Now that every side has played at least two matches at Euro 2016, I feel that I have seen enough to make my initial judgements on the tournament. Although there will, undoubtedly, be more in store before the end of the competition, we have had our first look at the players and teams competing in France. I have split my analysis into four parts: the best team so far, the worst team so far, the surprise package of the tournament so far, and the most disappointing team so far.
Most disappointing team:
Judging by performances and results from the tournament so far, I think the most disappointing teams have been Russia, Ukraine, Portugal, and Austria. Prior to the first match, most would have expected all of these teams to challenge for the top two places in their group, but it is possible that none of them will qualify for the next round.
Russia have failed to pick up a single win, and are now out of the tournament, having got their only point in their first game against England. They finished bottom of group B, when many touted them to sneak into second place behind England. However, they lost their second and third games against Slovakia and Wales, the latter of which was a 3-0 defeat. Russia came into the tournament with hopes of progression to the first knockout round, although they lost two of their key midfield players through injury, in Igor Denisov and Alan Dzagoev. Nevertheless, their campaign has been a huge disappointment, and they depart France with their fans having made more of a mark on the tournament that their players.
Ukraine were actually my pick for worst team of the tournament to date, which puts into perspective how badly the team has played, considering they would have been aiming for a second place finish in their group, coming above Poland and Northern Ireland. However, after a predictable opening game defeat to Germany, they found themselves facing the minnows of the group, Northern Ireland. Inconceivably, they lost 2-0, consigning them to what will probably be a bottom of the group finish.
The main problem seems to be the defence, as they have conceded four goals in their two games, although the attack does not seem to have been performing to the required standards either, as they are yet to register a goal of their own. Star players, Andriy Yarmalenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka have both been poor by their standards, which had doubtlessly contributed to their side’s awful performances. Ukraine will go into their final match against Poland and will be hoping they can regain some dignity with a win, but they will be on the plane home regardless.
Austria have been very poor in the tournament so far as, even though they were handed the easiest group of the tournament, they find themselves bottom after two games. They lost their opening game 2-0 against Hungary, which was a major shock, although they did have a man sent off. They then managed to hold Portugal to a goalless draw, more by luck than judgement as Cristiano Ronaldo had a torrid time in front of goal. However, although they ground out a point against Portugal, for Austria to be anywhere but in the top two spots in their group has to go down as a major disappointment.
Many people had Austria down as their dark horses, seeing them qualify for the knockout rounds in second place and beating Russia, putting them into the quarter finals. However, it is not even certain that they will finish in third place. A big reason for their poor showings has been the loss of form of David Alaba, who was branded as the main hope for his country. If they get a win from their final game against Iceland they can still qualify for the next round in either second or third place, but even if they do qualify, it will have been far less comfortable than it should have been.
Portugal have been very disappointing in the tournament so far, having failed to pick up a single victory from their opening games. They failed to beat both Iceland and Austria when their group was predicted to see Portugal stroll into the next round. Although, in all likelihood, they will still win the group, to find themselves in third place after two games has to be a failure for the team. They now have to play a full strength team in their final match against group leaders, Hungary, when they surely would have preferred to rotate their team so that they were better rested for their last 16 tie.
However, with qualification not even secured yet, they will need to play at full intensity to ensure they go through. Amazingly, they have only scored one goal in their first two games and Cristiano Ronaldo has failed to provide any goals either. Ronaldo had a shocking match against Austria, missing numerous goalscoring opportunities, including a penalty. A win against Hungary will put Portugal into the round of sixteen, but they should really have already secured qualification. A more difficult knockout game against England could be in store for Portugal if Iceland beat Austria and Portugal beat Hungary, which would be a draw that Portugal have wanted to avoid before the tournament.
All of these teams have been very disappointing in the European Championships, and two of them are practically out of the tournament already. However, even if Portugal and Austria do get through their groups, they will still have failed to meet their pre-tournament expectations. Although I think Ukraine have been the worst team at the competition so far, I think Portugal have been the most disappointing as they should have racked up a sizeable goal difference during their group stage campaign, but instead they find themselves having to win to secure qualification.
When you consider that they have one of the best attacking players in the word, and arguably the best player in the tournament in Cristiano Ronaldo, to have scored only one goal from their first two games is, quite frankly, terrible. Personally, I hope they do secure first place in their group when they play Hungary so that they do not find themselves playing against England in the round of 16, but from a neutral perspective, I’m not convinced that they deserve qualification.