Dmitri Payet will be a PSG player next season
Slaven Bilic is already scourging the globe for a replacement for the mercurial Payet as the maestro’s sensational winner against a very unlucky Romania side on Friday confirms that the player has all the attributes required to reach the very top. France flattered to deceive and defensively has questions to answer. Patrice Evra is looking leg weary and better teams will expose the Juventus defender in the weeks to come. Koman for me is a streaky player, on his day can be world class but he is still very naive in his development; his lack of defensive tracking posed problems for France at different intervals. Payet’s spark and creativity in that second half proved the difference and regardless of how the rest of the tournament goes, Payet will be a man in demand.
Teams who have gone defensive in setup have being punished
Refreshing that teams who have tried to have a go have being rewarded with success. England’s decision to sit back and hold onto a lead late last night was punished by Russia’s last night and then you see how ultra defensive Albania, Turkey and Slovakia were in their opening games. All lost their contests and can have little complaints.
I was genuinely disappointed by the level of performance of Northern Ireland today. Apart from McGovern, Jonny Evans and the ever industrious Steven Davis, NI offered little in quality. The sight of Shane Ferguson at full back who has had precious little first team opportunities this season was duly exposed by Poland on fifty minutes, going down his flank and squaring the ball past to Milik to pounce. NI need to come out and attack Ukraine who showed flashes tonight of attacking flair but defensively look well short. Two shots on target today was a poor return. To setup in such a defensive shape gave NI little chance to express themselves on a contest where Poland were controlled throughout by not doing too much. Attack is the best form of defense.
Stars come out to play
It may be early on in the tournament but some of the potential stars of the tournament have announced themselves. Payet’s wonder strike on Friday night. Gareth Bale’s all action display for Wales against Slovakia and Luka Modric’s sensational volley against Turkey today are in the mood to make a statement at this tournament. With Zlatan, Ronaldo to come, it will be interesting to see the subplots emerge from the competition and what clubs will look to secure these players come July.
French caught in a rock in a hard place
With so much emphasis on IS, French security have perhaps taken their eye off the hooligan elements. The scenes in Marseilles and Nice this weekend shows that hooliganism is as much a live threat as is the threat of IS causing havoc during the tournament. Marseilles will be happy to see the back of England and Russia, two nations with historical issues with their fans. England fans for the majority were blameless and the scenes last night at the end of the final whistle when Russian fans ran at the England fan section was truly terrifying. Nice incident was unsavory but was expected given the issues that NI and Poland had in a World Cup qualification game in Belfast a couple of years ago. With Russia and England moving north, tournament organizers have further headaches in marshaling the competition. The best laid plans of everyone concerned need review after the trouble that flared up in Marseilles and Nice.
Can Ireland stop Zlatan, Kallstrom and Larsson?
This is the core question ahead of Republic of Ireland’s opening fixture against Sweden. Zlatan is only of three threats that the Irish media has mentioned. Kallstrom and Larsson’s supply channels need to be nullified as well. O’Shea, Keogh / Duffy will handle Zlatan in aerial exchanges but it is his movement off the ball which will take massive concentration, expect Kallstrom and Larrson to ping diagonal balls over the top for Zlatan to run behind the Ireland rearguard.
Republic of Ireland need to show ambition tomorrow; the theme in this tournament is that teams that sit deep and defend are getting picked off. The onus is on Robbie Brady to attack to test the Swedish rearguard. Shane Long needs good supply of ball and needs runners from central midfield to support him as well. Big questions on whether this will happen. Walters fitness is a huge concern, hope the big man plays his part but do not expect sixty minutes from the player.
The first goal will be crucial and with mixed weather forecast in Paris tomorrow, the heat effect may be nullified enough for the Republic of Ireland to get something from the game. The Republic of Ireland will need to run long and hard during this contest, defend with discipline but also provide a cohesive, pacy attacking option. I suspect a draw tomorrow.