On Sunday, July 10th, Portugal and France will face off for the Euro Cup 2016 Championship. So far, the tournament has been full of change.
The traditional 16-team tournament was expanded to 24 teams this year. The tournament has been increasingly tough for teams to simply qualify, but with the expansion: More games, more action, more teams with a shot at the title.
Euro Cup newcomers – Iceland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Albania, Slovakia – all qualified for the tournament for the first time ever.
This was only the beginning.
Iceland went on to shock England – a country expected to win, every game, all the time – with a 2-1 victory in the round of 16. This victory has sent panic across England and has football worshipers calling for a new English coach.
Even more shocking was the Welsh national team, which defeated Belgium 3-1 in the quarterfinals to advance to the semi-finals in a stunning upset and a Cinderella run through the tournament.
Euro 2016 has been madness for the British Isles.
Beneath all these upsets, Spain – a world powerhouse for the past few years, went home early at the heels of Italy in the round of 16.
Eventually Europe landed with Portugal vs. Wales and Germany vs. France in the semi-finals.
The Welsh rollercoaster ride came to a halt on Wednesday early in the second half of their semi-final game when the world’s best player (arguably), Christiano Ronaldo, headed in a goal, then set up his teammate, Nani, for a goal quickly after to take a 2-0 lead. Portugal never looked back.
On Thursday, in a highly anticipated matchup, Germany – the reigning world champs – took on the host nation, France. For the entire first half, Germany pushed far into France’s zone and dominated possession, however, right before the half France attempted a shot in Germany’s box which resulted in a handball and a penalty kick for the French.
France’s Antoine Griezmann nailed the penalty kick for his 5th goal of the tournament.
Germany continued to dominate possession in the second half, but a stolen pass by France’s Paul Pogba in the German box followed by a pass to Griezmann resulted in a second French goal. The Germans spitefully fell to the host nation 2-0.
This sets up a thrilling championship matchup on Sunday in which France hosts a perennial world powerhouse in Portugal, led by the world’s best player. Griezmann, with his 6 goals, may be the best player in the tournament thus far, making for an epic match on Sunday.
Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Eastern Time for the Euro Cup 2016 Championship.