By Stephen Constantine, Jul 19 2016 02:04PM
Well what a European Championship we have had, absolutely amazing and although hugely disappointing from an Englishman’s perspective a very good start to the new format of 24 teams. Sure there are some who will say the event has been watered down but there are 55 full members and adding 8 teams has given so much more incentive to all European countries. I hope this will force many countries to focus more on developing their own players, pay more attention to grass roots and improve their coach education. When you see the likes of Wales, Iceland, N Ireland and Slovakia perform as they did I don’t see that things have been watered down. Belgium was back after quite some time and a few top teams didn’t make it notably Holland which for me just adds to the excitement. I would also add that there should be a draw for the last 16 teams not a seeding process I don’t see why we are always trying to get the so called big teams into the last 8 or last 4 let there be a draw in true knockout style.
Watching the Euros one of the things that I noticed was teams were trying to cancel each other out rather than try and go and win the game. We did not really see too many teams go after their opponent and even the so called bigger teams were very cautious in their approach. Even the mighty Germans reverted to a back three to try and match the Italians and although they eventually won it on penalties they could have quite easily lost. Personally I would have loved to see Germany go after the Italians forcing the wing backs to stay deep and in essence make the Italians play a 5-3-2 which is what they do without the ball. But the fear of losing is all too evident and Germany chose to play a 3-4-2-1 . The result both teams more or less cancelled each out and it went to penalties, and we all know what happened there!
The other thing for me as I said has been the work ethic and the discipline of the so called lesser nations. I for one was very happy when I heard UEFA had gone to 24 teams as this would give more chances to all European Nations to qualify for the big events. There were several teams that made their debuts in the new format including Wales, Iceland, Albania, Northern Ireland, and Slovakia and a few other teams that had been absent for some time. I don’t think any team disgraced themselves and really do feel that the addition will make for more competitive games in the qualifiers, now everyone has a chance to make it.
Interesting to see that 3 in the back has resurfaced with Wales and Italy both using the system successfully. The weak point of the 3-5-2 is always going to be down the sides and if you do not have the right players to play the flanks sooner or later you are going to be in trouble. It is a thankless task and one that requires a player to really want to get up and down and know when and where he needs to be with and without the ball. Watching the Italians I thought that both the Italian wing backs Sciglio and Florenzi were great examples of what you need in that position. But their lack of creativity up front and no real playmaker did not allow them to take advantage going forward. On the plus side however and again all depending on the players you have, the 3 central defenders for me need three key things, Intelligence, Speed , and the ability to ping a ball when needed to the wide men. Of course there is a great deal more than that but those 3 in the back should be able to take care of a lone striker. At the end of the day its not about the system it is about the players in the system and of course their instructions as to what to do in the system.
Three games went to penalties and the usual comments of there must be a better way to decide a game came up, but to be honest not sure there is a better way. I heard someone say remove a player form each team once it goes to extra time and do that every 10 minutes !! Penalties are part of the game and given what is at stake these days 30 minutes of open play penalties to decide it for me seem like the right thing.
My one real suggestion would be for the referees to start giving penalties when the shirt exchange takes place in the penalty box every time there is a corner, free kick and in Iceland’s case long throw. If referees start awarding penalties for the nonsense that goes on in those situations sooner rather than later it will stop, we saw so many cases and continuously and yet no action!! I understand no one wants to lose a game to a penalty for that but by giving the penalty it would act as a deterrent and allow the set play to play out.
Did Portugal deserve to win the Euros at the end of the day? Perhaps not but the determination and the work rate was first class and seeing Ronaldo lift the trophy was nice. I am not sure he will be around for the next one, so winning this would have been very special. France for me going into the Final had 3-4 game winners and Portugal 1 or 2, and the French started off quite well. The work rate and the willingness to put their bodies on the line from the entire Portuguese team were very evident. Sanches was immense and Quaresma ably came on to replace Ronaldo but the entire back four were superb.
Congratulations to Portugal
Ronaldo lifts his first and possibly last major Trophy with Portugal