Euro 2016 Group E: UAE Fans Preview

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Who do you think will win Group E?

Euro 2016 begins on Friday and Sport360 will be bringing you a fans’-eye view of the tournament thanks to our collection of 24 UAE-based supporters, who will be following their nations every step of the way.

Group E consists of the much-fancied Belgium, the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-led Sweden, Italy and Republic of Ireland.

Here, our fan pundits have their say on their nations’ chances in France.

BELGIUM – Herwig Devolder (Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE BELGIUM GAME EVER AT THE EUROS?

Belgium made it to the final of the European Championship in Italy in 1980 but unfortunately we lost 2-1 to West Germany at the Stadio Olimpico. It was a painful defeat as we equalised through Rene Vandereycken in the 75th minute only for Horst Hrubesch to level it up and then net the winning goal in the 88th minute. Hopefully we can go a step further this time.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR COACH?

Belgian fans were a little skeptical when Marc Wilmots first took charge in 2012 as he didn’t have much managerial experience. But as a player he always had a great attitude and fighting spirit and he has carried that into coaching. He took us to the 2014 World Cup – Belgium’s first major tournament since 2002 – and he has made a team out of a ‘golden generation’ of individuals. I think he lacks a little bit of tactical nous but in general, he is the right fit for the job.

BELGIUM PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

Michy Batshuayi. He is not that very well-known at the moment, but the 22-year-old Marseille striker has huge potential. Romelu Lukaku will be the main striker but in games where we need to score, Batshuayi offers an interesting option off the bench. He is our most effective striker in the 18-yard box, better than Lukaku, Divock Origi and Christian Benteke in my opinion.

GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

Belgium vs Ireland in Bordeaux on June 18 – I have many Irish friends in Dubai and also play football against them on a weekly basis. Ireland are likely to play very defensively and look to hit us on the counter-attack, I think it will be much tougher than playing against Italy and Sweden.

HOW FAR WILL BELGIUM GET AT EURO 2016?

Expectations are extremely high in Belgium – the national team has never been as popular as it is today and tickets for home games are sold out within five minutes. Reaching the semi-final is a minimum requirement but I genuinely believe we can WIN the European Championship. Our weakness is our relative lack of experience at major tournaments but our enthusiasm and individual skill will make the difference.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT BELGIUM

Belgium was No. 1 in the FIFA World Rankings from the end of 2015 until March 2016 and we are currently second behind Argentina.

WHAT DO BELGIAN FANS EAT DURING A GAME?

Fries, what else?!

HOW DO YOU SAY ‘GOAL’ IN FLEMISH?

Doel!

ITALY – Colin Scicluna (Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE ITALY GAME EVER AT THE EUROS?

With two red cards and our backs against the walls, we beat Netherlands in a penalty shootout in their own back yard at Euro 2000. I was in Thailand at the time, frantically searching for a TV in the middle of Chiang Mai. I’m glad I found one. We had never won on penalties so it was really special.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR MANAGER?

Antonio Conte is a fighter but his selection has been poor. Marco Verrati and Claudio Marchisio are out, and there’s no Andre Pirlo either! Like Conte’s hair, it’s a mess. His strength is in his ability to make his team work hard but not having the day-to-day relationship with players like he had at Juventus means he’s less effective.

ITALY PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

Stephan El Shaarawy needs to do what Mario Balotelli did in 2012. He is on the up and has looked good for Roma since January. He is speedy like a young Michael Owen and can really do some damage.

GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

Definitely the one against Belgium – it’s the hardest match and will tell us where we stand. Belgium are definitely a stronger team and if Italy want to win, we will need to absorb the pressure.  I strongly recommend the squad watches a re-run of Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan against Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League semi-final second leg. May the catenaccio gods protect us all.

HOW FAR WILL ITALY GET AT EURO 2016?

