Euro 2016 so far: Minnows impress, dearth of goals

by

June 25, 2016
Wales' Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the Euro 2016 Group B match against Russia in Toulouse, France.
@Normal:Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo
Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson holds his country's flag while celebrating after the Euro 2016 Group F match between Iceland and Austria at the Stade de France in Paris. Iceland won 2-1.
England's Daniel Sturridge (centre) reaches for the ball ahead of Slovakia's Tomas Hubocan (left) and Jan Durica during the Euro 2016 Group B match between Slovakia and England on June 20.
1
2
3
4

PARIS (AP):

With the European Championship group stage over, UEFA proudly flagged up a statistic on Thursday: no team won all three games.

Not World Cup holders Germany and certainly not two-time defending European champions Spain, who only advanced to the round of 16 as group runners-up.

The lack of walkovers and dead-rubber group games provides some vindication for UEFA after eight teams were added to make its showpiece a 24-team event.

Here is an overview of the group stage as the continental championship kicks off the round of 16 today.

HISTORY MAKERS

Part of the joy of the expanded European Championship was the appearance of five new teams. They weren't pushovers. Far from it. And the joy of their fans was infectious as some tasted the big-stage for the first time in soccer.

Only Albania went home early as Iceland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia and Wales marched into the round of 16.

Wales are even the joint-top scorers in the group stage, alongside Hungary, with six goals.

STANDOUT GAME

It took until the final round of matches and game 34 for the most chaotically entertaining fixture: a six-goal thriller between Portugal and Hungary. It saw more than three times the average number of goals (1.92) per group stage game in France, the lowest since Euro '92, which featured only eight teams.

The 3-3 draw between Portugal and Hungary was far more open than some of the tight, cagey and in some cases simply dull games.

Cristiano Ronaldo rediscovered his scoring touch with a flicked goal and a towering header as four goals were scored in 17 minutes. And Ronaldo set new records: for most European Championship finals goals (17) and most tournaments with a goal (4).

All that was missing was a red card, of which there were only two in the 36 group-stage games.

BIG IMPRESSION

The world's most expensive player lived up to his 100 million-euro price tag on his tournament debut as Wales forward Gareth Bale scored in all three games, upstaging Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. And yet Wales wasn't overly-reliant on Bale, who scored only half the team's goals.

The breakthrough star of the group stage was Dimitri Payet, who wasn't a first-team regular for France before the tournament but now seems indispensable. The attacking midfielder clinched wins against Romania and Albania, unburdened by the pressure of performing for the hosts.

STRIKING STRUGGLES

Zlatan Ibrahimovic made little impression on his final major tournament with Sweden, failing to score as his team bowed out before the knockout phase. It meant the striker ended his international career without any honours with Sweden.

In failing to score, Ibrahimovic was in good company. But at least Mario Mandzukic (Croatia), Robert Lewandowski (Poland) and Harry Kane (England) all get a chance to get off the mark in the round of 16.

Other Sports Stories