So after 31 days, 51 matches, the trophy is actually staying on the Iberian Peninsula, but not with the usual suspects, as history is made with Portugal, thanks to a 109th minute goal from substitute Eder, emerging as European Champions, their first ever international trophy – the hosts France vanquished. Massive congratulations, especially as they had been knocking on the door in major competitions a lot in recent years with 5 semi finals in 9 tourneys as well as defeat in the 2004 Euros on home soil against Greece. They did exactly what I expected, kept it tight, made it difficult for their opponents and did it on the night without their main man Ronaldo who was injured early on, tried to carry on, but eventually gave up the ghost and was carried off in tears. However this Portuguese side has always been more than one man and players such as Nani, Joao Mario stepped up to cause the French problems and Pepe their de facto leader and his defensive partner, Jose Fonte were imperious at the back.
When Portuguese manager Fernando Santos made his final substitution I was surprised. It was the 79th minute, extra time looked very likely, he decided to bring on Éderzito António Macedo Lopes (known as Eder in footballing circles) but for me it was the fact he took off Renato Sanches, one of their standout players this tournament. Little did I know that 30 minutes of playing time later, it was this man who was to score the winning goal. Superb strength to hold off Laurent Koscielny and then drive a low shot from outside the penalty area passed Hugo Lloris – cue wild Portugal celebrations. And as history will show they held out to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy the greatest night in Portuguese international football. Some people will decry this result as the winners only actually won one match in regulation time, but I would say they have shown battle, heart, brilliant tactical nous and done exactly what they needed to do to win matches. In tournament football it is about finding a way to get through round after round and nobody can say Portugal have not done that. Huge congratulations a well deserved triumph, one I know a lot of other countries would take in similar circumstances.
EUROPE WIDE NEXT
In four years time, the Euros will be a ‘Pan European’ experience with matches across a number of venues over the continent and despite complaints that having the 24 teams has lowered the quality, UEFA intend to stay at that number for 2020. I for one liked the expanded competition as it give a lot more teams the opportunity to be part of a major tournament when they would have struggled to make the final stages. Before then we head to Russia for the World Cup in 2018 and a number of the sides in this competition will be looking to qualify for the tournament and make a challenge to win it. I know it is a long way out, but with the usual South American giants of Brazil and Argentina going through what seems a transition phase, it could easily be argued that Chile, Colombia or even Uruguay are the best team from that continent at the moment, I can see a very strong European challenge on Russian soil. My long term forecast – France, as they have all the attacking talent in the world and if they can shore up that back line they could be anything – no guarantees though as Euro 2016 showed.
SQUAD OF THE TOURNAMENT
I tend to try and shy away from a team of the tournament and instead pick a squad of 23 – here are my choices below
Goalkeeper – Gianluigi Buffon, Hugo Lloris, Manuel Neuer
Defenders – Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Jose Fonte, Pepe, Raphaël Guerreiro, Mats Hummels, Bacary Sagna
Midfielders – Balázs Dzsudzsák, Eden Hazard, Andres Iniesta, Toni Kroos, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Luka Modric, Ivan Perišic, Aaron Ramsey, Renato Sanches
Forwards – Gareth Bale, Antoine Griezmann (my player of the tournament), Cristiano Ronaldo
What do you reckon – I’m sure there will be other names you would maybes put in but its all about opinions I suppose.
So we leave a tournament that whilst it may not have been of the highest quality throughout, it still had its moments, I personally enjoyed it and putting myself through all 51 games was not that much of a hardship. Many thanks for reading my 29 (including this one) blogs – I hope you enjoyed the content – I will return soon with more musings from the BIGGISHMOUTH (though keep an eye out for my moonlighting gig on www.twofootedtackle.com keep reading and let me know your thoughts. Anyways big thanks.
ps One final thing to mention. I give them hammer when they get things wrong, but despite the odd shocker of a decision #whatacuneyt (no surprise) – the officiating at Euro 2016 was superb – long may this cointinue (without the blips) across all domestic and European comeptitions next season. Well done.
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