Sports Soccer

Euro draw more balanced than people think

By Tyler Green, 24 hours Vancouver, soccer columnist

Cristiano Ronaldo.
GETTY IMAGES

Cristiano Ronaldo. GETTY IMAGES

Euro 2016 has been a tournament of agonizing twists and turns. Some of the traditional teams have failed to impress — several even failed to qualify (think Netherlands or Bosnia and Herzegovina or Greece, three of UEFA’s top teams).

That got me thinking about the “tough side” of the draw versus the so-called “easy side.”

A few Italian friends complained of their hardship because they would have to advance past Spain — which they did — then face Germany, followed by either France or England to make the final, although Iceland ruined that plan.

But I see the draw differently than others. On one side are the classic teams of European soccer, but while most have the cachet, only a couple of those are actually great.

The breakdown includes an Italian team that is playing well, is organized, and looks poised to make the final. The Germans are also in that same category and are the current World Cup holders and favourites of the bookmakers. France is hosting the tournament and has always been favoured to be in the final.

Otherwise, we watched a poor Slovakian side get dismantled by Germany, a past-their-prime Spanish side lose to Italy, and an incompetent England squad dropped by Iceland.

Iceland, the surprise team of the tournament, is perhaps making the biggest noise in that group and despite France, Italy and Germany being the favourites to make the final, I doubt anyone wants to play their island neighbours.

On the other side of the draw are Portugal, Poland, Wales and Belgium, including two teams that are in the top eight of the FIFA Ranking — one more than in the so-called difficult group. Poland is definitely an up-and-coming side and will be difficult to beat after holding Germany to a scoreless draw in the group stages. They have one of the best goal scorers in Robert Lewandowski leading them.

Portugal will go as far as Cristiano Ronaldo takes them. Belgium, ranked as the second best team in the world, have some of the best individual players in their lineup, and are starting to look like they will finally put it together after a disappointing World Cup.

Wales just might be that group’s Iceland. No one expected them to top their group, but they seem ready to shock a few more with man-bun scorer Gareth Bale.

Euro 2016’s draw wasn’t perfect, but both sides of the final have their own challenges and drama has ensued. It would also be amazing if we saw Strákarnir okkar — ‘Our boys’ if your Icelandic is rusty — make the final.

Tyler hosts SOCCER TALK presented by Metrotown Physio, podcasting each week on iTunes, Stitcher and at www.soccertalkvan.libsyn.com. Follow Tyler on twitter at @tylergreenFC and at www.facebook.com/soccertalkvan