Only a few days to go until the quarterfinals of EURO2016, which means that were almost halfway through the tournament. And it has been an interesting one for sure: 2016 marked the first time that 24 teams were participating in the tournament and the new mode allows the 4 best third-place teams to advance to the knock out stage, so advancing has never been easier. It also meant that a lot more “small” nations were playing, allowing Iceland, Hungary, Wales and Albania to participate. There were concerns about the quality of play with the introduction of these teams and to be honest, the group stages and a good portion of the Round of 16 had been very boring. But that wasn’t mainly because the small teams were playing football, it was more the issue of teams overly relying on defensive efforts.
So, let’s have a look at every team and how they have fared so far. Starting off with the host, France:
France (1st in Group A, advanced to Quarterfinal)
There was no doubt that France had to win Group A. In a group with Switzerland, Romania and Albania the equipe tricolore was supposed to cruise through the group stages without any problems, and if you look at the table (7pts) they produced. But they struggled mightily, especially against the lowly Romanians in the opener. Even though France had found their rhythm against Ireland, the first half showed them having their fair share of problems, but thanks to their phenomenal performance in the second half France might have picked up steam at the right moment.
Switzerland (2nd in Group A, Round of 16 loss to Poland)
Boy did Switzerland disappoint this year! A draw against Romania and a measly 1:0 win against Albania weren’t necessarily what the Suisse had hoped for. Their group stage matches were mostly the most boring to watch and they paid the price in the Round of 16, were they lost despite a wonderful goal by Xherdan Shaquiri and despite dominating 3 of the 4 quarters of the game.
Albania (3rd in Group A)
Grading Albania isn’t as easy as their group stage results would indicate (3pts in 3 gms, 1-2 wins) because it was (a) their first EURO appearance and b) they weren’t expected to be very good in the first place. But even though they didn’t get very far they still exceeded many expectations and played tough in all games, only losing to Switzerland by one goal and actually winning against Romania. That’s why it’s a C+ for Albania, they did better than expected and that should be acknowledged.
Romania (4th in Group A)
We’re facing the same dilemma with Romania again, as no one expected them to get anywhere in this tournament, but they did play all their opponent close and especially their opener against France was a very good showing. But ultimately, I had at least expected them to secure the 3rd place by beating Albania, which they failed at, so it’s only a D+ for them.
Wales (1st in Group B, advanced to Quarterfinals)
What an impressive debut for Wales as they play their first ever Euro tournament. Of course, having one of the best players in the world does help, but Wales hasn’t just been the Gareth Bale show (even though the stats tell you otherwise). Wales works well as a team and might surprise people as a surprise contender moving forward. If only they hadn’t lost against the English, they might have an A now…
England (2nd in Group B, lost to Iceland (of all people!) in Round of 16)
I really hate to give England the first F of the tournament, but boy did they deserve it. They arrived at the Euros with one of the most talented teams they had in years and were actually one of my dark horse contenders to reach the finals (don’t judge, I’m an England supporter, I had hope 😦 ). But as always, were good teams find ways to win games, England finds ways to lose them in the most heartbreaking ways possible. A huge reason for that has to be Roy Hodgson, who rightfully resigned moments after their exit. But also the players have to be blamed, never ever have I seen a bunch of talented players play so uninterested in a playoff game, it was disgusting. And of course the FA needs to blame themselves for not firing Hodgson earlier, how could they believe in him? He coaches like a little child that needs you need to explain everything to. You know that kid who scored 30 goals last season? Don’t let him kick corners, Roy! And that dude who just won the title with Leicester? Let him play! Not to speak of his decision to play an obviously broken Raheem Sterling instead of Rashford, who (when playing) had been one of the few bright spots for that squad. I need a pint now…Or 10…
Slovakia (3rd in Group B, lost to Germany in Round of 16)
Slovakia did basically like you would expect them to: Play very well in a group with 4 good teams (well, we all thought that England and Russia were better), so the fact that they reached the Quarterfinals was actually quite surprising, mainly because I expected more of the russians. Losing against the Germans is nothing to be ashamed, so they can be very proud of what they have accomplished.
An F simply wasn’t doing justice to the performance of the russians this year, so I invented the Z-Grade. Otherwise known as the “burning dumpster fire ignited by a rotting pile of shit”-grade. It really was that bad, on and off the pitch. On the field, the russians showed no passion, no intend to compete at all. It almost seems as if the russians only came here to beat up other people and show the world who the hooligan champion is. Absolutely disgusting.
Germany (1st in Group C, advanced to Quarterfinals)
Germany is just unfair. No matter what you throw at them, they always seem to find a way to win. It’s almost boring. They just keep winning and now that Jogi Löw has realised that his squad plays more goal-oriented with a striker in Mario Gomez (all he does is score…) Germany is quickly emerging as a favourite to win the EUROS. And I have a feeling that if they beat their arch-rival Italy (which is also their Kryptonite) in the Quarterfinals, they are CERTAIN to win the tournament.
Poland (2nd in Group C, advanced to Quarterfinals)
Can someone explain how Robert Lewandowski hasn’t scored a goal yet? It’s absolutely stunning that Poland just hasn’t been able to produce offensively, which is an absolute shame given their offensive firepower. But it hasn’t really hurt them yet, even though that is very likely to change when they meet Mr.Christiano Ronaldo and Portugal in the Quarterfinals.
