So as the dust settles on yet another Euro tournament which England flopped at, there are numerous considerations with hindsight, that merit inclusion in the Euro 2016 post-mortem blog.
Casting an eye over our home-made wallchart, it is evident that there were upsets aplenty.
Perhaps fitting, at the end of a domestic season which saw outsiders Leicester City lift the league title, and at a whopping 5000-1 shot!
Euro 2016 winners Portugal saved their best performance for the last game, whilst hosts France had peaked against Iceland and Germany.
Now nobody would be as crazy as to suggest that Portugal are actually a better side than Italy, Spain, Germany etc. but the fact is that tournament football is all about beating what lies before you, and taking things one game at a time.
Portugal peaked at the right time, and as was evidenced by their success in spite of losing their best player, can justifiably say they were the best team.
You don’t get all the way to the final and win it, by a succession of coincidences and accidents.
Okay so Portugal’s run to the final was dog handy.
This is indicated by the fact that their toughest opponents until the final were Croatia. Or arguably Poland. And either of those teams could have defeated the Portuguese. In fact Croatia were one of my favourites, as outsiders, before a ball was kicked, along with Slovakia.
Whereas on the other side of the draw, you had Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Big hitters !
Portugal’s side of the draw featured teams such as Northern Ireland, and Wales. No disrespect to these guys but they overachieved with small squads lacking in quality players.
And herein lies something of a revelation, or a lesson, no doubt epitomised by the Icelanders.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
And endeavour, commitment, passion and team spirit, will carry you further than skill, quality, finesse and show.
And if you have a manly Icelandic warrior Viking chant, it will get you further than if you sing rather pathetic songs about the queen, and throw chairs at Russians!
Ireland won friends and did their fans proud by beating Italy and giving France a run for their money. One player in particular stood out, aside from hero Brady, and that was the lad Hendrick in midfield, who looked somewhat Icelandic himself.
Certainly a promising player for the future.
Golden boot winner and Athletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann was top class, and the Irish defence were unable to handle him, like a few other teams who were vanquished by the hosts.
After a tricky opening fixture, during which they were handed a lesson in tournament football by the Italians, Belgium threatened and were easy on the eye with some enterprising football. Premier League stars Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne all looked majestic against Hungary but somehow folded before the Welsh.
Poland were dogged and in Błaszczykowski and Lewandowski have some talented attacking players for sure, made themselves hard to beat, and were unlucky to go out on penalties.
Ex-Champions Spain looked a shadow of their former selves.
Regardless of being in the twilight of their careers, David Silva and Andreas Iniesta still looked classy, but even they were unable to inspire a team trying to balance ageing stars with new blood, and fell foul of another tournament masterclass from the Italians.
With Bale scoring goals and Ramsay and Allen in midfield, Swansea’s Williams like a rock at the back, Wales were the pick of the home nations and played with great balance and belief, exceeding all expectations.
But please, this business of Allen being described as the “Welsh Pirlo” surely starts and ends with the fact his hairstyle is reminiscent of the artisan!
And yet nobody looked as accomplished as ze Germans.
Neuer kept four consecutive clean sheets and with Hummels imperious and Boateng in good form, they provided a solid base for the midfield talents of Ozil, Draxler, and Kroos, although up front neither Muller nor Gomes could provide the regular finishing touches the ammunition deserved.
And so despite high levels of creativity, the Germans also fell before the final hurdle, and flattered to deceive.
Albania are worth a mention for their heroic performance against the Romanians, but the Czechs, Turks and Ukranians all bowed without as much as a whimper.
Indeed, a championship epitomised by upsets thus had to deliver a final upset.
As if Ireland beating Italy, Iceland defeating England, and Wales beating Belgium weren’t enough, the final twist saw hosts and big favourites France just run out of steam.
Or va-va-voom, if you’ll forgive the wordplay.
Leggy but versatile Pogba, industrious and skilful Sissoko, and talented keeper Lloris all caught the eye, but it was Portugal ‘keeper Rui Patricio who stole the show with a man of the match performance which ensured the hosts floundered among a swarm of moths who had somewhat unceremoniously descended upon the Stade de France, curiously named Saint Denis during the tournament.
Not sure who Denis was, but save after save by the Portuguese number one ensured that Giroud, Gignac, Pogba and Griezmann were all thwarted.
Of all the players, it was substitute Eder, namesake of a compatriot of Zico in the famous Brazil side of 1982 in Spain, that delivered the telling blow.
And so as the curtain descends on another interesting tournament, the verdict is a massive vote of confidence for Wales, Ireland and Iceland, a huge kick in the balls, pun intended, for England, and a big Bravo! to winners Portugal.
Although they have Pepe and Nani, players who in the past have been punished for unwholesome activities and scurrilous playacting, cheating, and diving, they were on their best behaviour in France.
And thus pin up and celebrity Cristiano Ronaldo will sleep safely in the knowledge that he belongs to a team of winners who delivered, even though l’egoiste himself was dramatically withdrawn through injury, not once, not twice, but an astonishing three times during the final game !!
His PR people will no doubt be working overtime to ensure the millionaire primadonna gets snapped with children and giving money to charities, a la Beckham, and no doubt he will even release his own brand of perfume and sunglasses at some point, such is the “brand”.
That said, he is an interesting character, and an incredibly skilful footballer, yet, it will not be lost on him, that his buddies ultimately won it without him.
And so in the final reckoning, with all the fuss over the superstars on huge wages, what actually won out was a reminder of some basic virtues which everybody can translate into family life and life in business.
Work ethic, team spirit, and of course, good timing !!