Euro 2016 Group D – Can Czechs secure unlikely progress?

Among the most memorable games of Euro 2008 was the meeting between the Czech Republic and Turkey in the final round of group matches. The Czechs only needed a point to secure a place in the next round and appeared to be cruising at 2-0 up with only minutes to go, only for an incredible three-goal comeback from Turkey to send them home feeling shell-shocked. This time around the Turkish hopes are looking exceedingly grim after two defeats, the last of which coming in rather punishing fashion against holders Spain…

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Euro 2016 Group C – Northern Ireland in with a shout after fine win

There was a palpable sense of disappointment emanating from the Northern Ireland camp following defeat to Poland in their opening match of Euro 2016, with regrets aplenty over their lack of any kind of goal threat. The following outing against Ukraine became absolutely crucial. Manager Michael O’Neill responded in bold fashion by making five changes including the decision to drop leading striker Kyle Lafferty, and that move could not have paid off any better as a deserved 2-0 victory gave them a fighting chance of qualifying for the last 16.…

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Euro 2016 Group B – England in pole position to finish top

Whatever happened, there was always going to be a hefty list of talking points following the game between England and Wales. It did not disappoint, as Roy Hodgson’s bold decision to bring on two strikers from the bench at half-time paid off as Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge both scored to turn around a worrying deficit brought about by goalkeeper Joe Hart’s inability to field a long range free-kick from Gareth Bale. The last-gasp nature of Sturridge’s dramatic winner could be the catalyst for England to go a reasonable distance…

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Euro 2016 Group A – Wasteful Swiss aim to secure top-two spot

On paper, four points from the opening two games of Euro 2016 represents a reasonable haul for Switzerland, but their rewards would surely have been greater had they been more ruthless in front of goal. An early header to beat Albania was not added to despite several further chances being created, while more profligacy against Romania meant their overall dominance counted for relatively little. Young forward Breel Embolo looks a very good prospect, but at present his overall game is not quite polished and as a result he has not…

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Euro 2016 Group F – Knockout stages a real prospect for Hungary

The first round of group matches were all well fought, but largely devoid of surprise results. Arguably the biggest exception was Hungary’s fine 2-0 win over a much fancied Austria side, who badly failed to live up to the pre-tournament hype. Not much was expected of a side that had not competed at a major finals for many years, and needed the play-offs to qualify from what on paper, was one of the weakest groups. However, they produced a very tidy performance to not only outplay their opponents, but limit…

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Euro 2016 Group E – Belgium under scrutiny after opening loss

Given the expectation and anticipation surrounding Belgium coming into Euro 2016, their opening performance against Italy was a huge disappointment. It has led to many doubts over their credentials, so the onus will be on them to respond in positive style by defeating a Republic of Ireland side that will undoubtedly work tirelessly and attempt to frustrate them at every opportunity. Belgium saw a lot of the ball in Lyon, but clear chances were scarce in a match where the difference between the two sides was very evident. Marc Wilmot’s…

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Euro 2016 Group D – Impressive Croatia hoping to build on opening win

In recent European Championships Croatia have underachieved, going out in the quarter-finals in 2008 in dramatic circumstances when they really ought to have made it further, before they were edged out of a difficult group in 2012. This time around their squad is said to be even stronger, and the performance which led to victory in their opening match against Turkey could end up being the start of something that could match the nation’s greatest footballing success, which was also in France when they finished third in the 1998 World…

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Euro 2016 Group C – Germany and Poland renew their rivalry

The qualifiers brought two memorable encounters between Germany and Poland, with both teams collecting a win apiece, so there was much anticipation when they were drawn together for the finals. They come into it having won their opening matches, so a victory for either side will be enough to guarantee a place in the next round, and in all likelihood top the group. Poland were the dominant force throughout against Northern Ireland and got the result they deserved, but they will be slightly disappointed at their inability to score more…

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Euro 2016 Group A – Payet to take centre stage for Albania clash

