Best and worst of Euro 2016: The tournament in review
Euro 2016 has come to an end with Portugal its surprise champions - but what have been the best and worst elements of the tournament?
Best of Euro 2016: The underdogs
Both teams also made a huge impact off the pitch, but more on that later…
Worst of Euro 2016: The lack of goals
When Greece won Euro 2004 courtesy of a single goal against Portugal, having bored their way to the final, fears were raised that it was ushering in a new era of defensive mentalities. Now, with Portugal having beaten France 1-0 in the final after keeping things tight and unspectacular, the same fear has returned. Certainly this tournament was one where reactive, cautious football was rewarded and the dominance of counter-attacking was confirmed after Leicester’s Premier League title win. Northern Ireland made the last-16, after all.
The knockout stages loosened up a bit after a group stage which saw the majority of goals concentrated in the last 15 minutes of matches. But France’s 5-2 win over Iceland played a big role in this and it was ultimately the exception rather than the rule. Portugal’s triumph was a great story in so many ways, but the tournament got the final it deserved, sadly.
So does this mark a period of dominance for defensive football? We shall see. It was only four years after Greece won the Euros that Pep Guardiola was appointed Barcelona boss and a whole new culture was born. But what we can say for certain at this point is that counter-attacking is king.
Best of Euro 2016: The fans
With many matches failing to excite, entertainment was found in the stands and around the host cities as the vast majority of supporters (more below on those we don’t include in that category) brought colour, passion and humour to proceedings, with the Republic of Ireland fans kicking things off with a charm offensive directed at the hosts.
The Northern Ireland anthem "Will Grigg’s on Fire" was picked up by supporters of all colours, either verbatim or adapted for local heroes, and it was being sung even into the final days of the competition by German, French and Welsh supporters. Wales fans also made an anthem out of "Don’t take me home" as their amazing journey into the semi-finals continued and England’s wilted. It reverberated all around Lyon before and after their semi-final loss to Portugal.
But most catchy of all, the Iceland thunderclap which was the signature cultural note of the whole tournament. An obscure ritual before Euro 2016 kicked off, by the night of the final UEFA had a person in the stadium cajoling both sets of supporters to do their own. France had embraced it even in beating Iceland and then made it a centre-piece of their celebrations following their win over Germany in the semis. It was heard in streets all over France too.
Worst of Euro 2016: England and Russia
Roy Hodgson watches England lose to IcelandReuters
In terms of the football they played, Russia were the absolute pits. It is not for nothing that over 800,000 people have now signed a petition calling for the national team to be disbanded. Coach Leonid Slutsky looked positively relieved to have resigned as soon as possible after they picked up just one point in the group stages and that against… England.
Best of Euro 2016: Antoine Griezmann
Antoine Griezmann after France-PortugalAFP
Okay, so his tournament ended in the bitterest of disappointments but the France livewire lit up Euro 2016 with his goalscoring feats. He was rightly crowned player of the tournament on Monday and with six goals he had the highest tally for any player since Michel Platini scored nine in Euro ’84, and double his nearest challengers.
This was a tournament to launch him into football’s stratosphere and it all came about thanks to Ireland. Sort of. France were trailing 1-0 at half-time of their last-16 clash against the Irish and Didier Deschamps changed things up by moving Griezmann into the centre. He scored twice in the second half, once in the 5-2 thumping of Iceland in the quarter-finals and then twice against Germany in the semi-final. With these goals he showed off a range of attributes: a fantastic header against Ireland, a quick run and dinked finish against Iceland and a predatory poke against Germany.
A superstar was born in France, even if Griezmann did lose the European Championship final to go with the Champions League final.