Missed Opportunities and Abject Failure: Ranking the Worst Teams of Euro 2016
With Euro 2016 complete, we can now look back at who overachieved, who let the side down, and who the hell thought Harry Kane should take corners.
Euro 2016 is done. It now belongs to the ages. The final may have been a drab affair, but the tournament was not without its moments to remember: Iceland reaching the quarter-finals, Wales making the semis, Griezmann's showing against Germany and Draxler's heroics against Slovakia all spring to mind. Perhaps we won't recall it as a classic, but each international football tournament has its charms.
With proceedings complete, we can now look back and pass judgement. Who overachieved, who let the side down, and who the hell thought Harry Kane should take corners? We're ranking the teams from 1–24, kicking off with the bottom eight.
Turkey were handed a tough group and showed little sign of escaping it in their first two games. A 1-0 defeat to Croatia flattered Fatih Terim's side, and their opponents could really have had five, such was their superiority. In the next game they were totally undone by Spain, going down 3-0 and seemingly surrendering any hope of making the knockout rounds. Nevertheless, they rallied well in the last match, beating the Czech Republic 3-0 to give themselves a fighting chance. Indeed, had it not been for Robbie Brady's late goal for the Republic of Ireland against Italy, Turkey would have qualified for the last 16. Not that they really deserved it.
Overall, this was a forgettable Turkish showing, save for one match.
Oh, England. In the spirit of Chumbawamba, we had to have a whisky drink, a vodka drink, a lager drink and a cider drink before we could come to terms with the Three Lions' abject 2-1 defeat to Iceland in the Round of 16. Roy Hodgson and co. got knocked down, and emphatically refused to get up again. Accordingly, they went out of Euro 2016 to a country with a population of eight whale watchers and several thousand extremely lean herring.
The group stage wasn't much better, in fairness. Prior to their Icelandic humbling, England had limped to two draws against Russia and Slovakia, and had scraped together a 2-1 win against Wales. All in all, it was perhaps the most underwhelming tournament in living memory, and plunged the national team even deeper into the gaping maw of failure. Plus we had to watch Harry Kane taking corners for several weeks, which was marginally more dispiriting than being abandoned on a tiny desert atoll, and experiencing a slow and painful death from dehydration.
While a few supposed "one-man teams" showed well at Euro 2016, Sweden sunk without a trace. It was always going to be difficult for an ageing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to drag an otherwise average side through a group containing Italy and Belgium, but they would at least have hoped to beat the Republic of Ireland. Alas, Sweden looked insipid in a 1-1 draw against Martin O'Neill's side and – though they didn't suffer heavy defeats – failed to get anything from the other two games.
They must now prepare for life after Zlatan, as well as fellow veterans Kim Källström and Andreas Isaksson. There may be challenging times ahead for new boss Janne Andersson.
Now, before we absolutely two-foot Romania, we must add the caveat that the Tricolorii did not have high expectations going into Euro 2016. It's fair to say that they fulfilled their incredibly low hopes, mainly by losing to France, drawing with Switzerland and then losing again to fellow minnows Albania.
Apart from being completely shite, then, it wasn't a bad tournament for the Black Sea nation. They turned up, they were repeatedly beaten and they went out at the group stage with a sullen sense of acceptance. That is what we expect of Romania at a major tournament, so well done lads, well done.
21. CZECH REPUBLIC
The Czechs have a proud history at this tournament: they won it (as Czechoslovakia) in 1976, were runners up in 1996, and have three further semi-final appearances (1960, 1980, 2004) to their name. This, however, was one to quickly forget: one point, and a bloody lucky one at that, was all Pavel Vrba's side had to show for their efforts in France. To their credit, Spain only beat them by one, but the Czechs were totally outplayed by Croatia before fan trouble and a late penalty saw them snatch a draw. Their 3-0 defeat to Turkey was embarrassing and consigned them to bottom of the group. This was arguably the worst we have seen the Czechs perform at the Euros, and has been followed by the international retirement of Petr Cech.
Though the Austrians weren't necessarily worse than Romania and the Czech Republic in terms of their actual performances, they deserve their lowly ranking for being so underwhelming. Having strolled through their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, winning nine of their ten games and drawing one, they proceeded to tally up a single point at the tournament itself, earning themselves a goalless draw with Portugal.
On either side of that result, Austria endeavoured to lose to both Hungary and Iceland, and so went out at the group stage. Their coaching team must have consulted the Roy Hodgson manual to doing well in qualifiers, before turning into complete wet farts in games people genuinely care about.
In years to come, football historians across the land will puzzle over how the actual fuck Russia managed to earn a point against England. Euro 2016 was a horrorshow from Leonid Slutsky's side: poor in every area of the pitch, tactically bereft, lacking in physical and mental energy, they were truly dire. Though it's not the team's fault, there was also the grime spectre of Russian supporter violence to add to the feeling of negativity surrounding the team.
Their defeat to Wales was comprehensive, and poses huge questions for a side who will host the World Cup in less than two years. Slutsky said that he stayed up until 9am afterwards, discussing Russia's showing with some of his players. "We're shit," was the unanimous conclusion. That's the only thing they got right during the tournament.
Though their own expectations were exceedingly low, Ukraine were indisputably the worst team at the tournament. They lost all three of their group matches, including a 2-0 defeat to Northern Ireland, and were eliminated with a game to spare.
In terms of points, their tournament quite literally could not have gone worse. We're loathe to rank a team lower than Russia but, in this case, we regrettably feel that we must.
Check back tomorrow when we'll be looking at the mid-ranking sides from Euro 2016.