Ah, there’s nothing quite like an International Tournament, is there? The daily doses of football, the national flags waving patriotically everywhere that you look, the crushing disappointment when you remember that your nation is essentially the whipping boy of International football…
Euro 2020 is a special tournament, as it’s the first European Championship not to be hosted by any one nation, but across several European Cities: Amsterdam, Baku, Bilbao, Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome and Saint Petersburg. Pretty much all of the big hitters in Europe qualified, although the UK and Ireland and Scandinavia didn’t do too well, with only England and Denmark qualifying from those areas.
The Group Stages didn’t throw up that many surprises. Romania had a great group stage in Group C, winning all 3 of their matches against Albania, Croatia and even Germany. England, Portugal and France were the other teams to keep a 100% record throughout the group stage. The top 2 teams from each group qualified for the knockout stages along with the 4 best 3rd placed teams, and this threw out some interesting little situations. For example, FYR Macedonia qualified from Group A despite only picking up 2 points for draws against Belgium and Ukraine. I’d feel hard done by if I was supporting the Czech Republic for example, as they were placed in a very difficult group with France, Italy and Serbia and they picked up 3 points for a win over Serbia but finished 4th, so couldn’t proceed despite having more points than Macedonia.
Again, there were no particularly surprising results in the Second Round. Some big nations were eliminated like Belgium, Poland and Austria, but at the hands of Germany, France and Italy that’s hardly surprising. Serbia did well though, beating Romania on penalties and progressing to the Quarter Finals, where they knocked out reigning European Champions Portugal in extra time. Also in the quarters, England were eliminated by Germany, Spain were knocked out by France and Holland were sent home by Italy. Serbia’s run finally came to an end with a routine loss to Italy in the Semi Finals, and Germany knocked out France to set up a Germany v Italy Final at Wembley, which the Italians won in extra time courtesy of a goal from CSKA Moscow’s Manolo Gabbiadini.
I enjoyed watching the Euros. I always do. After guiding Liechtenstein to 5 losses in 5 matches, the tournament leaves a sour taste in the mouth though. I desperately want to take my team to a European Championship or World Cup tournament but it’s not something that’s often accomplishable with pure elbow grease and nothing else. We’ll keep trying, keep plugging away and maybe some day we’ll get there.