Six Nations: Gibson-Park celebrates Ireland's Triple Crown

By Sports Desk March 19, 2022

Ireland scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park was over the moon after his side's dominant 26-5 win against Scotland in the Six Nations.

The victory earned Ireland the Triple Crown after they previously defeated both England and Wales. It is the first time Ireland have beaten the other three home nations since 2018.

In a decisive showing, Ireland opened the contest with two converted tries in the first 28 minutes, opening up a 14-5 lead at half-time before adding two more tries in the run home.

Ireland's victory also put them in with a chance of winning the Championship, though they were relying on England to defeat France in Saturday's final game – a result that did not materialise as Les Bleus completed the Grand Slam with a 25-13 victory in Paris.

Gibson-Park was thrilled with the result in front of Ireland's adoring fans in Dublin.

"It's unbelievable, what a feeling to be back at home and back in front of our home fans and families," he said after helping Ireland claim their biggest Six Nations win over Scotland since 2015.

"What a moment to savour, back in front of our home fans and our families. We're chuffed man. We'll have a good night."

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  • Euro 2024 tops and flops: Yamal sparkles, France frustrated and Ronaldo fluffs his lines Euro 2024 tops and flops: Yamal sparkles, France frustrated and Ronaldo fluffs his lines

    Spain are Euro 2024 champions.

    La Roja got the job done on Sunday in Berlin, with Mikel Oyarzabal's late effort seeing off England in a 2-1 victory.

    But with the tournament now done and dusted, which teams and players really stood out and, conversely, which ones disappointed?

    Here, with the help of Opta data, we take a look.

    THE TOPS

    Spain

    An obvious one, but where else to start but with the champions? La Roja crashed out of the 2022 World Cup, losing to Morocco on penalties, but what Luis de la Fuente has done since replacing Luis Enrique is outstanding.

    While Luis Enrique had a possession obsession. De la Fuente has added a direct aspect to that possession-based build-up. Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal (more on him to come) were fantastic, while Rodri and Fabian Ruiz dovetailed brilliantly in midfield.

    Dani Olmo surely put himself into the shop window for Europe's elite with some superb individual displays, first from the bench and then as a starter. He shared the Golden Boot, scoring three goals.

    In defence, Marc Cucurella was picked ahead of Bayer Leverkusen's excellent Alejandro Grimaldo, but more than repaid De la Fuente's faith with some tenacious performances, while he then teed up Oyazarbal's winner in the final.

     

    Spain were simply the best team at this tournament, winning all seven of their matches without needing penalties.

    Since the 2002 Champions League final, Spanish teams and the Spanish national team have played in 23 major finals (Champions League, UEFA Cup, Europa League, World Cup, European Championship) against non-Spanish teams and won the trophy on all 23 occasions.

    La Roja are now the first team to win the Euros on four occasions, too. Vamos!

    Lamine Yamal 

    A special word for Williams, who became the second-youngest player to score in a Euros final, but Yamal was the star of the show.

    Having turned 17 on Saturday, Yamal is now the youngest player to appear in a Euros or World Cup final, surpassing Pele's record from 1958.

    The Barcelona winger curled in a sensational equaliser against France in the last four to become the youngest player to score at the Euros, while he also supplied four assists throughout the tournament.

    He is the first Spain player to register four assists in a single European Championship. It is also the joint most any player has ever assisted at a Euros that Opta has on record (from 1980 onwards).

    This kid is special.

    Niclas Fullkrug

    Julian Nagelsmann's free-flowing, attacking football caught the eye as the host nation impressed, and German football looks to have a bright future following a few years in the wilderness. But for all the flair of youngsters Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz, and the neat and tidy build-up play, Germany were arguably more potent when they had a classic number nine on the pitch.

    Fullkrug was that man, coming on from the bench to score twice, including a last-gasp equaliser against Switzerland in the group stage that ultimately landed Germany in the tougher half of the draw, while he also went agonisingly close to sending the tie against Spain to penalties.

    Fresh from helping Borussia Dortmund to the Champions League final, Fullkrug has now scored seven goals under Nagelsmann for Germany, more than any other player.

    The main debate is probably whether he should be leading the line from the off, rather than having to settle for a super-sub role, given that of any player to score at least twice at the tournament, Fullkrug had the best minutes per goal ratio (80.5).

