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Bigger is proving better at the first European Championship with 24 teams. Only the most uncharitable would argue that tournament first-timers Wales, Northern Ireland, Albania and Iceland didn't more than earn their keep in the just-concluded group stage, with the last matches Wednesday producing thrilling real-time fluctuations in who would play who next in the last 16 .Granted, the football of some of the so-called "smaller" teams whose road to France was made easier by the tournament expansion has lacked polish.So, no, adding eight teams hasn't been the equivalent of watering down fine wine. The wine wasn't always as fine as nostalgias of the old 16-team format like to pretend. Five of the 24 group matches at Euro 2008 finished 1-0; the first 24 games at the bigger Euro 2016 also saw five 1-0 results. Just as seeing France win Euro '84 awakened a young Thierry Henry, who went on to win the tournament in 2000 with Les Bleus, there will now be kids in Welsh valleys and on Belfast streets, in Tirana and Reykjavik, starting to believe that football is their calling, having had a Euro team to cheer on for the first time.
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