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The European Championships takes a breath for a few days, as Portugal, Wales, France and Germany get ready to do battle for a place in Sunday’s final in Paris.
The break lets us take stock of what has previously happened at the competition. Just like every big international tournament Euro 2016 has saw teams perform way beyond expectations. Here we look at a few of the surprise packages of the European Championships:
There was simply no other place to start when talking about surprise packages. The Nordic nation is the smallest ever to qualify for the European Championships, yet they made it to the last-eight of the competition, only for their brave journey to be ended with a 5-2 hammering against host nation France on Sunday night.
Even in that heavy defeat against Les Bleus, they kept going and never stopped fighting for their country’s pride. Despite that heavy defeat the team should be immensely proud of their work in France.
The Nordic nation went unbeaten in the group stages, drawing with Portugal and Hungary, before winning their last group game against Austria with a dramatic late winner in stoppage-time.
There was an even bigger achievement ahead though, as Lagerback’s team achieved arguably their biggest ever international victory beating England 2-1 in the quarter-finals. They went into the clash as major underdogs and were written-off by most neutrals.
However they produced a stellar performance to see off a rather inept Three Lions team to seal a famous win and set-up a quarter-final with France.
Veteran boss Lars Lagerback can be proud of his team’s achievements in France and will now leave his position and hand over sole control of the side to part-time dentist Hallgrimsson, who has been his joint-boss at Euro 2016.
The team can now look forward to challenging for a place at World 2018 in Russia, despite being drawn in a difficult group.
The Dragons were written-off by many before the campaign even started and some claimed that they would not even get out of a group containing England, Slovakia and Russia. Not only did they make the knockout stages, but they topped the group.
Impressive wins over Slovakia and Russia saw them through to the last-16 as group winners. The Dragons were slightly fortune against Northern Ireland in the last-16, as Gareth McAuley own goal meant Chris Coleman’s side made it to the last-8.
In the quarter-finals, again they were written-off as they faced Belgium, who are second in the world rankings. A fantastic display full of passion, pride and ability saw Chris Coleman’s side stun the highly-rated Belgians and record a 3-1 victory.
There could be more yet to come though, as Coleman’s side face Portugal on Wednesday in the semi-finals. The Dragons have already achieved so much in France and it would be even more incredible if they could go all the way at Euro 2016.
Precedents have been set at previous European Championships of the likes of Denmark and Greece winning the trophy against all odds, so it is not completely out of the question that Gareth Bale and Co could go all the way this time around.
Hungary’s achievement was slightly more modest than that of Iceland or Wales, but their performance at the tournament was still surprising. Bernd Storck’s team arrived in France regarded as one of the weakest teams in the competition.
However, they went unbeaten in the group stages beating Austria, and then drew with both Iceland and Portugal. In the end Storck’s team topped their tough group to set up a last-16 meeting with Belgium, who recorded a 4-0 win.
The scoreline was rather misleading though, as Hungary was still in the game until the 78th minute, before the floodgates opened. Despite the manner of their tournament exit, the Hungary players and fans should be immensely proud of their team.
They proved the doubters wrong by making it out of the group stages and proved that they were in no way the weakest team in France, as some critics claimed they were prior to the competition.
Hosts France hammered surprise package Iceland in the quarter-finals to make it to the last-four of the competition on home soil.
The 5-2 victory was a highly-convincing one. Didier Deschamps side took the lead on 12 minute. PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi played a ball over the top of the Iceland defence, Arsenal striker Oliver Giroud allowed the ball to bounce before smashing an effort through the legs of Iceland ‘keeper Hannes Halldorsson’s legs.
Les Bleus doubled their lead on 19 minutes. Antoine Griezmann’s corner kick was powerfully headed home by in-demand Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba. Iceland had a chance to half the deficit soon afterwards. Striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson put an effort over the bar from close-range after Kolbeinn Sigthorsson had flicked on an Aron Gunnarsson long throw.
Didier Deschamps team had a third goal on 42 minutes. Paul Pogba crossed to Giroud, who nodded the ball down to West Ham midfielder Dimitri Payet on the edge of the area and the playmaker hit a powerful low effort into the bottom corner of Halldorsson goal.
On the stroke of half time France scored their fourth of the match. Giroud was involved again, as the big striker dummied a Pogba through-ball to allow Antoine Griezmann in on goal. The Atletico Madrid star advanced on goal and coolly chipped the ball over the outrushing Halldorsson.
The goal was Griezmann’s fourth of the competition and installed him as favourite for the coveted golden boot award.
Iceland made two changes at half-time and came out in far more determined mood. Their brighter start saw the Nordic nation get a goal back on 56 minutes. Swansea playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson played a fantastic cross into the box and striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson poked the ball past Hugo Lloris at his near post.
A minute before the hour mark France found the net for the fifth time. Dimitri Payet played a free-kick into the area, only Halldorsson to rush out of his goal into no-man’s land and Giroud headed the ball into an unguarded net.
