Euro 2016: Rise of the minnows

 

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Ever since the Euro Cup started this past June, every football enthusiast in the world has chosen their preferred teams, most notably the ones that are considered superpowers in the football world. Teams like Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and England have always attracted tons of supporters due to their storied history and star players. This time around, even Belgium had its fair share of fans due to the presence of Premier League superstars such as Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. And like in every other major competition, everyone overlooked the teams which are relatively short of stars. Even though the 2014 FIFA World Cup had proved that the gaps between the so called big teams and the minnows are gradually diminishing with time, people still tend to overlook these “small teams”.

Teams like Switzerland, Croatia, Wales and Iceland are the teams which have been playing the most inspiring football this tournament, often taking the spotlight away from their gargantuan counterparts. Wales and Iccroatieland are the particular revelations of this tournament. Wales, a seemingly one man team with talisman Gareth Bale had been written off at the start of the tournament but now they are the semi finalists of the tournament and will go head to head with Portugal, a nation which essentially is another team anchored by one man who goes by the name of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. But due to his explosive star power, enthusiasts had kept Portugal as a likely candidate to win the Cup.

Wales did not get that kind of a reception due to their absence from every major tournament since 1958. They were thought to be a good team if not a great one and were expected to finish second in Group B harbouring teams like England, Russia and Slovakia. On paper they were written off but when the story unfolded on the football pitch, Wales told a very different story. They only lost to England in the group stages but still finished above their illustrated neighbours leading Group B after the dust settled. From there on, they saw off challenge from Northern Ireland in the Round of 16 and came face to face with favourites Belgium in the quarter-finals. A match that many thought they would lose by quite a margin, Wales turned it around after going 0-1 down. With a mixture of disciplined football and their resiliency, they won the match 3-1, dumping Belgium right out of the tournament.

Another team which did not get its due before the tournament was Iceland. A small nation with a big hunger to win proved the naysayers wrong when they scratched and clawed their way to a draw with Portugal, a team whiicelandch on paper was much stronger than them. With a rock solid defense which blacked everything other than the kitchen sink, they quickly became a force to be reckoned with in the tournament. They drew with Hungary and beat Austria to book their berth in the Round of 16 where they faced England. Again, due to the hype created by the British media, everyone thought the match would be a cakewalk for England but after 90 minutes were played, Iceland were celebrating their historic 2-1 win while England players were looking completely aghast, unable to comprehend the result which was England’s worst defeat in quite some time. Though they lost 5-2 to France in the quarter-finals, the nation won hearts during their extended stay in the tournament.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. bootdeball says:

    Good article. Check out this piece I wrote on Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson! https://bootdeball.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/aron-gunnarsson-the-last-viking/

    Like

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