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Soccer American
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Knockout Special pricing on +EURO2016 and +Copa America 2016 gear plus hundreds of other great prices in store and online at socceramerican.com 
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EURO 2016 HITS and MISSES

With Euro 2016 behind us, let's look at who hit the highs and lows.

Let's begin with: Congratulations Portugal. Reaching the final with the offensive talent at their disposal wasn't exactly a surprise but also wasn't expected when you consider the bigger guns in the tournament. Of course, a stoppage time goal by Iceland relegated them to 3rd place in group F and subsequently the so-called easier half of the draw and that certainly helped their cause. Failing to win a game in the group stage coupled with extra-time and penalty wins to start the knock-out phase didn’t bode well, but progression in any form is all that is needed and other teams couldn’t find that formula. Beating Wales in the Semi-final amounted to their only win in 90 minutes, and that brings the tournament format into question (more on that later). The final was a dour affair with the almost inevitable progression to a 0-0 draw, extra-time and a Portugal win. That was the theme of the tournament.

France achieved the required Final appearance even if it wasn't necessarily expected, and they will be disappointed not to have won it all. As host nation the fans expected nothing less than the Sunday appearance in Saint-Denis even if Spain and Germany were the pre-tournament favorites. Not always free-flowing, sometimes lacking identity and direction, they grew into the tournament and showed how good they can be with the semi-final win over current world champions Germany. As for the final, it just wasn't to be their day. The better team (just), a Griezmann miss from 3 yards, the intervention of the post in stoppage time, and every ball in the Portugal box just seeming to fall the wrong way made for a painful end to their tournament.

Headlining the over-achievers list are obviously Wales and the aforementioned Iceland. Wales run to the semi-final, comfortably beating the multi-talented Belgium along the way, has been rewarded with a move to 11th place in the FIFA rankings. Anything beyond the group was a bonus and this was a stunning tournament for them. In Iceland, I guess this proves their qualifying campaign wasn't a fluke, they played with heart and passion, and a fair amount of skill. Again, progressing beyond the group was a bonus, and beating England was icing on the cake. Both Wales and Iceland have now announced themselves to the rest of European football so let's see if they can carry it forward into World Cup qualifying.

Honorable mentions go to Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Switzerland, Hungary and Slovakia, all of whom progressed beyond the group stage. Whilst it may have been expected for some of these teams, especially with the tournament format, there were other so-called bigger names who didn't fare so well. That said, Poland in particular must be kicking themselves. Having positioned themselves in the top half of the draw they had an opportunity to kill off Portugal in the quarter-final and set up a date with Wales, but a cautious approach eventually lead to their downfall in extra-time.

On the other side, massive disappointment from England and Belgium yet again in a major tournament. Both teams have huge amounts of talent but seem to fall flat on the big stage. In this case, both against supposed "lesser" teams in Iceland and Wales respectively. On paper these should have been comfortable wins for both considering the depth of talent in their squads, but then this game isn't played on paper and we have come to expect these results.

Finally Russia. Not much to say about the next World Cup hosts aside from they need to spend the next 2 years rebuilding and trying to figure out how to avoid embarrassment on home soil in 2018. Mr. Putin will not stand for performances like these with the eyes of the world on his country.

In closing, my one question is for UEFA: I applaud the idea of making the tournament bigger and allowing in more teams. People have said it dilutes the tournament but how can you say the so-called “lesser” teams have done anything other than enlighten the tournament and brought joy to the game. The likes of Wales, Iceland and Northern Ireland may not have been here under the old system; maybe we need more of those and less of the “old guard”. Added to which, their fans have made the atmosphere in France one to savor especially after the early scenes of violence we saw.

However, I do question the group qualifying set-up and progression into the knock-out phase. I understand you needed 16 teams to make it work but in eventual winners Portugal – and I’m not singling them out for any other reason than the math – how can a team that fails to win a single game in the group stage progress? In my mind that just doesn’t seem right.



(The above views are those of the contributing writer and not necessarily those of Soccer American, Inc., it's owners, management or staff)

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