Well, it’s done. Portugal, a side who finished third in their qualifying group and won just ONE game in 90 minutes, are the 2016 European Champions. So did the new format progress the competition? We think that opening statement says it all.
When UEFA announced that the Euros would be expanded from 16 teams to 24, many through the footballing landscape applauded. Not only would smaller nations get the chance, but we would be treated to more games, more goals, more drama and a greater festival of football. But sadly, it just didn’t feel like that was the case.
Not until the knockout stages did the competition really begin, and you could be forgiven for failing to remember much from the group stages, so why did France 2016 not live up to previous Euros or the World Cup?
Well the culprit is quite clear, 24 teams just doesn’t work! Essentially, we sat through 36 games to rid ourselves of just EIGHT teams. All that huffing and puffing that just didn’t quite get the pay-off that tournament football usually produces. There wasn’t the desperation, the blood, sweat and tears, the drama and class that we are used to. Why? Well it boiled down to the fact that teams knew that they could qualify with just three points.
Take champions Portugal, or the Northern Irish for example. Portugal became the first team to qualify for the knockout stages without winning a single game! Northern Ireland on the other hand somehow played four games at this tournament, and lost three of them, yes THREE! Yet the plucky Northern Irish could’ve been minutes away from a quarter-final.
It boiled down to the fact teams played defensive knowing a deafeat or draw was not harmful to their chances. Gone was the full-out, blistering attacking football of previous Euro’s and in was a scared, negative approach that doesn’t provide anything but yawns.
It makes things even more frustrating for us Scots who feel that with the quality that has been on show, we would’ve been a shoe-in for at least the last 16 (he says laughing awkwardly).
At least here in the UK we had the involvement of the home nations giving us something to follow, but imagine if you were Dutch! Watching a pointless game between Turkey and Czech Republic must have been rivoting. The neutral just wasn’t entertained as previously.
It just seemed the magic was sapped out until we saw our first last 16 game. And with Euro 2020 being held all over Europe, the chances of the European Championships becoming diminished increases further as the tournament risks becoming diluted and losing its carnival atmosphere.
There are some aspects that will live with many, from Wales’ unforgettable tournament to the fans, which despite a troubled start from some, made the tournament fun. But it wasn’t enjoyable enough for us to miss it, like we did with the wonderful world cup in 2014.
Euro 2016 was a great tournament for many reasons, Iceland’s win over England, Payet’s tears, Ronaldo’s moth, Will Grigg constantly bursting into flames, and some amazing goals and drama. But, for the hype, France 2016 might just end up in the forgotten pile along with Euro 2004 and every Confederations Cup.
Let’s see how this would compare if Scotland qualify in 2020. JUST IMAGINE!