Perhaps it was inevitable, but there were obvious signs of nerves from hosts and tournament favourites France as they began their campaign on Friday against Romania, where only a stunning late goal from Dimitri Payet prevented them from unexpectedly dropping points. But in the circumstances it was clearly the result that mattered most, and victory over Albania in their latest outing will see them qualify for the knockout stages. It is a game where anything other than a French victory would come as a major surprise, but Albania showed that,…

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Euro 2016 Group B – Pressure on England for battle of Lens

It is a great shame that events on the field during the opening round of Group B matches were overshadowed by the behaviour of so-called supporters of England and Russia both in the port of Marseille and in the stadium itself, after the two sides had drawn one apiece. It was so severe to the extent that Russia have been given a suspended disqualification from UEFA, and the manager and captain of England have had to record messages urging fans to stay out of trouble. There were no such problems…

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Euro 2016 Group F – Dark horses Austria look to lay down a marker

It is a long time since Austria last qualified for a major tournament, but all of a sudden the class of 2016 is showing signs that they might be capable of doing something special, having breezed through a qualifying group containing tricky opponents in the shape of Russia, Sweden and Montenegro. Just three points were dropped during the entire campaign, as a talented group of players announced themselves as potential dark horses. Their stars include the brilliant David Alaba, who is used to success at club level as part of…

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Euro 2016 Group E – Can star-studded Belgium live up to their billing?

It has long been acknowledged that the highlight of the opening round of group fixtures is the meeting between Belgium and Italy; the team currently reaping the rewards of its golden generation against a nation that is one of the world’s most successful, but now suffering from a relative dearth of talent. It finally takes place on Monday evening, where both sides will be expected to deliver a statement of intent. Belgium are full of top quality individuals, many of whom grace the English Premier League. Second in the world…

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Euro 2016 Group C – World Champions Germany face Ukraine test

Since winning the World Cup in 2014, Germany have not entirely convinced, as a handful of new faces mixed in with some of the older ones laboured a little through qualifying, but they have long been renowned as a team that excels when it really matters. As a result, few expect them to slip up when they face Ukraine as their bid to win the European Championship for the first time in 20 years begins. They have been placed in a section from which they should comfortably advance, although top…

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Euro 2016 Group D – Spain aiming to make it three in a row

In the last two editions of the European Championships Spain were untouchable, creating a historic and record-breaking dynasty that was the envy of world football. A woeful World Cup in 2014 spelt the end of that dominance, but with Vicente Del Bosque still in charge and plotting the route to redemption they have to be considered as one of the favourites to lift the trophy and make it an incredible three in a row. Del Bosque has certainly made some interesting selection decisions including the omission of Chelsea striker Diego…

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Euro 2016 Group B – The Wait is Over for Wales

The biggest headline when the draw was made for Euro 2016 in December was that England had been drawn in the same group as Wales in the latter’s first appearance at a major tournament since all the way back in 1958. There is pressure on both sides as they take to the field for their opening matches on Saturday, with England especially under the spotlight in their bid to make a long-awaited impression on the big stage. As soon as they qualified amid joyous scenes by beating Andorra eight months…

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Euro 2016 Group A – Hosts France begin with high expectations

Comprising of 24 nations for the first time, the European Championships finally get under way on Friday after a great deal of anticipation, tinged with concerns over security. The Stade de France was a venue very much caught up in the tragic events of November, but hopefully the football will be the only topic of conversation after it holds the first match of the tournament as hosts France take on Romania. Due to the steady progress the team has been making over the course of former World Cup winning captain…

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Championship Season Review – Reading, Rotherham, Sheff Wed, Wolves

Reading: 17th It was clear that Reading underachieved badly in 2014-15, so manager Steve Clarke quickly set about building a squad that would make a bid for the play-offs at the very least. Some high profile loan signings arrived including Chelsea starlet Lucas Piazon and Benfica’s Ola John, but it did not spark a flying start as results early on proved tough to come by. That was until the end of August, when something clicked and they were suddenly unplayable, wiping the floor with both Brentford and Ipswich Town in…

