Les Bleus were destined to win – with history on their side – but unfancied Portugal burst their bubble in the final on Sunday at the Stade de France.
The 51 matches at Euro 2016 threw up some lessons on how coaches manage teams and the players’ application needed to win tournaments.
Here are five clear lessons from France:
1) Like we said, possession is overrated
Germany had 65% of the possession against France in the second semi-final but lost 2-0. Italy had 23% of the possession against Spain in the round of 16 and won 2-0. So just like Leicester City did in the English Premier League season last season, where they won the ultimate prize with an average possession rate of 33% – it is what you do with the ball when you have it that is more important not how many passes you put together though it creates a more holistic football spectacle.
2) A focal point is very necessary
The big difference between France and Germany was potent strikers and the man that finally made a difference for Portugal was a virtually unknown Eder.
Whilst France had Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, Germany had to make do with Thomas Muller, who ended the Euros without a single goal.
Griezmann scored six times, while Giroud did four times. The era of Barcelona playing with Messi as a false 9 is behind us. You must have more than a competent target man to build a complete game pattern because teams have gotten better with defending.
3) Defending is an art
With all teams almost at par, the differences in the coming years and seasons will be the teams who can organise their defending to a higher notch, especially during set pieces.
From the evidence at play at the just-concluded Euros, we will see tighter games during the impending European football season, with more games been won by odd goal.
Any average team that inculcates a work ethic of every man behind the ball will always prove hard to beat. If you add tactical preparation from good coaches, then more average teams will get the chance to shock supposedly better teams without this ingrained work mentality.
4) You do not need to play well…and a bit of luck
Portugal did not win any match in 90 minutes until the semi-final when they dispatched Wales 2-0. They just hung on and used their ‘get out of jail’ free card – read Pierre Gignac hitting the post on the dot of full time in the final.
And when they got the winner, it was through a player, who was ‘surprised’ to be picked and a player rejected by Swansea.
Against Hungary, Portugal came back three times, against Croatia, they had one shot on target [in extra time] and it led to the only goal. Many would say that this was pure luck but never forget that you can never win the lottery if you do not buy a ticket.
5)The substitutes have become very important
With many matches so tight, it now behooves the manager to ensure that he is able to influence matches with the complement of players at his disposal.
Therefore a manager will now not be judged on what he can do with 11 players but with 14. Look at Fernando Santos, throwing on Eder, who won the final with a fine shot from distance. Every team needs at least 16 good players with tremendous application to win titles and championships.
We will start to see the AC Milan method – stocking the first team full of likely starters!
Football has truly become a team game and you do not need a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in your team to win things – 11 Jaime Vardys would do!