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Sunderland At The Euros: Round #1

All three of Sunderland's representatives at Euro 2016 play for clubs in Group E - incase you missed it, we looked at what they had to come here. How did they get on in the first round of games?

Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
John O'Shea - v Sweden (Stade De France, Paris) - 6

It was a fairly quiet game for the Sunderland captain, who also led his country out for yesterday's fixture in the absence of regular skipper Robbie Keane.

The concern for the Irish going into the game was the lack of playing time that both O'Shea and his partner Ciaran Clark have had in recent months, with the pair tasked with handling the in-form Zlatan Ibrahimovic - probably the strongest forward in Group E. If they could handle Zlatan, they'd likely be able to contain just about anyone that Italy or Belgium can throw at them in the final two games of the group stages.

In fairness to the pair, they did just that for the most part. Ibrahimovic struggled to impact upon the game and with all the focus pre-match on just how much damage he was capable of inflicting upon the Irish, they seemed to cope fairly easily with him.

O'Shea played fairly deep inside the Ireland half for much of the game as his main task was to restrict the space that Ibrahimovic was operating in. As the Sweden forward looked to move wide and pick up the ball away from O'Shea, he tended to move with Ibrahimovic and make it difficult for him to cause issues.

In the early stages of the game it was O'Shea that came closest to scoring the first goal, coming inches from connecting with Ciaran Clark's flick on that would have almost certainly hit the back of the net had he even got the slightest of touches on the ball.

Though Ireland took the lead, O'Shea and the rest of his defence were unable to keep a clean sheet after Clark's own goal levelled proceedings in the second half and you have to imagine that this really was a game that they needed to win, with much more difficult opposition in Belgium and Italy still to come.

All in all it was a decent showing from O'Shea, who now has to focus his attention to containing the unpredictable Romelu Lukaku, with the Irish taking on Belgium this coming Saturday.

Emanuele Giaccherini - v Belgium (Stade De Lyon, Lyon) - 8

It was a day to remember for Emanuele Giaccherini, who scored a fantastic goal on his way to collecting the man of the match award against a Belgium side littered with superstars that just couldn't seem to find a way to break down Antonio Conte's team.

Latching onto a long pass from the back from Leonardo Bonucci, Giaccherini killed the ball dead before finishing expertly past Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois to put the Italians ahead.

It was a fantastic goal from a player whose quality has never been doubted - if anything, Giaccherini just hasn't shown that he's able to physically compete in a league where being able to is an absolute minimum requirement.

Giaccherini continued to impress throughout the game, working tirelessly up and down the left hand side of the pitch as the Italians went on to win a game that most had predicted they'd lose.

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The opening goal seemingly came out of nowhere, with the pass from Bonucci completely splitting the Belgium defence and finding the feet of the unmarked Giaccherini with relative ease.

It wasn't just Giaccherini's offensive work that made him stand out in the game. The Italians arguably have the best back line at the tournament and operating as a defensive wide-man, Giaccherini had the job of assisting Matteo Darmian in keeping Kevin De Bruyne quiet and they did so expertly.


Giaccherini's pass map above shows which areas of the pitch he primarily operated in. He stuck mainly to the left hand side of the pitch and, as displayed in the image, he worked tirelessly from end-to-end, something which explains why Italy manager is such a huge fan of his.

The main discussion point from Sunderland fans post-match was about whether or not Sam will look to hang on to a player that is clearly quality, something which we'll debate further on the site in the coming days.

Sebastian Larsson - v Republic Of Ireland (Stade De France, Paris) - 7

Sweden manager Erik Hamrén is a traditionalist and, as such, he likes his side to play 4-4-2. He might not have played on the right of midfield for Sunderland since Steve Bruce was manager but Larsson takes up his old role for his country on a regular basis and, against Ireland, he barely moved off the right-hand touch line.


As shown in the pass-map above, the vast majority of Larsson's passes came on the right hand side of the pitch in the opposition half of the pitch, with the Swedes on the front foot for the majority of the game - something Larsson perhaps isn't particularly accustomed to as a Sunderland player.

Sweden struggled to break down their opponents and their lack of pace in wide areas meant that barely any crosses into the area reached as far as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who struggled to impact upon the game.

That said, when Ciaran Clark scored in his own net it was Larsson who was closest to the ball, with Clark getting caught between marking Larsson inside the area and clearing the ball, which resulted in him scoring the goal that put Sweden back in the game.

Though Larsson played well, the Swedes may well be forced into playing a more attacking side against Italy, and as a result Larsson could be a casualty, with Albin Ekdal the main candidate to replace him should that option be exercised.

Group E TV Listings: Round #2

Friday 17th June - 2pm (ITV) Italy v Sweden, Stadium de Toulouse

Saturday 18th June - 2pm (ITV) Belgium v Republic of Ireland, Stade de Bordeaux

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