I thought the tournament, held in France with the final in Paris, lacked excitement, many games dictated by teams who only want to play on the break. Unusually in such a major tournament the top strikers for most countries were generally under-performing throughout.
Antoine Griezmann was for me the only major exception; he had a great season for Atletico Madrid and looked extremely dangerous when moved into his usual position in the hole. Giroud was his usual soft centred self, never looks as if he fancies getting hurt for the cause, leaving Griezmann isolated against Portugal. Paul Pogba looked overrated and generally overpriced with his performances over the course of the tournament, Dmitri Payet showed flashes of quality and Moussa Sissoko was a threat from wide, Laurent Koscielny at centre back along with Hugo Lloris who was solid as goalkeeper
Thomas Muller disappointed generally both when played as a forward or in an attacking midfield role, Germany looked far better defensively with Boateng and Hummels looking solid, not convinced about the much hyped Toni Kroos who other than set plays looked very ordinary in open play. Kimmich and Hector offered a threat down the flanks from deep positions. Mesut Ozil showed flashes of ability in open play. Struggled to score throughout and lack some genuine quality up front. Mario Gomez and the highly rated Thomas Muller were both very ordinary throughout. I was disappointed that Germany did not give the exciting young Leroy Sané more time on the field, for me he has a good future in front of him.
I was delighted for Wales; they showed all the spirit and courage that will get what is in fact an ordinary team way beyond what was expected. We all know the capabilities of Gareth Bale, he was a handful throughout and has pace added to a wand of a left foot, for me only Gareth, Ashley Williams and Aaron Ramsey would get into what for me is a very ordinary England team. They have their leaders in Ashley Williams and Gareth Bale, who to a big degree help them over achieve and return home to well earned adulation.
Solid defensively with good performances from Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, hard-working and honest, but generally lacked the flair and quality to get to the sharp end of the competition, though they more than earned and for me overachieved to get as far as they did. Well coached and difficult to break down. Steven Davies their most effective central midfield player.
Republic of Ireland
Managed to beat a much changed Italy with a late goal from Brady, but were soundly beaten by Belgium. Republic were well served by the hard-working Long, with bits of quality from Brady and Hoolahan. They were generally solid but struggled to contain an on form Lukaku on the day. Hendrick also put a shift in and showed some bits of quality on the ball.
Group A, Albania were workmanlike but ordinary, Switzerland showed flashes of ability but yet again, lacked a natural goal scorer. Romania also struggled for goals with Bogdan Stancu scoring their only two goals of the tournament.
Group B, we will leave England till later, Russia were a shadow of their former selves with veteran centre half Vasili Berezutski scoring one goal, which was one more than any of his team’s forwards managed. Slovakia yet again had no forwards who scored in the competition, the talented midfielder Marek Hamsik and pacey wide player Vladimir Weiss offered their major threat.
Group C, had Germany finishing with seven points, Poland, who were very solid defensively with Kamil Glik outstanding at centre back, Jakub Blaszczykowski still a major threat on the flank, he scored two well taken goals, Grzegorz Krychowiak looking to have some quality in centre midfield. Milik had lots of chances but could only manage one goal throughout the same as disappointing Robert Lewandowski who also scored only once. The Ukraine were generally extremely ordinary with Viktor Kovalenko their only stand out player. Ukraine failed to score a goal throughout the tournament.
Group D, had Croatia with midfielders Luca Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Pericic all talented and scoring all but one of their team’s goals in the competition, finishing above favourites Spain to win the group with one point more on seven. The Czech Republic also struggled to score, with only two goals throughout the competition, and ultimately finishing bottom of their group with only one point. Turkey also flattered to deceive and following the pattern of most teams in this competition only managed two goals throughout the group stages, they really didn’t show the ability levels they possess. Spain flattered to deceive, played the ball around attractively as per normal, Alvaro Morata with three and Nolito scored along with centre back Gerard Pique knocking one in from close range.
