Select Page

Month: June 2008

Spain – European Champions

Spain, then, are the European champions and, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s difficult to argue a case against them winning it. Euro 2008, however, was just like that in many respects. How many times did you sit down in front of the television and think, “Well, they’re definitely going to win it”? At least three or four, I’d bet. Before we get going with what actually happened in Vienna last night, it’s time to dispel a quick myth about Spain’s Euro 2008 win before it starts to get out of hand. Euro 2008 was not, by extension, a victory of Liverpool Football Club. The Spain team that started last night contained one Liverpool player – Fernando Torres – and a further one – Alonso – who got on the pitch as a substitute. This has been the pattern throughout the tournament, but Liverpool supporters are suffering from some extreme delusions of grandeur if they think that last night was about them. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Villareal all fielded more players in the Spanish team that kicked off last night than Liverpool did. The match itself was intriguing rather than exciting – a chess match, rather than a 100m sprint. Indeed, the best chance of the opening twenty minutes came with Andres Iniesta’s low cross that was deflected goalwards by Christoph Metzelder, forcing an outstanding save from the...

Read More

Brushed Aside

We had very high hopes for this match, didn’t we? When pressed, this was going to be the classic of the two matches. The match that would repeated in slow motion with a light opera and indie rock soundtrack. As it turned out, though, Russia vs Spain was a comparatively one-sided match, won convincingly by Spain against a Russian team that really failed to turn up at all. Andrei Arshavin, who had given indications that he was starting to believe the hype with his somewhat ridiculous claims that he had always been a Barcelona fan, was the most notable absence on the night, with this performance (or lack thereof) raising questions about his ability when under the spotlight, regardless of how sensationally he transformed the Russia team when he returned from suspension. Meanwhile, in a display of an ill wind blowing someone quite a lot of good, it was the enforced replacement of David Villa with Cesc Fabregas that really transformed Spain. Fabregas has looked very impressive every time he has made one of his cameo appearances for Spain, and the likelihood now has to be that he will start the final. Things might, however, have been different. After a cagey start that saw a couple of comfortable saves from Akinfeev and a couple of long shots from Russia, Pavlyuchenko fired a shot from the edge of the penalty...

Read More

No Stopping Them

In the end, then, Turkey didn’t have quite enough about them to be able to keep Germany at bay but, lord, they have given us some fabulous memories in this tournament and will be sadly missed in the final on Sunday evening. Germany, by contrast, are in the final of another major tournament without having played particularly well last night, and will face the winners of tonight’s match between Spain and Russia. It promises to be an absolute thriller. In all honesty, last night’s match was played very much in the shadow of this evening’s match. Most of the press attention here over the last couple of days has been drooling over the clash between Arshavin & Pavlyuchenko and Villa & Torres, and the column inches dedicated precious little to the internecine battle between Germany and Turkey, but this match far outshone the low expectations that accompanied it. Much had been made before the match of the selection problems facing Fatih Terim, with Nihat joining the heaving treatment table with a knee injury that ruled him out for the rest of the competition. The Turkish side had an element of a patchwork look about it, and it was this that informed the belief that Germany would stroll to a comfortable win. Turkey, however, started far the stronger of the two teams against a German team that looked simultaneously sluggish...

Read More

Paul Ince, John Barnes & Managerial Vacancies

So, Paul Ince has been appointed as the manager of Blackburn Rovers, and I guess it’s progress of sorts that the majority of debate concerning his appointment has been on the subject of his relative lack of experience and his decision to take the Franchise shilling, rather than the colour of his skin. It is refreshing to see a Premier League club take on a manager from the lower divisions. You might not like Paul Ince (and how successful he has actually been is open to question – he was given massive amounts of money by Milton Keynes and anything other than winning last year’s League Two title would have been a pretty abject failure), but if he turns out to be a success in the Premier League, it doesn’t take an enormous leap of imagination to see him being linked with the England job after Fabio Capello fails to take England to the 2010 World Cup. I don’t, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, think that there is anything wrong with taking managers from the lower divisions. It’s easy to forget how much support modern Premier League managers get these days – a full raft of full-time professionals, trained and qualified to ensure that the players are fine-tuned to the same degree that modern racing cars are. The idea that, somehow, managing in the Premier League is more “difficult”...

Read More

Football Supporters Are Inherently Conservative

That break that last for a couple of days towards the end of a major football tournament can do strange things to you. I considered at great length whether I should go into enormous detail about the European Championship semi-finals (which, lest we forget, are being played tomorrow night and the night after), but I thought that a break would probably be good for all of us, and that it would have the advantage of allowing me to pontificate briefly on a subject that I’ve been playing about with in my mind quite a lot over the last few weeks. Over the last twenty-five years or so, football has become political. Whether it was the National Front selling their repulsive magazine “Bulldog” outside grounds in the early 1980s, the fanzine movement or the growing movement against the creeping commercialisation of the modern game, being a football supporter has become more than just turning up to the matches, singing yourself hoarse and going home again. It has become more of a 24/7 lifestyle. Fifteen years ago, if I wanted to talk about football I would have needed to go to the pub, but now we have any number of message boards that we can discuss it upon, and with this vast expansion of the role of the game into the periphery of our lives has come a new role for...

Read More