Want to remember some of the best moments of Euro 2016 in a fun(ish) format? Look no further than my A-Z of the tournament…
Started the tournament but slowly, but Antoine Griezmann was one of the most exciting players on show at Euro 2016, getting six goals and two assists to win both the golden boot and golden ball. Only Michel Platini has scored more goals at a single tournament, and Griezmann is now fourth in the all-time European Championships scoring chart.
Wales’ run to the semi-finals may have been mostly about team spirit, but they needed individuals too, and of course the word class Gareth Bale was the main man. Quick and strong, the Real Madrid man so often brought others in to play and was a real leader in the camp. Scored in all three group games, including impressive free-kicks against Slovakia and England.
It’s been quite a year for the County Durham referee, who after taking charge of the FA Cup and Champions League final, was given the gig for the Euro 2016 showpiece too. Clattenburg made sure a relatively poor game ran smoothly and without controversy, and handled the Dimitri Payet/Cristiano Ronaldo battle well. England may have crashed out in Round of 16, but the 41 year made sure we were represented right until the end! 😉
Many people have labelled Euro 2016 as the most boring tournament in a long time, due to the apparent lack of excitement in many games caused by the new format allowing weaker teams to compete. But I think this claim is unfair, as although we didn’t see loads of goals, we saw plenty of late drama right from the first game, and some strikes of the highest quality. Not a historic tournament, but certainly not dull.
Who would have thought that a player who struggled to get a game for Swansea City in 2015-16 would go on score the winning goal in the European Championship final? Eder came on in the 79th minute against France, having previously played under 20 minutes at the tournament, to win Portugal their first ever major tournament with a superb extra-time goal.
As much as Eder will be remembered for his winning goal, Fernando Santos will also go down in history as the first man to lead Portugal to international glory. Two years ago as manager of Greece, Santos was sent off for dissent at the 2014 World Cup and banned for eight matches, but now the 61 year is a European champion. He calls his team ‘the ugly ducklings’, and they’re now unbeaten in 14 competitive games under him.
You might know him by his name, but Gudmundur Benediktsson became an overnight sensation after his crazy, passionate commentary of Iceland’s dramatic win over Austria in which Arnor Ingvi Traustason scored in the 94th minute. He was at it again after the minnows’ historic win over England, not able to contain his emotions as he screamed, yelled and cried down the mic.
Roy Hodgson’s four year spell as England manager came to an end after the Three Lions suffered their most embarrassing competitive defeat ever to Iceland in the Round of 16. From putting Harry Kane on set-pieces to making six changes against Slovakia, Hodgson’s tactical decisions baffled us back home, and left with not even an apology for the shambles. Good riddance.
Fully deserved their victory over England. Came second in Group F after not losing game before historically beating the Three Lions in the Round of 16. Their incredible journey came to an end with defeat to France, but throughout the tournament, the smallest country to ever compete at a European Championships captured the hearts of the continet, and their *CLAP* will certainly catch on.
At 40 years old, Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly became the oldest player ever at the European Championships along with his trademark jogging bottoms. It seems that shorts are just too mainstream for the former Crystal Palace and Aston Villa stopper, who was even confident enough to pull of a few skills in France – from throwing the ball underneath his legs to kicking with his standing foot.
Toni Kroos quietly goes about his business in the Germany midfield that he has become the heartbeat of, turning defence into attack in the blink of an eye, so you literally don’t notice just how ridiculously good the 26 year old is. Nobody at the tournament made more passes than Kroos (642), whilst his pass accuracy of 92% was not bettered by any other quarter-finalist. Rightfully included in the team of the tournament.
Germany coach Joachim Low has now suffered successive semi-final exits at the European Championships following defeat in the 2008 final, will it ever go his way? Another low point (no pun intended) was being caught by cameramen on numerous occasions putting his hands where the sun doesn’t shine and then smelling them. For a stylish man, it’s a horrible habit.
After organisers left the lights on at the Stade de France the night before the final, the stadium found itself infested by moths. Thousands of the insects filled the arena, with players, managers and even pundits on the sideline often seen flapping around their face. One brave moth even decided to land on Cristiano Ronaldo’s eyebrow as he sat slumped on the ground trying to control his tears after picking up an injury early in the game.
