July 11, 2016

Portugal did not deserve to win Euro 2016

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

When you look back at the champions of recent international soccer tournaments, a fact really jumps out: One of the best teams usually wins.

That was not the case at Euro 2016.

Sorry, fans of Portugal, but your team was probably the fourth-best team in this tournament and shouldn’t have even been playing on Sunday.

Looking back over the past 20 years of results, the only other champion that was as weak as this Portuguese side was Greece in 2004 – which, ironically, beat hosts Portugal.

There was little quality in this Portugal side and was one of the worst teams to watch as well thanks to manager Fernando Santos’ negative tactics.

This was a side that won just one game in regulation and led games for a total of 77 minutes in the tournament.

The champions only advanced to the knockout stage as a third-place team with three points and a goal differential of zero.

Does this sound like a deserving champion for the second biggest prize in international football?

This was the side effect of expanding the Euros to 24 teams from 16. By adding those eight extra teams, the knockout stage had to be increased by adding some third-place squads that had no business advancing – like Northern Ireland and Portugal.

It also led to most of the minnows sitting back and hoping for a counter, but largely playing for a drawing, knowing that could be enough to move on. While there was more exposure and we did get to see the incredible Iceland story play out, it was at the sacrifice of some quality of play. But whether or not this 24-team tournament was a success is a debate for another day – although there should certainly not be an expansion to 32 teams.

In the final itself, it was a game that should’ve been won by France. Portugal was incredibly lucky throughout the game – Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury aside – and were most fortunate in the minutes leading up to the winning goal.

How referee Mark Clattenburg couldn’t tell that the ball hit Eder’s hand as opposed to Laurent Koscielny’s is a bit ridiculous – one player is black, the other white. And then to give Koscielny a yellow card for the “foul” made sure that he couldn’t attempt a tactical foul on Eder after Portugal’s free kick came back off the bar. Instead, Eder – largely acknowledged as one of the worst players on the pitch Sunday – was able to strike a shot from range that just barely eluded Hugo Lloris.

It was truly a crappy goal that symbolized Portugal’s tournament perfectly: It was just enough and it was undeserved.

Really, for all intents and purposes, the real final of Euro 2016 was played on Thursday. France defeated Germany to become the rightful champions of Europe. Portugal won third place against Wales and Sunday’s game was a mere exhibition after a David Guetta concert.

As far as I’m concerned, Cristiano Ronaldo is still searching for his international trophy, but he does look like he’ll have a nice future as a manager.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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