Yes, I see France, with Leicester City's N'golo Kante is the first team to qualify for the knockout (I almost wrote "Knockeart", a French footballer who used to play for Leicester) stages. I think Wales will be the second. Very unimpressed with Hodgson's team selection and tactics so far.
Luckily Hodgson changed his team at half-time, brought on Vardy and Sturridge who both scored in the second half to beat Wales 2-1. In the first-half Gareth Bale scored first from a free-kick. Gambling is rightly banned on this forum so I'd better not mention that I tipped Bale to score first at attractive odds of 6/1 on my Twitter page yesterday morning ! Patriotism is one thing but business is business. Talking of business, I see Man United are willing to pay £94,000,000 to acquire Bale's services.
Having scored in both Wales' matches I should think he's probably worth a bit more now, maybe a round £100,000,000 ! He's clearly one of the best players in the world and better than the petulant, bad-loser called Ronaldo !
"My love is like a red, red rose that's newly sprung in June, My love is like a melody that's sweetly played in tune." (Robert Burns).
Yes, I saw Bale's free kick to score from 35 yards. One of those that makes your jaw drop and you think you are seeing things (another one like that for me was Vardy's goal against Liverpool at the King Power Stadium, I was actually there for that one and couldn't believe my own eyes). But as you say Jeff, fortunately for England Hodgson saw the error of his ways and put it right with his half-time substitutions. You know I am starting to wonder if he was trying to play it cagey, not picking his best team or using the best tactics in the early stages of the competition so that opposing managers later on can't analyse our weaknesses for later games. The udea is to pick a team that is good enough to win the game, but not necessarily your best one. He only changes things when that obviously wasn' working. We had to get something against Wales if we were going to qualify for the next stage.
Could well be, Martin. On Monday we have the final round of group matches. Wales face Russia (I'm hoping for an early Welsh free-kick outside the Russian box!) while England face Slovakia, captained by Martin Skrtel, never one to over-finesse when an elbow in the face will do.
All 3 of the home countries could qualify for the knockout stages, although Northern Ireland face the hardest task. On Tuesday they play Germany who as World Champions have probably won enough already !
Yes, I watched that game. I try to watch all the games that have Leicester City involvement, and of course Austria's captain is Leicester City left back Christian Fuchs. His name translates as "fox" in English, and of course Leicester City are known as the foxes, so it seems appropriate that he plays for us. I remember one game where Fuchs had the ball, Vardy pointed to a spot behind the defence, Fuchs obligingly put it there and Vardy ran onto it and scored. That's what I love about Vardy. He makes it look so simple, when everybody else around him is struggling.
Last night England got into the next round with a goalless draw with Slovakia, although they missed a lot of chances. Group B was won however by Wales who thumped Russia 3-0 with another goal by Gareth Bale who is now the tournament's top scorer.
In a terse radio interview Hodgson said there are no prizes for winning the group but that's not really true. The prize is an easier match in the next round. Wales face a third placed team from another group like Albania whereas England could face Portugal and Ronaldo although in his last match he missed nearly as many chances as did the England team ! We should also spare a thought for Gary Speed.
To be fair to Slovakia, they defended well. Packed defences, with space left for opposing strikers to run into is the answer to strikers with pace like Vardy. Last season the teams that Leicester struggled against were those who packed their defence to prevent thier opponents from scoring. They do that to frustrate a superior team in the hope that they might get an occasional chance to counter-attack. That was why so many of Leicester's wins were 1-0, most teams used that tactic against them. Slovakia did the same against England and it worked. If Vardy had played against Russia, I think he would have had a field day. Against Slovakia, I think Kane with his greater physical presence might have been a better choice to lead the line.
BTW, I'll have to look again more carefully, but Wales' first 2 goals looked offside to me.
N.Ireland lost 1-0 to Germany last night so Germany win Group C, not good news for those of us who don't like German domination in football, or anything else for that matter ! However N.Ireland still go through due to results in other groups. (It's complicated, like everything in Europe !) So all 3 home countries have made the last 16 and don't have to leave. In fact NI could play Wales next. Later today England will discover their next opponents when Hungary play Portugal.
Comet must have had the longest 8 minutes of his life when Ireland scored late in the match against Italy ! It's the first time they've qualified for the knockout stage of a major tournament. Good to see so many religious Irishmen there as they prayed for the final whistle . Well done the men in green but they'll need another heroic effort in their next match. They play France !
In the match of the tournament so far, Portugal came from behind 3 times to draw 3-3 with Hungary. It seemed England would play Nani, Ronaldo & co. until the 4th minute of injury time in the other Group F match when Iceland scored to beat Austria 2-1. If you thought the Irish fans got excited then you should hear this chap !
I am reminded of Bill Shankly's comment: "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. It's much more serious than that !" Or you may prefer John Arlott: "I fear sport is taken too seriously and life too lightly !"
So England play Iceland in the last 16 which must be a relief to Roy Hodgson since they hadn't beaten Portugal in any competition since 1966 ! Here's the full last 16 draw:
The standout tie for me is Croatia v Portugal. Croatia looked very good when beating Euro 2012 winners Spain, a result which means Spain and Italy now meet much sooner than expected in a major tournament. So we have more of Ronaldo's skills to look forward to, like this heel flick against Hungary:
I seem to remember Jamie Vardy doing something similar a few months ago but I'm sure Martin will be able to confirm that for us.