Euro 2016, Part 2
Euro 2016, Part 2
It’s fair to say Euro 2016 hadn’t exactly been a well-received tournament thus far, with a lot of observers saying that the standard had been pretty poor so far, with the teams only half trying in the group stage due to third being enough to go through in some cases. This was a bit unfair, as, while it hadn’t been that spectacular, despite some pretty good long-range goals, the teams had still been playing pretty well for the most part in fairness.
For Gordon Strachan and Scotland, it had been decent without being terribly spectacular so far, with a battling draw against the Swedes, a poor defeat to Belgium and a totally deserving victory over Italy that had seen them through to a fourth successive knockout stage…
Their Round of 16 match would be against a team they had got somewhat used to playing, and getting big results again, over the past ten years: the tournament hosts France. To further motivate Strachan and his team, victory would set up a QF against England, who were almost certain to beat rank outsiders Iceland the next day…
With Shaun Maloney having taken a knock in training a few days earlier and only fit enough for the bench, Strachan would switch to a good old fashioned 4-4-2 for the game, with James Forrest taking the right wing this time and Naismith returning up front alongside Steven Fletcher.
The match kicked off on a bright sunny afternoon in Lyon. Scotland kicked off the game and, right from the off, went straight for the proverbial, with Robertson floating the ball very nicely into the box; Naismith missed the ball, but Steven Fletcher went for it, only for Pogba to come in and mistime his tackle badly: penalty to Scotland!
The Sunderland striker would take the responsibility for the penalty himself; using his favoured left foot, he sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way and the ball in off the post 1-0 Scotland after just two minutes!
The goal really fired up both teams, as France, spurred on by their large home support, pushed forwards, but Scotland were similarly determined to keep their feet on the gas and try and add to their advantage. They came close to doing so at one point, with Naismith forcing a fine save out of Lloris, before Forrest harmlessly chipped the rebound into the Tottenham man’s hands.
France would have chances to pull level as well, with Hanley just beating Giroud to a header that he’d have probably fired in had he not done so, while a good long range free kick from Pogba produced a decent save from McGregor.
Nonetheless, as half time finally came, Scotland still led 1-0 thanks to that early penalty, and another famous victory over Les Bleus and a quarter-final against England looked on…
As the second half began, it was more of the same: backwards and forwards on and up the pitch with both teams searching hard for the goal they desired.
Scotland came close to doubling their lead, with Snodgrass putting a nice cross into the box, but Fletcher didn’t make it in time and Lloris made a good save to push it away from the also inrushing Naismith. France were also going for it, Blaise Matuidi forcing a fine flying save from McGregor.
A second goal of the game did finally come, but the wrong way for Scotland, as Sagna fired a cross into the box and Griezmann got a header on it that McGregor didn’t quite react to in time. 1-1.
Scotland reacted well to the setback to be fair, and pushed forward in an attempt to quickly regain the initiative. This, however, made them vulnerable to a break; Adil Rami fired the ball very nicely upfield and Giroud nicely met it and headered it down towards Griezmann, who, 1 on 1 with McGregor, fired it nicely home. France had turned it around in the blink of an eye.
Having gone from 1 up to 1 down in so little time, Scotland suddenly found themselves on the backfoot, as the hosts attempted to do what they hadn’t been able to. Before Scotland knew it, Griezmann was through 1 on 1 with McGregor again with Hanley desperately chasing him; he unwisely tried a tackle, got it wrong, and it was always going to be a red card.
As the Blackburn defender made the long walk off the pitch, France prepared to take the free kick; Griezmann would try to complete his hat trick with it, but the ball bounced off his own player in the wall and behind for a goal kick. In many ways, Hanley had taken one for the team.
But with the man disadvantage, Scotland were always going to be up against it from now on. Strachan would make his three subs afterwards, taking Snodgrass off to put an extra defender in Christoph Berra, Maloney would come on for Darren Fletcher and Griffiths would replace Naismith to try and add some fresh legs to the attack.
Ultimately, though, France were now happy to sit back and absorb the attacks Scotland could put forwards and defend the slender lead. They would also bring on a sub of their own in Gignac, who came close to making it 3 with a good shot that beat McGregor, but clipped the crossbar.
In the end, a game that had started so strongly and dramatically ended up petering out somewhat, which was a bit of a disappointment after such an excellent end-to-end first hour and a bit. France would see the game out for a 2-1 victory and Scotland’s tournament was over once again.
That said, they had played very well against Les Bleus once again and, considering this was supposed to be a transitional period for the team, they’d not had that bad a tournament all things considered. The Italy win would go down as one of their all-time great dramatic victories and, although it ended disappointingly, the France game was also pretty good too. There were plenty of positives for Strachan and his team to take from the tournament going forwards.
And after all, it could’ve been worse; they could’ve lost 2-1 to Iceland…
Yep, not to be for Scotland just like it wasn't for Ireland IOTL; another pretty short and straight forward chapter with basically the same game as OTL except with Scotland. Not a great deal more to say there really, except I still think Euro 2016 gets a bit of an unfair time of it sometimes; it was a much better Euros than 2012 IMO.
Anyway, that's out of the way now; next week, the real fun starts, as we head into qualifying for Russia...