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Best player? Worst match? Our writers reflect on Euro 2016

After an intriguing few weeks of action, we review the highs and lows of the summer’s main footballing event.

Image: Jonathan Brady

Sean Farrell

1. What was your highlight and lowlight of the tournament?

The lowlight was the way Ireland reacted to being a goal up. Against Sweden and, eventually, against France (though that was much more understandable) they sank into their shells somewhat and were not strong enough defensively to withstand the pressure.

The highlight was Robbie Brady’s goal and the lack of time to invite a comeback after it.

2. Pick your player and team of the tournament

Rui Patricio: Aron Gunnarson, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Raphael Guerreiro; Luca Modric, Aaron Ramsey, Toni Kroos; Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann.

Griezmann is player of the tournament.

3. What was the best game you watched and the worst game you watched?

Every Portugal game that didn’t feature Hungary was pretty bad. The best game I got to see was probably Germany-France. Though way back at the start I thought Czech Republic v Croatia was hard to beat for drama.

4. Which prediction do you most regret making?

Didn’t take part in the pre-tournament predictions, but let’s just say I expected better from Austria.

5. Thoughts on Ireland’s performance?

Aside from the inability to build on leading goals, it was an enjoyable and commendable tournament. The coaching ticket is working well, there are young players who make the Boys in Green exciting and enjoyable to watch again.

6. Why were England so poor?

It’s hardly a golden generation, but playing for England is just not an enjoyable experience. They assume they can be just as organised and out-passion any team, but the heart is never in it and when the exit comes, the inevitable ‘players were bored’ headlines follow.

My feeling is that the ‘bored’ thing becomes a factor because players from other countries happily walk the streets and accept that they’ll mingle with fans now and then. I suspect English players get bombarded when they stick a nose out of the hotel and quickly rush back. The less fans see of them, the greater the demand and rush for selfies. If they chilled out in the open more often, the relationship with fans might change.

7. Were Portugal worthy winners?

Yep. Defence wins Championships. Portugal accepted they were a team that wasn’t going to set the tournament alight and instead tried to grind it out with one very special player to make the difference at the sharp end. People have argued that they didn’t have to beat anyone to get to the final, but we’d only be flattering ourselves and a poor German side to say France weren’t given a fair bit of road to build up steam on.

8. Will you miss John Giles on RTÉ?

You know what? I probably will miss giving out about him. I’ll miss the ‘honesty of effort’, I’ll miss the constant comparisons between Premier League players today and his Leeds United team-mates in the 70s. I’ll miss his hair, the grey suits that matched them and I’ll miss the way he calmed Eamon Dunphy down but always sort of ended up agreeing with him too.

Paul Fennessy

Portugal v France - UEFA Euro 2016 - Final - Stade de France Portugal celebrate with the trophy after winning the UEFA Euro 2016 Final at the Stade de France. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

1. What was your highlight and lowlight of the tournament?

The answer is sort of the same for both, oddly enough — the fans.

More specifically, my highlight was experiencing at close quarters the incredible feel-good atmosphere that the Irish fans became renowned for creating.

The lowlight was the awful behaviour of a minority of fans, most notably those representing England and Russia.

2. Pick your player and team of the tournament.

Despite a quiet final, Antoine Griezmann was the standout individual player. The 25-year-old Atletico Madrid striker stepped up in the absence of Karim Benzema, rescuing the French side in several key moments, such as the Germany and Ireland games, where their place in the competition appeared under serious threat.

My team of the tournament is as follows (a very attacking 3-4-3): Hugo Lloris; Jose Fonte, Leonardo Bonucci, Pepe; Aaron Ramsey, Renato Sanches, Luis Nani, Gareth Bale; Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud; Cristiano Ronaldo.

3. What was the best game you watched and the worst game you watched?

Actually being there makes the best game an easy call — Ireland v Italy. There may have been better-quality matches and more thrilling games from a neutral perspective, but the manner of the Boys in Green’s performance replete with the perfect climax made it an unforgettable night for Irish fans. Moreover, the atmosphere in Lille both in the stadium and around the streets in the build-up and aftermath was unlike anything I’d ever experienced at a football match.

Worst match I watched was Poland-Portugal. The first half wasn’t bad, but it quickly became apparent thereafter that the game was destined for penalties with neither side looking like scoring.

4. Which prediction do you most regret making? 

Tipping Germany’s Thomas Müller as a potential Golden Boot winner wasn’t my finest moment. I should have known his Euros hoodoo would strike again.

5. Thoughts on Ireland’s performance?

Better than expected. The high of the Italy match definitely compensated for the varying degrees of disappointment felt after the other three Irish matches.

Youngsters like Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Shane Duffy all competed admirably more often than not, and the Irish team will justifiably feel optimistic as they prepare for the upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

6. Why were England so poor?

England remind me of Tottenham — and not only because they had five Spurs players in their starting XI against Iceland.

They had the youngest squad in the tournament and their lack of experience showed.