Italy are not among favourites and with Italian football in decline it is hard to select a strong team. The defence is the only healthy part of the squad with the Juventus wall of Buffon, Bonucci, Barzagli and Chielini. The rest is a random mix of young talents such as Pelle, Sharaway and Zaza with some old characters such as De Rossi and Montolivo. Still, they should have enough to reach the quarter-finals.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT ITALY

The average Italian consumes 26 gallons of grape-based beverage per year. Most of which I imagine is to calm the nerves associated with watching Italy at major championships!

WHAT DO ITALIAN FANS EAT DURING A GAME?

Italian fans love eating but not necessarily during a game. They are too tense so a lot of the time they will eat their nails, smoke or drink hops. If they do eat, it will probably be a margherita pizza slice.

HOW DO YOU SAY ‘GOAL’ IN ITALIAN?

Gol!

WHERE WILL YOU WATCH THE GAME?

Most Italians go to Loca or Zero Gravity, while many Azzurri fans have been known to cheer at Barasti too.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND – Stephen Fleming (English Teacher, Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE IRELAND GAME EVER AT THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP?

Ireland’s most memorable game in their history happened in 1988 when they beat England 1-0 in Stuttgart thanks to Ray Houghton’s header. His goal was so famous that it was incorporated into Irish musical legend Christy Moore’s famous track, Joxer Goes To Stuttgart.

IRELAND GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

The opening game against Sweden, the ultimate one-man team (sorry, Portugal!), is crucial. While they have Zlatan Ibrahamovic, Ireland don’t have a stand-out player. We do however possess a resolute defence, a hard-working midfield and an unpredictable forward line. A win could mean the last 16!

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR COACH?

Martin O’Neill was certainly the right choice for the Ireland job and having Roy Keane on board as his assistant manager has taken a lot of the pressure off the players due to the media frenzy that normally follows the ex-Manchester United man. At times O’Neill can be over-cautious, but he is tactically astute and has given Ireland an attacking freedom which previous coach Giovanni Trappotoni did not permit.

IRELAND PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

I’d say Norwich City’s Robbie Brady. Deployed at left bank for Ireland, his set pieces will be vital if we are to progress from a difficult group. What he lacks in defensive ability, he certainly makes up for in his attacking play and he can provide the ammunition for Jon Walters and in-form Shane Long up front.

PREDICTION – HOW FAR WILL IRELAND GO AT EURO 2016?

It’s a tough group but if Ireland can get a win and a draw they can get to the last 16 as one of the best third-placed teams. That will probably bring Spain or France however, which may be the end of the road.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT IRELAND?

Veteran striker Robbie Keane is a cousin of The Smiths famous frontman, Morrissey.

WHAT DO IRISH FANS EAT/DRINK DURING A GAME?

Full Irish breakfast of rashers, sausages, black and white pudding, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes and fried eggs is a must to set any real Irish fan up for the day.

HOW DO YOU SAY ‘GOAL’ IN Gaelic?

Cul – though we are more likely to say “you beauty!”

​WHERE WILL YOU BE WATCHING EURO 2016?

McGettigans in JLT will certainly be the place to be for any Irish fan while Fibbers will also be a good shout as the small bar could lead to an intimate atmosphere being created.

SWEDEN – Bengt Ternstrom (Chief Executive, Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE SWEDEN GAME EVER AT THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP?

Sweden vs Bulgaria at Euro 2004; it finished 5-0 and a new era was born with Freddie Ljungberg, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrik Larsson – all great scorers in Europe for many years.

SWEDEN GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

The opening game against Ireland gives us a great chance to start with a win and set us on the way to progress.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR COACH, ERIK HAMREN?

Traditional and predictable.

SWEDEN PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

Emil Forsberg, quick, unpredictable and in great shape.

PREDICTION – HOW FAR WILL SWEDEN GO AT EURO 2016?

Last 16.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT SWEDEN?

Sweden’s fastest ever goal was scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, after just 27 seconds in a qualifier against Kazakhstan.

WHAT DO SWEDISH FANS EAT/DRINK DURING A GAME?

Chicken wings and drinks filled with hops, though the national dish is probably meatballs!

