I say good riddance, Euro 2016. In terms of the soccer on display, this year’s edition was severely underwhelming. The expansion to 24 teams ensured that there was very little to gain from taking any chances at the group stage, considering that any half-competent team would likely get through to the knock-out stage anyway. At that stage, the grid was so lopsided that the eventual winner, Portugal, was able to go through the tournament without meeting a truly first class team until the final, and without winning a single match before extra time. S0ccer-wise, I’ll mostly remember two things from the tournament: 1) England’s shocking defeat to Iceland, and 2) the never-ending penalty shootout that saw Germany through to the semis at the expense of Italy.
Luckily, there’s no requirement that I switch off my gay for the Euros, and so I had plenty to rest my eyes at even when the matches themselves were less than inspiring. For the obligatory hand-wringing about objectification etc, I refer you to what I wrote in a similar post about the hotness at the 2014 World Cup.
So, who did I like? Let’s see: Three of the most formidable players of the entire competition, France’s Antoine Griezmann, Portuguese demi-god Cristiano Ronaldo and the Welsh MVP Gareth Bale, are all gorgeous. Ronaldo had a huge impact for a player who again was mediocre most of the time, but the two others shone brightly. They also come with the added bonus that I don’t have to beat myself up with self-hatred for worshipping someone like Ronaldo, who, while amazingly beautiful, is a former Man United star. My complicated relationship with Ronaldo goes way back, at least to the days of the Sexiest Males Alive list (on which Gareth Bale, too, made regular appearances).
Among Ronaldo’s teammates my eyes kept wandering back to Cedric Soarez and Rafael Guerreiro, both undersung heroes of Portugal’s largely defensive campaign, and at the other end of the pitch, to Joao Mario. Likewise, in France’s lineup, I looked for Paul Pogba, whose efforts often freed up space for Griezmann, and Antony Martial, although he was hardly central to the host nation’s triumphs.
As for the hottest team overall, it was a fight between Belgium and Germany. A final between these two teams, who arguably had the highest ceiling of any at Euro 2016, would have been a more fitting (and satisfying) experience. Think Michy Batshuayi, Yannick Carrasco, Eden Hazard (who delivered perhaps the single best game performance of the tournament when Belgium routed Hungary in the Round of 16) and Axel Witsel, versus reliably handsome, level-defining World Cup winners like Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer and Lukas Podolski (though now admittedly a bit player, at best), mixed in with relative newcomers Julian Draxler, Leroy Sane and Joshua Kimmich. In a close call, it giving it to the Germans.
And, in closing, a shout out to a few more personal favorites: What do you think of Switzerland’s Fabian Schär, Spain’s Alvaro Morata, or Englanders John Stones and Jordan Henderson?