay up to watch each game, no matter how terrible the teams.

  • The Copa America final starts in 30 minutes, so I'm going to post this and get ready to watch that. After the match I can finally sleep! At noon. What is my life.

Love you all! I'm sorry I've not kept you abreast of things happening on my side of the mountain. The mountain of water that is the Pacific Oceans. And the Rocky Mountains, I guess, if you are on the east side of them.