Portugal are European Champions for the first time in their history after defeating France 1-0 after extra-time. In a drab affair, former Swansea City flop Eder scored what would prove to be the only goal of the game after showing great control, strength and then a powerful shot from outside of the box.
Twelve years earlier the roles were reversed. Portugal were much fancied to win the 2004 tournament on home soil, and boasted the likes of Figo, Rui Costa, a young Cristiano Ronaldo and several members of José Mourinho’s Champions League winning Porto side. Greece, 80-1 outsiders, weren’t easy on the eye but won the final by beating the hosts 1-0 in the final. Here, Portugal were much shorter than 80-1, yet few tipped them to upset the hosts and favourites France.
Overall it was a successful tournament. Apart from the early clashes between English and Russian “fans” there was little evidence of further clashes between rival supporters. The refereeing was brilliant on the whole, as the officials generally let the games flow. Thankfully, the predicted terrorist attacks never came!
The games were largely enjoyable, despite the expanded format. There were the odd games that flattered to deceive, but that has also been the case when we’ve had a format involving 16 teams. There is no magic answer. I, for one, will miss coming home after work every night with a game or two to enjoy.
Team of the Tournament
Can you look any further than the eventual champions Portugal? They were far from vintage to watch, and unlike previous Portuguese sides boast few household names. They only actually managed to win one of their seven games in the tournament (within 90 minutes) but they did what you have to do in a format such as this: they somehow found a way to get past their opponents. It was rarely exciting or pretty, but their name is now etched on the trophy. In the final, Portugal had the chance to show that they were a team after walking ego and captain Ronaldo went off injured. The Portuguese actually looked to be a more cohesive unit without him, perhaps freed from the shackles of his tantrums. Although he did manage to hobble around the technical area during the last few minutes, imagining that he was already the manager of his national team.
Ricardo Quaresma, a man largely famous for unfilled potential, questionable tattoos and daft haircuts, was a vital member of the squad despite not starting many games. He came off the bench several times to great effect, chipping in with goals, assists, and stretching the play in the closing stages of games. Renato Sanches, Bayern Munich’s new signing, started on the bench but grew into the tournament demonstrating the power and potential that convinced the German champions to part with a considerable amount to sign him. He was later named as the young player of the tournament. Goalkeeper Rui Patricio was tremendous, and dealt with the pressure of playing in goal for a team scoring few goals, and was superb in the final. Even Pepe managed to play well whilst simultaneously staying out of trouble and even Nani managed to string together a run of decent performances, not displaying the inconsistency that has plagued his career.
Story of the Tournament
If the world is getting smaller thanks to instant communication via social media, and cheaper flights allowing us to see distant corners of the globe, then surely the gulf at the international level football is decreasing with each tournament. Iceland and Wales will take the plaudits for competing with countries with much larger populations and footballing traditions. An honourable mention must also go to Northern Ireland, who punched well above their weight in qualifying from their group at the expense of Ukraine. It just goes to show that planning, hard work and togetherness can make a huge difference when you have a limited pool of players to select from.
Player of the Tournament
Despite not finishing on the winning team, and perhaps missing a chance in the final that could have won his country the tournament, France forward Antoine Griezmann of Atlético Madrid was the shining light, scoring six goals, twice as many as the second highest leading scorer. Despite being partnered by Olivier Giroud and playing in a team managed by Didier Deschamps, Griezmann constantly sparkled for France, providing them with an outlet in the final third thanks to his intelligent movement and close control. His chipped goal against the outgunned Icelanders was the pick of the bunch.
Goal of the tournament
In one of the drabbest games of the tournament, man-of-the-match Xherdan Shaqiri produced a stunning goal for Switzerland against Poland in the round of 16. It wasn’t to be enough, and Poland progressed on penalties. However, Shaqiri produced a moment that will be forever shown on highlight reels. As the ball popped up on the edge of the box Shaqiri acrobatically launched himself at the ball, and with a stunning overhead kick beat Fabianski in goal and brought his country back into the game.
Game of the Tournament
In the group stage, Hungary and Portugal shared six goals which was my pick for the game of the tournament due to its relentlessness. The Hungarians, who surprised us all by winning Group F, took the lead through former Premier League player Zoltan Gera. Nani equalised before the break but it was the second half when the game really kicked into life with four goals in 15 minutes. Hungary took the lead again before Ronaldo equalised within three minutes. The Hungarians made it 3-2 but Ronaldo scored his second of the game to level the tie at 3-3.
Deja-vu Moment of the Tournament
England fans fighting and then being dumped out of the tournament early? Could be any number of years in recent history. Hodgson quit immediately after the game with a coincidentally well written resignation note. The FA show an alarming lack of planning and despite having these “inquests” after each failure, don’t seem any closer to finding the answer 50 years after winning the World Cup which represents Englands one and only international triumph. The usual ridiculous suggestions, mainly B Teams, winter breaks, and too many foreign players, are trotted out but will anything change? Who knows, who cares.