Euro 2016: 4 teams that benefited from the expanded format of the tournament
Euro 2016 came to an exhilarating end with Portugal being crowned the champions for the first time in their history. This edition of the Euros was perhaps the best so far where a number of unheralded teams like Iceland and Northern Ireland made their debut at a major tournament and some of them made it count.
However, one of the key reasons for the good performances of the lower ranked nations has been the expansion of the format from 16 to 24 teams. This expansion gave some of the middle-of-the-road nations a big chance to qualify but it has probably benefitted the underdog nations more than anyone else. Big teams like the Netherlands couldn’t make it in spite of the format expansion and instead, teams like Iceland, Albania and Northern Ireland made it to the final tournament.
This change also allowed four third-placed teams from each group to qualify for the knockout rounds and this rule turned out to be a boon for some teams. Let’s take a look at some of the teams that benefitted from the expansion of the tournament format.
When a top-notch team like the Netherlands was not even able to qualify for the final tournament with the format expansion, it’s no surprise that Portugal hobbled into the knockout stages by virtue of being one of the best third-placed teams in the group stages after all their group games ended in a draw.
Portugal cashed on this opportunity in the best way possible as they went on to beat Croatia, Poland, Wales and France in the final to win the tournament. In the World Cups which have featured the 24-team format, Argentina and Italy ended third in their respective groups and eventually ended up as runners-up in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups respectively.
However, Portugal bettered that and became the first team to win a major tournament without winning a single match in the group stages. Their journey will surely inspire many teams in the future and might produce another new champion.