“So near yet so far”. Not many other than the fans of the teams conceding late goals in Euro ’16 can truly understand what this idiom means. With more teams participating the cup than ever before, one wouldn’t be entirely wrong in pinning his hopes with the Euro Cup to be a high scoring one. But much to the surprise of sports pundits, the goal scoring rate per game has been lower than the rate of increase in oil prices. In ordinary circumstances, less number of goals would have meant an increased number of people chanting slogans declaring the cup to be boring but we don’t have any of that here. Instead, people have been watching the tournament with more vigor than ever before and much of the credit goes to the late goals that are almost becoming a trademark of the cup. We haven’t entered the knockout stage yet and teams have already netted 13 late goals – after 80th minute of play. Many a million dreams got shattered and almost equal hopes got resurrected because of these late in goals in this tournament of late goals. Let us relive some of those moments.
Dimitri Payet vs Romania – 89th Minute
Euro ’16 has been lit up with Dimitri Payet’s on field exuberance as he is scoring goals for France when it matters the most. The event opener between France and Romania would have ended in a draw if not for Dimitri’s powerful shoot which planted the ball in the top left corner of the net ensuring a French victory. The host, France, had taken lead in the match in the 57th minute which was soon neutralized by Romania’s Bogdan Stancu. Dimitri Payet also succeeded in getting ball past a charged Albania’s keeper in France’s later match.
Hal Robson Kanu vs Slovakia – 81st Minute
Wales couldn’t have asked for a better script for the Euro Cup then the one which got unraveled in France. They are through to the knock out stages but not before giving some nail biting moments to their fans. In their bid against Slovakia, the world’s most expensive player, Gareth Bale started the proceedings with a goal off a free kick putting Whales in charge. Slovakia’s Duda was ecstatic after scoring an equalizer but Hal Robson Kanu’s inclusion in the play by Welsh manager was the decisive move as Kanu shifted the match in Wales’ favor by striking a goal in the 81st minute of the match.
Bastian Schweinsteiger vs Ukraine – 90+2 Minutes
Ukrainian team promised much but delivered too little in the Euro ’16. Every time they were on the pitch, you got the feeling that maybe today was their day. Their failure to convert chances to goals lead to their early exit from the tournament. Germans should be thankful to their keeper Manuel Neuer who saved at least two certain goals by his athleticism and quick reflexes. But one other man which the Germans are indebted to is the immaculate Schweinsteiger. He hadn’t had a perfect year with Manchester United prior to Euro but the moment he was unleashed by Joachim Low against Ukraine, he meant business and just minutes after coming on the field, Bastian had increased Germany’s lead to an unassailable 2-0 ensuring all but a resounding victory for Germany.
Graziano Pelle vs Belgium – 90+2 Minutes
This Italian team regarded as one of the weakest in decades took on Belgium in their first group game. In typical Italian style they improvised and frustrated highly rated Belgium and took the lead through Emmanuele Giaccherini. They protected the lead till the injury time when Graziano Pelle, who was too hot to handle on the day, scored a goal for Italy sealing their victory in a 2-0 score line.
Gerard Pique vs Czech Republic – 87th Minute
Spain was creating chances all throughout the game. Iniesta was constantly feeding in the ball but Spain lacked the impetus to convert any of those chances until the 87th minute when Gerrard Pique took it upon himself to disturb the scorers as he put Spain in front by a beautiful goal. Spain was able to protect this lead and go on to win an important league match.
Zoltan Stieber vs Austria – 87th Minute
Before the start of Euro ’16, Hungary were installed as one of the dark horses after superb qualifying campaign. Their first half performance against Austria in the opening fixture only strengthen the idea. By two second half goals from Hungary quickly shattered all such perceptions about Austria. Adam Szalai and Zoltan Stieber were the chief architects of this thumping victory for Hungary. Zoltan scored a late goal in 87th minute, giving a dash to any of the hopes that Austrian players might have had till that time about resurrecting themselves in the game.
Antoine Griezmann & Dimitri Payet vs Albania – 90th and 90+6 Minutes
For anyone who has been following France’s campaign in the Euro Cup, it is pretty obvious that France looked like ending all its three league matches in a draw but somehow in the last few minutes they always found the energy and skill to score goals. In their bid against Albania, no team was able to steer ball across the goal line till the 89th minute and then the next seven minutes saw a flurry of goals (couple can be counted as flurry, right?). Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet scored goals in 90th and 96th minute respectively snatching the game for France.
Daniel Sturridge vs Wales – 90+1 Minutes
Welsh star, Gareth Bale, had put Whales ahead in the first half. He does that so often, doesn’t he? But it wasn’t Bale’s antics with the footballs that the newspapers were discussing in the next day’s headlines. Rather it was Daniel Sturridge’s late goal that had shook whole of the UK. England started the second half with a goal down and ended winning the match by one goal’s lead. A great comeback by every definition.
Ivan Perisic vs Spain – 87 Minutes
Croatian players are going places in this Euro Cup. In what was hands down the biggest upset of the tournament, Croatia made the title holders, Spain, succumb before them as they, after conceding a goal, scored two goals to clinch the game. Both Spain and Croatia qualified for the last 16 but not in the order expected as Croatia ended above Spain in the group. Ivan Perisic’s classical late goal was the highlight of this game.
Vasili Berezutski – England Vs Russia – 90+2 Minutes
It was dramatic. It was sensational. It was adrenaline pumping stuff in Marseille. English and Russian fans had been trying to stamp their authority on each other on the streets but it was time for the two teams to collide in one of the most anticipated matches of Euro ’16.What a heart break it was for English fans. England had it all covered till the stoppage time but Vasili Berezutski’s header was too good for English Keeper, Joe Hart, to keep the ball away from the net. Vasili’s stellar gave Russian fans a face saving against their English counterparts.