Euro 2012 – you had me at Karagounis… (or is it Marti Pellow?)
In the beginning there were 16, now only 8 survive…expect equivalent hyperbole to flow from Linekar and Chiles as the teams prepare for the next round.
Each group of 4 has sent 2 teams packing and the 2 that progress now know their opponents. Who can/will win?
With the Dutch team sitting separately on the plane home, Irish fans working out who to follow next, and the Greek fans frankly in a state of shock, guest bloggerTom Hall looks at those due to meet in the Quarter Finals.
He usually follows Scottish Football – an at times a poor quality game, played in bad weather conditions, with only two likely winners – so he seemed Ideal to pass comment on Euro 2012.
And yes, he does mention the war!
Euro 2012 – Ingerland & The Frenchies
England team run onto the pitch, a few injuries to the squad meant a call up for a few unknowns. Which one is Kelly?
A nation held its breath. Weeks of expectation and hype. Time to deliver.
Sadly they fell flat.
In the heat and pressure of a Donetsk evening, Wayne Rooney’s replenished follicles held firm against the threat of the extravagant quiff he covets.
Wayne’s weave lay limp and lifeless, oddly reminiscent of Captain Mainwaring’s ill fated flirtation with a hairpiece.
That set the tone: a Dad’s Army theme ran through ITV’s coverage of England’s clash with the Ukraine.
Summariser Andy Townsend threw in a “don’t panic” as an ever more hysterical Clive Tyldesley commentary urged England to fall back and “dig the trenches.”
Adrian Chiles, his extravagant Warsaw studio as removed from the action as Walmington-on-Sea was from El Alamein, flitted charmlessly from “we’re doomed” to the naive optimism of a young Private Pike. Thankfully, or perhaps not, Gareth Southgate manfully resisted temptation and didn’t ask to be excused.
We even had a brave, last line of plucky defence moment as John Terry hooked a shot off the line. Or behind the line. As the BBC’s Mark Lawrenson, football’s busybody ARP warden, exclaimed: “It’s a great clearance from Terry but it’s in.”
Often just moronic, this was the night Terry became oxymoronic.
In the end though it took just a glance from the work-in-progress Rooney bouffant to secure England’s passage to the quarter finals.
Not just safe passage but victorious passage. England’s 1-0 win and France’s 2-0 defeat to Sweden means England progress as group winners.
That brings the reward of a Sunday evening clash with Italy, 24 hours after France have faced Spain.
Euro 2012 – (World & European Champs)Spain & Ever present Italy
Italy do some man-man-man-man-man-on-man marking on Iniesta
It took Spain quite some toil of their own to get past Croatia and top Group C. As ever with Spain tweeters were polarised.
The usual purring over possession and passes made, the usual frustration over the lack of thrust, the annoyance with an insistence on trying to “walk it into the net.”
If Vicente del Bosque’s lugubrious moustache ever reverberates with a hearty chuckle it might have come last night when he reflected on Jesus Navas doing everything but walk the winning goal into the net.
The Spanish coach will be demanding better though, much as Laurent Blanc will be spending today and tomorrow walloping French backsides.
Will Italy be glad of avoiding France or wary of an England team that, with Roy Hodgson’s vision not yet fully focused, carries a hint of the unknown?
Hard to say. They’d probably fancy their chances against both and the unknown doesn’t always represent danger.
The Italians will look at England’s apparent fear of retaining the ball in the opening stages last night and their hearts will leap with joy. Hodgson will study the same passages of play and understand why it didn’t take long for the England job to turn Bobby Robson’s hair grey.
Spain v France and England v Italy gives Britain’s broadcasters an excuse to rapidly escalate their hype campaigns. Am I alone in thinking that hype might not be matched by the expectations of the neutral observer?
Euro 2012 – ‘Get it done’ Germany v The Greek Escape
Elsewhere Germany, who sailed quite comfortably through the group of death, probably didn’t expect to face Greece in the quarter finals.
Yet it was Greece who emerged from Saturday night’s Group A drama. The same Greeks who were written off almost as much as Russia were feted after the opening games.
I’d be amazed if this particular odyssey survives past that meeting with the Germans. But I can’t help but feel heartened by this Greek tale.
As a chronicler of the Scottish game I maybe spend more time than most watching Georgios Samaras dawdle through our domestic game, seemingly unable to hide his dismay at finding himself in a dank Motherwell of a Sunday lunchtime.
He looked a man transformed against Russia. Never hiding, rarely standing around flicking his long locks and, if not always succeeding, always trying. It didn’t come as a surprise at the beginning of the week to read that Samaras had been elected Greek president: it was the sort of performance that summed up a much buffeted but defiant nation.
And now that I’ve raised the spectre of politics to shoehorn in a bad Samaras joke I might as well continue the theme. If anything can inspire the Greeks to even greater heights in their quarter final it will surely be the chance to kick the Germans right in the Angela Merkels.
Euro 2012 Czech mates v Ronaldo and his mates
Perhaps the most austere way to win your European Championship group is to start off with a 4-1 mauling at the hands of the group favourites.
So congratulation to Czech Republic for ignoring that thumping against Russia and getting on with the business of back-to-back victories against Greece and Poland.
Their reward is a clash with a Portugal side that suggested in beating the Dutch that we were right to suspect that they actually are better than they sometimes like to show.
When Cristiano Ronaldo misfired against Denmark he was taunted with a chant about Lionel Messi.
The chant provoked a rant. Even in the cocoon of the European Championship it seemed Messi could rattle Ronaldo. Maybe that inspired him.
The Dutch were wasteful and disjointed, at times aspiring to total disarray rather than total football. Ronaldo filled his boots with two goals in a thoroughly impressive performance.
It still falls short of the defining finals opus that we use – perhaps somewhat nostalgically – to measure greatness. But in qualifying the Czechs looked temporarily frozen by the Hampden roar. There must be doubts about their ability to handle a raging Ronaldo.
Euro 2012 What happens next
Funny, for some people, its actually about the Football? That being said Chiles has Roy Keane on his squad so my money is on them.
The semi finalists? Germany, Portugal, Italy and Spain.
Some flat performances from what, pre-tournament, were regarded as the stronger nations has allowed the odd flare of egalitarianism to light up these finals. The Dutch and the Russians both lost their way in the resulting smoke clouds.
So far Euro 2012 has been enjoyably diverting, if not yet exhilaratingly enthralling. Perhaps it still has a surprise or two to spring.
For now I’ll summon the spirit of the The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment and leave you with a joke from @pieandbov that might even have shamed Dad’s Army writers David Croft and Jimmy Perry:
Who do you think you’re kidding?
Please note: Scottish Football is the thing Kenny Dalglish invented and Celtic & Rangers/Team 12* (plus a.n.others) play. *TBC