Thursday, 14 June 2012

Twelve down, nineteen to go

Sorry I'm late, my bus was delayed.

As the title of this piece says, we're technically approaching halfway at this year's European Championships. I have had until five o'clock every evening to write about 600 words about football, and I haven't. It turns out doing nothing is incredibly taxing. However, with 5,000 page views on the horizon, I thought I'd step up the effort.

I WILL do an England v Sweden preview before tomorrow's game, don't worry darlings. Six days in, here are my best and worst performers of the tournament so far.

Best team:
Such is my laziness and lack of organisation, this 'award' was always going to go to a team in Group A or B, as they have now played twice. That said, I can't really think of any team that has played particularly well from Group C or D, so no harm done. I promised myself I wouldn't use the word "efficient" when describing Germany, but I'll have to. They've just been so f*cking efficient.

To beat Portugal and the Netherlands is no easy feat, but Germany did it without even playing particularly well. Against Portugal, Germany were average, but were able to win and - the last ten minutes aside - kept Portugal at arms length with all the ease of a school bully holding back a midget.

Against the Dutch, the midget was slightly bigger, but so was the bully's arm. A tenuous analogy at the best of times that one. Mario Gomez has taken his fair share of criticism from me in the past, but he has brushed it off with great professionalism. Not many recover from my my accusations, but the striker took his two goals against the Netherlands with amazing skill. Other than his two finishes, he touched the ball maybe twice more in the entire game, but that was enough. He is extremely lucky though, when I was a schoolboy, my deadly accurate finishing was often overlooked due to my apparent lack of skill, ability and general idea what was going on.

Most under-rated team
Say what?! That's right, at previous international tournaments, England had had their abilities more over-rated than the Beatles or white chocolate, but expectations could not have been lower this time around. They did not play brilliantly against France, but they didn't have to. I am going to - for the first time - give England the benefit of the doubt...they played a tactical blinder against France. At international tournaments, you can't afford to lose the first group game according to Mark Bright, the England veteran. With that in mind, and the absence of Wayne Rooney, England were right to switch to damage limitation mode and try and keep France out. They just about did it, but - whisper it - England aren't half as bad as we think they are. Denmark have been good too, but I can't give an award to Nicklas Bendtner, no matter how indirectly.

Worst team:
As if having the economy wasn't enough, it now seems the fate of the Greek football team is in the hands of others. Surprise winners at Euro 2004, a lot of people have been coy and circumspect regarding Greece's chances. I wasn't. In a rare moment of good football insight, I predicted how poor they would be. Awful for 45 minutes against Poland in their opener, the sending off of that guy with the really long name seemed to galvanise them. Poland tired and seemed to stop playing and Greece capitalised, but were unable to fully exploit their momentum and missed a penalty before taking a draw.

Most people would have made Czech Republic favourites for the game against Greece, forgetting that the Czech's are now very average. That does not disguise the fact that Greece were utterly outplayed and when they were forced to chase the game after going 2-0 down early, they offered very little threat, only allowed back into the game by another goalkeeping error.

Most over-rated team:
The Netherlands.
I was a bit harsh on Greece there, but only because I couldn't give worst team and most over-rated team to this lot. What on earth has happened to the Dutch? Sneijder, Van Persie, Robben. We have Carroll and Henderson...and we have one more point having played one less game. Unlucky in many ways against Denmark, they missed a bucket load of chances (if that's a real thing) and could have taken the positives from their defeat.

But they didn't.

Last night, they threatened Germany for around fifteen minutes, before a couple of missed chances set them back. From there on in, Germany exploited an awful defence to score two brilliant goals and never looked threatened when the Dutch attacked. Despite all their attacking talent, the Dutch simply couldn't fashion any clear-cut chances until Van Persie reminded us all that he's still quite good.

Best player:
Alan Dzagoev.
I just love that someone called "Alan" is being talked of as the leading young player in Europe. Alan! The Russian playmaker came into the tournament as a relative unknown, expect for me, who put him in my fantasy football team. I won't gloat about said fantasy football team because I have Shay Given in goal, and tonight he faces up against Spain.

Dzagoev has already scored three goals but, unlike Garth Crooks, I am not picking him because of goals alone. Unlike the mercurial Andrei Arshavin on the other side of Russia's strike force, Dzagoev works very hard and is constantly buzzing around, creating havoc for opposition defenders. He can even score headers...but then his name is Alan

Worst player:
Arjen Robben or Jetro Willems
Robeen has been synonymous of the Netherland's wretched campaign so far, which is a shame, because he is arguably their most talented player. His relatively selfish attitude is sometimes what sets him out from the rest, but in a team which tries to play Total Football, his pig-headedness has contributed to his country facing oblivion. Think how Wesley Sneijder - who has been excellent - must feel when he plays a 30 yard ball to the winger, only to see him try and dribble past two players and smash a ball over from way outside the box.

I know Jetro Willems is only 7 years old, but that does not disguise the fact that he was ruthlessly exposed last night by the, sigh, efficient Germans. Way out of his depth, most neutrals were screaming for him to be replaced for his own sake.

Both crap, but ITV have been laughable. Not because they've been funny, because they've been shit. Adrian Chiles seems to be nothing more than a tool to encourage youngsters that a path into journalism is possible with a regional accent, no charisma and an ugly face. The BBC haven't been at their best and remain somewhat functional and safe, but their analysis and commentary is far better than ITV's usually good in-game coverage. Give us a job?

Best goal:
Jakub Blaszczykowski.
I need a lie down after writing that. Every tournament, there is a moment when the whole competition just seems to come alive. For four days, Euro 2012 had been anything but a disappointment, but still needed a little spark. It moment to ensure the tournament would be looked back on with fondness, as the most popular pictures were the shameful stereotyping of Eastern European football fans by our lovely media outlets. The Polish captain's goal seemed to lift the roof off not just the stadium, but the whole country, and there was a feeling that Euro 2012 had begun. The celebrations seemed a little exuberant considering that the goal didn't really change Poland's situation, but that should not matter.

So there we have it, I gave you your article, let's see if we can get this thing up to 5k views.

Please share and comment, if I share, far-right people on the BBC website yell at me, so I'll play my cards close to my chest there.


  1. I got you to 5000 views


    Anonymous reader you've known for years

  2. Congrats on 5000 views! I linked to you on my (wildly successful, cough) blog :) I don't really care about football though, so hopefully you'll get back to F1 blogging when there's something to blog about (Valencia should be slightly more exciting than blogging about watching paint dry, I'm sure...)

    PS You look like an excited dinosaur in your profile picture. +10 points

  3. Mr Irreverence, just noticed you're back! And past 5,000 now, good job. Like Gwan, I'm one of your F1 followers (and a Lewis fan, chuffed at Canada) - make sure to signpost at Bensons blog.
    Anyhow, normally no interest in footie, but happened to see England/Sweden match. Apart from goals galore and a rather hunky Swedish player (ibramovich or something), the main thing I noticed was how negative the 3 BBC commentators were. Are they always so begrudging when England wins?

  4. Thanks anonymous person!

    Thanks Gwan, I will return the favour once I know how computers work :)

    Valencia is a race I will blog about, but I almost don't want to, will be duuull! Thanks for that, that is exactly what I said the first time I saw the picture, no joke!

    Thanks Anonymous person 2! Yeah I thought I'd make people pine over my absence, will put a blog on BBC after Valencia, put it in your diary!

    It seems that they oscillate between the extremes of doom and sycophantic enthusiasm over the team, last night being a prime example!