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Slow starts hampering France, while Germany look the part of world champions: Euro 2016 talking points

The National's Premier League football correspondent Greg Lea gives his takes on Day 16 of the Euro 2016 competition.
Republic of Ireland's Stephen Ward in action with France's Kingsley Coman. (REUTERS/Robert Pratta)
Republic of Ireland's Stephen Ward in action with France's Kingsley Coman. (REUTERS/Robert Pratta)

France 2-1 Republic of Ireland: Slow start, strong finish

The Stade des Lumieres in Lyon was stunned into silence after just two minutes of the hosts’ round of 16 tie with the Republic of Ireland, who took the lead via a Robbie Brady penalty early on.

Ireland were terrific in the first half, limiting France to only a handful of half-chances as they remained calm, composed and disciplined in their defensive shape.

Didier Deschamps’ side were again disjointed and unconvincing in an attacking sense in the first period – that has been a theme of the tournament for France, who also started slowly against Romania and Albania – while Adil Rami was incredibly nervy and clumsy at the back.

Nevertheless, the French deserve credit for their blistering response after the interval, when the Republic of Ireland lost control and were blown away by the pre-tournament favourites.

Antoine Griezmann was central to his side’s revival, the Atletico Madrid striker excelling once he had been moved into the middle from the right flank. It was his brace that turned the game on its head, with France fully deserving their victory in the end.

Deschamps must be concerned by how poorly his players have performed in the first half of matches up to now, though, and France will have to find a way to put that right before it comes back to bite them.

Germany 3-0 Slovakia: Complete performance from world champions

This was one of the most complete displays of the competition up to now, with Germany fantastic in every department as they brushed Slovakia aside in Lille.

The world champions circulated the ball quickly and crisply as they began the match full of attacking intent, with centre-halves Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng helping to build moves from deep and full-backs Joshua Kimmich and Jonas Hector pushing on to provide width on both sides of the pitch.

There was plenty of fluidity to their movement and passing as Slovakia struggled to contain Joachim Low’s men, who could have been three or four goals up at the break.

A 2-0 lead after 45 minutes was still a very healthy position for Germany to be in, though, and while Slovakia rallied early in the second half they never really looked like getting back into the game.

The impressive Julian Draxler made it three shortly after the hour-mark, with the Germans taking the sting out of proceedings thereafter.

This was an ominous showing from a team that will take some stopping if they are able to maintain such a high level of performance going forward.

Hungary 0-4 Belgium: Wilmots’ men run riot

Belgium have come in for some deserved criticism at the Euros so far, but this was a devastating performance that underlined why, despite their faults, they could lift the trophy at the Stade de France next month.

Marc Wilmots’ side started brightly and simply grew stronger as the game wore on, with Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne particularly lively in the final third.

Throughout the competition, Belgium have shown themselves to be far more dangerous on the counter-attack than in phases of established possession, and that was the case again here as they sliced through a rather ambitious Hungary outfit at will.

Bernd Storck’s charges allowed their opponents plenty of space as they pushed men forward in an attempt to get back into the game after Toby Alderweireld’s early opener, with Belgium expertly exploiting the gaps by moving the ball forward quickly whenever they had the chance.

A disappointing 2-0 loss to Italy in their opening encounter led to the Belgians being widely written off, but perhaps that defeat was the best thing that could have happened to them, with expectations lowered as a direct result.

There is still a long way to go but Belgium certainly seem to be hitting form at the right time.

Player of the day

Eden Hazard: one goal, one assist and, most importantly of all, one magnificent all-round performance.

Goal of the day

A slight deflection took some of the shine off Jerome Boateng’s volley in Germany’s defeat of Slovakia, but it was still a strike of fine technical quality.

Decision of the day

Selecting Julian Draxler ahead of Mario Gotze was a move that paid off handsomely for Germany boss Joachim Low.

Howler of the day

Olivier Giroud’s headed knockdown for Antoine Griezmann’s second goal was excellent, but Shane Duffy really should have handed the Arsenal striker onto centre-back partner Richard Keogh rather than follow him and leave Griezmann free.

Statistic of the day

Eden Hazard has supplied three assists at Euro 2016, the same amount he managed for Chelsea in their entire 2015/16 Premier League campaign.

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Updated: June 27, 2016 04:00 AM

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