Almost every TV pundit and commentator has mentioned the lack of entertainment on display during Euro 2016. Will it be remembered as boring, or have we already forgotten the memorable moments?
Here’s a reminder of the best, the wackiest and most bizarre moments of Euro 2016.
1. Russia’s manager
Watching Russia play was like watching a turtle sleep. They were slow, boring and completely void of ideas. None of that mattered, because their manager Leonid Slutsky was absolutely hilarious to watch.
In what can only be described as a man having a breakdown, Slutsky made every Russian match memorable. Against England he was rocking back and forth as if he was moments away from going all Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” on his players.
Each time the camera turned to him I was delighted. Even the commentators enjoyed his antics.
What is important to know is that Slutsky was at the Euros unpaid after their former coach Fabio Capello cost 10.5m euros to sack. Slutsky deserves credit for his passion — even if his Russian side was arguably the worst at the championship.
2. Shaqiri’s volley
Of the 108 goals made during Euro 2016, Shaqiri’s 20 yard, overhead volley was the best. Especially when considering it was against the supremely well drilled Polish defense.
Shaqiri only had a moment to make up his mind on a ball looping away from him. If he had taken a touch to control, the resolute Polish defense would have crowded him out and marshaled him away.
It’s moments like this of pure technical skill, confidence and flair that fans talk about after big tournaments. This goal will live long in our memories, even if the championship ends up considered one of the worst in recent history.
3. The Icelandic commentator
I can’t speak Icelandic, but I wish I could. This commentator exemplifies all that is great about underdogs doing well. He expressed explosive emotion live on air, much to the delight of myself and likely many others.
I’ve never heard commentary like it. Even the over-enthusiastic South American commentators screaming GOAAAALLLLLL for several minutes have nothing compared to this eruption of pure joy.
Whatever he is saying, you can’t buy or imitate this kind of fanaticism. It’s raw and true. This is what fans want to see and hear — emotion. It adds to the game, and even though it was my England losing while this commentator went mental, I couldn’t help but smile.
4. Hal Robson-Kanu’s wonder goal
There are some moments in football that stand out in every tournament. It’s often that one player who elevates themselves from obscurity to become a national icon, and this certainly occurred for Wales’ Hal Robson-Kanu.
Wales were brilliant, and Robson-Kanu was a big part of their play. In their pinnacle performance against Belgium, he scored a goal which everyone, everywhere fell in love with. There is something special about watching a player trick a defense, and this outburst of skill definitely did that.
With Wales on the break, Robson-Kanu controlled the ball in the Belgium penalty area with three defenders huddling behind him. With teammates breaking on either side he had options to pass but chose to turn like the legend Johan Cruyff.
Those three defenders parted like waves, guessing wrong that this unknown player would take the easy option and lay off a pass. With the route to goal suddenly clear, all he had left to do was beat one of the top goalkeepers in European football.
Robson-Kanu made it all look easy.
It was a fantastic goal that helped take Wales deservedly through to the semi finals against a Portugal team that would eventually win the trophy.
5. Joachim Löw scratch and sniff
There isn’t much anyone can say about the above video. It’s just wrong. Maybe not as wrong as when Iker Casillas wiped a bogey on a child’s face, but it is wrong all the same.
In what can only be described as a personal moment for the Germany coach, he reaches down into his pants and then gives his hands a good, old-fashioned sniff. Didn’t he realize football matches have cameras that transmit everything? If a camera person can pick out a pretty girl in a crowd of 70,000 they can sure pick out a coach who likes to scratch and sniff.
Where the frontal scratch and sniff can be put down to simply forgetting where he was, the second disgusting act is just downright wrong no matter your scenario. Is this how he behaves everywhere or is it some touchline ritual? Scratch the front for one goal, scratch the back for a clean sheet?
It could have been worse, however. He could have followed Casillas’s route and wiped his fingers on a kid.
6. Everything Welsh
Every time Wales played, there was genuine electricity between the fans and players. As a football fan you could feel it. They turned many neutrals into followers, and even the most hardcore Englishman wanted Wales to win that semi-final against Portugal.
What was the secret? Simple. Wales tried to win.
They didn’t just sit back, hoping not to lose. Even as underdogs they pushed forward, playing highly technical counter-attacking football that combined pace and power brilliantly. Their 3-1 win over Belgium was the best demonstration of this attacking play.
Portugal may have won the trophy, but Wales shined the brightest. No doubt they rose up the FIFA world rankings and probably reached the top 10 in the wake of their fine performance at Euro 2016
7. Michael McGovern versus Germany
When the tournament started Northern Ireland was all about the fantastic Will Grigg chant. Yet it was the Irish goalkeeper, Michael McGovern, who turned out to be the one on fire (against Germany, at least).
Other goalkeepers where higher in stats, but no other came close to the performance McGovern gave to keep a rampant German team to just a 1 – 0 victory.
Germany had 28 chances. McGovern made more saves than most other goalkeepers did throughout the tournament, and we’re talking real saves — one-on-ones, close range headers and long range drives. He was a man possessed, and even McGovern admitted it was the performance of his career.
What was special about this performance is that by keeping the score down, Northern Ireland was able to get through to the knockout rounds of the tournament — a special moment for the country and fans.
8. Iceland’s Viking chant
Iceland were fantastic. They played old-school English football, which was nostalgic and ironic, as they beat England on the way to their quarter final loss against France.
In the first half of the quarter final match they conceded 4 goals. This was the first time Iceland buckled all tournament long; Before this they were one of the surprise packages of the championship, qualifying from their group in second place above the eventual winners, Portugal.
In the second half of the same game Iceland and their fans performed like vikings. To see a team who knew they had already lost fight and work for their fans showed up all those players and teams who don’t play with pride when wearing their national jersey at all.
The Icelandic chant carried the team forward to a respectable 5-2 loss against the home nation. And at the end we saw some of the most emotional scenes of the entire championship. They cared, their fans cared and as a football fan, I ended up caring.
9. Roy Hodgson taking the blame
Thanks Roy, but I would have preferred to see several of the squad members resign instead. The coach’s tactics may have gone a little sideways at times, but England had the third highest possession in the championship and on average made 20 attempts at goal per each of their 4 matches.
This doesn’t say England was a side who sat back and added to the defensive stalemate much of what Euro 2016 was. England played in an attacking way. They beat Wales, they had no luck against Russia and the less said about Slovakia the better.
For all those attempts at goal, England could only achieve 4 goals with one of the most varied and potent strike forces in the championship.
So where did it go wrong? They didn’t believe in themselves. They had no passion, and Joe Heart seemed desperate to leave early for his summer holidays.
In the match against the minnows of Iceland, England should have won comprehensively. Yet it was pride and passion that won the day, and that hasn’t been England’s style since Euro 96.
10. Ronaldo’s moth
In arguably the championship’s most memorable moment, Cristiano Ronaldo’s ego faded and this vulnerable footballer sat hopelessly in tears on the pitch. Every football fan felt empathy towards him, and in that moment a giant moth landed on his face.
What began as a moment between Ronaldo and 300 million viewing fans ended up as a Twitter explosion, taking the actual relevance away from who this ego mad superstar really is — just a dedicated and desperate football player who needed to lift the trophy.
Ronaldo definitely had the last laugh by lifting the European Championship trophy, but in a year’s time we’ll probably forget Portugal’s ugly football while still recalling the moment when a moth stole the limelight.