    Giorgi Mamardashvili

    Mamardashvili actually conceded more goals at Euro 2024 than any other goalkeeper (eight), but it is worth noting that four of those came in the last 16 against Spain.

    And Georgia's shot-stopper deserves his place on this list of the standout performers.

    After a fantastic season in LaLiga with Valencia, Mamardashvili finished as the goalkeeper with the most goals prevented (4.67) based on Opta's expected goals on target (xGoT) conceded model.

    Mamardashvili made 30 saves in total, with a save percentage of 78.95%. Could he now be in for a big move ahead of next season?

     

    Turkiye

    It came three years later than many expected, but Turkiye - supposedly dark horses at Euro 2020 - finally impressed this time around.

    Vincenzo Montella gave youth a chance in Germany, where Turkiye were buoyed by their fanatical support, giving six starts to teenagers – three for Kenan Yildiz and three for Arda Guler – a joint-record in a single edition of the finals, along with Spain at Euro 2020.

    Guler was a standout performer. He became one of only three teenagers to both score and assist a goal at a single Euros, after Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo (both at Euro 2004).

    The Real Madrid youngster provided his second assist as Turkiye came unstuck against the Dutch in the quarters; there had been just two occasions on record (since 1968) of a teenager providing multiple assists at a single tournament in each of the 14 previous editions combined (Enzo Scifo 1984, Ronaldo 2004).

    Ultimately, the Netherlands had too much for Turkiye, but their last-16 defeat of Austria and Montella's front-foot approach saw them win admirers, and make up somewhat for losing all of their matches at Euro 2020.

    THE FLOPS

    France

    Didier Deschamps is the most successful French coach in terms of wins - indeed, Les Bleus' victory over Austria on matchday one meant he brought up a century of victories.

    But it is fair to say France, World Cup runners-up in 2022, did not impress in Germany. Indeed, it was not until the semi-finals that one of their players even managed to score a goal from open play, with their strikes before then having come via two own goals and a Kylian Mbappe penalty.

    Mbappe did break his Euros duck with that successfully converted spot-kick against Poland, but the broken nose he suffered in the opening game seemed to knock France's focus, and they never got back on track.

    And their 2-1 loss to Spain in that thrilling semi-final showed that a team cannot just bundle its way through a tournament without playing well; eventually, it will catch up with you.

    The pre-tournament favourites could point to some bad fortune, as they did record the fourth-highest non-penalty xG figure of any team at Euro 2024 (8.38), but Deschamps' team looked short of ideas at times, with Antoine Griezmann also struggling to wield his usual influence.

     

    Italy

    The holders were hardly well fancied ahead of Euro 2024, but it really was a forgettable attempt at defending their title from Italy. The Azzurri fell behind to the earliest goal in Euros history, after just 23 seconds, in their opening match against Albania, and while they came back to win that match, it was the only triumph they managed.

    Indeed, Italy were heading out until Mattia Zaccagni curled home in the 97th minute against Croatia, sealing a point that sent them through, but they had been comfortably beaten by Spain and subsequently capitulated without much of a fight against Switzerland in the last 16.

    Luciano Spalletti only took over in September 2023 after Roberto Mancini's sudden departure, but there's plenty of work for the former Napoli boss to do.

    Cristiano Ronaldo

    The Euros' record goalscorer could not add to his tally, not that it was down to a lack of trying. Indeed, Ronaldo had 23 shots without scoring at Euro 2024, with only another Portuguese great, Deco, having more attempts without registering at least one goal in a single edition of the Euros (24 at Euro 2004).

     

    This was surely Ronaldo's final Euros. He has played at six of them, becoming the only player to do so, but it is time to bow out.

    Portugal flattered to deceive the whole way through, one emphatic win over Turkiye aside, and never got back on track after losing 2-0 to Georgia at the end of the group stage. Roberto Martinez's team staggered past Slovenia on penalties, before ultimately losing by the same method to France.

    Now, it should be time for Ronaldo, who was the biggest expected goals underperformer at the tournament, failing to score from 3.6 xG, to pass the baton over to the next generation. But will he want one more shot at the World Cup?

