UEFA’s decision to expand the tournament to 24 teams rather than the traditional 16 side format gave us plenty of moments to savor as some of the big boys slipped up, the onion bag was rattled with some great goals and plenty of tears were shed. These are the most memorable moments of Euro 2016.
Dimitri Payet gets France off to a flyer
The West Ham forward was reduced to tears after scoring the winner in the tournaments opening game, a last-gasp 2-1 for France over Romania. With the scores tied at 1-1 Les Blues’ fightback looked to be in vain but Payet’s thunderbolt ensured the host nation’s campaign got off to the right start.
Xhaka brothers go head to head
When Switzerland took on Albania in the group stages of Euro 2016 there was more to the game than what meets the eye with the Swiss team containing numerous players of Albanian descent. Including brothers Granit and Taulant Xhaka, who lined up on opposite teams, their mother even had custom t-shirts in support of both made for the occasion.
Zlatan Says Goodbye
Manchester United’s new signing ended his career with the Swedish national team. Days before their final group game and must win match up with Belgium the forward revealed Euro 2016 would be his last involvement with Sweden. It proved an anti-climax as Sweden lost 1-0 and were unceremoniously dumped out the tournament.
Despite only having a population of 323,000, Iceland proved that team spirit can get you far. England, who have a population of around 53 million, were ultimately undone by the Icelandic players as they lost 2-1, despite going ahead thanks to a Wayne Rooney penalty. Twenty minutes after the final whistle, England head coach Roy Hodgson resigned from his role.
Hungary put three past Portugal
Another surprise package, the Magyars had already qualified for the last-16 when they took on a desperate Portugal in the third and final Group F match. Hungary took the lead three times but each time were pegged back by a resilient Portugal who held on to their place in the competition with the 3-3 draw.
Germany and Italy wide of the mark in shootout
In one of the worst penalty displays in recent memory, Germany’s shootout against Italy will certainly be one to remember. It went to nine rounds, with FC Koln left-back Jonas Hector scoring the decisive penalty, but the misses of Simone Zaza, where he had a long, stuttered run-up, and Graziano Pelle, who told Manuel Neuer where he was going before putting the ball wide, will haunt the memories of many Italians.
The Stoke City forward showed us why he earned the nickname ‘The Alpine Messi’ with this acrobatic equalizer in the last-16 against Poland. Switzerland were headed home until the ball was dispatched into the back of the net from the edge of the area with a gravity defying overhead-kick.
Hal Robson-Kanu unleashes the dragon
The Wales forward is currently a free-agent but might have a few offers waiting for him when he gets home after he gave the Dragons a shock 2-1 lead over Belgium in the quarter-final with an excellent finish after selling a Cruyff turn to not one, not two, but THREE Belgium defenders. The Welsh team made history by reaching the semi-finals.
Ronaldo’s tears inspire Portugal
In the final of Euro 2016 Portugal’s star man and captain, Cristiano Ronaldo was forced to retire through injury. In tears, the Real Madrid forward left the pitch on a stretcher. Fernando Santos rallied his troops and the galvanized team pulled of a 1-0 upset in the final against France. Also, a moth clung to Ronaldo’s face as the tears streamed down his face creating hundreds of Twitter parody accounts and countless memes.