Michel Platini unveiled a bold new format for the group stage of Euro 2016 in 2014. The then UEFA president spoke about how the growth of the tournament to involve 24 teams would help in development of the international game. He didn’t expect himself to be jobless when the tournament actually arrived, but the expanded European Championship is his work and planning.
There has been a lot of debate regarding the new format, with the people in support praising it for making the group stage climax the most gripping to date in addition to giving more European teams an opportunity to play, while those against it claim that the format makes the group stage meaningless and boring thanks to small teams playing out for a draw to get a vital one point.
It’s true that there has been little sign of the attacking play that made the 2014 World Cup so exciting, with games at Euro 2016 generally much tighter, more conservative affairs. But that’s not because teams are taking it easy early on in the competition, it’s because there is more on the line for more sides. With opportunity comes the burden of pressure. Even teams like Iceland – the smallest nation to ever compete at the European Championships – showed persistence and are now heading into the last 16. Northern Ireland have also made it to the next round with results going their way.
Concluding, while I do believe that the new format has pushed several teams to play non-exciting and conservative football, it has given opportunity to several other teams to show off their passion at the international stage while making every single match important in the competition. As we head into the knockout stage of the competition, the stakes are high and more surprises remain to be seen in one of the most open footballing competitions to date.