What did we learn from the European Championships? – 10 Talking Points

I always intended to conclude the Euros by offering my takeaways and the top moments from the last month.

My head has been made clearer by the disappointment of England’s loss on Sunday.

There’s a cruel irony that my country has been complementing Gareth Southgate for making brave decisions that he got spot on.

Yet in the final seconds of the Final he ran out of luck.

He brought on two players purely to take penalties and they failed in the shootout while the choice to have a teenager take your 5th spot kick is questionable.


What else though have we learnt at the European Championships?


Was The Euros Fair?

Many teams who exited early complained about the consistency with some travelling more than others, and some having home advantage more than others.

Wales for example had two fixtures in Baku, one in Rome against Italy while their tie with Denmark became an away game when their fans were banned from entering Holland, but Danes were not.

It’s worth remembering that every tournament has a host who by default will have an advantage.

I also don’t feel comfortable bemoaning anything that was caused by COVID.

Families have had to sacrifice so much during the Pandemic. If loved ones have to accept not attending a funeral, then football fans can get over not being able to attend a match.

To have the best competition though, as best as possible you want to create a level playing field. This Euros didn’t have that.

UEFA’s president has confirmed the format won’t be repeated, that’s after taking the money.


Current Format

I would much rather UEFA change the rule where you can finish third and still end up in the knockout stages.

It means you can qualify with just one win (which Ukraine did).

It makes it very hard to be invested in the group stages when it’s harder not to qualify.

The night Hungary/Germany and Portugal/France drew, imagine how much more drama if viewers knew only two could get out of the group?



We have been told for a couple of years that it’s only the Premiership which has such a problem with Video Technology.

That suggests that how it’s implemented is the issue.

That’s been evidenced in the last few months.

Unlike domestic fixtures I watch, it feels like VAR was rarely used and if anything wasn’t used enough.

It was nice to go back to the days of seeing a goal and not having to wait for every last detail to be assessed.

The point of VAR was to only help officials if an ‘obvious’ error has been made. So most of the time, refs were told to stick to their convictions. That is how it was meant to be.


5 Subs

England was one of the few countries that after Project Restart went back to the traditional maximum of three subs.

Some wanted the option of 5 changes to remain to give players more rest.

The counter argument is it gave an advantage to the sides with superior squads who could in theory change half of their outfield.

It’s benefitted Southgate who due to knowing he can make 5 alterations (6 if a game goes to extra time) has used his bench to win games.

It became less of an issue who started in attack given that he could bring them on later.


Players Abused

What’s become a theme in domestic football is the number of players abused online.

The worrying thing is it’s becoming so common that it’s no longer newsworthy. Sterling was subjected to racism on social media after the draw with Scotland.

The poster boy though, for having to deal with vile comments on Facebook and Twitter, was Morata.

Spain continued their reputation for struggling to convert possession into goals, putting pressure on their strikers.

While it’s fine for Spanish papers to have the opinion that the forward isn’t good enough, it’s not okay to wish death on someone and threaten his family. Those cowards didn’t deserve the sight of Morata coming to his country’s rescue with late goals against Croatia and Italy.

When he missed a decisive pen in the semi-Final, I saw the irony. Maybe if you helped the man feel more confident his spot kick wouldn’t have been so tame?

We said for years these big companies on the Internet need to do more to identify these criminals.

Unfortunately, we will be saying the same this time next year as well.



I wrote an article about this at the time but it’s worth repeating.

In the UK, TV companies are regulated. One of the rules they must follow is to never show live footage of a person in distress without consent from that individual.

In other words the BBC had zero business showing a girl crying while watching her boyfriend receive CPR on a football pitch.

While BBC do not control the feed (UEFA do), they could have cut away at any point. That they didn’t leads you to assume they saw a ratings opportunity.

UEFA then gave Denmark the choice of restarting the game that evening or the next day. They then had the nerve to put out a statement saying the ordeal reminds us of what’s important. Not important enough to upset your scheduling?


Italy’s dark arts

Due to not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, it’s been 5 years since we saw Italy on the grand stage.

