Brendan Crossan charts the highs and lows of Euro 2016
AFTER a month of thrills, and a few spills, The Boot Room reviews the action from France...
The social media video that was posted showing how much the Wales players enjoyed Iceland’s historic victory over England. Brill-yant.
BEST HEAT MAP
Northern Ireland’s unused sub Will Grigg, whose heat map was confined to warming up along the touchline.
BEST GOALKEEPING PERFORMANCE
Michael McGovern’s incredible performance against Germany was the reason why Northern Ireland reached the knockout stages. His string of fantastic saves kept the North’s goal difference on an even keel and allowed them to sneak into the second round.
It’s doubtful the the Fermanagh man will ever surpass his brilliance in Paris.
OUTSTAYING YOUR WELCOME
Spain were crying out for new ideas and new energy in the dug-out after their disastrous 2014 World Cup finals campaign. Inexplicably, Vicente Del Bosque stayed on for these Euros and, as a consequence, the Spanish looked desperately lethargic in their back-to-back losses to Croatia and Italy.
The contrasting demeanour between Antonio Conte and Del Bosque on the Stade De France sideline painted more than a thousand words.
Wales manager Chris Coleman, by a country mile. He offered tactical clarity, made timely substitutions and the right changes to his starting line-ups. The Welsh played with their hearts as well as their heads and looked like tournament veterans.
Coleman deserves immense credit for getting the absolute maximum out of every player under his tutelage.
FLATTERED TO DECEIVE
Croatia coasted through the group stages and, after beating Spain, they seemed to have the necessary tools - tournament experience, midfield creation and goals - to go on and win Euro 2016. But then they ran into Portugal in the knockout stages - and nobody ever looks good against Portugal.
In a mind-numbing clash, the Croats fell to a late extra-time goal by the average Ricardo Quaresma.
Italy striker Graziano Pelle wins hands-down for having the temerity to gesture to Germany ’keeper Manuel Neuer that he planned to dink his spot-kick in their quarter-final meeting. Instead, Pelle scuffed his penalty harmlessly wide and handed the initiative to Germany.
An epic piece of eejitry.
French striker Antoine Griezmann’s awareness around the opposition’s penalty box and finishing has been in a class of its own. The Atletico Madrid striker is the next best finisher in the world to Luis Suarez.
Germany’s Mesut Ozil deserves a mention.
Dimitri Payet’s winner on the opening night against Romania.
Ah, that balmy night in Lille when Robbie Brady met Wes Hoolahan’s inch-perfect cross to sink the Italians and book the Republic of Ireland’s place in the knockout phase. Given the dramatic circumstances, arguably the best moment in Irish soccer history.
The final whistle in Nice that confirmed Iceland’s fully deserved second round victory over England. Beyond their brilliant defending, Iceland didn’t get the credit they deserved for how they managed games, particularly against England and Portugal.
Iceland. Their Viking-like chant - which actually originated among Motherwell fans - was truly awesome. The best fans by far.
WHAT WAS THE POINT?
Of Ukraine and Russia even being at Euro 2016. Woeful.
A CLASS APART
Gigi Buffon’s generous congratulations to Roy Keane and Martin O’Neill after his Italy side had just lost to the Irish in Lille. You would have sworn Buffon’s grandmother hailed from Tullamore.
CARRYING AN ENTIRE TEAM
The evergreen Andres Iniesta. His dancing feet have lost none of their verve. It’s a pity his Spanish team-mates weren’t on the same rhythm.
FLASH IN THE PAN
Apart from his fine strike against Hungary - when the game was already won - Belgium’s big noise Eden Hazard once again flattered to deceive on the big stage.
Toss a coin between Roy Hodgson of England and Marc Wilmots of Belgium. Hodgson’s decision to take Jack Wilshere to France was mystifying, as was his inertia during the second-half of England’s clash with Iceland.
Wilmots was equally inept. Introducing Marouane Fellaini for Yannick Carrasco at half-time against Wales was tactical farce.
MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT
Vincent Kompany sniggering when his face was displayed on the stadium’s big screen during the second-half of the Wales game and Jan Vertonghen on the Belgian bench laughing at Kompany laughing. Belgium were actually 2-1 down at the time.
BEST GAELIC FOOTBALL TOE PICK-UP
Seamus Coleman’s smooth execution as he was about to take a throw-in against France. You can take the man out of Killybegs...
LOST IN FRANCE
“I don't know what I’m doing here.” - Out-going England boss Roy Hodgson.
BEST PRESS CONFERENCES
Although genuinely frightening at times, Republic of Ireland assistant-manager Roy Keane always enlivened proceedings.
Cristiano Ronaldo acted like a spoilt child throughout the finals.
A weird choice perhaps, but the cat-and-mouse group game between hosts France and Albania was enthralling. Albania’s defending was outstanding in Marseille and they probably deserved to hold on for a scoreless draw before late strikes from Griezmann and Payet.
Take your pick from Croatia-Portugal, Germany-Poland and Portugal-Poland.
THEY DESERVED TO LOSE
Poland's frustratingly conservative approach in their knockout clash with Portugal, particularly when they had game-winners Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik in their attack.
BEST INDIVIDUAL DISPLAY
Impossible to separate the truly gallant defensive displays from Elseid Hysaj, Albania’s right-back, against France and central-defender Ragnar Sigurdsson’s brilliance in Iceland’s historic victory over England.
UNFORGETTABLE FACE OF EURO 2016
Iceland's bearded midfielder Aron Gunnarson summed up his team’s warrior spirit.
Outbreaks of hooliganism, poor pitches, the rain, Uefa’s grossly imbalanced fixture scheduling and Ronaldo’s pouting.
Eder, the naturalised Italy striker, was perpetual motion.
Slaven Bilic. Avoided clichés and provided unrivalled insight.
Ryan Giggs. Relied on clichés and had nothing really to say.
WORST PENALTY MISS
Simone Zaza has already become an unfortunate euphemism for dodgy run-ups to penalty-kicks and thumping them into Row Z. The Italy sub apologised profusely for his quarter-final shoot-out miss against Germany.
“I would like to thank all the people who have supported me after this incident,” Zaza said, “understanding that I didn’t mean to mess up like I did - I must emphasise that.”
BEST ON SHOW XI
1. Manuel Neuer (Germany), 2. Elseid Hysaj (Albania), 3. Jonas Hector (Germany), 4. Jerome Boateng (Germany), 5. Ragnar Sigurdsson (Iceland), 6. Aaron Ramsey (Wales), 7. Adam Nagy (Hungary), 8. Paul Pogba (France), 9. Andres Iniesta (Spain), 10. Mesut Ozil (Germany), 11. Antoine Griezmann (France)
TOP OF THE FLOPS XI
1. Joe Hart (England), 2. Juanfran (Spain), 3. Jordi Alba (Spain), 4. Martin Skrtel (Slovakia), 5. Yevhen Khacheridi (Ukraine), 6. Cesc Fabregas (Spain), 7. David Silva (Spain), 8. David Alaba (Austria), 9. Harry Kane (England), 10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), 11. Eden Hazard (Belgium)
BEST OF IRISH XI
1. Darren Randolph (Rep Ire), 2. Seamus Coleman (Rep Ire), 3. Jonny Evans (NI), 4. Gareth McAuley (NI), 5. Shane Duffy (Rep Ire), 6. Steve Davis (NI), 7. Robbie Brady (Rep Ire), 8. Jeff Hendrick (Rep Ire), 9. Wes Hoolahan (Rep Ire), 10. Shane Long (Rep Ire), 11. Jamie Ward (NI)