HOW DO YOU SAY ‘GOAL’ IN SWEDISH?

Mååååååål!

​WHERE WILL YOU BE WATCHING EURO 2016?

The 42nd floor of Media One Hotel with lots of other Swedes.

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Euro 2016 Group F: UAE Fans Preview

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Who do you think will win Group F?

Euro 2016 begins on Friday and Sport360 will be bringing you a fans’-eye view of the tournament thanks to our collection of 24 UAE-based supporters, who will be following their nations every step of the way.

Group F features Austria, Hungary, Iceland and a Portugal side hoping to get the best out of talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.

Here, our fan pundits have their say on their nations’ chances in France.

PORTUGAL – Francisco Alves (Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE PORTUGAL GAME EVER AT THE EUROS?

It has to be Portugal’s epic 3-2 comeback victory over England at Euro 2000. We conceded two in the first 20 minutes of the match, which was the first of the tournament for both teams. Our classy captain Luis Figo scored an unforgettable long-range goal, turning our pessimistic prospects into a great performance.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR COACH?

Fernando Santos belongs to an older generation of Portuguese managers and is known for his pragmatic style of play. Therefore, one should not expect exhibitions packed with attacking excitement, but more of a focus on obtaining results, even if it means winning matches 1-0. 

PORTUGAL PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

Renato Sanches has enjoyed a fairytale season at Benfica and this will be a chance for the 18-year-old wonderkid to show off all the strength, energy and talent that made Bayern Munich spend €35M on him. Even though he may not be part of the starting XI, he will be used as an impact substitute for sure.

GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

Portugal vs Iceland on June 14. Starting the tournament with a win would be a big boost and facing a debutants Iceland in the first match of the group stage could be the ideal way to kick-off our challenge. There is of course the risk over-confidence but hopefully Portugal can begin with win.

HOW FAR WILL PORTUGAL GET AT EURO 2016?

Quarter-finals. I don’t think that we have enough quality overall or the right balance in the squad to get further, particularly as we will cross with the Group of Death. But I hope they prove me wrong…! 

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT PORTUGAL

Between Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo, Portugal holds four Ballon d’Ors which for a small country like ours constitutes a pretty impressive per capita ratio!

WHAT DO PORTUGUESE FANS EAT DURING A GAME?

Bifana (grilled pork meat in a bun) or sardines (also grilled). Portugal has several ‘national dishes’ but these two are the most appreciated come summer time. Best served with hops or red grape!

HOW DO YOU SAY ‘GOAL’ IN PORTUGUESE? GOOOLOOO!

WHERE WILL YOU WATCH EURO 2016?

I’ve often joined fellow Benfica fans at Barrels Pub (Majestic Hotel Tower – Bur Dubai) so am sure some Portuguese expats may also watch the national team. If not, then Barasti is the place to be.

Austria – Thomas Lattacher (Assistant Product Manager, Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE AUSTRIA GAME EVER AT THE EUROS?

Unfortunately our only Euro qualification so far was as co-hosts in 2008 and it wasn’t a very good appearance. The game with our only goal was the one against Poland in Vienna, Ivica Vastic scored a 93rd minute penalty to earn us a 1-1 draw.

AUSTRIA GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

Definitely Austria vs Portugal! I believe it will be the biggest challenge in the group stage and certainly determine who’s going to be top of the group. After that game I think we will have a good idea of how good the Austrian team really is.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR MANAGER?

I think every Austrian football fan will agree with me in saying Marcel Koller has brought us back to where we belong. He did such a great job in qualification and certainly won all the hearts of the Austrian fans by extending his contract and declining an offer from his home country Switzerland.

AUSTRIA PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

Since everyone already knows how good David Alaba is, I will go for Julian Baumgartlinger. Few people outside of Austria and Germany know Julian and I bet you they’ll be surprised to see his qualities in central midfield. He’s smart in attack and hard in defence.

PREDICTION – HOW FAR WILL AUSTRIA GO AT EURO 2016?

