The end of another Euros and they jury is well and truly out on this one. The third lowest goals per game of all in that competition and a palpable fear factor within many of the teams.
Individually there were many fine players and some fantastic moments but in all honesty apart from the plucky Welsh punching a few divisions above their weight it will hardly go down in history as “memorable”.
From a personal point of view I was most disappointed by my own pre tournament favourites-Italy. They easily won their group - despite a narrow defeat to Ireland: a game in which they rested 9 players knowing they would top the group. By the time they kicked off in the knockout stages they had adopted their ancient demeanour-none shall pass and a stance that they would readily accept the arrival of a penalty shoot out and take their chances.
As a spectator at the 3 Northern Ireland games I feel they also punched well above their weight and although not disgraced felt that they over achieved by qualifying for the second stage-from a tough group.
England were-well they England really. Another huge build up from the press and media who, predictably, would slaughter them on their inevitable exit. The truth is that England has many over rated players and a fairly mediocre national team. The EPL is top heavy with imports demanding huge wages. The knock on effect is that very few quality players are being nurtured through the system and typically the quality isn’t there at international level. Added to this that they had a manager in place who, after 4 years in charge still didn’t know his best starting eleven.
I doubt if many people tipped Portugal to be the eventual winners. Didn’t see that coming could be the most used phrase in the wake of their unlikely achievement. But credit where it is due. In years gone by we have been able to equate Portuguese teams with attractive-, attacking football: teams laden with skilful expressive players. Players in recent memory like Luis Figo and Rui Costa, or further back to Futre and Jordao. Those old enough to remember the golden age of Portuguese football in the sixties will recall the impeccable Eusebio-Torres-Simoes and the legendary Mario Coluna ~ all of whom graced the hallowed turf of the Oval in 1967. But the one thing that all these greats had in common was that at international level they were pot-less. Now, the lesser lights-with the exception of Ronaldo and to a certain extent Nani –have eclipsed all their fellow countrymen’s achievements.
Fernando Santos and his coaching staff deserve a huge amount of credit in this victory. With a limited, and in ways aging-squad to work with, the key to success was in making the team hard to beat. A strategy that required supreme concentration, the ability to stick to a game plan, allied with hard work in abundance and real team spirit. This was illustrated in full during the extra time period when the usually seemingly selfish/single minded and injured Ronaldo, coaching and cajoling his team mates from the sidelines. Retrospectively we may well come to the conclusion that Portugal were not the best team at this years Euros. But somehow I doubt if that will be of much concern to Santos and his cohorts.
- Footnote: My own “team” of the Euros-for what it’s worth.