The striker was then substituted to save him from picking up a yellow card that would have ruled him out of the semi-finals. France ‘keeper Lloris was a by stander for much of the game, but produced a stunning save from a close-range effort by substitute Sverrir Ingason.
Iceland did get a second goal on 84 minutes though. Ari Freyr Skulason crossed from the wing and midfielder Birkir Bjarnason headed home powerfully while unmarked.
In the end though, it was a comfortable win for the home nation. Iceland will have been disappointed with the result, but their team have made history and fantastic memories following wins over Austria and England at Euro 2016.
France will now face world champions Germany on Thursday night for the right to play in Sunday night’s final.
Tonight’s display illustrated that Deschamps team can be majestic when on form. Les Bleus will have both defender Adil Rami and defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante back from suspension. As hosts they will not want their journey in the competition to stop in the semi-finals and may even go into the clash as favourites to make the final against a Germany side that could be severely under-strength in the last-four clash.
Day 22 of Euro 2016 saw two giants of European football clash, as Germany defeated Italy for the first time in a major tournament.
The pair drew 1-1 in normal and extra-time, before a penalty shoot-out inevitably led to the world champions recording their sixth consecutive shoot-out victory.
The first half lacked many clear-cut chances. However, substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger had a goal rightfully disallowed after Italian wing-back Mattia De Sciglio. Mario Gomez head over the bar and Thomas Muller also hit an effort straight at Gianluigi Buffon.
At the other end Stefano Sturaro saw a drilled effort deflect off Germany defender Jerome Boateng and go wide of goal.
Thomas Muller saw an effort cleared off the line by Alessandro Florenzi just after the break. Joachim Low’s team took the lead on 65 minutes. Gomez found Jonas Hector down the by-line and the full-backs cut-back deflect off Leonardo Bonucci to Mesut Ozil seven yards out and the Arsenal star produced a half-volley to beat Buffon.
Gomez came close to adding a second soon afterwards but saw a clever back-heel effort saved by Buffon. The German striker was then forced off the field through injury and on 77 minutes the Azzurri equalised.
Florenzi crossed into the Germany penalty area and Jerome Boateng raised both of his hands in the air. The referee pointed to the spot and centre-back Bonucci beat Manuel Neuer with the resulting spot-kick.
On 90 minutes Germany centre-back Mats Hummels tripped Italy striker Eder and earned himself his second yellow card of the campaign, which means he will miss Thursday’s semi-final.
The extra-time produced very little goal mouth action, although Julian Draxler saw an on over-head kick fly just over Buffon’s bar.
Penalties produced rare Germany misses from the spot by Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, as Muller’s miss ended a run of 22 consecutive penalties scored in shoot-out by Die Mannschaft.
Despite the misses the world champions triumphed 6-5 in the shoot-out. Manchester United full-back Matteo Darmian’s penalty was saved by Neuer and full-back Jonas Hector powerfully fired past Buffon to send the Germans into the last four of the competition.
Joachim Low’s side will either play France or surprise package in that last four clash.
Germany’s semi-final opponents will be decided on Sunday night with hosts France major favourites to eliminate England’s conquerors Iceland in Saint-Denis.
The hosts may head into this game as favourites for this clash, but will be wary of any complacency against the Nordic upstarts. Les Bleus made it through to the last-eight with a 2-1 win over Republic of Ireland, courtesy of a double from Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann.
Ireland’s hopes of a comeback were not helped in the 66th minute dismissal of centre-back Shane Duffy. Les Bleus will be looking for an improvement from an anaemic first half display against Ireland.
The hosts do have a highly credible recent record in international outings, as they have suffered just one defeat in their last 14 games, recording 12 victories in the process.
Their record against Iceland is also a good one. In 11 meetings with the Nordic nation Les Bleus have recorded eight wins and three games have finished in draws.
French boss Didier Deschamps will have to do without centre-back Adil Rami and central midfielder N’Golo Kante, both through suspension. Lyon centre-back Samuel Umtiti is expected to replace Rami, while Newcastle midfielder Moussa Sissoko could come in for Kante.
Iceland head into this clash in high spirits following their extraordinary 2-1 win over England in the round of 16. Wayne Rooney opened the scoring for England from the penalty spot earlier on.
However, goals from defender Ragnar Sigurdsson and striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson put the Nordic nation in dreamland. England pressed for an equaliser, but the Iceland goal never looked under any undue threat and Iceland made it through to set-up this historic clash.
The win over England has been dubbed their biggest ever win in international football and they will be looking to add the scalp of France to that of the Three Lions.
Iceland have undoubtedly been one of the surprise packages at Euro 16 and are unbeaten in their four games in France so far. In fact they are now unbeaten in five outings in all competitions.
Joint-coaches Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson have a fully-fit squad to choose from, as the pair attempt to mastermind another killing of one of European football’s giants.