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Before the tournament had started it was uncertain who would be the Republic of Ireland’s number one goalkeeper.
West Ham's Darren Randolph or Eire’s record international cap holder, the veteran Shay Given of Stoke City?
Randolph was given the nod and went on to start in all three of Eire’s group matches and their round of 16 knockout decider.
After the first two of Eire’s group games, a draw with Sweden and a 3-0 defeat to Belgium, they met Angelo Ogbonna's Italy in their final group game.
Their prospects of qualifying for the knockout stages was not looking good. Eire's performance of the tournament saw them beat Italy with an 85th minute goal to line up a round of 16 tie against France and club mate Dimitri Payet in Lyons.
Despite taking the lead with a 2nd minute penalty, an Antoine Griezmann double helped the French and Payet through to the next round. Eire will take heart from their performances and have the 2018 World Cup final stages in their sights.
WEST HAM UNITED AT EURO 2016
The 2016 European Football Championships may have proved to be a major disappointment for England but for a quartet of West Ham United players there was plenty of excitement. As England flew home after failure at the first knockout stage to the minnows of Iceland, the claret and blue quartet all enjoyed a more rewarding tournament.
The four Hammers representing their respective country were: Dimitri Payet (France), James Collins (Wales), Darren Randolph (Eire) and Angelo Ogbonna (Italy). Each will remember the French Euros with mixed emotions. Dimitri Payet’s France may have reached the final but he and his team mates will have been disappointed to lose to Portugal. On the other hand James Collins’ Wales far exceeded expectations by reaching the semi-finals. And for goalkeeper Darren Randolph, being a member of the Republic of Ireland side which beat Italy will be the highlight of his international career to date.
With the 2016 Euros over, the West Ham United quartet’s international focus will now switch to the qualifying stages of the 2018 World Cup. A summary of the how this claret and blue quartet fared in France is as follows.
Dimitri Payet – France
Payet’s performances in France’s group games put him in line for “man of the tournament”. Playing in the tournament’s opening fixture on Friday June 10, the diminutive Hammers' striker grabbed all of the post match headlines including front page coverage of the French daily sport’s paper, L’Equipe.
As France was heading for a 1-1 draw with Romania, Payet saved Les Blues blushes by curving a left-foot shot into the top corner of the Romanian goal in the 89th minute.
The French number 8 was their outstanding player, he created all of Oliver Giroud’s chances including the one the Arsenal man scored from and then won the game with a magnificent swish of his left boot (Daily Telegraph June 11, 2016).
A success in Didier Deaschamps Les Blues side, Payet retained his place for the knockout stages. In the round of 16 tie the now odds on favourites France faced the Republic of Ireland. Payet versus his goalkeeping club mate, Darren Randolph, for West Ham fans it was a tough decision, who do you support?
It was to be Payet's afternoon, a 2-1 win courtesy of a Griezmann double took France into the quarter-finals to meet England’s conqueror’s, Iceland. While England lost 2-1 to rank outsiders Iceland, there were no such problems for France as they cruised to a 5-2 victory, with Payet scoring the fourth in the 43rd minute. In the semi-final France overcame Germany 2-0 to reach the final.
On Sunday July 10, 2016 the whole of East London were tuned in to the final at the Stade De France and hoping for a French victory. It was not to be, Payet was taken off after 58 minutes with the score at 0-0, which it remained after 90 minutes. Extra-time, and Portugal scored the game’s only goal after 109 minutes play to become European champions.
Dimitri Payet, the first West Ham United player to play in a major* European or World Cup tournament final since 1966, had to settle for a runners-up medal.
Angelo Ogbonna – Italy
West Ham’s Italian central defender was signed from UEFA Champions League runners-up Juventus in the summer of 2015. The powerful defender was a member of the Italian 23-man squad for Euro 2012 which were hosted jointly by Poland and Ukraine.
The 6ft 3in Torino defender was unable to stake a claim in the strong Italian starting XI which reached the 2012 final against Spain at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. The Spaniards winning by four goals to nil to clinced their third tournament title in 58 years.