    Harry Kane

    Unlike Ronaldo, Kane did score. Indeed, the England captain ended up sharing the Golden Boot, as one of six players with three goals to his name.

    However, that does not wholly tell the story of what was a frustrating tournament for the 30-year-old.

    Kane was taken off 60 minutes into the final, having also gone off in the semi-final and quarter-final when England were level.

    Across his seven appearances, he had just 27 touches in the opposition box (3.8 per game). Indeed, a startling statistic for England fans is that, across the last two Euros finals, Kane had just one touch in the opponents' area.

    Scotland

    Going up against the hosts in the opening game was never going to be easy, but that 5-1 hammering in Munich set the tone for a dismal tournament for Scotland.

    Steve Clarke's team had peaked in qualifying, and though an admirable performance in a 1-1 draw with Switzerland gave them some hope, they came unstuck at the death against Hungary.

    They exited the competition having had just 17 shots, nine fewer than any other team, and mustering an xG of just 0.95, the lowest figure in the competition.

    Romelu Lukaku

    It was another tournament to forget for Belgium, and one has to wonder why Domenico Tedesco's team were so lacklustre against Ukraine in their final group game, when a win could have ensured they would fall into the easier half of the draw (albeit they would have faced the Netherlands, rather than France, in the last 16).

    But matters might have been different had Lukaku had his shooting boots on, too.

    It is quite extraordinary that Lukaku did not manage to find the net. VAR was the bane of his existence in Belgium's shock loss to Slovakia.

    Based on his xG (1.7), Lukaku should have netted at least once, probably twice, but instead, he headed home without a goal to his name.

  • Argentina 1-0 Colombia (aet): Lautaro Martinez's extra-time strike seals Copa America crown Argentina 1-0 Colombia (aet): Lautaro Martinez's extra-time strike seals Copa America crown

    Lautaro Martinez struck an extra-time winner as Argentina edged out Colombia 1-0 to win their second successive Copa America title, despite losing Lionel Messi to injury.

    The Inter forward climbed off the bench to break Los Cafeteros' hearts in the 112th minute in Miami, where kick-off had been delayed for 82 minutes due to crowd disruption outside the stadium. 

    La Albiceleste headed into extra time without Messi, who left the field in tears in the 66th minute after sustaining an ankle injury.

    Nevertheless, Lautaro Martinez stepped up in his skipper's absence, slotting past Colombia goalkeeper Camilo Vargas to deliver his nation's record-breaking 16th Copa triumph.

    Both sides demonstrated their attacking intent early on. Julian Alvarez fired wide inside the opening 60 seconds, while Jhon Cordoba's volley clipped the outside of the post six minutes later.

    Emiliano Martinez held onto a Carlos Cuesta header and, at the other end, Alvaraz inadvertently took the sting out of Lionel Messi's goalbound effort on 20 minutes.

    As the final remained in the balance, Jefferson Lerma fired narrowly wide from distance, while Nicolas Tagliafico headed over from a Messi free-kick just before the break.

    Colombia created the better opportunities in the early stages of the second half. Santiago Arias drilled wide and Davinson Sanchez headed over from a James Rodriguez corner.

    At the other end, Camilo Vargas pushed away Angel Di Maria's effort from a tight angle, before a distraught Messi was forced off injured as the game headed into the final quarter.

    Messi's replacement Nicolas Gonzalez thought he had broken the deadlock in the 75th minute, but Argentina were denied by the offside flag as the game headed for extra time.

    Gonzalez went close again five minutes into the first period, with Vargas scrambling across to thwart him on the line.

    A penalty shootout loomed but, with eight minutes remaining, two Argentina substitutes combined with Giovani Lo Celso feeding Lautaro Martinez, whose composed finish snatched the Copa from under Colombia's noses.

    Super sub Lautaro seals Argentina's successful title defence

    Having scored from the bench in Argentina's opening two Group A games against Canada and Chile, Lautaro Martinez chose an ideal moment to complete a hat-trick of such strikes in this tournament.

    Combining with fellow substitute Lo Celso, the Inter forward netted his fifth goal in the United States to secure the Golden Boot award.

    La Albiceleste needed a hero after Messi limped off on a bittersweet night for the skipper.

