Now that this summer’s international soccer competitions are over and the European club seasons haven’t started yet, there is a lull in the soccer world filled only by ridiculous transfer rumors. To help take your mind off of the lack of soccer, let’s look back at the recently concluded Euros and see how each team fared.
Albania didn’t perform worse than expected, and even pulled off a win against Romania. But in a tournament where so many underdogs shined, Albania’s failure to do so stands out.
So close. France were playing so well heading into the final, and had they won it, they would probably be favorites for the 2018 World Cup. Instead, the hosts ended their tournament with disappointment and frustration.
After looking good in their loss to France, Romania couldn’t follow up on that initial promise. A meek draw against Switzerland and a loss to Albania left them last in the group.
Despite earning five points in the group stage, Switzerland never looked like a good team. They relied on ineffective opponents to advance until their luck ran out with a loss on penalties to Poland in the round of 16.
As poorly as England played in their loss to Iceland, that game isn’t the main reason for their grade. Rather, the reaction to the loss and the continued defeatist mentality of England threaten to destroy a team with promising young players like Eric Dier, Marcus Rashford, and Dele Alli.
A late surge and equalizing goal against England was the only accomplishment of a Russia side that otherwise played abysmally throughout the tournament. On top of the team’s awful performance, Russian fans’ violent behavior gave the tournament a worried feel and raised further concerns for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Slovakia didn’t make any headlines, but that goes for the bad as much as the good. They played well in all of their group stage games, and a loss to Germany is far from disappointing. Overall, it was a solid tournament for the Slovaks.
If it weren’t for Iceland, Wales would be everyone’s favorite team of the tournament. From Gareth Bale’s free kicks to Hal Robson-Kanu’s stunning Cruyff turn, the Welsh were one of the most exciting teams to watch. If Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies hadn’t been suspended, they might have even made it to the finals.
A silly handball and a subpar half was all it took for Germany to bow out of the Euros. Some poor attacking play revealed a need for a long term striking option, but Germany remains one of the most talented teams in the world, and you know things aren’t too bad when a semifinal exit is disappointing.
Northern Ireland- A-
Aside from having the best chant of the tournament, Northern Ireland exceeded expectations by advancing from one of the toughest groups. They defended valiantly against better opponents and were one of this Euros’ many underdog stories.
Robert Lewandowski may have been disappointing, but Poland overall had a decent tournament. They played fairly defensively, but never looked worse than a team they were playing against, only losing to Portugal on penalties.
Ukraine looked better than Germany for about twenty minutes and then decided to fade into irrelevance. With great attacking players like Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka, Ukraine could have at least looked good while they were losing.
They overcame unruly fans and they triumphed over Spain, but Croatia couldn’t pull it off against Portugal. They played better than the Portuguese, but a defensive lapse in the final minutes of extra time allowed Ricardo Quaresma to score and sent a Croatia side that had played so well out of the tournament.
Czech Republic- D
The Czechs made a roaring comeback against Croatia to earn a draw, but were otherwise pretty terrible. Bad losses to Spain and Turkey won’t give Czech Republic fans hope for their team in future tournaments.
The era of Spanish dominance has been over since 2014, but the Euros put an exclamation point on Spain’s decline. After losing to Croatia to finish second in their group, Spain were thrashed by a far less talented, though tactically superior, Italian side. The Spanish still have an abundance of great players, but it will be a while before they are favorites again.
Turkey nearly advanced to the knockout rounds, but that was only through a win against an even worse Czech Republic. The Turks’ first two games consisted of two meek losses and the booing of star player Arda Turan.
It seemed for a moment like Belgium would finally overcome the criticisms of tactical ineptitude and a lack of team chemistry. They dominated Hungary and looked like a favorite for the finals. Then Wales crushed them and the criticisms came roaring back. Now manager Marc Wilmots is gone and the promise of Belgium’s golden generation is dwindling.
Ireland didn’t play especially well, but they were exciting. Their late winner against Italy to secure a spot in the round of 16 was thrilling, and the Irish even led France for a half before Antoine Griezmann scored a brace to deservedly send Ireland home.
Graziano Pelle may now be the 6th highest paid soccer player in the world, but Italy’s squad was far from the most talented of the Euros. It is a testament to Antonio Conte’s brilliant tactics that they were able to dominate Belgium and Spain and come just a terrible Simone Zaza penalty away from beating Germany.
Sweden, a team with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, didn’t get a shot on target all tournament. Whether that came from Zlatan trying to do everything himself or the ineffectiveness of the rest of the team is hard to tell, but either way Sweden was one of the worst teams of the Euros.
Austria came into the Euros as a dark-horse favorite to make a deep run, and boy did they disappoint. Talented players like David Alaba and Julian Baumgartlinger were ordinary at best, and the team as a whole never looked like they even wanted to be playing.
Hungary’s underdog story wasn’t the greatest (see below), but they still surprised just by advancing out of their group, never mind winning it. And their 3-3 draw against Portugal was one of the most exciting games of the tournament.
When your country has less than 400,000 people and you make it to the Euro quarterfinals, you’ve done a pretty good job. Not only did Iceland do that, but they did it by attacking and playing aggressively rather than sitting back and defending for 90 minutes. They even gave us an awesome viking celebration.
They didn’t win pretty, but they did win. Just as Greece did to Portugal in 2004, Portugal played defensively and beat a more talented home team to win their first ever major tournament. And they didn’t even need Ronaldo to do it.