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EURO 2016: Portugal’s Championship Was Not “Anti-Football”

Euro 2016
Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo hold up the winners' trophy as he celebrates with teammates Portugal's forward Ricardo Quaresma (L), Portugal's defender Pepe (C) after beating France 1-0 to clinch the Euro 2016 final football match between France and Portugal at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on July 10, 2016.

Depending on which tv station you watched Portugal vs France, you may have heard commentators say that Portugal may have won the tournament, but it was done so in an “anti-footballing” fashion.

The claim, however, does not stand up when you take a look at the statistics. Portugal’s first European championship was won in a manner many other teams have won in other tournaments, and here is why…

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If we take a look statistically at Portugal, their worst game in the knockout’s was against Croatia. In that match, Croatia had 59% possession, while taking 17 shots. Portugal was able to advance with an extra time goal from Ricardo Quaresma in the 117th minute.

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Now, that was their worst match categorically, but that trend did not remain…

Against Poland, Portugal had 46% possession while taking 21 shots (6 on target). It was hardly anything near a bunker strategy. They attacked, as so did Poland in an overall even matchup. Portugal would go on to advance on penalties.

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Portugal did not sit with ten players back and try to create a counter. This was also evident in their semifinal match against Wales. Again, Portugal managed 46%, 17 shots, 6 on target. They went on to win that match, 2-0 (they held Wales to 9 shots, with 3 of those on target).

Lastly, Portugal’s championship match against host France was clearly going to be a difficult one, and it got even more difficult when Cristiano Ronaldo was taken off with a knee injury. Yet, here’s the kicker, they managed 47% possession in their 1-0 victory.

Teams that implement an “anti-football” strategy sit back with, at best, one man upfront. They do not get anywhere near 50% in possession, nor do they get off many shots. Despite falling behind against Croatia in those categories, Portugal did not play like that in the entire knockout rounds.

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Reading comments and listening to commentary about how Portugal played “boring” and or “anti-football,” got me thinking about other recent championships won.

Anyone recall Spain’s run at the 2010 World Cup? If not, here are their knockout results…

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  • Round of 16: Spain 1, Portugal 0
  • Quarterfinals: Spain 1, Paraguay 0
  • Semifinal: Spain 1, Germany 0
  • Final: Spain 1, Netherlands 0 (Extra time goal scored in the 118th minute)

It was a World Cup championship that was won in as little of a flashy manner possible. Yet, many people in the footballing world praised the Spanish for how that generation played “beautifully,” even though they did not score more than one goal in each of their knockout matches.

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Any other examples? Well, there is Chile’s 2015 Copa América title…

  • Quarterfinals: Chile 1, Uruguay 0
  • Semifinal: Chile 2, Perú 1
  • Final: Chile 0, Argentina 0 (4-1 on penalties)

Chile won the Copa América in 2015 while scoring 3 goals in three matches, and needed to go to penalties to defeat Argentina in the final.

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In conclusion, it appears that Portugal simply did not win in a flashy, sexy style, yet, teams in recent history have also won championships without doing so. Calling Portugal’s Euro championship “anti-football” simply doesn’t hold up.

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