    The first player to feature in five Copa America finals, at 37 years and 20 days, he was also the oldest player to start one in the 21st century.

    However, there was to be no match-winning contribution this time in a tournament at which he has been plagued by niggling injuries.

    Messi's international future is uncertain but team-mates Di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi - both of whom donned the captain's armband following his withdrawal - sign off with another major international honour under their belts.

    Courageous Colombia come up short

    While Argentina captured their 16th Copa, Colombia were seeking just the second in their history.

    Los Cafeteros claimed their sole triumph on home soil in 2001, notably recording three successive clean sheets in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

    It looked like Nestor Lorenzo's current crop of players could follow suit 23 years later, as they more than held their own with the reigning Copa and world champions.

    But La Albiceleste - the last team to beat them before they embarked on their record-breaking 28-match unbeaten run - proved their nemesis once more, with Lautaro Martinez's strike breaking that streak, and breaking their hearts.

  • Euro 2024 Data Dive: Perfect Spain clinch record-breaking fourth title Euro 2024 Data Dive: Perfect Spain clinch record-breaking fourth title

    It was more European Championship heartbreak for England on Sunday as Mikal Oyarzabal stepped off the bench to fire Spain to a 2-1 victory in the final.

    The Three Lions were eyeing another rescue act when substitute Cole Palmer cancelled out Nico Williams' opener, but La Roja came on strong in the dying moments and Oyarzabal turned home Marc Cucurella's pinpoint cross with four minutes left.

    While Spain lifted the trophy for a record-breaking fourth time, moving clear of Germany for the most titles won, it's back to the drawing board for England.

    Here, we run through the best Opta stats to emerge from the showpiece game in Berlin.

    Spain 2-1 England: No redemption for Three Lions as Yamal and Williams star

    England made an unwanted piece of history with Sunday's defeat as they became the first team in history to lose back-to-back European Championship finals.

    Gareth Southgate, meanwhile, became the first manager to oversee two final defeats in the competition.

    The Three Lions made a solid start as both teams struggled to carve out chances in the opening period, but they fell behind just 69 seconds into the second half, Williams pouncing on Yamal's pass to finish across Jordan Pickford.

    Williams' strike is the earliest in the second half of any Euros final, and at the age of 22 years and two days, he became the second-youngest player to score in the tournament's showpiece, behind only Pietro Anastasi in 1968 for Italy (20 years, 64 days).

    Yamal, meanwhile, became the first Spain player to register four assists at a single European Championship tournament.

    It is also the joint-most any player has ever assisted at a single edition of the competition since Opta records began in 1980. 

    England have now conceded the first goal in eight of their last 12 matches in all competitions and have done so in four matches in a row for the first time since 1985.

    However, the Three Lions were dragged back into the contest by Palmer, who side-footed into the bottom-left corner after receiving Jude Bellingham's lay-off just 142 seconds after coming on, England's fastest goal by a substitute at the Euros and the second-fastest by any substitute in a Euros final, behind Juan Mata in 2012 for Spain (100 seconds).

    Bellingham's assist came on his 15th appearance at a major international tournament. At the age of 21 years and 15 days, he is the youngest player in the history of the Euros and World Cup to make 15 appearances across the competitions. 

    The second-youngest player to achieve that feat is Bukayo Saka, who also made his 15th appearance in this match (22 years, 313 days).

    However, England then relinquished control of the game and fell behind again as Oyarzabal turned Cucurella's low delivery home. Oyarzabal has now scored 12 goals for Spain and nine of them have come as a substitute, including his last five in a row. 

    He is the fourth substitute to score the winner in a European Championship final, after Oliver Bierhoff for Germany in 1996, David Trezeguet for France in 2000 and Eder for Portugal in 2016.

    England were unable to respond in the dying moments as Spain made it seven wins from as many matches at Euro 2024.

    They are the first European nation to win seven matches at a major international tournament (Euros/World Cup) and just the second overall, along with Brazil at the 2002 World Cup. 

    La Roja scored 15 goals at Euro 2024, the most by any nation at a single tournament in the history of the Euros.

    England's wait to follow up their 1966 World Cup triumph, meanwhile, drags on.

    This was their 45th match at the Euros, 19 more than any other nation has played without lifting the trophy (Belgium are second with 26).

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