Shame we had to leave party so early
Ireland didn’t show up with the right plan but those teams that did have made it a fine tournament
Eh, that would have to be us, wouldn’t it? The Dutch also got no points but still looked a much better side. True, Ireland were drawn in a desperately difficult group that produced both finalists and were saddled with irrationally inflated expectations.
The bottom line, though, was that Giovanni Trapattoni’s side was the most ill-equipped to deal with the challenges presented by the tournament. Though higher ranked and therefore notionally better that the two host nations, they looked significantly inferior in terms of technique and, arguably, tactics.
The Dutch who will have been somewhat surprised to have come home with no points given that only two years ago they pushed Spain pretty much all the way in the World Cup final. They then outscored everybody in qualifying but many of their fans hadn’t even bothered to leave home for the tournament when it became apparent that the whole enterprise was going to go very, very badly.
Failure to take any of the many chances they created in the opening game against Denmark left them in a tight corner almost from the start and defeats by Germany and Portugal turned elimination into humiliation as they went down in three consecutive competitive games for the first time in the team’s history. Somewhat inevitably, Bert van Marwijk, paid with his job.
The failure of the Hungarian officials, including the goal line additional assistant to see that Marko Devic’s deflected shot for Ukraine against England had crossed the line dealt a fairly hefty blow to Michel Platini’s argument that their introduction would make goal-line technology unnecessary.
It also killed off any chance that one of the host nations might make it to the knockout stages, something that would have added to the sense of vibrancy around the tournament.
Don’t keep your best goalscorer for the fifth penalty, it might not happen; Success stories like Greece in 2004 are merely the exceptions to the rule; that the cream rises to the top at these events; the English are a long way from being able to win one of these tournaments; the Irish are quite a way off being able to seriously compete at one; really good players can make a system work.
HOW DID THE HOSTS DO?
Pretty well really. There were many of the expected problems in Ukraine where accommodation was scarce and expensive, and some of the transport fairly chaotic. It was unusual too to see the game in Donetsk between the hosts and France delayed for an hour because of a thunderstorm but that, of course, wasn’t anybody’s fault.
Some early violence petered out thankfully and the mood around all of the venues was generally very good.
For Poland, though, the whole exercise seemed to prove something of a triumph with great stadiums complemented by generally excellent infrastructure, welcoming host cities and marvellous people.
Team of the tournament IKER CASILLAS (Spain)
Rounded off another terrific tournament – he conceded one goal – with a fine display last night, the highlight of which was a great stop from Antonio Di Natale.