So the group stages are over and the quarter final line ups are complete. Eight teams have progressed to the next round, while the other eight are heading for home, their tournament over. The final round of matches threw up a few surprises so here is an overview of what really happened:
Roy Hodgson – From tournament no-hopers to group winners. England may not have been pretty, but they’ve certainly been effective. Credit has to go to the coach for setting them up superbly in an organised fashion and installing a winning mentality that will hopefully last until July the 2nd. I’m not sure many saw England winning the group upon his appointment.
Cristiano Ronaldo – I happily criticised him last week for his inept displays but as the best always do, he came back with a bang. Ronaldo almost single-handedly demolished the Netherlands; indeed that was as fine an international performance as he has ever produced. Pace, power and gracefulness oozed out of every pore as he tore the Dutch defence apart and he was unlucky not to bag a treble. Paulo Bento will hope he kicks on from here.
Greece – Well who could have predicted that. Everyone was tipping Russia as their dark horses for the tournament after their demolition of the Czech Republic, yet they end up dumped out of the tournament after loosing to the Greeks. You can never write them off ever and skipper Giorgos Karagounis’ goal caused one of the shocks of the tournament so far. The Germans are next but just don’t mention 2004…
The Germans – The German machine ruthlessly powers on. Efficient, clinical and full of quality, yet they still look like they could find another gear if necessary. They’ve made the supposed Pool of Death look relatively simple and still found time to knock their two neighbours out of the tournament, the Dutch and the Danes. Their squad looks incredibly strong, especially in terms of midfielders and with the Greeks drawn in the quarters, it seems as if Joachim Loew’s side is where the sensible money should go.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Goal of the tournament anyone? He may be the most arrogant man in world (or Nicklas Bendtner, I just can’t decide), but there’s no doubting Zlatan’s unbelievable talent (unlike Bendtner). Sweden may have been appalling this tournament, but Zlatan has led from the front and demonstrated his undoubted class on the international stage. Nice for him to sign off with a win.
The Footballing Governing Bodies – Once again the men in charge have proved how not to run the greatest sport on the planet. The week started with the fining of Nicklas Bendtner for showing his Paddy Power sponsored underwear. Little bit anal, but fine, rules are rules. It got more ridiculous when Croatia were fined significantly less for the racist behaviour of their fans towards Mario Balotelli. Simply unbelievable. And then just to throw a spanner in the works, up comes the whole goal line technology debate once again. Racism and balls crossing the line – the two things FIFA and UEFA simply cannot seem to get right.
France – Uh oh. They’re at it again. If imploding in the last World Cup wasn’t enough, the French now seem hell bent on destroying their chances at the Euros as well. Seemingly nailed on to win Group D, they were simply rubbish against Sweden, a side that rolled over meekly against Ukraine and were also poor against England. Laurent Blanc had looked like he’d solved the French problem left over from the previous regime, but they now face a tricky quarter final against the Spanish. Good luck with that!
Ivan Rakitic – If you get the opportunity of a free header against the World Champions and you need to score to qualify for the next round, don’t nod it straight at the keeper. Rakitic says he’s having nightmares about his horrific miss that could have shocked the Spanish and I can’t say I’m surprised!
Bert van Marwijk – Now is the graceful time to go Bert. You couldn’t kick the Spanish out of the World Cup final and you couldn’t even kick your way out of the group stages here. Tactically awful, the players just looked disinterested the entire tournament. Their defeat against Portugal left the Dutch with precisely no points, the same as…ermmm Ireland.
Oleg Blokhin – Granted, your side have just been knocked out of the tournament thanks to a dubious decision, but have a bit more class. Blokhin’s post-match press conference involved him ranting and raving about referees, England and the journalists themselves before he offered one of them outside to have ‘a man conversation.’ Do you think the pressure got to him a little bit?