FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, July 19, 2021
Nwokeji.cyril@gmail.com
Belgium
EURO 2020

he recently concluded "Euro 2020" championship was as interesting as it was revealing. We saw first class soccer in action. This was apparently to wet our collective appetites preparatory to the 2022 World cup competition in Qatar!

We saw the so-called heavy weight teams of Europe who lived up to expectations , and, of course some of them who were 'reduced' to size by less fancied sides!

For example we saw Hungary, a soccer minnow in Europe, who lost by 3-0, in their opening match to Portugal, bounce back to give the World champions: " Les Bleus " of France, a hell of a time! The World champions had to rally back to force them to a 1-1 draw! We also saw the same Hungarian team, give the Germans a run for their money, in a 2-2 draw. The Hungarians narrowly missed the third place that could have given them a berth in the knock-out stage.

We also saw Switzerland, a moderate soccer power in Europe, eliminate the World champions France in a gruelling second round clash that went all the way. What impressed yours sincerely with their performance against France, was their "never- say-die-spirit"! They were down by 3-1, going into the final stages of the match, but never gave up. But continued battling the French, with faith and uncanny self-confidence, that reduced the world champions to size, and paved the way to an eventual victory in the penalty shoot-outs!

The Croatians were disappointing in their overall performance. A team that lost the last world cup final match with an impressive overall performance at 2018 World cup competition, was certainly expected to do well at "Euro 2020". But rather we saw a team that failed to live up to expectations; that were eliminated by the young and dynamic Spanish team. What this portends for the Croats, is for them to begin with a radical process of generational change of their present team. A good number of their players have seen their best days in soccer! And need to be replaced by a younger generation.

The Portuguese team also needs a gradual generational change of players. Some of their players of yesteryears who were superstars, have certainly seen their best years, and may not help them again in future competitions. The process of generational change of players for them should start now.

The highly rated Belgian national team, didn't quite live up to expectations, as they were eliminated in the quarter-finals. Though their loss can still be accepted since they lost to the best team of the tournament : "The Azzuris" of Italy !

We saw a resurgent German team, that may not be tops presently, but that have the potentials to be great in a few years time. Ex- Coach Joachim Low, has certainly laid the foundation of a future great German team, by almost completing the process of generational transition, from the team that won the 2014 World cup competition to the present team: potential world beaters! And, thus, in yours sincerely's considered opinion, left the German coaching stage, on a high note, and with loud ovation, for all that he accomplished for the fifteen years he was in charge of the "Manschaft" ! He was no doubt one of the longest, nay longest serving German coaches, and would go down in history as one of the best of the German coaches!

The Ukrainians were in my considered opinion, the surprise team of the tournament. They surprised all and sundry with their semi-final appearance! From a rather weak start to the competition, they grew and got to the last four of the tournament!!!!! Congratulations to them! And also kudos to their coach: Andriy Schevchenko ( "Sheva"), for the good work he is doing. They have the potential to be a great side in the future.

We saw a Spanish team, which generational transition from the all- conquering golden generation, has been completed. We shall talk about them later on, in another piece.

The Italians and the English were impressive. But we shall have a more extensive review of their performances in the next articles.

In conclusion, Euro 2020, showed clearly there are no more small teams in Europe. Gone are the days when teams walloped some 'smaller' teams with monster scores. Soccer has become much more competitive now than ever before in Europe!

This trend is also followed on the African continent. The hitherto soccer minnows have all ' disappeared'. We now have some decent soccer playing sides in Africa!

What this portends for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, is that at the world cup eliminations coming up soon, to get the sole group's ticket, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, in the words of the NFF President: Mr. Amaju Pinninck, would face six tough battles/ 'wars', regardless of the opponents ratings vis-a-viz the Super Eagles! The Super Eagles must thus be prepared for battle, if they want to accomplish their objective. There can be no room for complacency !

Also at the link below, one can come into contact with a number of items, needed to support the Super Eagles at "EGYPT 2019" !!!!!

https://teespring.com/stores/super-eagles-of-nigeria

The book "Super Eagles of Nigeria : Pride of Africa", can also be gotten through the author. One can contact the author through : nwokeji.cyril@gmail.com Please note in this case, payment of postage costs will be necessary

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