Northern Island (3rd in Group C, lost against Wales in Round of 16)
One could argue that Northern Island making it into the last 16 would be deserving of an A++, but let’s not overreact here (They would have got an A if they had subbed in Will Grigg against Wales 😉 ) They managed to achieve something no one expected them to accomplish and played well in all their games, but they were also helped by a piss poor showing of the Ukrainians.
Like Russia, Ukraine was one of the major disappointments of the group, in which they
at least should have secured the 3rd place. Of course given their political situation at the moment and the pure fact that the team was only months away from fighting amongst themselves, they were hard to predict. But that still doesn’t excuse their often lifeless performance.
Croatia (1st in Group D, lost to Portugal in Round of 16)
Croatia’s group stage effort definitely was deserving of a straight A: winning a group with Spain, Turkey and the Czech Republic is a phenomenal effort and before the Round of 16, Croatia was actually considered one of the powerhouses of the tournament. And then came the game against Portugal… It’s quite sad that 120mins of atrociously bad football ruined a very promising tournament for Croatia, but let’s face it: If you suck in the Round of 16, you just don’t deserve to get an A.
Spain (2nd in Group D, lost to Italy in Round of 16)
The era of spanish domination is over! Well, according to the media that’s true, but Spain is still a ridiculously talented team that just happens to have a down phase at the moment. Losing against the italian grandpas definitely proves that and failing to win their group definitely isn’t what the Spaniards were hoping for. But Spain still flashed their dominance in their wins and are certain to turn things around for the World Cup.
Turkey (3rd in Group D)
The one thing that defines Turkish play is emotion, passion and pride. I have no idea where these attributes were during the games. The players looked completely uninterested in playing and didn’t even seem to care. Even though they managed to beat the Czech in the final game, they still were one of the biggest negative surprises this year.
Czech Republic (4th)
It all started relatively well for the Czech republic: They played Spain close and drew against Croatia, but once their star Thomas Rosicky got injured the team just didn’t have the talent enough to compete. They need more playmakers beside him (unless Petr Cech decides to become a forward/goalie hybrid)
Italy (1st in Group E, advanced to Quarterfinals)
Old, but still better than everyone else! It’s ridiculous how well the italians are playing despite being the oldest squad in the tournament. But they do what italian teams always do best: Play tough defense and score when needed. That’s the recipe for Championship teams and we might get an early decider on Saturday, when Germany and Italy face off. The Italians match up well with the germans and haven’t lost many games against them. If they have enough stamina for the entire game and not run out of gas halfway through, as they did against Spain, they should be in a good position to win this one.
Belgium (2nd in Group E, advanced to Quarterfinals)
It took them a while to get hot, but it seems that the belgium motor has picked up steam and is ready to roll over the competition. Big wins against the feisty Irish and Hungary make Belgium a scary opponent moving on. Let’s see what they do to the Welsh on Friday.
Ireland (3rd in Group E, lost to France in Round of 16)
Advancing to the knockout stage was an amazing moment for Ireland, especially after they had beaten Italy, but a draw against Sweden and a 0:3 loss to Belgium can’t be overlooked. Still, an amazing tournament from them and of course, the irish fans deserve an A++++++ anyway.
Sweden (4th in Group E)
Going into this tournament I expected two teams to be a complete one man show, the Welsh with Gareth Bale and the Swedes with Zlatan. While the Welsh proved me wrong with a good team effort, the Swedes proved that they were exactly what we thought they were, only worse. They were completely terrible and couldn’t even get the ball to the only player on the roster deserving of a EURO nomination. While Zlatan did try to take the team on his back, one man (even him) can’t win with a bunch of amateurs. Sorry Sweden!
Hungary (1st in Group F, lost to Belgium in Round of 16)
If you predicted that Hungary would win Group F, well, first of all, you probably are rich now. And well, you probably are insane as well, or from the future. Hungary did the impossible and won a group with Portugal and Austria. They played with heart and that eventually paid off, even though they got annihilated by Belgium in the knock out stage. Still, great, and Mr. Sweatpants goalie will forever be our MVP.
Iceland (2nd in Group F, advanced to Quarterfinals)
You just can’t help but root for Iceland, they’re the clearcut underdog of the tournament, have a population of under 1M, have the most intense announcers, oh and are being supported by a 185kg Mountain who threatens Christiano Ronaldo. It’s just incredible what they have accomplished and even though it hurts to admit it, they were the better team against England and proved that they aren’t a fraud. Let’s just hope the announcer doesn’t get a heart attack during the next games…
Portugal (3rd in Group F, advanced to Quarterfinals)
You know you can’t expect a lot Portugal anyway. They have proved over and over again that they are nothing expect the Ronaldo show. But, guys, at least you could have won your group. How could they lose out against Hungary and Iceland? It’s embarrassing. And don’t even get me started on that ass of a performance that some people called Croatia v Portugal. It was more of a 120min sedative for insomnia patients.
Austria (4th in Group F)
Some people thought Austria might be able to win the EUROS this year. Obviously these people were austrian and/or baked out of their minds. Austria wasn’t going to win it all, that was certain, but they should have AT LEAST managed to get to the Round of 16. And where are they now? 4th in the easiest group in the entire tournament, worse than Hungary and Iceland. Austria has some serious explaining to do…