Portugal is the Deserved Champion of EURO 2016

They did not beat anybody good. All they did was sit back and defend. They only won one of their seven games in 90 minutes. All of these criticisms have been aimed at the Portuguese national team. However, they do not matter. The players of Portugal went home hoisting the EURO 2016 trophy. I have came around on the topic of “deserved champions” in sports. My old self would say that Portugal did not deserve to be the champions at all. However, my opinion has changed. It is not as if they advanced through the tournament due to terrible officiating or shear luck. They had a clear strategy of focusing on playing great organized defense. Was the strategy, “sexy”? No, not at all. But, it bothers me when analysts rip on defense oriented teams. There is some value in playing great defense, and a team’s urgency should not be measured solely by their willingness to attack, but also by their commitment to defend. Did Portugal catch a few breaks? Yes, they got on the easier side of the bracket, and if Gignac’s shot takes a different bounce off the post, or if Griezmann connects on an easy header, they are not the champions. In reality, Portugal got a bit unlucky in their group (Hungary scored two goals on deflections) and clearly outplayed both Poland and Wales. They also found a way to muck up their matches against Croatia and France, and pounced on their few late chances. Portugal did not pick the opponents that they played, and did not elect how their opponents would play. In fact, I think that it is time to credit Portugal with how poorly many of their opponents played (instead of blaming that team, give respect to Portugal). To conclude, on another note, I want to give props to Cristiano Ronaldo. I for one, have been very critical of Ronaldo, and his diva attitude, throughout the tournament. However, seeing him leave the game injured was truly heart-braking and it was obvious how much the match meant to him. Although he frequently does not express his passion in the best way (constantly acting like a complete a-hole to his teammates), this showed that once again Ronaldo is human like the rest of us. He desperately wanted to win, as evident by his coaching of his teammates, and his exuberance shared with the rest of the players at the conclusion of the match. It was not pretty. It was not the “toughest” path. But none of that will be included in the record books. All that will stand will be: Portugal: EURO 2016 Champions.



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