Euro Cup 2016 has finally come to an end with Portugal winning their 1st ever European Championship. While it may not have been one among the best international tournaments in recent years, it did stand out for the performance of the “underdogs” and the quality of the goals scored even if they were few in number, here we will recall the Euro Cup 2016 top moments.
The expansion of the tournament finals to 24 teams had come under criticism at the start of the tournament so did it work? It kinda did and didn’t to be honest. The expansion to 24 teams saw the doors being opened to 5 new debutante nations and all of them did reasonably well. Wales who ever the pick of the newbies even made it into the semifinals.
Where this tournament failed to deliver was it’s format with the 3rd placed team in 4 of the 6 groups making it into the knockouts. It’s true Portugal who qualified as one of the 3rd placed teams won the tournament but it’s still up for debate whether they deserved that chance after not winning a single game in the group stage.
Moving away from the controversies, listed below in no particular order is our’s top 10 Euro 2016 moments. (All these are moments that changed a game or shaped the tournament hence Northern Ireland’s Will Grigg moment is not mentioned below).
10. France vs Romania – Dmitri Payet’s moment of Brilliance
Euro Cup 2016 top 10 moments kicked off on June 10th with hosts France taking on Romania at Stade de France. The host nation at that point were still recovering from recent terrorist attacks they had endured. The match itself was no classic by any means, Giroud opened the scoring for the hosts early in the 2nd half but Romania replied almost instantly with Nicolae Stanciu converting from the spot.
As expected with our France betting tips, the french controled the game.
With the game heading to a draw Dmitri Payet produced a moment of brilliance for the hosts scoring the winner in the 89th minute with a wonder strike. Not only did it give the hosts 3 points but it gave the country as a whole something to rejoice about.
9. Belgium vs Italy – The Italian Master Class
Belgium vs Italy was arguably the most anticipated match among the first round of group stage games. Belgium were the World no.2 coming into the tournament and were expected to win Group E. As for Italy they had come into this tournament with the unfortunate tag of being the Worst Italian squad to ever compete in a international tournament.
Belgium were the favorites by a long way with names like Eden Hazard, Lukaku & De Bryune expected to blow past the Italian resistance. Conte and his ageing Italian side had other plans though as they tactically outwitted the Belgians and came out as 2-0 winners with goals from Emanuele Giaccherini & Graziano Pelle.
The win also restored faith in the Italian side that they could prove the critics wrong and do one better than their runners-up finish in Euro 2012.
8. Croatia vs Spain – The game that changed it all
The winner of the last two European Championships Spain were once again among the favorites to make it all way. They recorded wins over the Czech Republic and Turkey in their opening two games and a draw against Croatia in the final game who have been enough to top the group.
Croatians on the other hand had won their opening game against Turkey but scummed to a 2-2 draw against the Czech’s in their 2nd game. Upon the start of the game Spain took the lead as expected with Morata opening the scoring in 7th minute.
Croatia however fought back going close to equalizing a few times before Nikola Kalinic finally grabbed the equalizer in the 45th minute. Despite getting the equalizer they still went toe to toe with the Spaniards with their efforts finally rewarded in the 87th minute through a Ivan Perisic strike.
The game itself was one of the best games of the tournament but the result had a big impact on the tournament. Spain as the runners-up ended up facing Italy in the round of 16’s and ultimately exited the tournament.If Spain had won or drew against the Czech they would have faced Portugal and who knows what would have happened then.
7. Group F – Final Day Thrillers
Group F was probably the most uninteresting group at the start of the tournament, as predicted by our Group F Betting tips. It had Austria, Iceland, Hungary & Portugal. Portugal were the strong favorites to win the group with Austria and Iceland rounding off the top 3. From the group opener itself when Hungary stunned Austria 2-0 it was one of the most exiting groups in the tournament.
Going into the final round of matches Portugal has just two points to their name courtesy of draws against Iceland & Austria. Hungary on the other hand had already qualified with 4 points and needed just a draw to top the group. Portugal vs Hungary ended up as arguably the best game of the tournament.
