Following the conclusion of another football tournament, it is time to begin writing about what is arguably the easiest article in the world. With but a few Google searches and conducting only minimal research, I would be able to bedazzle you, the reader, with various numbers and statistics that make me sound clever. However, such articles seem less of a way of showing off knowledge but rather makes for a good bedtime story, or perhaps may even work as a cure for insomnia. On the other hand, I could become an ‘expert’ and safely sit here and tell you what has already happened in the tournament and act all smug and superior as though I knew what was going to happen all along. But it should be noted that unlike certain animals I could mention (Lin Ping the panda, Funtik the pig etc.), all my predictions in this tournament were accurate including and especially Greece’s 1-0 win over Russia and Italy’s 2-1 win against Germany. So as it turns out now, I was totally on the right track all along, but that is no surprise as after all, I am an expert on the subject.
Although the best team of the tournament is usually the team that wins, (Spain for all of you still living in caves), I am going to go with the slightly more surprising choice of Netherlands. It is true that they failed to get out of their group and did not register a single point as they lost all their games, but it cannot be argued that they played clinical football as a team, and really rose to the occasion. Spain have a lot to learn from the way the Dutch missed every single chance that they got, whilst Germany in particular could do well to copy some of the defense blunders that were undoubtedly perfected on the Dutch training ground. Another heroic team worthy of mention would be Northern Ireland. Their beautiful and intricate short pass play was a sight to behold and a joy to watch. I think, that most, if not all the people would agree, that they would have been worthy champions. Few teams have been able to set tournaments alighting in such a fashion, although, New Zealand at the 2010 World Cup come to mind.
This tournament was not just an opportunity for countries to either boast their prowess at football or pretend like they have never played the sport before; it gave individual players the big stage in which to showcase their talents. Pundits and other experts continue to blabber on about the usual players: Iniesta, Xavi, Ronaldo, Balotelli, Pirlo, Ozil and so on, for me, the best player was definitely Kostas Chalkias. The fact that most people won’t even know who he is is simply a testimony to his vital importance for the Greek team. No other goalkeeper conceded 7 goals, and those who came close struggle to match Chalkias’s style and grace in goal. The one other player who has a realistic and credible claim to the man of the tournament award will come as no surprise to you I hope; Stephen Ward from Ireland. The timid, clumsy defender epitomized the Irish team and spirit, and was one the main reasons that the Irish were able to concede 9 goals in the tournament since he made crucial mistakes in each game. Undoubtedly, this was one of his better tournaments and Ward should look back on it with pride.
Judging teams and players is always subjective, and whilst there are experts (such as myself) who know exactly what they are talking about and are rarely wrong, I am aware that several readers will disagree strongly with some of my ratings. In fact, it is possible that some may even believe this article is a joke! Rest assured, this is a perfectly serious article and all the players and teams that have been commended deserve a great deal of respect and maybe even awe for carrying out their jobs in such a macabre fashion. The tournament has now ended, but thanks to some of my friends in the CIA, I can safely tell you that the next Euro Championship will take place in France, and it will happen in 2016. Hopefully, the standard of football will remain completely abhorrent to ensure that the spectator really gets his money’s worth. Until then, Adios!