The West Ham defender went one better this time, winning his 12th international cap in the Euro 2016 tournament in France. His sole appearance came in the 'Group E' fixture against the Republic of Ireland at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille.
Italian defender Angelo Ogbonna and Ireland's Shane Long vie for the ball during the Euro 2016 group E match
However it was his fellow club team-mate, West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph who claimed the bragging rights that day as the Republic of Ireland side defeated the Italians 1-0 on Wednesday June, 22.
Ogbonna's Italy progressed to the quarter-final stage before being eliminated by Germany.
James Collins – Wales
Just as the 2016 Euros are consigned to history, the qualifying group games for the 2018 World Cup are about to commence.
All four 2016 Euro Hammers will be waiting for their next international call-up papers.
Welsh supporters will be talking about the 2016 Euros for decades to come as The Dragons proved to be one of the tournament’s surprise teams. And a West Ham player contributed to their unexpected success in reaching the tournament’s semi-final.
Centre back James Collins had been a mainstay at the heart of the Welsh defence for over ten years but started the Euro tournament on the subs bench. 'Ginger Pele' was called into action in the 90th minute in Wales 3-0 quarter-final win over Belgium.
With another centre back suspended, Collins was selected for Wales’ starting line-up in their semi-final against Portugal.
This was the first time West Ham United have had two representatives at the semi-final stage in a Euro tournament since Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters contested a third / fourth play-off with the Soviet Union at Euro '68.
Darren Randolph – Republic of Ireland
Unfortunately for Collins and his Welsh team mates, Christian Ronaldo rose to the occasion to end their dream. The Real Madrid forward scored the first goal in the 50th minute as Portugal triumphed 2-0.
For Wales it had been a memorable tournament which hopefully will boost their hopes in the forthcoming 2018 World Cup qualifying games.
Christian Ronaldo breaks Welsh hearts with Portugal's first goal outjumping the Wales defence including No.19 James Collins”
Dimitri Payet shows his emotions as he leaves the field against Romania
Republic of Ireland
A teary Randolph is consoled by West Ham team-mate Dimitri Payet
“We were not all inferior in a match we lost in the 89th minute”
“Defeated by a genius”
“Perfect until Payet’s shot”
Main headlines of the Romanian daily sports newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor
Five days later the French faced Albania in their second group game in Marseille. Once again the tournament’s favourites left it very late to clinch the game. Just as the game was heading for a goalless draw, France scored in the 90th minute and again six minutes into added time, the first from Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann and the second from Dimitri Payet.
The Daily Telegraph described the West Ham man’s contribution:
"And finally, as if to show his strikers how it should be done, the brilliant Payet provided gloss on the scoreline. This time courtesy of his right foot".
Payet nearly made it a hat-trick of nets in France's last group game when he unleashed a long range effort which rebounded from Switzerland’s crossbar to leave the final score at 0-0.
Final Table in Group A
"King Of Suspense"
Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters - 1966 World Cup Final (England) v. West Germany
Marc Rieper for Denmark - 1995 King Fahd Trophy Tournament (Saudi Arabia) v. Argentina 0-2
Stan Lazaridis for Australia - 1997 Final FIFA Confederations Cup (Saudi Arabia) v. Brazil 0-6
Craig Forrest for Canada - 2000 Final CONCACAF Gold Cup (USA) v. Columbia 2-0
Marc-Vivien Foe for Cameroon - 2000 African Cup of Nations (Ghana/Nigeria) v. Nigeria (4-3 pens)
Rigobert Song for Cameroon - 2002 African Nations Cup (Sikasso) v. Senegal (3-2 pens)
Carlos Tevez for Argentina - 2007 Copa America (Venezuela) v. Brazil 0-3
Jonathan Spector for USA - 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup (USA) v. Mexico 2-1
Jonathan Spector for USA - 2009 FIFA Confederation Cup (South Africa) v. Brazil 2-3
Pablo Barrera for Mexico - 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup (USA) v. USA 4-2
From a tiny island to the Premier League
Payet’s long journey to the top
For the Record:
West Ham United players represented in International Cup Finals
We’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet
Newspaper clips: L'EQUIPE and Daily Telegraph. Payet and Randolph photo Reuters