Paul Pogba

Top Five Flops Of The Euros So Far

The Group Stage of Euro 2016 has now been and gone, so BenjaminWillsBlog has taken a look at five players who have as yet failed to live up to the pre-tournament hype.

1) Antoine Griezmann – France

When Antoine Griezmann came off the bench to head France into a last-gasp lead against Albania it seemed like the Euros was about to burst into life for one of the continent’s top talents, however it has not yet been the case.

Atletico Madrid’s main man suffered a frustrating 90 minutes on opening night as Olivier Giroud and Dmitri Payet were needed to rescue the hosts and Griezmann was promptly dropped for the Albania game.

His goal got him back in the line-up against Switzerland, but again the Frenchman was ineffective as he has yet to get a proper foothold on this tournament which is underwhelming from a man many backed to win the Golden Boot.

2) Harry Kane – England

Harry Kane has been the top English goalscorer for each of the past two seasons, the current Three Lions squad is attacking and exciting, so, put the two together and you have a perfect blend, right? It would appear not.

At his club, Tottenham Hotspur, boy wonder Kane is used to being the main man, he plays on his own up front for Spurs, but with his country he finds himself deployed as part of a three-man attack and has so far struggled to find his scoring boots due to lack of service and perhaps is not suited to others doing the dirty work for him.

After unexpectedly failing to win Group B England find themselves on the harder half of the tournament table, and Kane will need to remember where the back of the net is if the Three Lions want to make a serious impression on this year’s Euros.

3) Paul Pogba – France

Since 1996, the Player of the Tournament at the European Championships has had two things in common: they were centre midfielders, and their country were crowned champions.

Paul Pogba and France were both tipped for glory this summer, both still might get their crowning glory, but neither have been entirely convincing as yet. The Juventus man has shown flashes of brilliance, in the first-half of France’s 2-1 win over Romania and during the 0-0 draw with Switzerland, but for a man touted as one of the best in the world and expected to command a fee of £70 million, the mercurial midfielder has not quite been firing on all cylinders.

Pogba will need to kick it up a notch if he wants to emulate his childhood hero Zinedine Zidane, who was the best player as France won Euro 2000.

4) Thomas Muller – Germany

The Germans. Ruthless, clinical, efficient, and any other cliche you want to use, none apply to Thomas Muller this summer.

He may only be 26-years-old, but Muller is as experienced as they come. The forward has 32 international goals in 74 caps, and a World Cup winners’ medal, but despite this he has never scored in a Euros, and that stat does not look like being wiped out any time soon.

Muller’s role is that of a Raumdeuter – a ‘space investigator’ in real terms – Mario Gotze as a false nine is supposed to create space for the supporting Muller, but so far the mean defences of Poland, and especially Northern Ireland, have managed to snuff out the Bayern Munich man out, leaving him ineffective.

5) Robert Lewandowski – Poland

This is new territory for Robert Lewandowski. Since his first season as a professional in the Polish second division with Znicz Pruszkow in 2006-07 he has scored fewer than 15 goals in a campaign only twice, but now when representing his country his magic touch seems to have worn a bit thin.

Lewandowski scored 30 goals in 32 matches for his club, Bayern in the Bundesliga last season and went into the Euros in hot form but after four games in France he has scored no goals and had just the one shot on target.

Despite one of the world’s hottest strikers blowing cold Poland have made it to the quarter-finals, getting on the scoresheet a grand total of three times in the process, but they need their star man to show up sooner rather than later, otherwise a great opportunity for history may go up in smoke.

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL PREVIEW: Juventus

APPEARING in their first Champions League final since a tepid penalty shootout loss to Serie A rivals AC Milan in 2003, the Old Lady  will need to be more entertaining to win this time around.

The perception is that the Italian champions will need to sit back to beat Barcelona, but the much talked about front three of Luis Suarez, Neymar and of course Lionel Messi need no second invitation to score, allowing them to attack could cost Juve dear.

While the likes of Gigi Buffon, Georgio Chiellini, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra provide a steel to the Juventus defense, Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata will need license to roam as Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal pull the strings in midfield.

A central three of Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli keep it tight in the middle and allow wing-backs Lichtsteiner and Evra to bomb forward and support three of either Pirlo, Vidal, Pogba or Claudio Marchisio in midfield and create opportunities for Morata and 32 goal Tevez up front in what is one of the most balanced teams in Europe.