It was therefore nice to see the nostalgia of the dark arts that the Italians for decades have been renowned for.

Wherever you view their tactics as game management or cheating depends on how serious you take the sport.

To be fair to their current squad, they are only copying generations that they grew up with.

Winding down the clock like they did in the final minutes against Belgium is part of their footballing DNA.

Hard to defend Immobile though?

Laying down ‘injured’ until it was time to celebrate a goal has become a meme.

As he shines his medal, I don’t think he cares though.


Politics In Football

With the majority of players taking a knee in English Football, it raised the debate should politics be involved in Sport. This intensified with fans back in stadiums for the final week of the Prem.

Boos were audible for the pre match ritual as well as at Wembley.

It will be interesting to see if clubs carry on the gesture during the new campaign or slowly faze it out.

Governing bodies stance is it’s not a political statement.

UEFA found themselves in murky waters not allowing Germany to display their stadium in rainbow colours.

In this instance, UEFA were aware that Germany’s motives were not their own support for the idea, but in response to their opponents Hungary’s president’s decision to ban teaching of children.

UEFA then contradicted their own statement by displaying rainbow flags on their website reminding everyone they were in support of the OneLove campaign.

Germany’s equalizer was celebrated by a heart symbol being shown to the away section. Which was harsh..

Hungary held a vote in their country with the majority making a choice.

Every culture is different and that’s the business of that country.

Should that become a sub plot for a football match?

If we are going to use sport to question the values of every nation then we have to be consistent, we can’t pick and choose



If like me you grew up with Clive Tyldesley as one of your favorite commentators, you be dismayed that he is no longer ITV’s lead announcer.

The man himself was mystified by his demotion to essentially any fixture that didn’t involve England.

You have to feel sorry for Sam Matterface who got poor reviews for his performances, essentially for not being Mr. Tyldesley.

While he and his bosses would have accepted a resistance to change, by the time of the Final it was estimated millions chose the BBC over ITV due to not enjoying what they were hearing.

That’s what you get for being ageist.


England’s Fans

I write this heartbroken as I’m sure several of our readers are.

Yet there are a lot of English ‘fans’ who didn’t deserve the honour of watching their nation lift a trophy.

In what was essentially a home tournament, a certain percentage of the nation embarrassed their country with the world watching.

Booing of National anthems was constant, the FA were fined for lasers being used and fireworks set off, Danish fans reported racial abuse.

Even on the day of the Final, the buildup was overshadowed by idiots attempting to break into Wembley without tickets.

The British press are quick to judge other hosts when this type of behavior occurs.

Let’s call a spade a spade.

Events off the pitch haven’t been a good advertisement for England in 2021…


Player of tournament – Donnarumma

Goal of tournament – Schick vs Scotland

Game of tournament –  Switzerland v France

Flop – Turkey

Youngster – Pedri


Be Kind In The Comments



  1. It was a good tournament but you touched on some important points, it was unfair for some teams who travelled and did not play a single game at home like others who played at home Infront of their own supporters prime example England who only played one match away that’s not fair specially if you announce the format where one single country is not the host. Coming to VAR they just can not make up their mind, VAR just did not go against the referee decisions even when they were wrong and ignored some strong penalty calls just because the on filed referee did not consult VAR. The way draw and route was made from knock out stage was absolutely laughable, how can you do that putting most strong rates teams on one side and other side of draw to be so weak. You had France, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and Spain at one end of path to finals. I mean look at which teams England played and which teams Italy played to reach final. It’s a joke. There need to be a balance. I think this was in place to make sure the small teams atleast went to last 8 and 4. In terms of tournament it was fantastic I think Swiss beating France, Dutch getting kicked out and hardly any walk over. Big shout out to Hungary for making Group F so interesting it was really group of death till the last minute. Congratulations to Italy and hard luck to England both played well. Also big shout out to Saka amazing player, amazing nerves & maturity. For me in last 2 years Saka and Pedri are two most brilliant players who are right up there because they are not only carrying their clubs but also have done remarkably on international stage as well that too at this young age.