As much as I love to see them bringing home the title I have to say I think they will go out in the quarter-finals as they might meet France or England there.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT AUSTRIA

The first game for Austria in Euro 2016 against Hungary, will be the 137th time these two teams have met. In fact no two other countries across Europe have met more often.

WHAT DO AUSTRIAN FANS EAT DURING A GAME?

There may be more typical Austrian dishes around but in most stadiums you’ll find brezel (pretzels).

HOW DO YOU SAY ‘GOAL’ IN AUSTRIAN?

The word is tor, but proper Austrians will shout “TOOOOOOOR, I WEA NARRISCH!” which means ‘Gooooooooal, I’m going bonkers!’. The words were made famous by Edi Finger Junior, the commentator during Austria’s win over Germany in Cordoba 1978, who used this phrase to celebrate the game’s winning goal.

WHERE WILL YOU BE WATCHING EURO 2016? Barasti or McGettigans JLT – two amazing locations for watching football.

HUNGARY – Viktor Jemeljanov

MOST MEMORABLE HUNGARY GAME EVER AT THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP?

It was a long time ago! Hungary haven’t competed at the European Championship since 1972 (44 years!) but our best ever game would be when we came third in 1964 when the tournament was still called the European Nations’ Cup. We beat Denmark 3-1 in the third-placed play-off.

HUNGARY GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

The match against Portugal; it will be a great test coming up against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co – though I actually think Austria may win the group. Hungary have never beaten Portugal in an international so it would be great to change that record.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR COACH?

Bernd Storck has done a brilliant job, culminating in qualification for the Euros. The former head coach of Hungary was Pal Dardai, who built the base of the team, before Storck helped the team over the line. He is an excellent coach, representing the German-style of strong discipline and team co-operation.

HUNGARY PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

Young Ferencvaros midfielder Adam Nagy is an outstandingly talented player, even though he is only 20-years-old. He plays skillfully, intelligently and also has leadership ability. He has a high potential to stand out from the crowd and attract the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

PREDICTION – HOW FAR WILL HUNGARY GO AT EURO 2016?

If we can make it through to the last-16 it will be a great achievement. Then who knows, remember Greece?!

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT HUNGARY?

Goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly will be the oldest player at the tournament. He is 40.

WHAT DO HUNGARIAN FANS EAT/DRINK DURING A GAME?

People eat roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds at live matches, but not so much at home. Drinking beer is far more popular, though toasting has been prohibited since 1848 as Austrian generals reportedly did so with their beers after killing the last 13 Hungarian generals when repressing the revolution.

HOW DO YOU SAY ‘GOAL’ IN HUNGARIAN?

It is written as gól but pronounced like English, so ‘gooooooooooooooal’.

​WHERE WILL YOU BE WATCHING EURO 2016?

Barasti and Media One are always two of the best places to watch football in Dubai.

ICELAND – Sæmundur St. Magnusson (Private Client Advisor, Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE ICELAND GAME EVER AT THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP?

As this is our debut I’ll pick one of our qualifiers, probably the away victory over Netherlands. We actually won 2-0 at home and 1-0 away, with Gylfi Sigurdsson scoring all three of those goals!

ICELAND GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

The match against Portugal – it will be interesting to see how the Icelandic team will deal with a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR COACH?

Lars Lagerbäck has done amazing job for the Icelandic team, getting us to the Championships. The Icelandic nation also wants him as president, although he is Swedish.

ICELAND PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US? 

Gylfi Sigurdsson has been playing very well for Swansea and the national team, his creativity and long range shooting might surprise some.

PREDICTION – HOW FAR WILL ICELAND GO AT EURO 2016?

Semi-finals, I know that it is bold but if we play as we did in the qualifying campaign, why not!

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT ICELAND?

Our population is 317,000 – meaning we are the smallest nation to ever play at a European Championship finals.

WHAT DO ICELANDIC FANS EAT/DRINK DURING A GAME?

