Reflecting on the Euro 2016 Final, I can’t help but think of Oasis’ Some Might Say – “Some might say you get what you’ve been given.”
Did France really get what they had been given? Did Portugal? It’s cryptic like most of Oasis’ songs unless put into context.
“Some might say we will find a brighter day.”
2015 will be a year that no French citizen will ever forget because of the tragedies that were suffered at the hands of terrorists. Democracy and freedom were attacked in multiple places around the country during the year. We all have memories of the events from where we were when we found out to how it hit us as the details came out.
We also know that the French National Team were in the midst of an international friendly with the German National Team when a series of explosions rang out outside the stadium. No one could be sure what was going on, as word had yet to filter through about the other heinous acts being committed across the region.
After the attacks, I’m certain that head coach Didier Deschamps and the rest of the French squad but a lot into the Euro 2016 Tournament knowing that their home country would be hosting it. It would be a time for the team to shine and give the fans, players and citizens something to be positive about going forward.
Go forward they did.
Les Bleus won their group with 7 points (collecting wins over Romania and Albania and a draw with Switzerland). They managed a Round of 16 win over the Republic of Ireland, a quarterfinal thrasing of the tournament’s Cinderella Iceland, a thorough triumph over Germany and they were into the Final.
A Final in Saint-Denis at the Stade de France where the explosions had gone off less than a year ago.
“Some might say you get what you’ve been given.”
On the other side, there was Portugal and the new “Golden Balls” – Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid midfielder came into the tournament with Euro glory on his mind following Messi’s recent defeats in court and the Copa America. The two have always been perceived to be battling for the same fame and fortune with each struggling to overcome the success of the other.
Portugal struggled in the group stage (drawing against Hungary, Iceland and Austria) but as one of the best third place team they managed to squeak through to the next round. In the Round of 16 they managed to defeat Croatia after extra time, 1-0. In the quarter-finals they beat Poland on penalties (5-3) after the game ended up tied 1-1 after extra time. In the semi-finals they found a way past upstart Wales 2-0 to meet destiny and the host country.
Many may have thought that Ronaldo would win the Euros for Portugal. Many may simply dislike Ronaldo and hoped that he would lose the Euros for Portugal. For the most part, his play on the field was a non-factor. In the 25th minute, Ronaldo would come off after sustaining a knee injury that he had tried to play through. As he cried while he was being stretchered off the field, everyone knew what Ronaldo was feeling.
For all his fame, riches and glory, his international success has been lacking. To come so far and get so close must have been heartbreaking. In the second half, there was Ronaldo with a bandaged knee hobbling the sidelines barking instructions.
When Portugal finally broke a 0-0 deadlock in the second half of added extra time, Ronaldo could be seen crying tears of joy. There was his international success and the irony was he had nothing to do with it. All the things he had been given – from the good looks to his soccer skills to money and club triumphs – he finally won on the international stage while not being involved.
“Some might say that sunshine follows thunder, go and tell it to the man who cannot shine.”
It goes without saying that the French were heartbroken. The team had no doubt pushed so hard to get to the Final. This was a country that had been all but set to party into the night. Hosting the Euros – check. Team in the final – check. Team looks better on paper – check. France did have the better of the play for most of the game, but it simply wasn’t to be.
There were moments of anger when French players refused to have medals put around their necks or they would not accept them at all. If seen from a different perspective I’m sure that one could say that this was an unsportsmanlike move on the part of the home team. However, there was so much pride, there had to have been such a feeling in the home dressing room that it was their game, their tournament and their trophy. To come up short after all that had to leave them bitter. Could it be seen as childish? I’m sure. But after what they went through with the attacks of 2015, who am I to judge? No doubt there was a part of them that felt like they let the country down. How can I know what that feels like?
Portugal simply were the team of destiny. Whether the Euros were bad or not, this was their tournament to win. It was time for Ronaldo to win. It was time for him to get what he was given. What he was given was the Euro 2016 trophy and a chance to prove that he’s the best player on Earth.