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Low's new Germany comes at a price

 By Ian Darke

Euro 2016 the worst international tournament since Italia '90

PARIS -- At the risk of raining on Portugal's parade, their 1-0 triumph over France in extra time will only produce sighs and groans from neutrals.

It was the Euro 2016 final that a rather tedious tournament -- perhaps the worst since Italia '90 -- deserved.

Portugal, even without their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo for 95 minutes, defended superbly to break French hearts; Pepe was magnificent and Rui Patricio had the kind of night goalkeepers dream about. But, in truth, they are not a team to set the pulses racing: hard to beat and often even harder to watch.

Ultra-pragmatic coach Fernando Santos reminds me of those old bosses who would tell the media: "If you want entertainment go to the circus."

You have to respect the job he has done, but you don't have to enjoy it.

And did they need to be quite so functional and joyless with Ronaldo, Nani, Joao Mario, Adrien Silva and the excellent young left-back Raphael Guerreiro in the team?

The fact is Portugal finished third in their group and would have been knocked out under the old 16-team format. They won only one of their seven matches in 90 minutes.

Fate was kind to them. Iceland's last-minute winner against Austria meant Portugal were placed into the kinder side of UEFA's convoluted bracket.

It was all a crying shame for France. The nation was desperate for something to put a smile back on its face after the terror attacks and strikes. On the night the team was not good enough, with Paul Pogba , in particular , a strangely subdued presence. He is a fine player but not a great one yet. We thank the French for their hospitality and security. We got by without further horror and in the current climate we should all be thankful for that.

Meanwhile, officials from the governing body are trying to tell us their new expanded format was a success. It wasn't. It actually encouraged negative play in the bloated 36-game group phase which eliminated just eight teams -- under two goals a game in that part of the tournament tells a story of how ambition was merely a distant rumour.

You can argue that the underdog stories of Wales and Iceland justified giving a better chance to smaller nations, but this is not a tombola where everyone is a winner. It is meant to be the cream of European football.

In any case, vastly improved teams like Iceland and Wales might well have qualified anyway for a 16-team event via the playoffs.

UEFA need to revisit this urgently. Euro 2016 was not a success and 51 games produced only a handful of memorable games. To be fair, Portugal perhaps deserved the trophy after being bridesmaids so often in the past with better teams than this one. But it says it all that the real stars of Euro 2016 were the referees with their cool displays of sustained excellence.

Some parting thoughts:

Best game -- France vs. Germany semifinal

Best goal -- Hal Robson-Kanu for Wales vs. Belgium when he sent three defenders out for a cup of tea.

Best player -- Antoine Griezmann. Pity he faded in the final.

Best fans -- most were great but it has to be Iceland.

Biggest disappointments, players -- Harry Kane, Thomas Muller. Both looked tired.

Worst team -- Russia were awful and their "ultras" a disgrace.

Best young player -- Barcelona-bound Samuel Umtiti of France looks a cultured star of the future.

Final thought -- England. They beat all four semifinalists in the past eight months. How come they cannot play for toffee in tournaments?

Ian Darke, who called games for the network during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, is ESPN's lead soccer voice in the U.S. Reach him on Twitter @IanDarke.


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