Hungary opened the scoring in 19th minute but Portuguese struck back via Nani in the 42nd minute. The Hungarians though not satisfied with a draw attacked feverishly in the 2nd half and went 3-1 ahead 10 minutes into the start of the 2nd half.
Cristiano Ronaldo though came to the Portuguese’s rescue with a brace. The game ended 3-3 with Hungary qualifying for the knockouts as the group topper while Portugal qualified as one of the best 3rd place finishers.
While all this was going Iceland were going toe to toe with Austria. Iceland needed only a draw while Austria needed a win to go through. Iceland took a 1-0 lead early in the 1st half but Austria equalized early in the 2nd half. With the game set to head to a 1-1 draw Iceland out of where through Arnor Ingvi Traustason got the winner with what was the last kick of the game.
6. Italy vs Republic of Ireland – Robbie Brady’s Moment
Going into the last round of matches in Group E, Italy had already secured themselves a place in the round of 16’s as the group champions. Republic of Ireland on the other had the difficult task of needing to beat the Italians to go through.
The game remained scoreless deep into the 2nd half, the Irish had given it their all and the team looked lost for ideas. The Italians who had fielded a 2nd choice team were in control and were largely untroubled by the Irish attack.
Wes Hoolahan who had missed a golden opportunity to put them ahead earlier in the game swung into the box a beautiful cross and Robbie Brady out of nowhere pounced and headed it home to give the Irish the win.
Yes! The Italians did put out a 2nd string team but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Ireland were gutsy and deserved the result on the day.
5. France vs Republic of Ireland – The Revival
The hosts had qualified for the knockouts as the group champions but were hardly convincing to say the least. Republic of Ireland had qualified beating the Italians and the French supporters were rightly nervous heading into this game.
Two minutes into the start of the game Ireland took the lead when Robbie Brady scored for the Irish from the spot after Shane Long was fouled in the box. France went on a rampage from then trying to equalizing but the Irish held together and took their lead into half time.
Back from the break France looked rejuvenated and within 12 minutes of the 2nd half they had equalized through Antoine Griezmann. The Irish could never really come back after that and conceded a 2nd goal (Griezmann again) within 4 minutes of the first goal.
France were in control from then and entered the quarterfinals while Ireland can be proud of their efforts in their 1st ever knockout game in a major tournament.
4. England vs Iceland – The Icelandic Dream Top Moment
One of the top Euro Cup 2016 top 10 moments, Iceland were already heroes, the smallest nation to ever qualify for a major tournament had become the smallest nation to ever qualify for the knockout rounds of a major tournament. England on the other hand were frustrating to watch in the group stages and ultimately finished as runners-up behind Wales in their group.
This is what we had predicted for England vs Iceland… no regrets.
The highly rated English squad were finding it hard to break down teams with their only win coming against Wales with a late winner. England opened the scoring in the 4th minute with Wayne Rooney converting a penalty. Iceland though were quick in grabbing the equalizer in the 7th minute.
The game was end to end for the next 10 minutes and to the surprise of everyone Kolbeinn Sigthorsson scored in the 18th minute for Iceland to give them the lead. England toiled hard to get the equalizer but none came as they suffered perhaps their greatest humiliation in history. For Iceland though they had become the smallest nation to ever qualify for the quarter finals of a major tournament .
3. Wales vs Belgium – Team Spirit Moment
Much of the attention until the quarter finals had been on Iceland who had an incredible journey till the quarters. Another debutante nation making their appearance in quarterfinals was a Gareth Bale lead Welsh side. They overcame a tricky group to top it ahead of England and reached the quarters after beating Northern Ireland 1-0 in the round of 16’s.
Belgium despite their poor opener against Italy had found momentum and came into this game on the back of beating Hungary 4-0 in the round of 16’s. The Belgians took the lead as many had predicted when Radja Nainggolan scored a screamer from 25th yards out in the 13th minute.
