Euro 16 – When It Matters Most – Initial Thoughts 

The European Championship has come to a close following last night’s victory by the Portuguese over the French. Here are my initial thoughts. 

  • Though some have complained that it’s been boring, I don’t agree, especially comparing it to other international tournaments in the last 30 years. It won’t go down as the best or most memorable international tournament, but it was an average one. 
  • The format for this tournament overall was good … if you like to see minnows reach the knock out stages. Personally I think it drags out the tournament unnecessarily and does not promote exciting attacking football. 
  • It’s strange to view a tournament where there are no stand out individuals. There were some who did well for themselves especially like Payet in the first part of the tournament, but overall no individual made this his tournament. Indeed most of the bigger players were underwhelming – that includes Bale who did well with the occasional set-piece, but didn’t take the tournament by the scruff of the neck as a player of his calibre could have. 
  • While no individual particularly made it his tournament, the focus of the team came to the fore. Some really solid team formations and displays decorated affairs. Iceland, Wales, Italy and in the final Portugal were great examples of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. That did not always make for ‘exciting’ football as those conditioned on the Premier League would observe, but it made for good viewing if your football tastes are a lot more European. 
  • Italy had a very good tournament despite getting knocked out by Germany. Especially in the light of what was expected of them. Their pacing through the tournament was exemplary. Their game management was exemplary. It was disciplined, tight, functioning properly and great to watch. 
  • A number of teams can be very disappointed with their performance in the tournament. The level of disappointment is fair considering the talent and quality available. As Italy knew how to make good use of their resources to manage a tournament well, these teams were poor in the use of their resources in capitulating at the earlier stages. 
  • The level of refereeing overall was good. The point of the guys on the goal-line remains questionable, but the officiating otherwise was fine. 
  • Portugal winning the tournament is a bit odd, but highlights the way you play tournament football. It’s not about playing the best football, it’s about doing what matters most at the key stages. In the final, as it turned out, losing Ronaldo to injury worked in their favour. They were solid defensively, the pressure was off them, they had a very positive and eager outlet in Nani. The winning goal was worthy of winning a game of football, scored at the right time of the game and thus deserving of winning the game. 
  • Meanwhile the hosts have only themselves to blame. All their major opponents had been eliminated, Portugal should hardly have posed a greater threat. Yet when it mattered most they were left wanting. Their key men in Pogba and Griezman did not produce good performances. Their  game lacked dynamism and they left it too late to make the necessary changes. It’s a big missed opportunity too, because they really made the most of the home support up to that game, but it goes to show that in tournament football it’s what you do when it matters most that makes all the difference.
  • One good thing that should also come out of this tournament is that with the possible exception of a player or two, this tournament will not lead to a rush of clubs splurging on players on the basis of their performances at this tournament. Hopefully clubs will have the sense to see that it was the team as a unit that impressed. To get the same outcome would require clubs to have managers who can create systems to fit those players – that will not always be the case. Thus clubs will be far more sensible in their transfer dealings this summer … Who am I kidding, right? 

There is a nation I have not mentioned by name in this blog – that is deliberate. I will deal with England soon! Meanwhile I am grateful for the Euros this year. I enjoyed it more than I did four years ago. The anthems were a source of enjoyment. I felt the BBC edged it in terms of television presentation, though Slaven Bilic is a hero of punditry following his ITV appearances. 

The Euros are good as well, because they are football in what would otherwise be an arid wilderness bereft of the game I love. With August thankfully being just round the corner, it won’t be long before the season starts and there is a lot to be fascinated about for what we are about to receive. 


C. L. J. Dryden 


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