In many ways, the final epitomised the tournament as a whole. Not a classic by any means, but one for the underdogs, and one that will live long in the memory of Portuguese fans.
Despite being the unfancied side, Portugal upset all the odds and defeated France, in Paris, in a match that the French seemed nailed-on to win.
The success of the underdogs was the overriding theme of the tournament. Iceland, with a population smaller than Coventry, qualified from a tough group, keeping Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal side quiet along the way. In the knockout rounds, nobody gave them a hope against England, yet they embarrassed Roy Hodgson’s men in a victory that sent shockwaves around British football.
The “Icelandic Clap” looks set to be the next craze sweeping football grounds up and down the country e last 16, and they certainly won over any neutrals.
It was a mixed tournament for the home nations, with England’s failure counterbalanced by the success of Wales and Northern Ireland. Humiliated by Iceland in the knockout stages, England stumbled their way through a seemingly easy group, and very few players left the tournament with their reputation enhanced.
Despite losing to England in the group stage, Wales had a fantastic tournament, with their remarkable 3-1 quarter-final win over Belgium (the highest ranked side in the tournament) the highlight of their campaign. They overcame Northern Ireland in the last 16, who gave a good account of themselves.
Placed in a group with world champions Germany and the ever-dangerous Poland, they punched well above their weight and did well to qualify for the knockout stages. As for the Republic of Ireland, their tournament was somewhere in between the highs and lows experienced by the home nations. A fantastic performance (and win) over Italy was undoubtedly their highlight, but in the end they were no match for France in the last 16.
Looking ahead to the World Cup in 2018, there is every chance that all 4 Home Nations (plus Republic of Ireland) can qualify. Northern Ireland have proven that they are no pushovers at international level, Republic of Ireland are usually there or thereabouts, and Wales surely have enough talent to get through their qualifying group with ease.
What about England and Scotland? Well, with both sides in the same group, there will certainly be a bit of spice added to their two matches, but in a relatively easy group, we could see both countries in Russia in two years time.
by Andrew Baxter