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Euro 2016: England disappoint, Iceland impress, Portugal come good

July 12,2016 12:14

Portugal were the winners best suited to Euro 2016 - unspectacular, not easy on the eye, but got the job done. The final in Paris on Sunday did not provide the happy ending the French wanted as the hosts lost 1-0 in extra time. And the national mood ...


Relive the highs and lows of Euro 2016Portugal were the winners best suited to Euro 2016 - unspectacular, not easy on the eye, but got the job done.The final in Paris on Sunday did not provide the happy ending the French wanted as the hosts lost 1-0 in extra time. And the national mood reflected the feeling of many who have followed Euro 2016 around the country over the past month.Euro 2016 was a tournament that had the odd highlights and big moments, but was one that eventually came up short on what it promised.Here are some personal reflections on Euro 2016.Euro 2016 not a classic
Euro 2016: Best goals of the tournamentEuro 2016 got the final many felt it deserved, one that mirrored the tournament. Portugal's win over France was mediocre for long periods, enlivened by late drama but rarely sprinkled with the stardust to elevate it above the ordinary.The brutal truth is this was a Euros that will not be remembered with huge affection by many countries other than winners Portugal and perhaps Wales and Iceland.The setting was ideal. It was played in front of sell-out crowds in modern stadiums, from the vast expanse of the rebuilt Stade Velodrome in Marseille to the new-age Stade de Bordeaux, highly distinctive because of the 900 exterior stanchions that support the roof.It made France the perfect environment to stage a classic tournament - but in the end it was a tournament of individual contributions from great players that fell a long way short of being a great showpiece.
Cheeky ball boys & cheekier pundits - Euro 2016's funniest momentsThere were 51 matches and 22 were goalless at half-time, although excitement was provided by the trend of late goals, with 20 coming in the 85th minute or later.Too often caution ruled, apart from the last day of qualifying from the groups, with the chance of a third-placed team finding a way into the last 16.Did this add to the tone of conservatism in too many games, with teams holding what they had and hoping one win would be enough to see them into the last 16? Or was it a case of too many teams?There is certainly a case for reverting back to 16 but once these decisions are taken, European football's governing body Uefa rarely reverses them.The final round of group games provided genuine thrills, including Portugal's 3-3 draw with Hungary. This was one of the most exciting matches at Euro 2016, especially as added drama came with Iceland's last-minute winner against Austria that altered the complexion of the last 16. It meant England faced Iceland rather than Portugal. The rest is history, as is Roy Hodgson's tenure as England manager, after they were beaten.Read more: 'Determined Allardyce would make good England boss'
Euro 2016: Shearer, Henry and Ferdinand on lack of quality at tournamentThere were still some top-class games and great moments.The electric, emotional atmosphere inside Marseille's Stade Velodrome for France's semi-final win against Germany was a permanent assault on the senses and eardrums.Wales captured the imagination of France with their run to the last four, the good humour and fervent backing of their supporters one of the lasting images.Iceland's fans made a permanent impression with their infectious chant and communal clapping that may well be seen and heard on Premier League grounds next season.Northern Ireland's win against Ukraine and the Republic of Ireland's late winner against Italy that sent them into the last 16 provided stories that will be told and retold long after those two vast contingents of support left France.Sadly, there was also the dark shadow of hooliganism over the opening stages of Euro 2016, with the shameful scenes before, during and after England's 1-1 draw in their game against Russia in Marseille.England disappoint again
Highlights: England 1-2 IcelandHow many more crossroads will England and the Football Association have to reach before they realise they are lost?England certainly found the route out of France and Euro 2016 swiftly enough, departing the searing heat of Nice humiliated after losing 2-1 to 34th-ranked outsiders Iceland, who fully deserved the win.So add Euro 2016 to the World Cups in 2010 and 2014 when England arrived, did very little and went out. They reached the last 16 in South Africa (2010) and could not even muster enough to get out of the group stages in Brazil (2014). It is a grim record.England's demise in France, however, was a much greater embarrassment and was followed by the immediate resignation of Hodgson.The whole England campaign was a mess, with Hodgson seemingly unable to locate his best formation or team.He was also let down badly by a squad that should have performed much better than only winning one game out of four, an injury-time victory against eventual semi-finalists Wales.It was not even over with that loss to Iceland.Less than 24 hours later there was a final news conference with a deeply reluctant Hodgson. "I don't really know what I'm doing here," he said sitting awkwardly alongside FA chief executive Martin Glenn, sifting through the wreckage.Once more there was a joyless atmosphere around England. Even attempts from the squad to carry around a stuffed lion seemed forced.
Questions over Roy Hodgson's tactics, The FA's plan and who will succeed as Three Lions manager have all been talking points over England's direction at Euro 2016The FA is now in the familiar territory of an inquest while at the same time searching for Hodgson's successor.Glenn, FA vice-chairman David Gill and influential technical director Dan Ashworth will lead the search as well as making a full assessment of Euro 2016 on and off the pitch and looking at the recent list of failures at major tournaments.The new manager will be given the rather vague task of creating a strong team identity and building on the work and investment in coaching at St George's Park.It remains to be seen whether that man will be in place before a friendly on 1 September against opponents yet to be confirmed. And then there is the World Cup qualifying opener in Slovakia.So another crossroads - now the FA has to find the right manager and the right way forward or England will be left behind for even longer.Portugal's 'nearly men' come good
Highlights: Portugal 1-0 FrancePortugal's history is littered with world-class stars going back as far as the great Eusebio in the 1960s - but also with a history of getting close, but not close enough.Eder's extra-time goal against France changed all that and Portugal were winners at last. It was a long overdue honour, and elation at the end of the years of frustration was easy to see, not just in the celebrations inside Stade de France but back home, where Lisbon came to a standstill.Portugal will know how France felt on Sunday night. They were beaten in the final by outsiders Greece at their own Euro 2004. They also lost the World Cup semi-final in 2006, the quarter-final at Euro 2008 and semi-finals at Euro 2012.And, of course, they were semi-final losers to eventual winners England at Wembley in the 1966 World Cup.Portugal's own years of hurt are over. Fernando Santos' team were largely solid and pragmatic but so were Greece when they won in Lisbon in 2004. When the story of the country's football is updated, no-one will remember anything other than a historic victory.Captain Cristiano Ronaldo's Euro 2016 final went from the despair of being taken off injured on a stretcher to lifting the trophy. He has now added a major honour on the international stage to his Champions League medals, winning it once at Manchester United and twice with Real Madrid.There were even stories within Portugal's story. Renato Sanches was voted Uefa's young player of Euro 2016. Surely Manchester United will come to regret losing out to Bayern Munich in the £27.5m transfer battle for this outstanding 18-year-old midfield talent.And what about Eder? A flop at Swansea City but now a national hero in Portugal. He will be a sporting immortal after his powerful shot flew past France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to win the tournament for Portugal.Griezmann joins the elite
Watch all six of Griezmann's Euro 2016 goalsEuropean club football has an elite group of attackers at its pinnacle - Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez at Barcelona plus Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid.Ronaldo and Bale demonstrated their brilliance in France but the Golden Boot went to France and Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann, who has now moved to the brink of joining that glittering company with his six goals.The 25-year-old was the face of France's campaign, the big hope for goals and attacking inspiration with Karim Benzema marginalised. Griezmann used the stage to confirm his stature as a player ready to be ranked in the world-class bracket.The slight figure belies great strength on the ball, his speed of thought and movement perfect allies to an exquisite first touch.Griezmann's greatest quality is the most priceless commodity in football. He scored goals when the pressure was on and the occasion demanded, not withstanding a rare fruitless night in the final.It was Griezmann who dragged France out of a hole with two second-half goals when they trailed 1-0 to the Republic of Ireland in the last 16. He then delivered the goals that knocked out World Cup holders Germany in the semi-final.He has a special place in French hearts as this tournament helped to unite a nation that was grief-stricken after the attacks on Paris last November which saw 130 die and hundreds wounded. Griezmann's sister Maud was in the crowd at Bataclan when gunmen opened fire at an Eagles of Death Metal concert.Griezmann is popular, personable and the outstanding player at Euro 2016. It has made him box office.

