Nigel's Euro Diary Part 2
Wales face up against Turkey in realistically a must-win game for them. When you have in your squad a couple of top-class players, that can raise the performances of the rest of the players in the team that may be of lesser talent.
Wales in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have those two players and when needed they both rose to the occasion.
Playing Turkey in Baku would have almost been like a home game for the Turks, but the Welsh were not overawed and fully deserved their 2-0 win.
The Welsh opponents in their next game are the Italians and watching their 2nd 3-0 win in the group stage, this time over the Swiss, reinforced my belief that they are the team to go on and win the tournament at Wembley in July.
The Italians has long been renowned for having the ability to go a goal up then close the door to the opposition and effectively end their attacking intent, but this team under Mancini seem to be released from that age-old tactic.
In their last 9 games, they have scored 27 goals, and concede 0.
October last year was the last time they conceded and that was against the Dutch and it is nearly 3 years since they last lost a game.
Yarmolenko inspires the Ukrainians again but unlike their narrow defeat against the Dutch, they manage to pick up the 3 most needed points against the North Macedonians.
The performances of him regularly for Ukraine does make me wonder if he has a twin brother, and West Ham gets the other twin who shows flashes of the international performances but less frequently, far less frequently.
The ability to make 5 substitutes during a game may have been in Roberto Martinez thinking looking at the 11 that started the Denmark game. In the first half, the Dames dominated play and should have added to their early goal, the fact they didn't they surely must rue as at the start of the second half the Belgians brought on two of their big hitters, Witzel and De Bruyne and it was the latter that inspired the Belgians to their second victory to qualify with a game to spare.
The Austrians with no Arnautovic lacked any attacking ability and with the early penalty, the dutch hardly broke a sweat in dispatching them.
Memphis Depay, at Man United, managed only a couple of goals in 30 odd games, by far the worst goal tally to games in his career, but he showed his class during the game time and time again.
It was then announced he has joined Barcelona on a free, which scuppered a return to United who had a buy-back clause with Lyon in his contract. With Depay's contract finishing so the buy-back clause died with it.
The build-up for the three games today were solely focused on the Battle of Britain, as the 'Olde Enemy' faced off in the oldest ever international fixture.
Next year is the 150th anniversary of the first playing of the game
The problem with the build-up to this fixture is that it rarely delivers the England performance the media and the fans expect.
The Scots on paper are no match for the Premier League stars that supposedly pack the England Squad, but as we all know in football, it is not about the individual it's about the collectiveness of the players. Scotland showed better energy and while they were pleased with the point they showed they are equal to England.
I would like to see a yearly resumption to this fixture, even a return of the Home Championship as I think England would get a harder test from overcoming the Celtic nations that rise to the challenge of playing England that they do playing meaningless friendlies.
I suppose it better to be disappointed early in the tournament than get your hopes high just to be deflated, later on. England showed they lack the team mentality to make it all the way and even win the tournament.
Every Tournament has a group of Death, A group that contains teams that if separated you could expect all of them to qualify for the next stage.
While the England group looks difficult, the genuine Group of Death this year is Group F.
France, Portugal, Germany all in the same group as Hungarians the supposed makeweights, but since they are playing their games at home stadium, in front of capacity home support, they will not be easy, as the French found out.
The French didn't look as clinical as they were in their opening defeat of the Germans and perhaps took the Hungarians too lightly and the point they won was hard-fought.
The Germany Portugal game was do or die for the Germans and the early obligatory Ronaldo goal looked to be sending them home early.
You can never write off the Germans though and staged a turnaround that possibly shocked most of Germany let alone the rest of Europe.
The 4-2 victory could have been a larger margin, Jota scoring Portugal's second after the Germans had gone 4-1 up and missed chances to add to that. The teams in this group are in England half of the draw and Winning group D would mean playing the runners up of Group F, possibly best avoided and maybe England not winning the group could do u a favour, but it would only delay it as if that correlates then England would probably face the winners of Group F anyway.
Winning the Euros in my opinion is tougher than winning the World Cup, Europe is the dominant force of World football with 7 teams in the top 10 of FIFA rankings compared to South Americas 3. As UEFA expands the tournament that makes winning it even harder. Only Spain has ever retained the trophy yet the supposed underdogs of Europe in the past have won the tournament.
Portugal in 2016 was a surprise, Greece in 2004 possibly the biggest shock though Denmark in 1992 were winners when they had failed to qualify for the tournament and replaced Yougoslavia at the last minute as that country descended into civil war.
England has to at some point find the formula to get the top English stars of the Premier League to reproduce that form to the national team, I just don't see it happening this time.
Like last time, Italy is still the team to stop for me.
As I write they have just defeated the Welsh 1-0 to set a national record of 30 games undefeated and 10 games without conceding a goal, a record that continues all the way to Wembley for me.