Wales though fought back and got the equalizer through an Ashley Williams header. 2nd half kicked off 1-1 with Wales going toe to toe with the Belgians. Wales’ hard work and effort finally paid off when Hal Robson Kanu who had no club at the start of the tournament scored one of the goals of the tournament in the 55th minute.
The Welsh had to see of waves of Belgian attacks but in the 85th minute all was put to an end when substitute Sam Vokes scored the 3rd. The win will go down as perhaps their greatest victory ever.
Iceland lost to the host France 5-2 in the quarters and it meant Wales had become the smallest nation to qualify for the Semi-finals of a major tournament and the 1st British nation to reach this stage since England won the 1966 World Cup.
2. Germany vs France – Final before the Final
Germany & France were the joint pre-tournament favorites to lift the European Championships. France had found form heading into the game while Germany were struggling with injuries. The teams were equal on paper and it didn’t disappoint on the pitch as well.
These were our betting tips for Germany vs France.
Both the teams exchanged blows early on the game but neither of them were clinical upfront. France finally took the lead in the 1st half injury time when Antoine Griezmann converted a spot kick after Bastian Schweinsteiger was found guilty of handling the ball inside the box.
Germans started the 2nd half in the front foot but France were resilient and broke down the German attacks one after the other. France never fully sat back and tried to add a second goal breaking on the counter almost every time they had a chance.
France finally got the decisive second goal in the 72nd minute when Griezmann once again popped to put one past Neuer. The final 18 minutes saw Germany giving it their all but just couldn’t beat Lloris at the French post.
The French had beaten the World Champions and the team had played their part in helping the country recoup from the Paris terrorist attacks in November.
1. France vs Portugal – Ronaldo’s Moth and Eder’s Stunner
France were the odds on favorite heading into the game especially after their brilliant semifinal performance against Germany. Portugal though had won only a single game in Normal time upto this point. Much of Portugal’s success were pinned on the performance of Cristiano Ronaldo who to be fair still hadn’t reached this full form.
These were our betting tips France vs Portugal.
Seven minutes into the start of the game disaster struck for Portugal as Ronaldo was left laying on the field after injuring his knee in a clash with Dmitri Payet . He went off and came back on multiple times but 25 minutes into the game he knew that he couldn’t carry on.
The image of Cristiano Ronaldo laying on the field crying with a Moth on his face will probably be one of the moments of this Euro that will be remembered for a long time.
Ronaldo was substituted off and the game carried on. France were toiling hard to get the goal that would give them the lead while Portugal were doing all they can to keep the French out.
Heading into the last 10 minutes of the game the scores were still 0-0 with Antoine Griezmann missing a couple of golden chances to put France ahead. Portugal were still to register a shot on target but Quaresma who had replaced Ronaldo tested Lloris for the 1st time with a spectacular overhead kick but the scores remained 0-0.
The last of the chances fell to Gignac who turned superbly in the Portuguese box and struck the post. The end of 90 minutes and it’s still 0-0. The 1st half of injury time was dull like much of the match with Ronaldo now on the sidelines with his knees bandaged heavily.
108th minute saw Portugal with a 25 yard freekick and a golden chance to go ahead. Quaresma was expected to take it but the young Portuguese full back Rapahael Guerreiro took the shot to the surprise of everyone and agonizingly hit the top bar.
The seconds later Eder who had come on as substitute, took his chance from outside the box and it beat Lloris and Portugal have the lead 1-0. France tried to mount a comeback but it was of no use as Portugal held on to win their 1st ever European Championship.
Eder, the Swansea striker who was termed as a Premier League flop went into a frenzy upon scoring the goal and the commentator couldn’t have described that moment any more perfectly – “a striker that never scores just scored.”
The Euro Cup 2016 top moment of the tournament though was undoubtedly the Portuguese team rejoicing after Ronaldo received the UEFA EURO Trophy on behalf of his team.
 theguardian.com, England vs Iceland Game Review, 2016
 foxsports.com.au, Cristiano Ronaldo stretchered off in Euro 2016 final against France, 2016