Fans in France a highlightAll the matches at Euro 2016 were played in front of fervent fans and, while that trouble in Marseille when England played Russia must not be ignored, this was a tournament in which most supporters mixed on friendly terms.Iceland's fans brought their own special brand of backing as they reached the quarter-finals. Such was the impact of their trademark clapping chant that Uefa adopted it and attempted to co-ordinate opposing fans in a reproduction.If this piece of stage management proved one thing, it is that this is best left to the Icelanders.
Whereas the matches at Euro 2016 may not have been memorable, the fans at the tournament will be remembered. Iceland's "clap", Welsh humour, and 'Will Grigg's on fire' from the Northern Ireland faithfulWales received magnificent, colourful support from their fans while followers of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland sent a sea of green surging through France.France's own supporters bought into the significance of Euro 2016 as a unifying force after those November attacks.It was encapsulated in one moment midway through the second half of their 2-0 semi-final win against Germany.France were on the back foot and fighting to protect a 1-0 advantage. Suddenly a roaring emotional version of national anthem 'La Marseillaise' swept around Stade Velodrome in a very obvious attempt to inspire their team. It worked. France went on to win 2-0.Memorable moment: The sight of Cristiano Ronaldo effectively taking over as Portugal manager in the closing minutes of their victory over hosts France in the final.Player of the tournament: Antoine Griezmann (France). An outstanding forward who will now demand wider attention.Team of the tournament: Portugal - the winners always take this one but honourable mentions for the wonderful contributions of Iceland and Wales.
From player, to 'manager', to winner - Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his side's Euro 2016 victory

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