Arsenal duo Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud have finally concluded their footballing season, albeit in devastating fashion after Portugal broke France’s hearts in Paris on Sunday night in the Euro 2016 finale. Heralded as the favourites, France failed to capitalise on their domination in possession and lost 1-0 in extra time.
Both Gunners started and were heavily involved during periods of the game. Koscielny looked strong, assertive and timed his tackles well. Giroud had little to work with but did his best to hold the ball up and bring others into the game when possible. Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko was arguably the best player for France, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s early substitution after a collision with Dimitri Payet kept the home crowd cheering.
The big name stars never really shined in the fixture, Antoine Griezmann notably struggled to extend his decent total of six goals despite several presentable opportunities you’d expect the Atletico Madrid forward to bury. He did claim the Golden Boot regardless, while Paul Pogba failed to stamp his authority on the game.
From an Arsenal perspective, Olivier Giroud found himself in one especially promising position and drew a fine save from Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio around the 75 minute mark, but despite some good holdup play generally, he was later replaced by Andre-Pierre Gignac. An odd decision considering Gignac’s poor performances during the championship, however it almost paid dividends as he came the closest with a swivel and miscued shot that battered the post.
Extra-time beckoned and the winner came from the most unlikely source of Eder. Koscielny will feel he should have done better for failing to deal with the strength of the Portuguese forward. But you could argue Mark Clattenburg can be partially blamed. Minutes before the goal, the referee penalised Koscielny for a handball – with it a yellow card and a free kick in a very dangerous position. Replays showed it clearly came off the hand of the eventual match winner Eder, the Arsenal defender’s protests were in vain as he received a harsh caution.
Even though the resulting free kick hammered the crossbar, the damage was done as Koscielny had no choice but to stay on his feet when Eder later burst through the centre of the park. He left the Frenchman no chance to cynically foul otherwise a red card loomed. In hindsight he should’ve ‘taken one for the team’. But this certainly shouldn’t take away the fact it was an absolute peach of a shot from an unlikely source. Well worthy of winning a European Championship final.
Both Giroud and Koscielny will find this loss particularly difficult to swallow. On home soil and considering their age, Euro 2016 was there for the taking and they may never have this opportunity again.
They can however take positives from their performances throughout the tournament. Excellent against Germany in the semi-final, Giroud and Koscielny will return to Arsenal later than most senior players but with a stronger burning desire for success.