A Journaliste’s Final Word On The Euros
Well that wasn’t in the script! A strange night, strange winners, and in many ways, a strange tournament.
Let’s start with the final. I guess in keeping with some of the great defensive displays of this tournament, notably Italy early on, Northern Ireland mostly to keep Germany at bay and Wales’ solidity before their semi, it was always going to be the case that pragmatism rather than skill won the day.
So in that respect, Portugal’s victory wasn’t so much of a surprise, but against the background of a very offensive, counter attacking World Cup in Brazil, many fans will feel somewhat short changed by the tournament and its quality and I understand what they are saying.
No great centre forwards, little great counter attacking football, the much vaunted Pogba, Ronaldo himself, Zlatan, Hazard and co all just came up a little short for their billing, and maybe after a long European season it was a little too much, too late to expect free flowing football when many of the teams especially early on, sat so deep, denying time and space to their opponents.
The final wasn’t great and for many this means the tournament as a whole was poor. I disagree. The expansion of the tournament for me was a success because national pride and passion came to the fore, who wanted to represent their country, who wanted to bleed for the shirt, and in England’s case showed that those attributes are something we sorely lack, and is something that is still a very potent attribute in international football.
Just look at the expression on Ronaldo’s face when lifting the trophy for proof of that. Did Rooney, Hart and co have that? I’ll leave it for you to decide.
Ronaldo apart, whatever we say about England going out early and Portugal winning it, player for player, England have the talent, so obviously the graft, discipline and sheer love of their nation is working for Portugal and not for England, and it needs sorting, pronto.
Tournament of the Underdogs
Wales and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland all enhanced their credentials at international level and will feel buoyed as they go into tough World Cup groups. The Welsh in particular go above England for the first time ever in the FIFA rankings and I honestly believe that will give them the lift they need to take on all-comers in the coming couple of years. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see them keep that title for a year or two yet.
Credit to my old teammate Chris Coleman, a guy I have to say, lovely that he is, I didn’t feel had the credentials to cut the mustard as a manger and was in danger of being left on the scrapheap after average to poor recent sojourns around Europe, but he found a group to help mould after the Gary Speed tragedy, and as so often happens, one tournament can make you or break you, and in his case, should he leave the FAW tomorrow he wouldn’t be short of offers!
Let’s delve into personal performances of the tournament. Griezmann for me obviously is the player of the tournament. I think in this column I suggested Giroud would win the golden boot and he wasn’t a million miles off (another player who’s come out of the tournament with his reputation slightly enhanced) but Griezmann showed great skill, character, personal belief and was simply on fire in several games for Les Bleus and rightly gets my vote for player of the tournament with a nice golden ball to boot.
Team of the tournament, Portugal aside who I enjoyed most was Iceland. Incredible team spirit, a very easy on the eye counter attacking unit, I sincerely hope that the new investment in Icelandic grass roots football (blow up indoor pitches across the island just a part of what they’ve done to embrace kids) means they can kick on after this tournament.
Having beaten England and the Dutch in qualifying may now convince a few who should know better that “little Iceland” may be around for a little while longer as a force.
My disappointment of the tournament was England.
Even if I wasn’t English I’d be scratching my head and asking how a group of players that feature heavily in big teams across Europe (and have for a number of years now) manage to lack the spirit and technique to compete at this level, tournament in, tournament out.
For me, England is more important even than my beloved Villa, but would I ever get the call from the FA to get involved and pass on the experience I have after playing for 14 years and broadcasting for 10? No. Why? Because the FA has to have a cookie cutter; Southgate, Dyke, Hodgson are all straight batters rather than the best around regardless of where they may come from, whatever their past and background. Until we address this, we’ll always get nice and well meaning but never nasty, passionate and ruthless. And that’s the truth.
Big Boys Disappointment
Individual disappointments include Joe Hart who must be under real pressure for his Man City starting place, Harry Kane who looked like a young man who’s rise and too much football over the last 18 months has broken him a little.
Zlatan and Lewandowski didn’t seem to have that little extra in the tank to do what they do for their clubs and Romelu Lukaku, a player who I love to watch but needs to find consistency and aggression in his game very soon or he will just fall short of the expectation many of us have of him.
Zero to Hero
Eder, Sissoko, Michael McGovern, half the Iceland team, Hal Robson Kanu will all be getting plenty of phone calls at a time where they realistically could be expecting an anxious wait for contracts or extensions at current clubs, which is what I really love at tournaments, the chance to go from zero to hero overnight.
And talking of Hal, he gets my moment and goal of the tournament, a Cruyff turn and crisp finish in the Belgium game is what dreams are made of, and I hope a likeable and hard working pro gets one of those moves only a World Cup or Euros can throw up. Panathinaikos? AC Milan? Stranger things have happened, so good luck to him.
Overall, I’d give the tournament for England a 2 out of 10, Wales a solid 9, Northern Ireland 7 and Republic 7 too, with the tournament standard, excitement and quality a 6.5. Good, but not one of the greats.
Thanks for reading and watching me run around France for BoyleSports! I hope you enjoyed the coverage (JOURNALISTE! JOURNALISTE!)
See you soon, go and put your feet up before the madness of the Premier League and Football League start again in the blink of an eye!