Day seven of Euro 2016 produced excitement in abundance, as England and Northern Ireland recorded vital victories, while world champions Germany were held by Poland.
The day started with a battle of Britain in Group B, as England and Wales met in Lens on Thursday afternoon. England enjoyed the better of the first period, but it was Wales that took the lead on 42 minutes. It was that man Gareth Bale again for the Welsh.
The Real Madrid forward hit a free-kick from 30 yards that went over the wall and into the goal despite England’ keeper Joe Hart getting a hand to the effort before it crossed the line. Chris Coleman’s side were maybe slightly fortunate to go in ahead at the break.
England boss Roy Hodgson made two substitutions at half-time, replacing Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane with Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. Both players were to play a big part in England’s comeback.
Sturridge crossed the ball into the penalty area that Ashley Williams inadvertently headed back towards his goal and Vardy was on hand to turn and powerfully fire home from close-range. England pushed for a winner, but it did not arrive until stoppage-time.
Vardy found Dele Alli, who flicked the ball through Sturridge and the Liverpool forward kept his cool to prod an end past Wayne Hennessey at his near post. The result changed the complexion of the group, with the Three Lions moving to the top and Wales dropping to second.
The action then moved to Group C, as Northern Ireland recorded a 2-0 victory over Ukraine in Lyon. Michael O’Neill’s side took the lead four minutes into the second half. Oliver Norwood swung in a free-kick and West Brom centre-back Gareth McAuley got up highest to power a header past Andriy Pyatov in the Ukraine goal.
The win was sealed deep into stoppage-time. Northern Ireland broke quickly with substitute Josh Magennis who cut the ball back for Stuart Dallas, only for Pyatov to parry the ball away to Niall McGinn and the Aberdeen winger made no mistake to seal a historic win.
The win was Northern Ireland’s first ever at a European Championships and means O’Neill’s team moved level with Germany and Poland, who featured in the late kick-off. The win means that they still have a chance of making the knockout stages.
The other game from Group C saw Germany and Poland produced a goalless draw at the Stade De France. Both sides had chances to win it and Poland’s Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik missed a golden opportunity from close-range.
The draw was not a bad result for either side. The pair now look like the favourites to progress to the knockout stages. Germany faces Northern Ireland in their last game, while Poland will look to add to Ukraine’s misery. With Northern Ireland still in the mix the last games could be very tense for the countries respective supporters.