The knockout stages of this Euros tournament officially began on Saturday when the first six teams competed for a place in the quarterfinals.
The day began brightly with Poland taking on Switzerland. Poland largely controlled the game in the first half, with Robert Lewandowski being denied by the Swiss goalkeeper in the first minute. That's four games now in this tournament where the Bayern Munich star has failed to score.
Poland would finally get on the board in the 39th minute when midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski scored the opener thanks to an inch perfect pass from Kamil Grosicki. Blaszczykowski has been fantastic for Poland so far in this tournament, contributing to every goal they've scored.
The second half saw the Swiss gain some control over the game as they played for their lives. In the 73rd minute, they missed an opportunity to score when shot ricocheted off the bar. However, it was the man with the best name in football, Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored what may go down as being the goal of the tournament in the 82nd minute to bring Switzerland level. A pass back to the star midfielder just inside the eighteen yard box seemed a bit too high, until Shaqiri executed a fantastic overhead volley that found the bottom right corner of Fabianski's goal.
In the end, the game remained even after extra time. Poland would ultimately prevail on penalties, after Granit Xhaka shot his spot kick wide of the mark.
Spectators and fans watching the world over may have been tricked into believing that this entertaining match signaled a fun day of football ahead. Sadly, this game was the high water mark, and it was all downhill from there.
The next match of the day was the much-anticipated British affair between Northern Ireland and the glorious Red Panda along with his Welsh teammates. It was a tense match from the beginning, with both teams clearly feeling the pressure. It led to some pretty boring football, with chances coming few and far between.
After 75 minutes of watching Northern Ireland valiantly attempt to defend against Gareth Bale, the Real Madrid star finally found a way through. Aaron Ramsey began the move by briefly blinding the Northern Ireland defenders with his bright white hair, and used the space created by the ensuing chaos and confusion to pass to Bale. Bale then put a ball into the box that defender Gareth McAuley accidentally deflected into his own net.
In the end, and most importantly, Joe Allen became the first of Liverpool's European internationals in this tournament to make it through to the quarterfinals. Danny Ward, who remained on the bench once again in favor of Wayne Hennessey, will also be making the trip to Lille on Friday for the next match.
And finally, the last game to take place on Saturday saw Croatia face Portugal in a match that zsinogidfa...
Whoops, sorry, fell asleep at my keyboard.
Ronaldo continued his poor form as Croatia forced Portugal into extra time after a scoreless first ninety that saw neither team take so much as a shot on goal. Thankfully for our collective will to live, Ricardo Quaresma headed in a ball at close range in the 117th minute, sparing us all a penalty shoot-out and sparing Portugal another early exit from an international tournament. With this win, Portugal booked their ticket to face Poland in the quarterfinals.
Tomorrow the games on offer include France vs. Republic of Ireland, Germany vs. Slovakia, and Hungary vs. Belgium. Lots of Liverpool action here, with Skrtel, Can, Benteke, Origi, and Mignolet all available for selection.