It wasn’t the best final in the history of the European Championship, but Eder’s right-footed drive in the second period of extra time was enough to crush French dreams and give Portugal their first ever continental title.

That game came at the end of a month-long tournament and somewhat served as a microcosm for the 50 games that had preceded it; it was fairly negative, lacked quality for the most part and was quite frustrating to watch.

The decision taken by UEFA to expand the competition to 24 teams to ‘broaden access’ (we all know it was about the money, it’s always about the money) was always going to be a controversial development and it has had mixed results.

On the positive side it has brought together lots of fans who would probably not otherwise had a chance of attending a major competition and has produced some great moments like Albania winning a game, Northern Ireland and Wales showing so much heart and Iceland beating England.

The main criticism of the tournament though was the lack of goals, just 2.12 per game (the lowest since Euro ’96), and the poor quality of so many of the matches. Probably because sides knew that a draw wasn’t a bad result and just one win could see them through, it made the football played much more negative.

That said though, one interesting thing to note is the contrast between the group games and the knockout games. The group games yielded an abysmal 1.92 goals per game, but the knockouts offered 2.6 goals per game. That figure is higher than the 2.3 at Euro 2012 but lower than 2.86 at Euro 2008. Statistics are there to be interpreted in many ways and you can read into that what you will, but I didn’t think the tournament was as bad as many suggested. I would still prefer the next tournament to just have 16 teams but UEFA seem set to stick to 24 and possibly even add more.

Without further adieu, here is my team of the tournament!

Hugo_Lloris_Euro_2012_vs_Spain_02Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris (France)

Narrowly edging out Rui Patricio, the French captain was a leader on the pitch for his team-mates during the tournament and made numerous crucial saves.

Whilst he will have been disappointed not to lift the trophy, he could not have done any more during the final and the Tottenham man will now have to lift himself and his colleagues for the upcoming qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

Honourable mentions: Rui Patricio (Portugal), Michael McGovern (Northern Ireland)

maxresdefaultRight-back: Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)

Italian manager Antonio Conte, now heading to Chelsea, said before the tournament that individually Italy could not outplay teams so they would have to work as a team and defend robustly, something they are famed for.

Bonucci, a man Conte knew well from his time at Juventus, was outstanding during the tournament and his long pass for Emmanuele Giaccherini’s goal against Belgium was arguably the pass of the tournament.

Defensively he was solid and, along with Barzagli and Chiellini, provided Italy with the perfect platform to play from.

Honourable mentions: Chris Gunter (Wales)

Chiellini_in_NazionaleCentre-back: Giorgio Chiellini (Italy)

Whilst Bonucci offered the attacking drive from the three at the back for the Azzurri, Chiellini is the unassuming leader of that defence that conceded just one goal with him at the helm during the tournament.

His goal against Spain was a personal highlight for him, but it was his outstanding defensive performances against Belgium and Spain that will live long in the memory.

JeromeBoateng_Lviv2015.jpgCentre-back: Jerome Boateng (Germany)

Jerome Boateng’s outstanding goalline clearance against Ukraine, recovering from his own mistake to prevent an almost certain goal, summed up his tournament.

He led a well-drilled German defence that seemed somewhat more organised than at the World Cup two years before, and was equally brilliant against Italy when asked to switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-1-2.

Whilst he looked dejected when injury forced him off against France in the semi, he can have no complaints about the excellent tournament he had.

Honourable mentions: Ragnar Sigurdsson (Iceland), Ashley Williams (Wales), Michal Pazdan (Poland)

Raphael_GuerreiroLeft-back: Raphael Guerreiro (Portugal)

A player I have admired for some time at Lorient, Guerreiro was tipped for a big tournament for Portugal and he certainly delivered.

Shaky in the group stages, he matured as the tournament went on and brilliantly neutralised the threatof the bombarding Darijo Srna against Croatia, before stealing the show with two huge performances against Wales and then against France in the final.

He was snapped up by Dortmund during the tournament and after what we saw last night, it certainly seemed an astute move by Thomas Tuchel.

Matuidi_PSGCentral midfield: Blaise Matuidi (France)

Whilst he does not get the plaudits he often deserves, Blaise Matuidi effectively performed the role Deschamps had played 16 years earlier for France.

He sat the base of their midfield and consistently made interceptions and made over 92% of his passes and was key in France making it to the final.

At a time when Paul Pogba looks set to become the first £100 million footballer, Matuidi certainly proved his worth for his country and why he is one of the best in Ligue 1.

RamboCentral midfield: Aaron Ramsey (Wales)

The Arsenal midfielder shone brightly in a Welsh team that defied all expectations to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale was expected to be the star and whilst he was impressive, the contributions of this man, as well as those of everybody else under Chris Coleman cannot go unnoticed.

Ramsey was at the heart of everything good Wales did and created four goals and scored a brilliant one himself against Russia. Arsenal fans can only hope he continues that form for them next season in the Premier League.

Honourable mentions: Luka Modric (Croatia), Andres Iniesta (Spain) and Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland).

GriezmannCentral attacking midfield: Antoine Griezmann (France)

The tournament’s top scorer and Golden Ball winner, Antoine Griezmann, was the star that that French needed to get behind.

As Paul Pogba underwhelmed, Griezmann came to the fore and was a complete nightmare for the opposing teams to defend against – a problem which saw him score six and assist a further two.

Yes he struggled in the final and will be haunted by those two missed headers, but for a man who has played 70 games in a season, he really could not have done much more.

Honourable mentions: Mesut Ozil (Germany)

Shaht-Fener_(4)Right wing: Nani (Portugal)

The former Manchester United winger’s career was assumed to have peaked and be on a downwards spiral following a move to Fenerbahce last summer.

He scored 8 goals and got 8 assists but that didn’t necessarily mean he would thrive for Portugal, especially when often asked to play up front.

However, he adapted to the role brilliantly and finally looks as though he might be turning into the player many thought he would be. His three goals made him their joint top-scorer and earned him a move to Valencia – a club where he looks set to thrive.

Honourable mentions: Renato Sanches (Portugal), Gareth Bale (Wales), Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)

Rus-Por2012_(16)Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Eder’s goal in the final seemed to sum up the role of the striker at this tournament – either they were fantastic or they floundered.

Lewandowski, Kane and Seferovic all fit in the latter, whilst Alvaro Morata, Graziano Pelle and Olivier Giroud all looked great.

However, the best man for me was Cristiano Ronaldo. Profligacy against Iceland and Austria is all that stopped him from being top scorer and when it mattered, he took the initiative.

Against Hungary he was direct and took a leading role, whilst he dragged Portugal past a dogged Wales in the semi-final.

He has played better and probably will still for his country, but he was the gem in Fernando Santos’ well orchestrated side and he sparkled when it mattered most.

DimiPLeft midfield: Dimitri Payet (France)

West Ham’s Payet was simply outstanding in the group stages and scored the best goal of the tournament in my opinion on the first night against Romania.

His trickery on the ball and ability to unlock a defence were on show throughout the tournament and he often looked like the most creative player in that French team.

He was surprisingly subbed off after 57 minutes in the final, just as he was getting in the zone, but he contributed well and could perhaps earn himself a move away from the Hammers.

Honourable mentions: Ivan Perisic (Croatia)

 

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