VIENNA, Austria Fans of the European Championship will no doubt remember Michael Ballack launching an unstoppable free kick winner against Austria. Or Gianluigi Buffon's remarkable penalty save against Romania. And Arjen Robben's dribble and goal for the Dutch against France.
It's also been a lively championship for the men who are not allowed on the field, can't kick or head the ball or make saves. Yet the coaches go through every emotion possible during each 90 minutes. Some even get into trouble.
The sight of Germany's Joachim Loew and Austria's Josef Hickersberger being ejected simultaneously from the bench for a heated argument will stay in the mind.
But how many people watched Luiz Felipe Scolari's nonstop performance in urging Portugal's stars on to another quarterfinal spot? He scowls and berates anyone opposition and referees who appear to get in the way.
Scolari, who helped Brazil win its fifth World Cup in 2002, has already led the Portuguese to a European final and a World Cup semifinal. He also negotiated a move to Chelsea just as the European Championship was starting. But, for the moment, anyone who doubts he is focusing 100 percent on Portugal is in for a fight.
Likewise, those fans who naturally concentrate on the actions of the players may not have caught sight of the animated way Slaven Bilic urged his Croatian players to a group-winning performance.
Facing underdog Turkey in the quarterfinals, Croatia has a great chance to at least reach the last four and is considered a genuine contender for its first major title. That is due to his expertise in cajoling his players, applauding every good move and glaring at players who don't stick to the script.
The 39-year-old Bilic was disappointed at his team's tepid performance in a 1-0 victory over Austria in its opening game. But he masterminded a 2-1 victory over three-time champion Germany, his tactics being just about perfect. His movements on the side of the field jumping, spinning around and mentally kicking and heading every ball suggested he was virtually on the field with his players.
It's rare that Russia's Guus Hiddink dances around in the technical area. He stands and analyzes every move and, although his command of Russian is minimal, gets his message across clearly both to his players and the media.
Like a school principal, Hiddink tends to understate both success and failure while quietly deflecting his contribution onto those young players who are learning from him. While his players and their fans celebrated reaching the knockout stage of a major championship for the first time since 1988, the Dutch coach, who has the skills to transform Russia into a powerhouse, stood alone in quiet satisfaction.
Now he comes up against countryman Marco van Basten, the former striker whose angled, volleyed goal in that 1988 final against the Soviet Union in Munich is widely rated as the best in the history of the competition. Because of Hiddink's influence, the game is between the real Netherlands and a mirror image dressed in Russian red and white rather the colors of the Oranje.
While the Dutch and Russian fans have plenty to look forward to, the French looked on in dismay after their team went out, failing to win a game. Coach Raymond Domenech appeared bewildered, scratching his chin and unable to explain what went wrong. Under his guidance France is so far in decline it now has a very long way to go just to approach the form that earned it the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 titles under his predecessors.
But Domenech is only around because his team, thanks greatly to the masterful Zinedine Zidane, somehow made it to the final of the 2006 World Cup and only then lost to Italy in a penalty-kick shootout. With hindsight, how it got there, aside from Zidane's work, now remains a mystery and the French federation must take an honest look at Domenech's bizarre team selections and failure to get the best out of established stars.
Amid the rubble of France's Euro 2008 campaign, Domenech appeared to have only thought proposing to his girlfriend.
Switzerland coach Koebi Kuhn has had the toughest time of all.
His wife sick in a hospital, Kuhn had the humiliation of seeing his co-host team become the first eliminated, after only two games, and now leaves the job to German Ottmar Hitzfeld.
Italy coach Roberto Donadoni, a dashing winger who helped star-studded AC Milan to two European Cup titles, admitted the pressure of the job left some of his gray hairs on the pillow. Two forgettable performances in a 3-0 loss to the Netherlands and a 1-1 draw with Romania probably added a few more.
But a smile of relief came back after the team he inherited from World Cup-winning coach Marcelo Lippi easily beat France 2-0 to reach the quarterfinals. If Italy wasn't without suspended midfield stalwarts Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso for Sunday's match with Spain, it would have been tempting to back Donadoni's team for the title. Instead, the Italians likely will lose to Spain and Donadoni will face an inquest when he returns home.
Spain's Luis Aragones appears to be getting everything right after a tough few years taking criticism from the media and fans. He has lightened up his usually gruff manner and, after three group victories, even his critics now see the wisdom of leaving behind longtime favorite Raul Gonzalez, something unthinkable five years ago.
Now his problem is that Spain has the nucleus of a team which should, rather than could, win titles. Failure to reach the final four will now be considered a major disappointment for the veteran coach.