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Sunderland At The Euros: Round #2

All three of Sunderland's representatives at Euro 2016 play for clubs in Group E - incase you missed it, we looked at how they did in their first round of games here. Today though, we take a look back and rate their performances in the second lot of fixtures.

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John O'Shea - v Belgium (Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux) - 6

It wasn't a great day for John O'Shea or the Republic of Ireland, whose hopes of qualifying from their group almost passed them by, having been comfortably beaten by a strong Belgium side.

Having managed to keep the Belgians at bay throughout the opening forty-five minutes, it was a 48th minute opener from Romelu Lukaku that put O'Shea's opponents ahead.

It was in fact O'Shea that was closest to Lukaku when he scored, failing to close him down on the edge of the area before the Everton forward finished well past Darren Randolph.

Then, in the sixty-first minute, Belgium made it 2-0 with a header from Axel Witsel. With the leaders attacking down the right-hand side, O'Shea marked Romelu Lukaku tightly, and as a result nobody in an Irish shirt picked up the advancing Witsel, who tucked away a free header with relative ease.

The defending from Martin O'Neill's side was lacklustre at best.

To round off proceedings in the seventieth minute came another from Romelu Lukaku, who scored one of the easiest goals of his career after the Belgians took full advantage of the Irish piling forward and broke with pace on the counter attack. O'Shea again played a part in the goal, finding himself alone at the back with Eden Hazard running one way and Lukaku the other. He opted to go towards the ball, which was the signal for Hazard to lay the pass on a plate for Lukaku and the former Chelsea forward made no mistake, tucking the ball away to send the Belgian fans home happy. The mistake on this occasion came from Ciaran Clark, whose attempt to wipe out Hazard just inside the Irish half failed and left O'Shea in a difficult position defensively.

O'Shea was the second best on the pitch in terms of aerial duels (3), and was one of only three outfield players from both sides that did not lose possession of the ball once in the game. He completed 86% of his passes, made more clearances than any other Irish player (5) and overall, despite his side conceding three goals, he didn't have a completely horrific game.

Sebastian Larsson - v Italy (Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse) - 5

Much like John O'Shea and Ireland, it wasn't a memorable performance for Seb Larsson and Sweden as they fell short against Italy, with their hopes of qualifying depending on beating Belgium on Wednesday night.

Though the Italians were far from inspiring, they were nowhere near as bad as Sweden, who have been unbelievably negative in their shape and style of play under Eric Hamren in this tournament. Despite lasting the full ninety minutes, Larsson did virtually nothing of note on the ball and struggled throughout to have an impact upon a game that was largely flat, right up until Eder scored the winning goal in the 88th minute.

Larsson had no shots at goal, completed no successful dribbles, won no aerial duels and touched the ball on no more than thirty-three occasions across the entire game. In short, Sweden may as well have had ten men on the pitch - though it could be said that asking Larsson to play on the right of midfield in 2016 is a rather foolish decision in any case.

Emanuele Giaccherini - v Sweden (Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse) - 7

Sunderland's forgotten man completed yet another ninety minutes as Italy cruised through to the knockout stages of Euro 2016 with a win over Sweden. It was another hard working performance from Emanuele Giaccherini, who will surely keep his place in Antonio Conte's starting eleven throughout this year's tournament.

Little Giacchy is all graft, as shown in the fact he attempted more tackles than any other Sweden player (3, joint with Parolo and Eder). The Italians struggled to break Sweden down, largely due to the fact they sit so deep, and as a result most of the possession that they had was between the goalkeeper and the defence.

It was an incredibly boring game in truth, not one that I'd be watching again in a hurry. Still, Giaccherini and his team have found a way through to the knockout stages and having seen the majority of the sides in this tournament so far, they look like one of the better ones and should do well when they come up against a better quality of opposition as their defence and ability to break forward on the counter are their strongest assets.

Group E TV Listings: Round #3

Wednesday 22nd June - 8pm (ITV) Italy v Republic of Ireland, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille

Wednesday 22nd June - 8pm (ITV) Sweden v Belgium, Stade de Nice