Messi's retirement overshadows EURO

The announcement has overshadowed the domineering display of Belgium and Germany at the EURO last night.

Lionel Messi... crestfallen after the COPA final defeat.   -  AP

Belgium's Eden Hazard was superb against Hungary in the Round of 16 EURO game.   -  AP

It’s been a few hours and I am yet to grasp the enormity of the news. Lionel Messi’s decision to quit international football after yet another final heartbreak has left me flummoxed much like the rest of the world. This was an emotional decision, coming out after years of frustration at the international level. Hopefully his family and the top brass in the Argentine FA will try to reason out with the Barcelona genius when things cool down a little.

It will be a loss for Argentina and the game at large if Messi decides to stick to his guns.

The announcement has overshadowed the domineering display of Belgium and Germany at the EURO last night.

 

Eden Hazard, after a torrid time with Chelsea last season, is slowly finding his touch in France. A scintillating performance from the young Belgian captain — a goal and an assist — inspired a talented squad to the quarterfinals with a 4-0 win over Hungary. The four-man Hungarian defence was guilty of not closing space and offering too much room to the likes of Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne. Hazard completed 29 successful passes in the attacking third, creating four chances from open play. De Bruyne, often interchanging positions with his captain, was equally effective, seeing a lot of the ball (he received 52 passes) and creating two chances, one of which was converted.

This Hungarian defence, playing in a major competition for the first time, was outrun and outpaced and the scoreline could have been a lot worse if not for the heroics of the veteran Gabor Kiraly. The 40-year-old made a tournament high of 10 saves.

Germany, playing like a true world champion, showed its intent to win another championship with a resounding 3-0 thumping of a helpless Slovakia. Joachim Loew courageously dropped the out of sorts Mario Gotze and gave Beskitas’ Mario Gomez a run in as the conventional No. 9 at the top of his 4-2-3-1 system.

Junking his theory of a fluid front four, Loew used Gomez as an effective focal point and the 30-year-old did his job admirably well. Though, Gomez completed just 10 passes and had 21 touches, he held the ball well, drawing the attention of the two central defenders, Martin Skrtel and Jan Durica, opening up space for Draxler and Mesut Ozil behind the defence.

The regular interplay between the troika — Draxler, Ozil and the tireless Thomas Mueller — (much like the Belgium gang of De Bruyne, Hazard and Dries Mertens) makes it hard on the opposition to mark them out of play.

The ball-playing ability of the German centre-backs, Hummels and Boateng, gives the team an extra spring while attacking. The calm comfort offered by the duo allowed the full-backs, Hector and Kimmich, the license to venture forward, adding numbers to the Mannschaft attack.

Germany’s adaptability and the strength in its bench makes it, by far, the most complete team in the competition and the punters’ ideal bet to lift the silverware at the Stade de France on July 10.