Svið is a traditional Icelandic dish consisting of a sheep’s head cut in half, singled out to remove the fur, and boiled with the brain removed, sometimes cured in lactic acid.

HOW DO YOU SAY ‘GOAL’ IN ICELANDIC?

Markmið!

​WHERE WILL YOU BE WATCHING EURO 2016?

We will probably be watching the games at Barasti Beach Bar.

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After disgraceful scenes in Marseille madness must stop

Mark Lomas 12/06/2016
Use #360view to have your say on this article.

PARIS, France — Those who hoped football hooliganism was dead, a relic of a long forgotten football era, were given a despairing dose of reality by the disgraceful scenes in Marseille over the past four days.

Despite obvious improvements since the ‘bad old days’ of the 1980s, hooliganism has of course never been truly extinguished. It has existed, only more often on the periphery, with social media still ensuring plenty of cases are documented. Who can forget the shocking video of Chelsea fans destroying a Munich restaurant and assaulting its owner ahead of the 2012 Champions League final?

It came to the fore again during qualifying for this European Championship when Albania were awarded a win and three points after Serbian fans attacked their players, forcing the postponement of a match in Belgrade.

That was just a sign of things to come. Hooliganism is well and truly alive and it came crashing onto the centre stage of a major tournament in Marseille, both before and then after the Group B contest between England and Russia.

Bill Shankly once said that “some people believe football is a matter of life and death… I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

The legendary Liverpool manager was brilliantly articulating the power the sport has to unite and its ability to bring unquantifiable happiness to the people who follow it.

Dismally, the English and Russian thugs in Marseille took the words at face value, one Three Lions fan reportedly close to death at the time of writing after suffering a cardiac arrest in the violent build-up to the match at the Stade Velodrome.

Infuriatingly, these idiots have forgotten that football is a sport, a spectacle to be enjoyed. People go to matches to be wowed, not wounded. They spoil the game we love and must stop the madness.

The fears of a potential terrorist attack at the tournament have been very real, with an obviously increased police presence, and many layers of security at each host stadium. What a deep shame it is that a new threat to peace has come not from extremists but from this extremely moronic minority.

‘Shame’ was the word that adorned L’Equipe’s front cover on Sunday and other newspapers followed suit, Le Parisien opting for ‘La France face aux hooligans’ (‘France against hooligans’). The fantastic story of Gareth Bale’s Wales securing their first win at a major final since 1958 was denied its deserved spot by the unpleasant incidents in Marseille.

The talk radio stations, too, were focused only on events on the south coast. On France Info, between the calming Sunday morning jazz, there was concerted criticism of the so-called supporters and also some finger pointing at the English press and authorities. Some had suggested after Friday night’s first scuffles that the French police were a little heavy handed in their approach, an accusation that has of course incensed those on the other side of the channel.

Police numbers will of course now be increased, notably in Lens and Lille where England and Russia play their respective second matches. The French government has also announced a ban on alcohol near Euro 2016 venues. But alcohol bans, along with water cannons and tear gas, are only a temporary solution. Hooligans will still get drunk and still cause trouble. They always find a way.

The issuing of an ‘official warning’ by UEFA’s Executive Committee, in which the violence was labelled “challenging circumstances” felt like a proverbial slap on the wrists.

UEFA did however promise that “it will not hesitate to impose additional sanctions…including potential disqualification”. The threat of stadium bans, points deductions and even tournament expulsions have proven to be effective punishments in the past but it remains to be seen if UEFA’s words will be taken seriously.

The organisation has not always proven itself the most pro-active enforcer, meaning it is difficult to know if its latest words will act as a genuine deterrent at this European Championship. They have to follow through this time, though. There should be no second chances.

It is of course unfair that the players and those fans who behave themselves – those that make up the majority – must suffer for the actions of a small number. But for their safety and the safety of those in the cities and towns that have experienced violence, it seems like the best option.

Those penalties will not be the silver bullet that destroys hooliganism, but right now it appears to be the best option there is.

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