Jul 12, 2016

    Not a classic for purists but the upsets made event memorable


    THE European Championship ended on Sunday with Portugal's stunning victory over France in the final - the last shock in a tournament of giant-killing romance, vicious and gentle fans, the rise of Antoine Griezmann as an international star and Cristiano Ronaldo stretchered off in tears and still winning.

    Euro 2016 was not a classic for football purists but pure joy for anyone who revels in sporting upsets.

    For France, Euro 2016 was an antidote to terror attacks and weeks of social unrest until the final. Russian hooligans tested the hosts' security forces but Irish Republic fans sang their way into the hearts of French police.

    Expanded to 24 teams for the first time, some had expressed fears that the little nations would not be up to it. But Iceland, Wales and Portugal answered Uefa's prayers.

    Northern Ireland also put on a gutsy show to reach a quarter-final against Wales.

    Portugal started as 25-1 outsiders to win the tournament but pulled off the final glorious upset.

    Euro 2016 was meant to be the tournament of Paul Pogba, Ronaldo and Thomas Mueller.

    Mueller returned home as one of the Euro failures.

    Pogba scored once as France marched on to the final but Griezmann produced repeat heroics to go into the final as the top scorer on six goals.

    Fans from Iceland and both sides of the Irish border charmed everyone wherever they went in France. Iceland's single clap "Huh!" celebration will live long in the memory.

    The Republic of Ireland's fans won hearts by chanting "Stand Up For The French Police", serenaded girls in the crowd and, in an incident which went viral, collectively fixed a dent in the roof a car.