Chiellini, however, has been ruled out through injury.

Saturday’s final is the perfect opportunity for a final swansong for a large section of the Juventus squad. Buffon is now 37 and a stalwart of the side, and while he has won almost everything he has taken part in, the Champions League still eludes the goalkeeping legend.

Do it for Gigi: Buffon is desperate for Champions League success

Do it for Gigi: Buffon is desperate for Champions League success (Photo via GianluigiBuffon.it)

Evra is set to play in his fourth Champions League final after losing the 2004 showpiece 3-0 to Porto while at Monaco, and twice more in 2009 and 2011, (both to Barcelona), when at Manchester United with his solitary Champions League triumph coming in 2008 as United defeated fellow Premier League side Chelsea on penalties in Moscow.

Precision passer Pirlo may still play like he did when he was 25, but the reality now is that he is 36 and may never get the opportunity to add to his two Champions League titles. Victory on Saturday will be his first “Ol’ Big Ears” success with Juventus, as his 2003 and 2007 wins both came with AC Milan over his current club and Liverpool respectively.

On the other end of the age scale, Pogba could be saying ‘ta ta’ to Turin after the Berlin final with anyone who is anyone in Europe being linked to the flamboyant Frenchman this summer.

Chelsea and Manchester City both want to bring Pogba back to England, Paris Saint-Germain are trying to persuade the 22-year-old to return home to his native France, Bayern Munich are also keen, while even Manchester United, the club who gave up on the mercurial midfielder when he was 19, are trying to make amends for their earlier error in letting him go three years ago.

If Juventus are to win Europe’s top competition for the first time since 1997, they are going to need to tactically outclass Barca, knowing when to soak up the pressure and when to attack the Catalans. A blend of youth and experience may just be pivotal to working that out.

Juventus 3-2 Roma

Juventus battled to a dramatic 3-2 win over AS Roma in a match where two red cards were shown, three penalties were awarded, Roma dropped points for the first time this season while Juventus kept up their 100% record.

Six cards were shown in a bad tempered clash, three for each side as well as one red card each.

Leonardo Bonucci dramatically won the game for the holders four minutes before the end, volleying in the winner from the edge of the box.

Penalty number one was dispatched by Carlos Tevez just before the half hour mark after Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick struck the hand of Maicon.

Roma were awarded a spot kick of their own five minutes later when Francesco Totti was bundled to the floor by Stephan Lichtsteiner in an off the ball incident during a free-kick.

Totti dusted himself down and dispatched his penalty for 1-1.

Rudi Garcia’s side completed the turn around 12 minutes later thanks to Juan Iturbe’s clinical first time strike as a result of a clever Gervinho pass.

Juventus’ second penalty was awarded in controversial circumstances, Paul Pogba was fouled by Seydou Keita outside the box but referee Gianluca Rocchi adjudged that the foul took place inside the area and wrongly gave the penalty.

Spot on: Carlos Tevez celebrates his second scored penalty.

Spot on: Carlos Tevez celebrates his second scored penalty.

Tevez was left with the simple task of scoring his second from the spot in the game to bring the Old Lady back level in first half injury time.

Gervinho had a golden opportunity to extend Roma’s lead just before that penalty but he curled a shot high and wide of Juventus’ goal.

Miralem Pjanic had the chance of the second half but he failed to hit the target from a tight angle after some good work by Gervinho to keep the ball in play.

Substitute Alvaro Morata came closest for the hosts when his header hit the bar.

Late drama ensured in Turin as both Morata and Kostas Manolas were sent off. Morata for a feisty challenge and Manolas for his reaction to said challenge, pushing Morata in the chest which sparked a mass brawl towards the end shortly after Juventus’ third goal.

Juventus: Buffon, Caceres (Ogbonna ’45), Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo (Vidal ’79), Marchisio, Asamoah, Tevez, Llorente (Morata ’59)

Subs not used: Storari, Rubinho, Evra, Pepe, Padoin, Pereyra, Mattiello, Coman, Giovinco

Roma: Skorupski; Maicon, Manolas, Yanga-Mbiwa, Holebas; Pjanic, Keita, Nainggolan, Iturbe (Florenzi ’66) Totti (Destro ’75), Gervinho

Subs not used: Lobont, Cole, Ljajic, Paredes, Torosidis, Ucan, Somma, Emanuelson, Calabresi, Sanabria

 

Switzerland 2-5 France: Sorry Switzerland flattened by France

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France all but secured their passage through to the next round with a resounding 2-5 win over neighbours Switzerland in the highest scoring game of the World Cup thus far. Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena, Karim Benzema and Moussa Sissoko provided the France goals in a largely one-sided affair.

