Thursday, June 23, 2016

Reflections on the Euro 2016 Group stages

  • 24 teams are too many: all due respect to some of the surprise teams, but there were too many defensive and risk-free matches. 
  • Some groups in qualification were not very strong. Everyone from Austria's group (including Sweden and Russia), ended at the bottom of their qualifiers. Portugal's group included Albania and Denmark (the last of which was eliminated by Sweden in the play-off, another bottom team).
  • The goal average has been 1.95 (47 goals in 24 matches), and if it continues below 2, it will be the lowest scoring tournament since 1980 (when 27 goals were scored in 14 matches). It is not surprising given the quality of defenses and lack of risk taking from many sides, and we are well below the averages of the last three tournaments, all above 2.4 goals per match.
  • Despite few goals, some have been truly fantastic: Dimitri Payet's against Romania in the opening match stands out, but so does Luka Modric's against Turkey, Ronaldo's first goal against Hungary, and Axel Witsel's against Ireland (following 28 passes!)
  • It is hard to say which has been the best team, but some stand out: Italy (following their brilliant performance against Belgium), Croatia (their fans stood in the way of making them the only team to go through with three victories), Spain (two strong easy victories and a defeat to a great team), France and Germany (both teams won their groups as expected, but more is expected of them).
  • Some players have stood out: Andres Iniesta, Ivan Perisic, Dimitri Payet and Gareth Bale
  • Iceland has been the biggest surprise of the tournament, with 8% of their population in the stands. Surely they are not a seeworthy team in the technical sense, but their organization and fighting spirit has carried them this far, and they are the darlings of the tournament.
  • The other big surprise has been Hungary. It is refreshing to see a side that has meant so much in football history, but not participated in a major tournament for 30 years, back among the 16 best.
  • Portugal has been the biggest disappointment. And they have not won many friends by being too full of themselves and looking down on opponents.
  • We will all miss Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
  • Hooliganism, nationalism and (in)security have rightfully been issues of concern, and have cast a shadow over the tournament. A pity for the many good fans, but it does not take away the disgrace of hooliganism again making such a return in 2016.

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