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Championship Season Review – MK Dons, Nott’m For, Preston, QPR

Milton Keynes Dons: 23rd (relegated) After knocking on the door for several seasons, MK Dons finally achieved promotion to the Championship in 2015, and having wiped the floor with many of the teams in the third tier it appeared as though they would have little trouble acclimatising to playing at the higher level. Some key players departed over the summer, but their absence was not felt initially as a resounding win at Rotherham United on opening day was not long followed by victory at home to Bolton Wanderers. However, things began…

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Championship Season Review – Hull, Ipswich, Leeds, Middlesbrough

Hull City: 4th (promoted via play-offs) Manager Steve Bruce offered to resign after failing to keep Hull in the Premier League in 2015, but the club managed to convince him to stay on. That persuasion eventually paid off as the club returned to the top-flight at the first attempt by coming out on top in the play-offs. They were in the mix all season as a strong start immediately had them among the promotion contenders. The only early blemishes came in away defeats to Charlton Athletic and fellow pace setters…

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Championship Season Review – Charlton, Derby, Fulham, Huddersfield

Charlton Athletic: 22nd (relegated) A season which began in encouraging fashion soon became one to forget as Charlton descended into turmoil, suffering relegation to the third tier after four seasons back in the Championship. It was never in doubt once the downward spiral began, with results on the pitch eventually marred by the sheer weight of protests towards the club’s Belgian owners. After a mid-table finish in 2015 there was optimism around in South London and that was enhanced by an opening day victory over Queens Park Rangers. Further positive results…

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Championship Season Review – Brighton & HA, Bristol City, Burnley, Cardiff

Brighton & HA: 3rd In almost any other season, 89 points would be more than enough to win automatic promotion, and comfortably at that. For that reason Brighton can consider themselves massively unlucky not to have secured top-flight football for the first time since 1983, with a second chance in the play-offs having also failed to deliver the status befitting of their stadium, facilities and their fan base. There was clearly ability within a squad that had been added to by the signing of Israeli striker Tomer Hemed and left-back…

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Championship Season Review – Birmingham, Blackburn, Bolton, Brentford

Birmingham City: 10th For the second year in a row, Birmingham City have finished 10th in the Championship, but the contrast between the two seasons is massive. In 2014-15 Gary Rowett took over a side that looked to be headed for relegation and galvanised them, whereas this time around they were very much in the play-off picture until fading away during the closing weeks as a strong home record deserted them. At the beginning the aim was to stay clear of danger and maybe push for another top half finish,…

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League Two Season Review 2015-16

They may have been plagued by off-field tribulations due to a tumultuous change of ownership, but throughout the 2015-16 season Northampton Town were a machine, powering past and reigning over all those who stood in their way. Having the look of a strong outfit from the start, they won the title at a canter and ended with a 24-match unbeaten run. Manager Chris Wilder had been managing in League Two for several seasons without being able to sustain a promotion bid, but this time his charges were unstoppable and he…

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League One Season Review 2015-16

Many clubs in recent seasons have found the going tough upon being relegated from the Premier League, so much so that they slip almost inexorably into the third tier. Wigan Athletic were that team going into 2015-16, just two years after winning the FA Cup under Roberto Martinez and now with a new chairman in 23-year-old David Sharpe. The man tasked with reversing the downward spiral was one of the members of that side that upset the odds against Manchester City on that famous day at Wembley, Gary Caldwell. The…

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Premier League Season Review – West Ham United

West Ham United: 7th FA Cup: Quarter-finals Capital One Cup: Round Three Europa League: Third Qualifying Round It was always certain to be an emotional season for West Ham as they said goodbye to their home of over a century, Upton Park, before their long-awaited move to the Olympic Stadium for 2016-17. The rather cautious aim was to make sure that they were still a Premier League club when they relocated, but the team then proceeded to make a mockery of that to the extent that for a time they…

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