Many teams at Euro 2016 have shown that the value of unity can outshine the quality of individuals. Iceland and Wales are the best examples, as Jonathan Harding in Paris explains.
Dimitri Payet on the opening night, Luka Modric’s volley, Eric Dier’s free kick. There were many moments at the start of Euro 2016 where the individual trumped the collective. But with just four teams left, it is now overall teamwork not individuals that are stealing the limelight.
Iceland’s story is impossible not to love, but behind the fairytale lies the essence of what it is to be a team. Good coaching with committed individuals working towards a common goal gave Iceland a chance they took, more than once.
That was recognized by their fantastic supporters, who amazed fans of other nations with their passion. Together, they have inspired a generation and left other countries taking a long hard look at themselves in the mirror.
Wales have also prospered as a collective unit, despite many saying before the tournament that their success would largely depend on how well Real Madrid star Gareth Bale would play.
Chris Coleman´s side have been passionate and disciplined and deserve to be in the final four. Northern Ireland, Hungary and Ireland also exceeded expectations thanks to strong team performances.
Granted, skill is a necessary ingredient for any successful team. Albania is one example. For all of their spirit, they lacked quality.
But Iceland showed teams can be skilled at simple elements of the game and still do well. Their long throws caused havoc while they were supremely organized. With good coaching, a great deal can be made of what appears to be very little.
A rainy quarterfinal against the hosts was simply one step too far - but they still managed to score twice in the 5-2 defeat and never gave up.
Unity is not something exclusive to the smaller nations either. Germany have constantly preached about their togetherness and it is a major reason why they won the 2014 World Cup.
The true test of their unity will come next in Thursday´s semifinal when they face a French team that has roused a nation and has found its own groove. If Germany´s motto – Jeder Fuer Jeden (one for all, all for one) – is true, then they should be able to take the injuries and suspensions they have suffered in their stride.
But what of Portugal? Despite not winning inside 90 minutes or playing particularly well, they are in the semifinals. Cristiano Ronaldo was the man supposed to lead them, but instead good fortune and one timely display from Renato Sanches in the last eight has helped their jumbled together XI survive.
Even without the suspended Aaron Ramsey, Wales look like a team ready to beat Portugal on Wednesday and prove the theory (remember Greece in 2004?).
Euro 2016 has reminded us that true togetherness is crucial. It is more than just a hashtag on the side of a team bus and ultimately, with the right coaching, it can be far more valuable than extraordinary talent.
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