Deserving Portugal

Soccer aficionado Beano Niblock with his take on the Euro soccer championships.

The end of another Euros and they jury is well and truly out on this one. The third lowest goals per game of all in that competition and a palpable fear factor within many of the teams.

Individually there were many fine players and some fantastic moments but in all honesty apart from the plucky Welsh punching a few divisions above their weight it will hardly go down in history as “memorable”.

From a personal point of view I was most disappointed by my own pre tournament favourites-Italy. They easily won their group - despite a narrow defeat to Ireland: a game in which they rested 9 players knowing they would top the group. By the time they kicked off in the knockout stages they had adopted their ancient demeanour-none shall pass and a stance that they would readily accept the arrival of a penalty shoot out and take their chances.

As a spectator at the 3 Northern Ireland games I feel they also punched well above their weight and although not disgraced felt that they over achieved by qualifying for the second stage-from a tough group.

England were-well they England really. Another huge build up from the press and media who, predictably, would slaughter them on their inevitable exit. The truth is that England has many over rated players and a fairly mediocre national team. The EPL is top heavy with imports demanding huge wages. The knock on effect is that very few quality players are being nurtured through the system and typically the quality isn’t there at international level. Added to this that they had a manager in place who, after 4 years in charge still didn’t know his best starting eleven.

I doubt if many people tipped Portugal to be the eventual winners. Didn’t see that coming could be the most used phrase in the wake of their unlikely achievement. But credit where it is due. In years gone by we have been able to equate Portuguese teams with attractive-, attacking football: teams laden with skilful expressive players. Players in recent memory like Luis Figo and Rui Costa, or further back to Futre and Jordao. Those old enough to remember the golden age of Portuguese football in the sixties will recall the impeccable Eusebio-Torres-Simoes and the legendary Mario Coluna ~ all of whom graced the hallowed turf of the Oval in 1967. But the one thing that all these greats had in common was that at international level they were pot-less. Now, the lesser lights-with the exception of Ronaldo and to a certain extent Nani –have eclipsed all their fellow countrymen’s achievements.

Fernando Santos and his coaching staff deserve a huge amount of credit in this victory. With a limited, and in ways aging-squad to work with, the key to success was in making the team hard to beat. A strategy that required supreme concentration, the ability to stick to a game plan, allied with hard work in abundance and real team spirit. This was illustrated in full during the extra time period when the usually seemingly selfish/single minded and injured Ronaldo, coaching and cajoling his team mates from the sidelines. Retrospectively we may well come to the conclusion that Portugal were not the best team at this years Euros. But somehow I doubt if that will be of much concern to Santos and his cohorts.

  • Footnote: My own “team” of the Euros-for what it’s worth.



  1. Beano
    I disagree about England. On paper they have a better team than Wales and Italy yet performed worse than both. International football is all about team spirit building momentum. The Germans are masters at it, as are the Italians. The Dutch are the great under achievers with teams laden with exceptionally gifted players winning very little. The English suffer from over expectation and cannot get the team spirit or belief required to get a trophy. With the right manager installing a team spirit they have the players to win a tournament.

  2. Found myself watching much of the Euros in the company of my seven year old daughter and her pals. Fickle doesn't get near it, their serial changes of allegiance during games.

    Found myself doing the same in the final. Love visiting Portugal but Ronaldo's comments after the Iceland game made France the more attractive in the lead up to last night. However, his departure changed things and in the end it was pleasing that the wee guys won, especially in view of the big Portuguese community in Paris.

    Not the best tournament, though not as poor as some. 1996 ("football's coming home") springs to mind.

    The North beating Ukraine, and Ireland beating Italy's reserves were memorable, as was the overall Welsh performance and presence. Sweet to see Wales take their place among the nations.

    Iceland will live long in the memory, particularly their defeat of our brothers across the border. There was a certain poetry in the timing, just a couple of hours after Channel 4 News showed English fans in France telling five year old Roma girls to "suck my cock for five euros" and "drink my piss for five euros".

    As usual, they'll learn nothing, their deficiencies forgotten by the start of the new season of the "best league in the world" (at least if you believe the TV companies trying to persuade you to subscribe to it).

    And their goalkeeper might be Joe Hart, but they had an empire once so they can never be written off.

    Anyway, for some of us the new season starts tomorrow, as Celtic play the mighty Lincoln Red Imps (did they win Gibraltar's league? Or come second?) in the Champions League qualifiers.

    Bring it on.

  3. Iceland the team of the tournament. Portugal have set the standard that Ireland can possibly match in a future competition, win a single game in 90 minutes and proceed to lift the trophy. Thought the French deliberately targeted ladyboy Ronaldo and the wife and I both ended up wanting Portugal to win by the second half switching from France initially. England never fail to entertain by reading the Sun and then wondering why no one else has been brainwashed into believing the are favourites also. Wouldn't be the same without them. Hope they qualify for Russia. Russian fans were voted best of the tournament in some quarters!

  4. Peter,

    England had all the team spirit they needed in 96 and still fucked it up!

    They are over-rated and pressure piled upon them. Not one of the English squad would have walked into the starting XI of Madrid, Barca, Munich, or Milan.

    Lets be honest, they only get games in the PL BECAUSE their English.

    You reap what you sow.