Well, it’s over and here we are. Again.
England, not for the first time, represented a sullen schoolboy who missed the opportunity to get the girl of his dreams phone number. Even when she was writing it on her arm and shouting “CALL ME, YEAH?” at high volume.
That’s pretty much how it feels. All the chances to score against Russia. The missed chance to beat a woeful Slovakia team and the opportunity to beat the lowest ranked team in the tournament… well, you all know the rest.
So, after 51 games, how was it? Answer – not one for the neutrals. There were more games level, without a score at half-time, than any other Euros. As a result of the expanded schedule it played in to the hands of the more defensive-minded teams. Three draws for example saw Portugal leave their group and in comparison, a relatively unobstructed run to the final. Yes, they had to play Croatia, but if that’s the hardest team you’re going to face before the final, then most countries and supporters would take that.
As Löw, the national team manager for Germany, said:
“I think 24 teams are too many,” Low said on ZDF. “The World Cup’s going to be increased to 40 teams and it’s getting more and more, and that’s a problem in the long term.
“Sometimes you get the feeling it’s not doing football any good. The quality is suffering.”
It’s hard not to argue with this statement. The quality was poor and many a time the entertainment was only broken up by crowd disturbances or moths, both of which is not what UEFA or France would have hoped for.
So in time honoured tradition (although this is the first time that I’ve done so) let’s look at some of the highs and lows of the tournament from this guy’s (I’m pointing at myself) point of view.
Match of the tournament:
There weren’t many to choose from. On balance I would say the Germany v France game was the best show case of football on offer. Two teams with real quality throughout.
As I mentioned before, with the extended competition, it was a long wait for a game between two great sides.
Germany danced and jinked with little cutting edge, but it was Pogba and Griezmann who showed enough class to see off the World Champions.
Player of the tournament:
This is a difficult one to assess as there were ultimately no standout players who performed on a regular basis. Ramsey was the heartbeat for Wales and deserves a mention, but I’m going to go for Griezmann.
He lost his place for France at one point, so much was the uncertainty of his first performance, but he won it back and excelled for France, helping beat Germany, at their own predatory game, earning the Golden Boot en route to the final.
Ronaldo, although centre of attention for the final, moths aside, was more of a side note for the tournament. Think tantrums with journalists or slamming “little” teams for “small” mentalities.
Goal of the tournament:
This is toughie. Kanu against Belgium, Payet against Switzerland, or Ronaldo’s bullet header? I’m going to go for the final goal of the tournament.
Eder controlled the ball and span in to space with France players all around him. He had little option to shoot and in such a life-sucking final, his shot lit the place up like the 24th of June (the UK’s Independence Day). He really had no other outlet other than to pass backwards or shoot and with little support he unfurled a beautiful, low crisp shot that caught everyone off-guard, including France keeper, Lloris.
The magical scenes sparked by the strike only added to its timing and beauty.
England fans rejoiced and decided it was the start of something special as soon as Sturridge scored the winner against Wales and I’d be lying if I didn’t think the same whilst screaming my lungs out with happiness.
The ugly scenes of Marseilles or any of the other crowd disturbances around the stadia. England, Russia, France, Croatia, Hungary. The so called fans who carried out any of the bottle throwing, MMA kicks or fireworks should all hang their heads in shame.
On a side note, the police used teargas way too frequently. It’s too extreme and the police seemed to use it with itchy trigger fingers. Education for the organizers too, who were too proud to change any of the fixtures and venues after it became apparent that certain groups of fans would clash regularly and with past history still apparent between them.
Team of the tournament:
Although it would be romantic of me to say Iceland or Wales, I am going to go for the eventual winners, Portugal.
Iceland and Wales are obvious favourites, given their footballing stature and sparse looking squad of top players, but the same could be said of Portugal, albeit less so. And they went one more and won the bloody thing! Against the hosts and a far superior team!
Kudos for that. Even more kudos for winning it when your best player gets taken off after 25 minutes and the opposition have talent in every position.
I also like the fact a new country has won it, upsetting the status-quo just a tad.
What now for England?
As much as I was disappointed and walked the Earth like a mute for much of the week following the defeat by Iceland, I am still positive about the future.
England’s squad is young and talented and many of the foreign coaches and players acknowledged this before the tournament even started. So what was missing?
Hodgson changed his tactics so often in the six months leading up to the finals I have to agree with big Al (Shearer) that he didn’t have a clue what our best system was and who should start in it.
I accept that maybe we can’t get such a high quality manager right now of a certain calibre because there just aren’t that many around. Allardyce, Mancini, Klinsmann?
I’d plump for Klinsmann. He was at the forefront when Germany overhauled their style of play and youth academies after the 2004 Euro Championship and if he could stand up to the FA and tell them how it should be done, then I can only see positives for the next tournament and beyond and so the cycle begins anew.