No one really expected Northern Ireland to do much at Euro 2016, with Michael O’Neill’s side lacking a standout performer. But in their first major tournament since 1986, the Green and White Army conceded just once against both Poland and world champions Germany, and qualified for the knockout stage with an impressive 2-0 win over Ukraine. Their fans were brilliant in every single match with their non-stop chanting of you know who being on fire.
2016 was the first European Championships since 1984, coincidentally also in France, that the Netherlands did not qualify for. Would the tournament have been more ‘exciting’ with the Dutch’s free flowing total football? Perhaps, but Hal Robson-Kanu’s Cruyff turn and goal against Belgium was not only a stunning move but also a superb tribute to the Oranje legend who died in March.
Despite drawing all three of their group games, Portugal still got through Group F in third place thanks to the new format before getting past Croatia, Poland, Wales and France to lift their first ever major trophy. Incredibly they only won one game in 90 minutes on the way to glory, and throughout the tournament I could just not envisage them winning it. But Eder’s goal meant they became the 10th nation to do so.
After seeing what looked like such a promising career go downhill, Ricardo Quaresma reminded fans of his name at Euro 2016 with his heroics off the bench. On Portugal’s way to Euro 2016 glory, Quaresma scored the winning goal in the round of 16 against Croatia in the 117th minute, before netting the winning penalty in the quarter-final shoot-out against Poland. I think the term is super sub.
12 years after crying with sadness at Euro 2004, Cristiano Ronaldo wept tears of joy in France as he cemented himself as one of football’s greatest ever by winning an international tournament. On the way he scored three goals, putting him level with Michel Platini at the top of the all-time charts, and became the most capped player in European Championship history.
I’ve never been a fan of ITV’s football coverage, but bringing in Slaven Bilic as a pundit for Euro 2016 was a great decision by the broadcaster. He brought knowledge, tactical nous and excitement – who can forget when he jumped onto the table to worship Dimitri Payet after the Frenchman had scored. It was a shame to see Bilic return to West Ham after the group stages, but he certainly won the ‘best pundit’ award.
Coming a close second was Thierry Henry, who the BBC picked for obvious reasons with the tournament being held in France. Slightly shaky for Sky last season, Henry was excellent at Euro 2016, providing insight and flair as only he could. The way his lip wavers when he laughs is extraordinary, and my personal highlight was his reaction when discussing THAT handball against the Republic of Ireland.
When Raphael Varane got injured pre-tournament, there were concerns about the French defence’s stability. Adil Rami originally came in, but when he got suspended for the quarter-final against Iceland, the uncapped Samuel Umtiti was brought into start. The 22 year looked calm and assured on the biggest stage on his debut and kept his place for the rest of the tournament as well as earning a move to Barcelona. A breakout star.
The low point of the tournament was the violence in from England and Russia fans, that led to the FAs from both countries getting disqualification threats. The ugly scenes we witnessed in the port of Marseille and at the city’s stadium where the match between the two sides was played has no place in football or anywhere else. It makes you worry for the World Cup in Russia in two years time.
Many Welsh fans had never seen their country compete at an international tournament before, but Chris Coleman’s side gave them memories that will last a life time as they reached the semi-finals. Despite losing to England, Wales still topped Group B before knocking out Northern Ireland and then sensationally beat Belgium 3-1 in the quarter-finals. Portugal ended their heroic journey, but what an achievement from Bale and co.
European Championship history was made on the second day of the tournament, as Granit Xhaka (Switzerland) and Taulant Xhaka (Albania) became the first set of brothers to face each in the competition. It was younger brother Granit, who has just signed for Arsenal, that came out on top as the Swiss won 1-0 thanks to Fabian Schar’s early goal.
The young player of the tournament award went to Renato Sanches, who at 18 years old broke plenty of age related records including the youngest man to ever lift the trophy. Fan of Bayern Munich, who have just bought him for €35 million, will be pleased with what they saw. Meanwhile, England’s young star Marcus Rashford looked the best player on the pitch in his brief sub appearances against Wales and Iceland.
Penalty shoot-outs are the cruellest way to lose a match, but in the quarter-final between Germany and Italy that went to spot-kicks, it seemed as though both wanted to lose, the standard was that poor. The worst effort of the lot came from Simone Zaza, who had only been brought on in the 121st minute presumably just to take a penalty. He made a painful stuttering run up that looked like the ‘running man’ before blasting over the bar. Shocking.