With the 2016 European Championships wrapped, we take a look back over the tournament and discuss our winners and losers in France. Look away now, England!
So, Portugal are the European champions. Worthy winners for you?
James: For me, no! I think they can consider themselves fortunate. But then you can’t argue with the fact its their name on the trophy. People will point to the fact they only won one of their seven matches in 90 minutes (the semi-final v Wales) but in the end I suppose it’s a triumph for determination and team spirit.
Matt: They certainly rode their luck at times, but came to the fore when it mattered. You take Ronaldo out that side, and it’s probably far inferior to the side they had 15 years ago with the likes of Luis Figo. But they’re the only Portugal side to have won anything, so how can you take anything away from them….
Rob: No team has stood out and Portugal have taken advantage to go all the way, so in that sense they are worthy winners. But the 24-team format allowed Portugal to get away with playing poorly in the group stages.
Michael: Definitely. They might not have been the prettiest to watch but they were the most determined. The fact they overcame France in the final, pretty much without Ronaldo, means they deserve it for me.
Who do you rate as your player of the tournament?
Rob: Griezmann has become the darling of French football thanks to his goals, and Aaron Ramsey was absolutely outstanding for Wales, but Dimitri Payet stole my heart. He’s scored some beauties, created goals for team-mates, and generally threatened throughout. Plus, he does it all with such nonchalance, like a proper rock star.
Michael: It’s tough to not plump for Antoine Griezmann. He scored the goals and, at times, showed a lot of maturity with some defensive responsibilities too. He was just effortlessly faultless.
Matt: Usually there are a couple of candidates, but this time, bar Griezmann, it’s hard to pick anyone who has shone out. Griezmann wil win the Golden Boot and was impressive in a few of France’s games, but he was disappointing in the final and history says the top man usually comes from the winning team. If that’s the case then it should be a Portugal player, but I couldn’t offer Cristiano Ronaldo as the No. 1 and the Portuguese have been a team, rather than a few individuals standing out.
I’d skip the award and say there was no one worthy.
James: Joe Hart!!! No, I’d have to say Dimitri Payet. He’s a player I really enjoyed watching in the Prem last season but I wasn’t sure if he’d carry that through into the tournament. There’s no doubt though he undoubtedly did – and but for his early heroics, France might not have achieved what they did….
Which team were the biggest underachievers?
Michael: England. Why are we even asking this?
James: England are the obvious answer, but I have to say Spain. For all their talent, they bowed out pretty lamely. Had they topped their group they could have had what looked like a nice route through to the final, but their big-name players didn’t really turn up, with only really David De Gea performing to his best.
Matt: England’s round-of-16 defeat to Iceland was pathetic and probably the worst performance in the whole tournament. To get gradually worse in each game is some achievement by the way, especially when you should be doing exactly the opposite.
Rob: Austria were tipped by some as dark horses, had a squad with plenty of exciting players, and were drawn in what looked like a relatively straightforward group. To score only once and finish bottom makes Roy Hodgson look like Alf Ramsey.
Which nation most surprised you?
Matt: Wales. I expected them to struggle to get out of the group and they won it and if they had been a little more adventurous against Portugal they could have made the final. Their team ethic was something England can only dream about. Portugal were a lot more resilient than I expected too.
Michael: Croatia, although they probably shouldn’t have. I knew about their quality, especially in midfield, but the slick and stylish brand of football they produced in the group stages was absolutely absorbing.
Rob: Portugal. To win the final having won only one match in 90 minutes is an impressive achievement, especially when Cristiano Ronaldo only showed glimpses of his quality over the whole tournament.
James: Undoubtedly it was Iceland. Getting through to the quarter-finals is a ridiculous achievement and it shows what you can achieve with togetherness and hard work.
Whose stock has risen the most?
James: Antonio Conte for me. There was talk going into the tournament that this Italy side were the worst they’d had in years, but actually, they can consider themselves unlucky not to have got beyond the quarter-finals. I loved the way he had his team set up and I can’t wait to see if he’ll play the same 3-5-2 at Chelsea next season. It seems a great antidote to the 4-2-3-1 that most teams favour these days.
Matt: Iceland’s team were strong and resilient and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few of those earning big-money moves throughout Europe. Dimitri Payet also confirmed what a bargain he was at £10m for West Ham.
Also the coach of Portugal, Fernando Santos comes out of the tournament with his stock sky high. His winning team were ultra-organised, with a clear plan. Simple but very effective.
Rob: It’s been a good tournament for England’s back-up goalkeepers, but it has to be Hal Robson-Kanu. To run down his contract at Reading having scored only three league goals last season, then pull out a Cruyff turn and the goal of the tournament to put Wales into the semi-finals is taking the proverbial, quite frankly. He’s going to score two goals as Burnley are relegated next term.
Michael: Dimitri Payet. I know he’s had a brilliant season at West Ham, but we weren’t talking about him in terms of the absolute elite clubs in Europe on the back of that. We are now on the back of Euro 2016.
Player or coach who most disappointed you?
Matt: Zlatan Ibrahimovic never turned up and then retired. Harry Kane was **** and Thomas Muller never looked like scoring for Germany. Oh and Joe Hart, well…
James: Harry Kane. He just looked like a wreck and a shadow of the player we’d seen week-in, week-out last season.
Michael: Marc Wilmots. How he consistently can’t forge a team from the talent pool available to Belgium is absolutely criminal.
Rob: For a man who once said “one thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch,” Zlatan Ibrahimovic really wasn’t worth watching at this major tournament. He was still better than Joe Hart, like.
Any betting success / hard luck stories?
Matt: I was on Paul Pogba as player of the tournament from day one, but he flattered to deceive. I did back 0-0 in the final though and had Portugal in the office sweep.
James: I’d been following an online tipster, who had a £10 to £1000 gamble to follow. It effectively doubled your money with ‘low-risk’ betting all the way from your first £10 stake until a final £1000 winner. It was going great with a run of several bets in a row coming in until the entire staking plan was blown away by everything being lumped on ‘England to qualify v Iceland’. Oh dear.
I also had Belgium in the TT Towers sweepstake, so overrall, that’s not good…..
Rob: England to beat Wales 2-1. Celebrating Daniel Sturridge’s last-gasp goal in the Lille fanzone was pretty special for a number of reasons.
Michael: I was on a very nice Italy/Croatia/Spain treble one day, which was going swimmingly with Italy already winning and Croatia 2-0 up and cruising against a poor Czech Republic side. Those flares on the pitch hurt me just as much as they did that poor bloke whose face they blew up in.
And finally, what next for England?
Michael: Easy. Dominate the next qualification campaign, stink out the tournament. Just England doing England things, as per. Nothing will change until our players collectively grow a pair, and that’s not happening any time soon.
Rob: Sam Allardyce. Andy Carroll. Jermain Defoe. Get it in The Mixer. Win the second ball. Sing the national anthem loud. It’s coming home.
Or there will be a national inquest and the same thing will happen that always happens.
Matt: We’ll win all of our World Cup qualifiers with or without a new manager and then they we’ll be ready for another underwhelming tournament in Russia where pressure, fear and a lack of tactical knowhow will let us down again. Happy days.
James: A new manager is obviously the immediate priority. Long term, I hope the next time we go into a major tournament, we at least go into it with lower expectations and with much more humility. The talent is there, but we’ll never achieve anything like what Iceland or Wales did unless we have that collectively passion. Aside from Joe Hart shouting a lot, I didn’t see enough of that shining through.
Agree with our opinions? Let us know your thoughts, below….