BY George Aluo and Paul Erewuba
ALL eyes are right now on Europe as the continent’s biggest soccer fiesta takes centre stage in France. The competition tagged Euro 2016 began yesterday with hosts France taking on Romania.
Today, The Group C match involving world champion, Germany and Ukraine at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille, promises to be a thriller.
The Joachim Lowe’ – tutored Germany will also engage Poland and Northern Island later in the championship to determine which of the two sides will book a second round ticket from the group.
Winning back-to-back trophies is the measure of a great team. France followed up their World Cup win in 1998 with the European Championship in the Netherlands and Belgium 2000. But the question on the lips of keen Euro watchers is whether Germany can now repeat the feat of Brazil 2014 at the continental level.
No doubt, Joachim Low has an abundance of talent available to him; a new generation of players who are coming through, and this suggests that the future is very bright for Germany.
The England, Russia clash is one other tie that pundits can not but talk about.
Veteran Italian coach, Carlo Ancelotti may have tipped England to win the Euro 2016 Championship and end their over five decades of trophy drought, but the Three Lions must first try to re write history today as they face Russia.
England it would be noted head into today’s game seeking to overturn the weight of history – the Three Lions having never won their opening game at a European Championship finals.
While they have won five of their 14 openers in the World Cup finals, they are yet to hit the ground running on their own continent.
In eight previous tournaments, England have lost four matches and drawn the other four – the most recent being a 1-1 tie with France in Donetsk four years ago, in Roy Hodgson’s third match in charge.
On three of the four occasions on which they have lost their opener, the Three Lions have exited at the first opportunity.
Their best showing in the most recently-used format, reaching the semi-finals at Euro 96, began with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Switzerland at Wembley under Terry Venables.
They also ‘reached’ the semi-finals in their first appearance, in 1968, although the tournament only compromised four countries back then and opened with the semi-finals.
Only once has a loss been turned around into qualification for the next stage at a Euro finals – Sven-Goran Eriksson leading a Wayne-Rooney inspired side into the last eight in Portugal in 2004 despite going down – just – to France in the opener.
England have actually taken the lead in their last four Euro openers, being pegged back on each occasion. Alan Shearer, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Joleon Lescott found the net first in England’s last four curtain-raisers, before the opposition were allowed back in.
Source : SunOnline