Group E, had most people’s pre-tournament favourites in Belgium, who generally disappointed, flashes of pure ability from Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne both showing quality and the majority of their goals came from the midfield area stop up front Romelu Lukaku is a handful, a goal threat scoring to win the competition, but at times lacks quality and composure. Belgium underachieved again and man for man should not lose to Wales in the way they did. Sweden, with the much hyped Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not score throughout the tournament, their only goal coming from a Clarke own goal against the Republic of Ireland. Ibrahimovic showed the odd flash of ability, but seldom looked like scoring. Loved the Italians defensive know how, resolute and know how to get the job done, Bonucci and Chiellini from Juventus set the standard, Eder up front worked his socks off.
Group F, was surprisingly won by Hungary with five points the same as Iceland, eventual winners Portugal finished third with only three points in the group stages, with Austria on the bottom with only one point. Austria disappointed, with Marko Arnautovic another who failed to impress. Hungary and the seemingly ageless Zoltan Gera who looked a threat and scored with a well struck shot from outside the box, Balazs Dzudzsak also scored two from midfield positions, talented youngster Adam Nagy showed flashes of what should be a good future for him. Iceland showed passion and application, playing to their strengths and ultimately overachieving with a semi-final spot. I especially liked forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson who held the ball up well, scored twice and was a handful throughout, Gylfi Sigurdsson, did his usual thing, always a threat pushing forward from central midfield, solid defensively with Aron Gunnarsson producing his usual long throws into the box. Portugal the eventual winners were generally disappointing to me, especially with their method of play they showed very little desire to entertain and only seem to want to play on the break. Decent defensively with a good keeper in Rui Patricio, solid defensively with Pepe and a threat down the flanks with Cedric and Guerreiro breaking continually from deep areas. Young central midfield player Renato Sanches looks to have a big future, he showed composure good physical strength his size and the ability to both create and retain possession when he had the ball at feet. William Carvalho is a big unit and offers an excellent buffer to his central defensive unit. Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani are a handful up front, Nani was the best I’ve seen him for quite a while, Cristiano flickered in and out and like Nani does not always seem to relish the physical aspect. Ricardo Quaresma was always a threat when brought on as a substitute. For me it was more that France did not turn up in the final than Portugal deserving to win it, reminded me a bit of when Greece beat Portugal by the same score without showing much offensively throughout the game.
Where do we start, Roy Hodgson for me was tactically at fault, continually playing players like Jamie Vardy out of position, if he is not considered good enough to play up front, why play him wide just to accommodate him. For me, a much better system for the England squad, would have been to play a 4-1-3-2 formation which would have allowed Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy to play as a front two, this for me would have been a handful for any team. Joe Hart was poor throughout the competition, I had him at partial fault for at least three of the goals we conceded, our defensive naïveté against Iceland was amazing to behold, how do England get done from a long throw, when we have to deal with them on a weekly basis in the English Premier league. Though not his greatest fan, I would have played John Stones against Iceland, we knew we would have lots of ball and needed players who are comfortable in possession to start things off from the back. Kyle Walker for me was generally the pick of the defenders, looked a threat going forward and has the pace to deal defensively. Rose looked like a rabbit in the headlights at times and never produced the forward runs he does in domestic games. Smalling after a good domestic season looked out of sorts and ordinary, Cahill though willing can be limited on the ball. Eric Dier was generally solid enough in his holding role, Wayne Rooney was not the force we know he can be and for me had his worst ever England performance against Iceland, always tries but was generally ineffective in the tournament. Adam Lallana was bright and linked intelligently and quickly in and around the final third, for some reason he was left out against Iceland for Raheem Sterling who had been generally poor throughout. I think he could have used Marcus Rashford in brief bursts to allow him to increase the confidence he gained over the season with Manchester United and we did not seem to get the best out of Dele Alli, he started games quite brightly but did not look the threat he looks to Spurs on a regular basis. Harry Kane also looked a shadow of the player he is in domestic football; Jamie Vardy was not given enough time and games to build up momentum, but still causes defenders problems when played. Daniel Sturridge is his usual self, lots of ability but at times seems to lack a work rate and application. Raheem Sterling was poor throughout, gained a fortuitous penalty which Rooney converted, but seemed to lack ideas and does not deliver often enough from wide areas.
To say I have little faith in the powers that be at the Football Association to select the correct candidate for the next England manager is putting it mildly. A statement from one of the FA men in charge of selecting the next manager started with “I’m no expert at football” beggar’s belief doesn’t it.