WHETHER you like Cristiano Ronaldo or not, there can be no denying that Euro 2016 was a dull affair. Too long, too many teams and not enough goals. The end of one era and the start of another. So long was Euro 2016 that we are now tip-toeing into a new season without, seemingly, a reasonable break. The Football League starts on August 5 – just 26 days’ time.
UEFA will try and tell us that the new 24-team format was a big success. From a financial perspective, it probably was, with the average attendance of 47,594 the best since Euro 1988. France put on a good show (great stadiums!) but sadly, the football failed to live up to expectations.
But are our hopes pitched too high these days? As competitions get bigger, the mediocre outweighs the brilliant. The European Championships and the World Cup invariably disappoint, and one of the main reasons is the sheer number of teams involved.
Even the TV pundits are trying to kid us. I don’t know what tournament Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs were watching, but I am sure it wasn’t the one that bored me to tears at times. Admittedly, Giggs, as a Welshman and Keane, as an Irishman, may have got more out of it than an Englishman, but it is hard to defend a bloated competition with a goals-per-game rate of a miserly 2.12. Euro 2016 was like music in a corporate elevator – always on, but nobody really listening.
France should have won 2016, but they just ran out of ideas and urgency in the final. Man-for-man, they are a better team than Portugal, but they just didn’t perform when it counted. They had the top scorer and best player, Antoine Griezmann and the passion of their support helped make their games a spectacle, but they were not in the same class as 1984, 1998 and 2000. There was no Platini or Zidane to add some genuine class.
We will not remember much about Portugal, although we will recall that they did it without Ronaldo. We will note the audacious moth that landed on his face as he fell injured – it was a Silence of the Lambs moment if ever there was one (for Clarice, read Lloris). The moths of St. Denis is not the name of a Gallic-noir crime drama, but the plague of small winged creatures that flew across the stadium during the final.
We will also smile at the exploits of Iceland and Wales. Those men from the north gave us the Icelandic clap and chant, 2016’s Vuvuzela, and caused a couple of upsets before falling to France – in the last eight. Wales did even better, but then they did have Gareth Bale in their ranks.
Spain came to the end of their time and Germany didn’t really catch fire. Italy did better than expected and then you have the debacle that was England. Let’s not go there. In other words, the old guard all failed to excite us. Only France gave us hope of fantasy as we knew that, as hosts, they would always stand a chance.
If Ronaldo had been on song, which he rarely was, Portugal may have given us more in the way of entertainment, but they were certainly more durable than they have been in the past. They reached the last four in 2012, the quarters in 2008 and final in 2004, so nobody should begrudge them success – if not for Ronaldo then surely for the late, great Eusebio.
Like Italy in World Cup 2006, Greece in 2004, Denmark 1992 and even Italy in 1982, Portugal came out on top because of good “tournament management”. It is a pity that UEFA do not exercise the same, because 2016 may be the last centralised tournament. Before we know it, the carnival will be well and truly over…