By Ridwan A. Oyetunji
The 2016 UEFA European Championship, commonly referred to as UEFA EURO 2016 or simply EURO 2016 has come and gone. Yesterday night witnessed the final match of the tournament. The 120-minutes encounter, refereed by the highly revered English referee – Mark Clatenburg, saw the “A Selecao” army coming out winners, against all odds.
Here are the major football lessons learnt from the France vs Portugal match:
1. Defending is key
Football in today’s world is not always about attacking and scoring goals. As important as scoring may seem, a very good defensive setup is needed, so that the scored goals can count at the end. Moreover, in an encounter like yesterday’s final, where both teams are almost at par, the defensive play may eventually be the difference. This is evident as the Portugese team’s defensive resilience paid off, ending the match with an important clean sheet.
2. Right Substitutions influence big matches
With Ronaldo limping off in the early stages, it seemed all was over for Portugal. Then Fernando Santos threw on Quaresma in his place, bringing Nani back to the middle as a false striker. Portugal were resigned to playing without an arrow man for the better part of the game until the closing time when Santos again brought on Moutinho (to reshape the midfield) and Eder – the eventual match winner (to serve as a focal point. The French national team made substitutions too, but they were not as right and influential tactically as those of the Portugese team.
4. Possession is not everything
It’s well known that France enjoyed the better part of the ball, dominated all areas of the pitch but at the end had little or nothing to show for it. The same transpired in the Germany vs France semi-final tie where Germany had 66% possession but ended up losing 2-0 to France. Summarily, football these days is all about making the little possession you have count.
5. An “arrow head” is important
Portugal played far much better when Eder was brought on. The Portugal players started directing their attacking plays to their hit-man, this eventually paid off as the powerful striker scored the only goal of the match with a fine effort just outside the box. Eder was Portugal’s Vardy for the night. On the other hand, France played less good once Giroud was substituted and replaced with Gignac, who is a “false-9”.
6. Fluidity in formation plays a major role
The French National team apparently had no “plan B”. The team played the same formation from the start to the end and players stuck to their playing positions for most part of the game. This is in contrast to the Portugese team that constantly reshuffle formations, with the likes of Nani, Mario, Quaresma, Moutinho switching playing positions when necessary.
7. Star Players don’t always win matches, team spirit does
France had all the stars, with the likes of Payet, Pogba, Griezmann, Giroud and the rest, they were not able to assert their individual brilliance on the game. The Portugese National team, which lost its “only real” star at the early stages of the game, but picked out the positives in the incident as they played with arguably the greatest team spirit any team has shown in the competition thus far. They were attacking and defending massively with every player tracking back as soon as the team loses the ball. Though stars may bring individual brilliance, but this is not always enough to win games.
If the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal with all their stars can surrender the EPL title to Leicester City whom nobody knows any of their players until their rise to stardom, then today’s football can be said to be more of team understanding and less of star players.
Congratulations to Portugal as the world awaits their continued brilliance at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.