On Sunday evening [July 10, 2016] Portugal won their first major trophy in soccer, despite heralding some of the finest players to have graced the beautiful game for nearly a century. Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the iconic European Championship trophy, albeit exiting the final match midway through the first half through injury (not to a moth though), defeating the pre-tournament favourites and hosts France in dramatic circumstances.
In truth, Euro 2016 has to go down as one of the worst international soccer tournaments ever to have happened, summed up by the universal galvanisation of such smaller nations as Iceland and Wales. It was also home to one of the strangest and quite baffling penalty shootouts ever, between the most successful nations in Europe; Germany and Italy, as their quarterfinal showdown was summed up by some woeful spot kicks (Simone Zaza you know who you are!).
The fact Portugal triumphed overall, despite winning only a single game during 90 minutes highlights the level of quality throughout, but lets rejoice in the broken records that should be celebrated and there were plenty of them….
Oldest Player To Appear In The Tournament
Step forward the iconic Hungarian that is Gabor Kiraly. At the tender age of 41, Kiraly broke the previous record set by German legend Lothar Matthaus at Euro 2000 (39) and he did it in true archetypal fashion, donning his signature light grey sweat pants as he took Hungary to the last 16. The oldest goalscorer of the tournament also belonged to the sprightly Hungarians, as 37 year old Zoltan Gera netted a thunderbolt against Portugal in a thrilling 3-3 draw back in the group stages. Who said sport is a young mans game?
Most Goals Ever at a European Championship
This one isn’t all that surprising as the format of the tournament was extended from 16 teams to 24, resulting in a further 20 more games. This averaged out at around 2.12 goals per game in the 51 matches played across the month. Antoine Griezmann finished as the leading goal scorer of the tournament, despite having a lacklustre final, with six goals to his name including a memorable brace against the Germans in the semis, which will undoubtedly go down as the game of the tournament.
Smallest Nation To Win A European Championship Match
No guesses who this nation is, in what was probably the story of the tournament. With a population of 323,000 (roughly the same as St Louis, Missouri), Iceland exceeded all expectations by making it to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 with a series of well-grafted and hard fought victories. This of course included the unforgettable last 16 2-1 defeat of England in what will surely go down as one of the biggest shocks in soccer history. Lars Lagerback’s team eventually succumbed to the hosts France in the quarterfinals 5-2, but folklore was already written and this magnificent team will be talked about for years to come. Also, so will that amazing chant.
First Player to Score in 4 European Championship Tournaments
A remarkable feat of longevity and dedication, Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score in four separate tournaments as he edged out the Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic who was threatening to break the record first, after both first netted 12 years ago in Euro 2004. The Portuguese captain proved his notable worthy in the semi finals against Wales as his towering header sent the Welsh crashing home as their fairytale ended. Portugal’s victory of the tournament will surely rubberstamp Ronaldo’s legacy as one of the greatest players ever.
In four years time, the tournament will be hosted across a series of cities across Europe as it celebrates its 60 years of competition, first being contested in 1960 in France. Let’s hope for a more enjoyable tournament that will surely eclipse Euro 2016 as well as plenty more records shattered.