Two goals in two minutes killed Switzerland off early on in the match. The first coming when Giroud headed in Valbuena’s corner. Diego Benaglio could have done better with it but had a defender in his way that may have put him off.

Benaglio appeared to still be dwelling on the last goal but found himself picking the ball out of his net soon after. Just 13 seconds from the kick-off, France were two goals to the good. A dreadful pass by Valon Behrami was snatched upon by Benzema who fed Matuidi on his left who beat Benaglio at his near post.

It was 0-3 five minutes before half time when France broke on the counter attack. An intelligent pass from Raphael Varane found Giroud who bursted down the left and squared it to Valbuena who tapped home the third.

Les Blues should have even been four up at the break but Benzema had a penalty saved well by Benaglio after Johan Djourou fouled him in the box. Yohan Cabaye hit a rebound onto the post and out from close range.

They did have their fourth after 67 minutes though when substitute Paul Pogba’s silky pass with the outside of the boot was finished by Benzema through Benaglio’s legs after Phillipe Senderos’ attempted clearance contacted with nothing but air.

France had a fifth six minutes later when Moussa Sissoko slotted in first time. Gohkan Inler lost the ball in the midfield, France worked it to Benzema on the edge of the box who found the Newcastle man with a pass that resembled Pele’s to Carlos Alberto in the 1970 World Cup final and like Alberto, Sissoko scored with consummate ease.

Switzerland did hit back with a consolation in the last ten minutes thanks to the first goal scored from a direct free-kick with Blerim Dzemaili taking the honour. It was fortunate though as the French wall allowed it to drift through them when it should have been blocked easily.

Granit Xhaka scored a second for the Swiss three minutes from time, sweeping home a controlled volley but it was too little too late for Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side.

Benzema did in fact score again when he curled home a fantastic effort from the edge of box but, in a minor blow to his Golden Boot chances, the final whistle had already gone.

France 3-0 Honduras

A fiery encounter that will live long in the memory ended 3-0 to favourites France who earned a much deserved win against a physical Honduras side.

Karim Benzema was the star of the show, scoring two goals of his own and was unfortunate to have not claimed another.

France’s second goal of the game was one of the most bizarre in World Cup history. Benzema scoring a placed volley off the inside off the post which went across the goal-line and off the Goalkeeper Noel Valladares and into the net. Or so it seemed.

Benzema appealed to the referee and the goal was given, cue celebrations but when the crowd was shown the replay “no goal” flashed up on the goal-line technology system referring to when the ball hit the post, sparking uproar from Honduras fans, players and coaching staff but more replay showed after the ball hit Valladares it was in fact a goal.

Goal line technology played a vital role in France's second goal.

Goal line technology played a vital role in France’s second goal.

Number nine Benzema bagged his brace when he thundered in a rebound following Mathieu Debuchy’s blocked cannoned shot, Valladares had little chance having just stood up after diving for Debuchy’s drive.

The sub-plot of the first half was Wilson Palacios vs the world with Paul Pogba taking most of the brunt from the brute. Palacios and Pogba both picked up yellow cards when Palacios trampled on the Juventus youngster but Pogba gave as good he got, kicking out at the Stoke man. Both could have easily seen red.

Palacios did receive his marching orders soon after when he clattered into Pogba and gave away a penalty which Benzema dispatched with ease.

Les Blues hit the crossbar twice before that, Blaise Matuidi first after his shot was tipped onto the bar by the ‘keeper following Mathieu Valbuena’s free-kick being headed into his path and then Franck Ribery replacement Antoine Griezmann cracked a header against the woodwork after Patrice Evra’s cross.

Honduras caused little damage to France in terms of goal scoring opportunities with Hugo Lloris not having to make any major saves but the tackling from Luis Suarez’s side may have left a few bruises on French legs, a real horror show from Honduras at times.