Paul Pogba and the weight of expectations

Paul Pogba 2016

Not many professional footballers can feel the weight of expectation bearing down on them at just 23. Add into the mix, it’s a national team as opposed to a handful of disgruntled supporters on social media and, Juventus’ Paul Pogba seems to be a man on a mission.

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Euro 2016 Final – France 0-1 Portugal (AET): Éder’s extra-time strike leaves French ruing missed chances

France 0-1 Portugal (AET): Éder's extra-time strike leaves French ruing missed chances

A goal out of seemingly nothing from substitute Éder in the second-half of extra time helped Portugal triumph as Euro 2016 champions. Despite France’s best efforts, they were unable to find the all-important goal for their dominance.

Portugal have won this year’s European Championships with a dramatic 1-0 victory over the host nation, France – courtesy of an extra-time strike from Éder. Despite France’s dominance in the early going, they were unable to find the goal to break the deadlock and Portugal’s grew as the game continued.

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Wales 3-1 Belgium: Williams, Robson-Kanu and Vokes seal semi-final spot for Dragons

Wales 3-1 Belgium: Williams, Robson-Kanu and Vokes seal semi-final spot for Dragons

In one of the most unpredictable and exciting matches of this year’s tournament, Wales came back from a goal down to prevail 3-1 against Belgium – sealing their place in the semi-finals against Portugal.

In what was billed as the most exciting quarter-final ahead of kick-off on Friday evening, Wales and Belgium met with a place in the last-four up for grabs. The game didn’t disappoint either – as Wales came back from a goal down to seal a famous victory, becoming the first team to reach the semi-finals on their Euro debut since Sweden in 1992.

Gareth Bale and the rest of the Dragons have embraced the European Championships thus far – whilst Marc Wilmots‘ side have only ignited their spark as the tournament’s dark horses with a convincing 4-0 victory over Hungary in the last-16. A chilly evening in Lille, where rain began to fall just moments before kick-off – everything was in place for an intriguing encounter with Portugal awaiting the winner.

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Italy vs Spain Preview: Battle of European heavyweights in Paris

Italy vs Spain Preview: Battle of European heavyweights in Paris

After both sides suffered narrow defeats in their final Group game respectively, they’re set to go head-to-head for a place in the quarter-finals on Monday afternoon in Paris. Who will prevail and who’ll tumble out of the competition?

Going into the tournament, there was an element of doubt as to whether Italy and Spain would show their quality or falter on the big stage – something that has happened in recent international competitions.

Following the first two group games, both teams had six points each. So, after defeats against Republic of Ireland and Croatia respectively in their final group encounters, they find themselves in a tricky situation: battling against each other with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs.

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Switzerland 1-1 Poland (4-5, pens): Post-match comments as Swiss rue missed chances

Switzerland 1-1 Poland (4-5, pens): Post-match comments as Swiss rue missed chances

Post-match reaction from Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri – who scored a brilliant bicycle kick to take the game to extra time, but his attacking team-mates failed to take their chances and Switzerland have been punished for it with penalty heartbreak.

Switzerland managed to squander a hatful of promising opportunities in-front of goal, and as a result, succumbed to a narrow defeat after extra time and penalties in Saint-Etienne. Arsenal‘s £30million pound signing Granit Xhaka was effective and efficient in possession as usual, but fired his spot-kick wide of Lukasz Fabianski‘s far post, missing the only penalty in an otherwise tense shootout.

Unsurprisingly, the media have had a field day with suggestions that he’s a perfect player for the Gunners considering he failed to convert under pressure – but the 23-year-old was excellent throughout the tournament and made little fuss in a defensive-minded midfield position.

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Opinion: Hungary vs Portugal on Wednesday is more than meets the eye

Opinion: Hungary vs Portugal on Wednesday is more than meets the eye

Group F was seen as the boring one coming into the tournament – but it’s certainly one of the most intriguing heading into the final group stage matchday with plenty at stake.

Looking at Group F before this summer’s European Championships began, most honest observers would never have expected to see the topsy-turvy state of the current standings after two rounds of fixtures.

Hungary – expected to finish bottom, are leading at the summit and have a two-point advantage on both Iceland and Portugal.

Austria, packed with Bayern Munich‘s David Alaba and Stoke forward Marko Arnautovic, are bottom of the group and they’ll be hoping they can manage to beat Gylfi Sigurdsson and co (Iceland) in their final fixture this coming week, if they’re to have any chance of progressing into the knockout rounds.

Portugal, well. Cristiano Ronaldo has created more chances and taken more shots than more than a quarter of the teams at the tournament by himself – but only has frustration etched on his face, and a missed penalty to boot, as critics and supporters alike continue to suggest this could be the beginning of his inevitable decline.

Cristiano (far right) has struggled to live up to expectations thus far, and Portugal have looked stifled. | Photo: Getty

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Reports: Manchester City interested in Nolito approach

Reports: Manchester City interested in Nolito approach

According to reports, Manchester City are looking to activate the 29-year-old winger’s £14.1million buyout clause to sign him this summer.

Manchester City have been linked with a move to sign Celta Vigo winger Nolito over the past few months. Reports have now suggested that impending manager Pep Guardiola, who’ll be arriving at Eastlands in July, wants the Spaniard in his side ahead of the new campaign.

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England 2-1 Wales: Player ratings as Sturridge nets late, dramatic winner

England 2-1 Wales: Player ratings as Sturridge nets late, dramatic winner

It was billed as the battle of Britain, and late drama saw bragging rights firmly fall to substitutes on a frantic afternoon in lEns.

Having managed to somehow squander a one-goal lead against a Russia side who, on the evening, were very poor, England knew they needed to win against Chris Coleman’s Wales side. They did just that, and as a result, leapfrog their opponents into top spot in Group B.

How did the England players fare individually? Read below, for the Three Lions’ player ratings.

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Hugo Lloris reveals France are eager to prove point at Euro 2016

Hugo Lloris reveals France are eager to prove point at Euro 2016

As the host nation, France go into this summer’s Championships with a lot of expectation – something that captain Hugo Lloris feels should be justified with a strong start against Romania.

France kick off this year’s European Championships with a mismatch – at least it seems so on paper – against Romania on Friday evening at 8PM BST time. Les Blues are in encouraging form of late, having won 10 of their 14 international friendlies since the start of 2015.

Lloris reveals importance of a good start

In the pre-match news conference ahead of tomorrow’s curtain raiser, Lloris admitted there is “a lot of expectation” on the players, who understand the “importance” of the match itself, as well as how important it is for them to make a good start to proceedings.

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