The positives and negatives of a 24-team Euro 2016

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Although there were plenty of upsets yesterday as the group stage came to a close, having 24 teams for the first time in European Championship history has definitely affected the tournament, but has it worked out better or worse?


1) The underdogs bite back

Instead of getting easier to predict, the tournament has turned the opposite way with the dead certs under-performing and the "smaller nations" smashing their way through to the next round.

If Euro 2016 had taken its usual format of 16 teams, there would have been little chance of teams like Hungary and Iceland qualifying. Instead, they both finished above a lacklustre Portugal.


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2) Shock results

The last few nights of Euro 2016 have been the best yet, with teams playing their hearts out in desperation to avoid boarding a plane home.

Spain and Italy's shock defeats leaves the tournament more open than ever, as the two most dominant teams failed to win their last match and must now face one another in the round of 16.

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The failure of the high ranked teams to top their group leaves one side of the draw littered with big sides, and the other filled with 'easier' teams to play.

Bookies will be sweating as the tournament increasingly looks like it belongs to a dark horse.


1) Cagey play

The fact that four third-placed teams had the chance to get through meant that teams could progress without winning a game. This inevitably led to teams sitting back to secure a draw against higher ranked sides.

Portugal v Iceland - Group F: UEFA Euro 2016

The sheer amount of last minute goals - 20 out of 69 being scored after the 76th minute - shows the dominance of defences that were only worn down at the very end.

ITV pundit Lothar Matthaus said last night that for him the tournament was only starting, suggesting the opening stages have been a mere formality.

Although not usually as exciting as knock-out football, the group stages aren't generally as cautious as they have been this year.

2) Confusion

Pundits and teams alike have been incredibly confused by the third team qualifying system, with Rio Ferdinand suggesting teams should employ mathematicians to help them out in future competitions.

Slovakia v England - Group B: UEFA Euro 2016

Anyone filling in a wall chart will have been left scratching their heads, having to eventually Google the fixtures because they were almost impossible to work out unaided.

This tournament has been experimental in allowing 24 sides to compete, but it does mean play will last for an entire month.

Looking into the abyss of two days without football, we have to be grateful for the twelve days of football we wouldn't otherwise have had.

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