Portugal are the new champions of Europe!!! In what can only be called a drab affair, with two teams playing lethargic football and looking scared to do anything but pass it sideways and wait for penalties, only for the god of Eder stepped up and changed the history books forever.
It really was a terrible final, it lacked all sorts of quality and both teams just weren’t very good. The fairly ironic thing is that the final was the embodiment of the tournament itself, cautious, low scoring, players not showing up and overall a bore for the viewer. I didn’t think it would be a thriller; however I didn’t expect it to be as low on quality as it actually was.
I doubt the Portuguese really give two shits that so many people seem to think that they didn’t deserve to win the competition, using reasoning from they played shit football, to they finished third in their groups or the fact that they only won one of their seven games in ninety minutes, but at the end of the day I’d rather be shit and winning than great and going home with nothing.
The weird thing for me is that the same people who thought that Portugal didn’t deserve to win the tournament seemed to think that France did deserve to win it, totally ignoring the fact that France had also been shit throughout the tournament, despite having the easier run towards the final and the much better team.
It is hard to review the game itself because not very much happened; in fact the biggest talking point was the injury of Ronaldo. In many ways the injury was a win win for Portugal, if they lost it would have been because Ronaldo went down and if they won then it would be an incredible underdog feat.
The injury itself I felt was pretty despicable from the French. I doubt that Payet went out of his way to injure Ronaldo, however the tactic was clearly to try and kick him out of the game and his tackle was pretty dirty. I’m sure the French would disagree, however you can clearly see that their intention at the start of both halves was to put in very heavy tackles to unsettle their opponents. Who knows how the game would have went if Ronaldo had been able to stay on the pitch, the injury seemed to solidify Portugal and spur the players on to do the impossible.
In my opinion the reason that France lost the match was this mentality, it is the mentality of a small team who come out against a stronger opponent and leave a couple on them to knock them off their game. If Portugal had come out and done this then fair enough, they clearly aren’t the better of the two teams, however for France with all their quality players to come out and act in this manner is perplexing.
There is only one man to blame for France’s loss and that is Didier Deschamps. He got his tactics totally wrong in the match and it isn’t really a shock because he had been getting his tactics seriously wrong throughout the tournament. The idea that his quality side needed to kick the Portuguese team which was seriously lacking in talent is ridiculous. Deschamps decision to hook Giroud for Gignac who is essentially a slower, fatter and shitter version of Giroud was straight up stupid. Gignac was terrible all tournament and it wasn’t like he had a lack of opportunities, he made 6 sub appearances and was horrific in each one.
The worst of all however was going into extra time and they have a sub left, if only they had a player with a calm head who loves to run at tired defenders and can score goals…Oh wait they did and he didn’t bring him on until it was too late. Martial in five minutes created more than most of the other attackers had in the past hour. Griezmann was having a terrible game and looked exhausted but lasted the full 120 minutes, Sissoko was great but tired in extra time, he was too scared to make the change which could have won him the game, and it was incredibly weak management.
Deschamps was clearly sitting back waiting for something to happen, hoping that France scored so he could bring Kante on, Portugal to score so he could bring on Martial or for it to go to penalties so he could bring on Cabaye. The game was there to be taken, the Portuguese were exhausted, a proactive simple substitution which most people could see could very well have won him the game. Instead he waited till it was too late and the Portuguese got the adrenaline boost from Eder’s screamer and the French players were emotionally and physically shot, the water carrier lives on.
Speaking of Eder, talk about stepping up to the big occasion. He really isn’t that good a player but he was brilliant once he came on. Unlike the Deschamps, Santos was willing to take a risk by subbing a midfielder for a striker and ultimately it won him the game. The introduction of Eder catapulted Portugal in extra time, as they began to look much more dangerous and the French defenders couldn’t handle his presence. The actual strike was quite something; he digs it out from under his feet whilst getting great power and accuracy on it from so far out, not much the keeper could do.
It was a poor game so picking out players who played well is in itself pretty tricky; Eder did really well when he came on, as did Coman, Pepe was man of the match and was a rock at the back almost all game (getting skinned by Gignac in stoppage time apart), Nani did the unthankful work up top very well, Sissoko was like a man possessed on the French side and Rui Patricio made a number of good saves and his presence in the box was great, beyond that everyone else was either average or fairly underwhelming. A special mention should go out to Ronaldo who tried his best to play on despite the clear fact he shouldn’t have and also for his motivation on the side-lines which seemed to have a really positive effect on the other players, like a true captain.
The refereeing was generally good from Mark Clattenburg, I can only think of two mistakes he made, firstly not booking Payet for his tackle on Ronaldo (didn’t even give a free kick) and secondly Koscielny’s phantom handball. Portugal didn’t score so ultimately you could argue it didn’t matter, however it you watch Eder’s goal it is clear that Koscielny probably would have fouled him had he not already been booked, which could have led to a very different outcome.
I thought pre-match (and pre-tournament) that France would win the game, however I did think they would struggle because Portugal were likely to sit deep and France had been having trouble breaking teams down, and so it turned out. I said after the group stages that I felt Portugal had a really good chance of winning the tournament if they got past Croatia and they did exactly that, ironically beating France in a similar way to they beat Croatia, as in the better team not taking any risks in the game and being hit with the sucker punch in extra time by a resilient Portugal.
It’s always fun looking back at your predictions over a tournament, I had France making the final and playing Austria because I had the theory that every 12/16 years the Euros throws up an odd winner, oddly enough Portugal came out of that very group and went on to win. If you look back on this Portugal win in the future you won’t see it as odd because Portugal are probably the seventh biggest European nation, and are long overdue an international title, however this really wasn’t a good Portuguese team and not many people favoured them at all. A team who finished below Hungary and Iceland in their group stage ended up winning the Euros; if that isn’t an odd result I really don’t know what is.
I’m pleased that Portugal won the Euros, they played disciplined football and although it wasn’t pretty on the eye, they were never actually beaten. I think that Ronaldo deserves this title for his career and I think Portugal as a country deserve it as well, especially after coming up short so many times in the path and in particular in 2004 where they really should have won. Ironically Portugal won their first international tournament in the manner that they lost their first final, the underdogs against the heavily favoured home nation and playing defensive football. It’s funny how things come round in circles.
So what did you think of the Euro 2016 final? Are you wondering who the idiot who left the lights at the stadium on are? Are you looking for the number of Quaresma’s hairdresser? Or maybe you just want to go for a burger with Gignac and have Deschamps pass you water? Leave a comment and share those thoughts.