After 18 months of hard living, it was supposed to be the uplifting, shining spectacle to herald the coming out of lockdown – for those of us into football that is – but instead it has been mediocre at best. We have had a week now of Euro 2020 Plus One and I have not been thrilled by one single game. Boring. Defensive. Lack of Quality. Slow. Ponderous. And that is just England. Is it any wonder that the golden boot race is currently jointly being led by O. Goal? The first goal in the tournament was the own goal that started Italy off.
In the medical field there is a maxim – first do no harm. In this tournament the maxim appears to be – first do not lose. There was far less rearguard action at Rourke’s Drift. One of the reasons put forward by the pundits for such poor fare is the fact that four of the third placed teams get through and you could do that on three points i.e. three draws. As Harry Redknapp said last night, it is harder to get eliminated than to get through the group stages. My suggestion in an earlier post on this site, of getting nul points for a goalless draw is looking more and more a brilliant idea.
The only real surprise is that Italy, reputedly a defensive team, have actually played more attacking football than usual. They even broke their record of not scoring more than two goals in Euros finals, although as mentioned they needed an own goal to get them going.
England may have broken their own record of never having won their opening match in a Euros but even with 4 points they are among the worst performers. Playing at home, in front of a crowd (this was supposed to help), and they have scored just one goal. Harry Kane might as well not been on the pitch for all he has done. Everyone is raving about Scotland but we let them play with an extremely tepid performance.
It is nice though to see pundits get it wrong though. In the Wales game against Turkey, with the score at 1-0 there was a corner right at the end and Robbie Savage was urging them to keep the ball in the corner – something else that should be banned – and I was saying, no, don’t be wimps, go for the second. Fortunately, Gareth Bale heard me, pulled the wishbone and jinked down the line to try but got blocked. Then he did it again on the second corner and they did score. One in the eye for the bores.
Then there is the widely held view, spouted a million times before during TV commentary, that you need a mobile striker. Italy are doing quite well with an Immobile one.
Of course, one cannot forget that the overriding message of the competition has to be, all things considered, football is just a game and not that important. That was hammered home last Saturday when Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field and by the distressing scenes that followed. I read that he is home now after a successful operation which is great news and everyone in the world without a doubt is wishing him a speedy recovery.
Comparisons with Euro 1996 is like comparing apples with acorns – I don’t know where that came from either, it just popped out. The whole country was awash with good feeling and the sound of “football’s coming home!”. A bit of poignancy about this too for me. It was 1996 when I moved down to London from Manchester. I had been working here for just over a month, finished probation and could move my stuff down. It was Saturday 15th June 1996 and it was the England v Scotland game. It was also the day of the Arndale Bomb which went off whilst I was driving down the motorway.
Twenty one games down. Thirty to go. Let’s hope it picks up. Let us hope that players start to remember that the aim of the game is to score. The aim of the game is to score as many as you can in the time available whilst trying not to let any in. The aim of the game is not: do not let any in, oh and try to score one if you can.
Please football, come home!
England v Scotland