A team like Portugal winning Euro 2016 without their best player on the field pretty much summed up the last month or so in France.
I don’t mean that in a negative, disparaging sort of way. It’s just that, to me, it underlined the strength of the collective over the power of the individual in the world’s greatest team sport. And that’s where the game, at the top level, is at the moment.
It’s not bad, it’s not good, it just is.
Congratulations Portugal. Congratulations France for putting on what looked like an excellent event. Congratulations, Wales, Iceland, Germany, Italy, Albania and everyone else.
There has been much commentary about the quality of Euro 2016. Some, like these guys, reckon it was horrible. Others, particularly fans of the smaller countries that supposedly over-achieved, loved it. From afar, and New Zealand is about as far as you can get from France, it looked like one hell of a fun time. Like Germany ten years ago, perhaps.
As far as the football goes, we learnt, without question, and on a number of occasions, that the coach does matter. The refereeing was really good (I reckon the two extra goal-line officials should be here to stay). Paul Pogba is not worth 100 million quid. Gareth Bale just might be. Harry Kane was knackered and needed a break not another month taking free kicks and corners. Portugal, as we saw in New Zealand last year, have some excellent young players. The 24 team concept, to me, added something, although many would disagree (hey, it’s just an opinion. No biggie).
Did the best team win? Probably not, but then that’s not the practical point of an international football tournament. Ideally, yes. But it’s football, aye. France should have beaten Portugal, but on the day they didn’t. Germany should have buried the French in the semi-final, but they made a couple of howlers and so, on the day, they didn’t. Belgium was brilliant against Hungary, but then against Wales…
So no, Portugal isn’t the best team in Europe. All they did was win the tournament, which was actually the whole point of being in France in the first place, right?
Ronaldo versus Messi, Messi versus Ronaldo
The Ronaldo v Messi storyline was a big one over the last six weeks. Argentina really should have given Messi the international glory his career deserves, but Messi missed the first penalty in the shoot-out against Chile and they lost. This after, at times, fleeting involvement in some of the earlier games.
It was probably his best chance at securing an international title and he, more than anyone, couldn’t get it done.
At about the same time Messi’s penalty was knocking an American fan’s beer out of his hand, Ronaldo’s Portugal looked anything but the champions of Europe. But they defended their way Saint-Denis and lifted the cup, ironically with their superstar injured and hobbling around on the touchline.
So who’s the greatest? Let that debate continue forever.
Sky gets all sorts of grief from the cool kids, but it suits my family’s lifestyle so we’ve still got it. I loved the Football Pop-Up channel, so extra-credit where it’s due. Having football on 24/7 for six weeks was excellent on several levels. I knew there would be something good on the telly. It was great background noise during the day – I work from home so have the luxury of leaving the telly on when I feel like it (just don’t tell the boss). It helped with my ongoing ‘Project Brainwash’ for the kids – there was always a game to sit them in front of.
So kudos Sky. Now you just need to reactivate it for the start of the EPL season.
I can’t quite remember such a perfect storm of international football. The Oceania Nations Cup (yuck, remember that?) then Copa America Centenario then Euro 2016. We have a brief respite before the European season starts then before you know it we’ll be tuning in to watch how everyone goes at the Confederations Cup then, in what will seem like no time at all, the next World Cup.
[As an aside, and parking the corruption for a second, I wonder what the good people at FIFA think about their decision to give Russia the 2018 World Cup. Their fans, and team, did themselves proud in France, didn’t they?]
Football, like rust, never sleeps. Nor should it.