Like Tottenham, they have plenty of talented players and are capable of beating almost any team on their day. But also akin to Poccettino’s side, they are prone to folding under pressure — the non-performance particularly in the second half against Iceland was essentially their equivalent of the Spurs-Chelsea game last season.

That aside, Hodgson was too eager to accommodate stars, which ultimately came at the team’s expense.

Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling, Joe Hart and Harry Kane all had poor tournaments, and the loyalty that the then-England manager showed to these players ultimately proved to be misguided.

7. Were Portugal worthy winners?

Yes. After an indifferent group stages where they admittedly progressed in somewhat fortuitous circumstances in third place of their group, they rarely looked like being beaten thereafter. With the possible exception of Italy, they had the best defensive set-up in the tournament, conceding only once in the knockout stages.

Fernando Santos’ men deservedly stunned France in the final, and it was nice to see Cristiano Ronaldo in particular finally rewarded for years of brilliance on the international stage, as well as lesser-known but equally determined players like Eder getting their day in the sun.

8. Will you miss John Giles on RTÉ?

Yes. Shameless plug for my lengthy explanation why here.

Alan Waldron

Italy v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade Pierre Mauroy Source: Michel Spingler

1. What was your highlight and lowlight of the tournament?

It has to be Robbie Brady’s goal against Italy. Pure elation engulfed the nation, a moment that will go down in Irish sporting history. I was on liveblog duty that night and I’ve never got such satisfaction from sending a notification to users of The42. The lowlight for me was the general lack of goals, it wasn’t a great tournament for beautiful, attacking football.

2. Pick your player and team of the tournament.

Antoine Griezmann consistently dazzled and was a deserving winner of the official award.

Lukas Fabianski: Joshua Kimmich, Pepe, Leonardo Bonucci, Raphael Guerreiro; Ivan Perisic, Aaron Ramsey, Toni Kroos; Nani, Dimitri Payet, Antoine Griezmann.

3. What was the best game you watched and the worst game you watched?

Wales’ win against Belgium stood out for me as the most enjoyable. Germany’s 0-0 draw with Poland took up two hours of my life that I’d quite happily take back.

4. Which prediction do you most regret making? 

Like so many who read into Austria’s qualifying form as some kind of indication of a side on the rise, I was left baffled by their inept performances. In hindsight it turned out that their qualifying group was actually very weak when you consider the respective efforts of Sweden and Russia.

5. Thoughts on Ireland’s performance?

Pleasantly surprised, bar the Belgium game. Ireland played some nice football at times and the performances of Brady and Hendrick in particular, give two very solid reasons for optimism going into the World Cup qualifiers. To see Martin O’Neill willing to make major changes when required, and show major faith in the depth of his squad, was also pleasing.

6. Why were England so poor?

The age-old question. When you consider how well the likes of Wales and Iceland did in the tournament, the blame can’t solely be pointed at the Premier League and its overstated standing, in terms of quality, in European football. They seemed to lack the unity and cohesion needed to do well at major finals. They didn’t make themselves hard to beat and had too many players playing out of their best positions.

7. Were Portugal worthy winners?

Of course. They made themselves tough to beat and performed on the big occasion. Massive kudos to their manager Fernando Santos for getting his tactics spot on, recognising his side’s limitations and setting his team up accordingly. It was a phenomenal achievement that surely ranks alongside that of Otto Rehhagel’s Greece in 2004.

8. Will you miss John Giles on RTÉ?

Definitely, he’s part of the furniture in that studio and it’s the dynamic between the pundits, not the quality of the analysis, that has made RTÉ’s coverage so enjoyable over the years.

Steve O’Rourke

Portugal v France - UEFA Euro 2016 - Final - Stade de France Source: Mike Egerton

1. What was your highlight and lowlight of the tournament?

If anyone says anything other than Robbie Brady’s goal against Italy, can we give them their P45 please? 2012 was so, so bad that to actually have a real highlight this time around made such a change.

As for lowlights, probably seeing England crash out to Iceland as I had bet on them to be knocked out in the quarter-finals.

2. Pick your player and team of the tournament.

Pepe. And the team: Gigi Buffon, Darijo Srna, Pepe, Giorgio Chiellini, Raphael Guerreiro; Paul Pogba, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos; Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann.

3. What was the best game you watched and the worst game you watched?

Iceland-England (despite it costing me money). Italy-Germany was WOEFUL and the penos didn’t even make up for it

4. Which prediction do you most regret making?

Calling Switzerland the dark horses. You think I would have learned after the World Cup.

5. Thoughts on Ireland’s performance?

Better than we could have hoped for considering everything. But for a shaky 15 minutes spell against France, who knows what might have happened.

6. Why were England so poor?

Poor coaching, poor players, poor structures.

7. Were Portugal worthy winners?

Yeah. Too much is made about football having to be attacking and exciting. Winning is really all that matters and they did.

8. Will you miss John Giles on RTÉ?

I will. I’d have preferred if they got rid of Dunphy instead. Richie Sadlier and Didi Haman are good though, more of them please.

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The BBC’s Euro 2016 closing montage captures the emotions we felt over the past month>

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