It does not surprise me that the excitement surrounding Euro 2016 died down barely 12 hours after a rather dull final, despite the dramatic win for the Portuguese. Congratulations Portugal for a well deserved win, you indeed played as a team probably owing to the Madrista’s early exit. Also a great goal from the most unlikely hero Éderzito António Macedo Lopes, or simply Eder, to cap a rather long and largely flat tournament. It was rather interesting to learn that Eder was transformed from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan by his wonder strike.
Ugly aside, my take on the month long tournament is not a positive one I must admit save for a couple of great games and a couple of great goals – Xherdan Shaqiri’s and Robson-Kanu’s goals being my picks for the tournament. Dimitri Payet’s winning strike in the opening match was also good but something we were rather used to for those who follow any of the domestic leagues.I guess for the remainder of the tournament we kept waiting for him to come up with another masterclass, but it was not to be.
For me that was about it for goals, which was disappointing. With 8 extra matches compared to the last finals we definitely expected much more action in front of goal. Perhaps the closest we came to that was watching Italy and Germany squander penalty after penalty in one of the best matches of the tournament.
Away from the goals, the tournament also lacked standout individual performances. I am not sure how easy it was for the technical panel to select the best player, but when I asked my mates over lunch, I was met with a moment of silence followed by a rather sarcastic “how about the least worst” performer. I would not say it was that bad and for sure Antoine Griezmann came out top, deservedly so, picking the golden boot along the way. Payet started the tournament promisingly but was transparent in the latter stages of the tournament. Gareth Bale would have been a sure bet had Wales gotten to the final. Personally, I was impressed by Ivan Perišić. I think he did very well for Croatia, my adopted team for the tournament, who were unlucky to bow out at the first knock out stage.
The amazing story that was Iceland, first-timers at the finals going all the way to the quarter finals knocking out the “mighty” England along the way. There’s could have been a fairy tale to many but behind the scenes I believe the Icelanders knew they were capable. Fifteen years of development work that culminated in closely missing out on the 2014 World Cup but finally capped by qualifying for the Euro 2016 at the expense of one of the tournaments regular favorites, Holland -it must be said that we missed the Orange army at this year’s finals.
Wales also produced a good show and if they had reached the final I would tip Gareth Bale to scoop the player of the tournament award ahead of Antoine Griezmann. Aaron Ramsey would have definitely been in the tournament’s best 11. Ramsey please carry your form into the new season. You are like a new signing for Arsenal Wenger.
The disciplined and tactical play demonstrated by the Italians was also a joy to watch. With no special talent in their ranks the Italians were one of the most entertaining teams at the tournament especially from a technical perspective. The Croatians showed great promise and flare but unfortunately went out rather sadly to a less than impressive Portugal. At that stage of the tournament the Portuguese had done nothing much apart from some good defending. They actually went through the group stages without winning a single match, benefiting from the newly introduced “best losers” who made it to the second round. An injustice to football and the tournament in my opinion.
It was interesting to note that no team in the tournament looked particularly weak. This I would attribute to the amount of work that UEFA has done towards development of the sport across the continent, especially focusing on coach education and development at the grassroots level. Exchange programmes are also a key aspect of UEFA’s development programme when it comes to coach education. This allows for smaller countries to develop the required capacities to compete at the highest levels. All 24 teams at the EURO 2016 looked technically sound perhaps taking away from the entertainment that comes with unpredictability and spontaneity, that we have been accustomed to in international tournaments.At this point I am wondering what projects the Confederation of African Football (CAF) (and other continental bodies) have for the development of football in the continent as a whole. Area for investigation…
A less than amazing story, I would say. Not surprising for those who follow the country that prides itself as the inventor of the beautiful game. Well in my other life I have come to learn that inventors rarely if ever benefit from their inventions. That could be said for England who have not won a major trophy since their famous 1966 triumph in their back yard. Reasons are many and varied but I would say a lack of innovation in the development of the game especially with regard to talent development – a failure to adapt to the current environment. Former Swiss and Liverpool international Stephane Henchoz correctly pointed out the gaps in England talent development, including lack of international exposure; concentrating on the physical aspects of the game whereas the rest move towards technical and tactical aspects of the game; and the shortage of trained coaches at the youth level – for a long time the English assumed that good players automatically made good coaches.*
Outside of the football the English and the Russian fans showed us the ugly side, hooliganism. It is intriguing when you delve into the history of football and realize that hooliganism has always been part and parcel of the game. Though stringent measures have been taken to curb the vice, it still persists throughout the globe. That one incident however, cannot take away the good organisation behind the tournament which went on without a hitch. At the back of the Bataclan attacks I am sure it was not an easy task to put together an event of that magnitude and ensure the safety and security of everyone involved. Kudos to the French!
That said, I look forward to the 2020 edition of the UEFA European championship to be held in 13 cities across Europe to mark the 60th anniversary of the tournament. My take on matters football.
*Le Temps article in French: https://www.letemps.ch/sport/2016/06/28/formation-point-faible-angleterre