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Coaches debate EURO trends

National-team coaches from across Europe have looked back at UEFA EURO 2016 – and UEFA has issued its technical report on the tactical and technical trends at the tournament in France.

UEFA Conference for National Team Coaches - Paris ©UEFA

European national-team coaches have been looking back at UEFA EURO 2016 and enjoying the opportunity to ponder the tactical and technical trends that marked this summer's tournament in France.

Team coaches and technical directors of 55 national associations gathered in Paris on Monday at the UEFA Conference for European National Team Coaches, and took part in an in-depth analysis of how the finals unfolded.

UEFA also marked the conference by issuing its EURO 2016 technical report, compiled by the tournament's technical team led by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

The report includes a wealth of statistical data to accompany the technical team's findings and opinions, with the objective of providing a comprehensive record of the first 24-team finals from a coaching perspective. "Through the reactions of UEFA's technical observers," writes UEFA chief technical officer Ioan Lupescu, "[the report] offers analysis, reflections and debating points which we hope will also be of value to coaches who are active at the development levels of the game, helping them to work on the skills and qualities needed by the elite performers of the future."

Among the talking points at the conference were the "tales of the unexpected", as the technical report puts it, written by surprise packages such as Iceland and Wales in their march to the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively. "Iceland and Wales helped make the tournament," said Sir Alex. "These teams created a great impression."

UEFA's team of technicians agreed that UEFA EURO 2016 was a fiercely competitive tournament where teams were tactically well-organised, and there were no easy matches. As the technical report notes: "The tournament was rich in contests between teams who set out to prise doors open and those who were more concerned about keeping the bolt across."

More participating sides, the report explains, led to greater variations in formations and approaches, but unlocking tight defensive blocks proved a testing challenge as many teams kept risks to a minimum. The average number of goals per game was 2.12, compared with 2.45 at UEFA EURO 2012.

"A lot of work went into defensive structures," EURO technical team member Thomas Schaaf reflected. "Attacking play was based on safe defensive organisation. Teams were very compact, and got back into defensive positions quickly after attacking." Given such diligent defending, Schaaf's colleague Mixu Paatelainen stressed the importance of set pieces in breaking through. "Almost 30% of the 108 goals scored in France were from set plays," he said. "A 21% increase on EURO 2012 – and 19 of the set-play goals were opening goals.”

A special tribute was paid at the conference to Portugal coach Fernando Santos, who guided his solid and closely-knit squad to their first EURO title. "We had experienced players, but we had a lot of younger players as well, and it was a question of finding the right balance," he told the audience. "We managed to find that balance between the maturity of experience and the determination of youth.

"We spoke always about 'us', about the team and not about individuals. All of the players signed up to that," Santos added. "We had a fantastic team spirit, and without that spirit, we would not have been able to win."

Sir Alex Ferguson presented an award to Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque, who had steered his countrymen to EURO and FIFA World Cup titles, and who is now retiring after a magnificent career. "Success changes some people," Sir Alex said, "but Vicente never changed. He led Spain in style, and his Spanish team will always be remembered for the way they played."