  2. I just didn’t like that most teams played too cautiously. I understand that there was too much at stake, but some games became too boring

    Maybe UEFA can change some rules to make the matches more entertaining

      1. It’s okay to have dominant ball possession, as long as the team focus on opening the space on one side of the pitch. Unfortunately most managers in Euro tended to use conservative tactics and couldn’t make pretty open-play systems

    1. I don’t think it was boring, I think it was much fun and we saw some good football all round. Some major upsets and some high scoring games. Everything can be improved and I think maybe If we can introduce no points for draws as well that will spice up things a bit because teams will then need to make sure some sort of result has to come out of it. Small teams play too much negative for a point against big teams.

  3. I am gutted for English fans but they are closer. Semis and then final maybe the next one will be winning it. England and Belgium have a big chance this generation they should use it.

    I enjoyed the tournament immensely. When there is no billionaires disruption football is at its purest. That’s why I enjoy international and women’s football.

    1. England had an easy passage they never played Belgium, Spain, France Italy beat them they deserved it

      1. I can’t say I am England team fan but give credit where it is due. They didn’t reach the final by luck even more so considering they reached the semis of the world Cup. Why when England win it is an easy passage but when the others win it is not?

        There is no such thing as an easy passage in major tournaments. They have a good team and manager right now just hoping they will not have our Dutch rotten luck.

        I would like to see England win a major tournament because we have already seen all the major national teams winning them.

        They have such passionate fans it would be nice to see them celebrating something big. Jumping in the river and all 😁

  4. I disagree with your point concerning VAR i think that overall the referring/VAR was pretty spot-on (except for a couple of decisions)the fact it was rarely talked about during the tournament should be a positive indication no?

    1. One thing I can say on filed refereeing was way better then what we see in EPL, there was more of a flow to things then in EPL. VAR was better but I still don’t think they use it in right manner I mean hardly any penalty given or not given was turned by VAR it looked it looked like VAR wanted to stick to on field referee decision.

  5. Dan, you have raised some interesting and valid points regarding the new rules applied to the Euros. In many cases they were not even-handed and have raised a lot of criticism. However, in my opinion the best team won the competition dark arts or not. My game of the competition was Italy v Spain for the sheer quality of football.

  6. It was sad though. But we should show Bukaya all the love to boost his confidence. He’s still young and he will only get better. Looking back we all seem to have the answers of what should have happened, but none of us foresaw what would take place in the Euros . It’s just another learning curve.

  7. I most welcome article, though not unusually so for DAN, in this in depth piece, containing much real thought. I found nothing to argue against in his long piece and thought it one of his best ever TBH.

    Being a political junkie personally, I seeno way we can separate football from politics, though it is good that we should try.

    But I just do not see how, in this media driven world, we can ever hope to succeed. Indeed it is massively to the shared credit of our extraordinary group of players led by the magnificent GARETH SOUTHGATE, that so many of those players have chosen to become deeply involved in community politically driven matters.

    As for UEFA, well they are a lost cause; driven by profit only with scarce a care or concern for fairness. Both Uefa and FIFA are run by thoroughly bad people who prize obscene profit above caring for the welfare of its human competitors and spectatators. No change there then!

    As for our own hero young SAKA, no praise can be enough! An extraordinary young man whose personal qualities are exceptional and who will I predict, become influential in more fields than just football when he retires. I think the same about several other of these wonderful young players too. In fact, they are already becoming VERY special.
    It is the harsh nature of elite sport that defeat, esp at the final hurdle, hurts massively but when the dust finally settles, these fierce and sporting young heroes will reflect on how they have together moved our shared human race a key notch forward in our perennial quest for human evolvement.

    And that last sentence matters far more than everything else put together in my book.

  8. I want to say sorry to all the England folks here for yesterday. At least I was hoping you would win this one but it wasn’t to be. Saka, Rashford and Sancho deserve a lot of appreciation for at least stepping up to the plate.
    You were unfortunate to lose yesterday’s match as Italy never looked like scoring and when I look at their matches against Begium, Spain and your team as well as their slow defense Mancini has overachieved to win it imo. He has pushed them to their limits. Now life must go on as usual.

