With Group Phase in Euro 2016 in France coming to an end, 16 teams for the knock-out phase have clearly emerged. There was no problem with 12 teams, who had finished at 1-2 in their groups but the contenders for the remaining 4 spots had an intriguing outcome. In faraway United States, an inspired Lionel Messi helped Argentina to a 4-0 semifinal victory over the hosts in Copa America and in the other semifinal Chile defeated Colombia 2-0. Now the grand finale between Argentina and Chile will take place on Sunday night at New Jersey. With almost all top football stars of the world in action around the same time, the global fans of the game of football could not have had such a great time in the 2016 summer. While Copa America will conclude on Monday June 27, the Euro excitement will continue until another two weeks, when the 2016 final is played on July 11 at Stade de France at Saint-Denis.
Including defending champions Spain, who won the Euro Cup in 2008 and 2012, hosts France, 2012 runner-up Italy, 2008 runner-up Germany, Belgium, Wales, Switzerland, England, Hungary, Iceland, Poland and Croatia have all booked their tickets to the knock-out phase of Euro 2016. These 12 teams finished as top two in their respective groups and their entry to the knock-out phase was unambiguous. However the next 4 places had to go to the best third-placed teams and with 4 teams scoring 3 points each at the end of group phase on June 22, other factors came into play. As per the laid down rules, the decision came from the consideration of higher points scored, superior goal difference, greater number of goals scored, disciplinary record in the tournament and position in UEFA national team ranking coefficient. Finally, Portugal, Northern Ireland, Slovakia and Ireland have also made the grade with Turkey and Albania missing out on the goal-difference criteria. Sweden, Austria, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic were already eliminated.
On the last day of Group Phase matches in 2016 Euro Cup on June 22, Hungary and Portugal ended with a 3-3 draw that helped Hungary to top the Group F ahead of Iceland and Portugal. Iceland finished second behind Hungary after beating Austria 2-1. The Hungary-Portugal match was a crunch game for Portugal, who would have gone out of contention if defeated. But Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice for his country to avert the disaster. From Group E, Ireland earned their knock-out berth by beating already qualified Italy 1-0 and Belgium consolidated their second place behind Italy by defeating already eliminated Sweden 1-0.
The knock-out phase of Euro 2016 begins on June 25 with matches between Switzerland and Poland; Wales and Northern Ireland and Croatia and Portugal. With the last match between England and Iceland on June 27, all quarter finalists will be decided.
In the 2016 Copa America, we are down to the last two matches. On June 25, USA and Colombia will play for the third place while next day, the summit clash will see the repeat of last year’s final between Chile and Argentina. The Chileans are the defending champions but Argentina would like to reverse that this time round. This year, Messi has been in great form and he has ensured an undefeated streak for his country in their 5 matches so far. The football superstar scored a fine hat-trick in the team’s 5-0 thrashing of Panama in a league game on June 10 and another goal in the quarterfinal against Venezuela on June 18. In the semifinal against USA on June 21, Messi played a stellar role in Argentina’s 4-0 rout of the hosts. He became the provider for a third-minute header by Ezequiel Lavezzi before scoring himself from an exquisite 25-yard free-kick. Messi also fed Gonzalo Higuain, when the Argentinian doubled his goal tally in the match. Messi’s goal from the gravity defying free-kick made him Copa America’s all-time highest scorer with 55 goals. For the first time ever, Copa America is being hosted outside South America and this year is also the centenary celebration of CONMEBOL and the Copa America. Argentina want their own stamp on the occasion and Messi and his Argentinian colleagues would be looking for a revenge on Chile in the final. The event is already sold out and a record viewership is expected on coming Sunday at the Metlife stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
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