  9. A well-written article. This is the reason I love this site.
    It was an enjoyable competition. England should not be too sad. The positive thing is that they are very close to winning a major tournament.
    Semi-finals last world cup. Final this Euro. Maybe they might just win the next coming World cup in Qatar.
    I have observed this past few years that teams who go to the final of a major tournament for the first time do not win it. Exception of just a few.

    Now unto club football which I love the most. Can’t wait to see my Arsenal kick the ball again tomorrow.

    Please more articles about the assessment of our team’s strength and weaknesses this forthcoming season should role in.

  10. For me, England betrayed their DNA. It felt like they tried to protect their 1-0 lead and that’s not in your DNA. It seemed to me England could have overrun Itay had they taken the hand brake off.

    The whole tournament was boring IMO except for a very few games.

    Unless England decides to destroy teams with their attacking talent, they will also fail in the WC.

    I don’t understand the drama about Saka missing his penalty or taking the last penalty. The goalkeeper guessed right, it happens. Rashord’s penalty was dubious because he didn’t manage to put it on target.

    On the one hand, there seems to be an acceptance that penalties are a lottery on the other hand people act like the outcome can be influenced by who takes a penalty.

    The world’s best strikers have missed penalties. It happens. Get over it. Ask France if they would like Mbappe to take a penalty before they play Switzerland.

    In the end, yesterday, the more positive team won.

    Let’s move on to real football. The PL. Much higher level than Euro 2020.

    1. I don’t think they did betray their DNA, JanV..

      It was the complete opposite actually and Gareth Southgate should be praised for what he did. He switched the formation to nullify Italy. And, it worked for most of the game. Unfortunately, the players (especially in the middle of the pitch) tired in the second half as the Italians upped the pace. We had less rest than Italy too. We also didn’t lose the game remember. we lost in a penalty shoot out. Our football over the whole tournament is the way forward and Gareth Southgate is the best man for the job!

      1. Why did Grealish have so little playing time, when every time he came on, he terrified the opposition? Made no sense. We had strong CAMs in Saka and Grealish, and as it was obvious the Italians were taking over the midfield in the early part of the second half, these two should have been let on to re-address the balance, as they did when finally let on, but alas too late. I felt we needed to win the game in the 90, otherwise we would struggle. By introducing Saka and Grealish earlier, I feel confident we would’ve maintained or increased our lead in the remaining minutes, as we could link the defence and forwards. Entirely Southgtes fault for neither realising or reacting to the situation. I wonder if there was something going on between Southgate and Grealish. I hope Southgate hasn’t damaged Bukayos confidence with his inept management. I feel as well that had this game been played under PL rules the Italians would’ve seen 2-3 red cards. This was why I felt we needed to finish the game in the 90, as the refs were allowing them to get away with murder and they were pulling every trick to damage our players as they did the Spanish.

      2. Italy never looked like scoring. Southgate had done a great job until the penalties where I thought he got it wrong with some of the substations. I thought England was going to win when Pickford saved Jorginho’s penalty. This must have been a tough one to take deep down for Southgate. He deserved this and I’m not from England btw. Italy’s best strength is their perseverance and fighting spirit.

        1. Nah man Southgate messed it up in big final, first going defensive by playing extra defender then taking such long to introduce Grealish the best English player. This is why England never win because no matter what players they have they always go defensive. You guys had major advantage playing at home with huge crowd, one goal up in 2 minutes, can you imagine what Italy were feeling when in such a big match playing away you go 0-1 down. England should have attached and Italy would have crumbled they were there for taking but as usual England went with Morinhio mentality score a goal then park the bus. That allowes Italy to settle their nerve and climitise to environment. Which manager on earth would put Grealish on bench when he was the most dangerous player in EPL last season I know who Southgate. A good manager can win world cup with this team but not Southgate. This was England’s golden chance to win it because of all the odds in their favour playing at home apart from one match, very good squad and favourable (easy) road to final then 1-0 up inside two minutes of final. I am afraid now English fans are talking about next world cup but I don’t think England will be able to win against any of the big teams in knock out stage likes of France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil and Dutch.

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