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For many people, major sports tournaments are the only occasion that national anthems are heard. These peculiar tunes have become a genre of their own, transcending the mere hymns that many of them were in first place, and they range from the gloriously uplifting to mournful dirges. The selection of words has, in many countries, brought about national debate that has been all-encompassing. In the case of Spain, it was decided that it would probably be for the best just to not bother having any for the sake of national unity.
At the time of writing, the television in this room is playing away to itself. The noise sounds familiar and, at a glance, it kind of looks familiar. Engand and the Netherlands are battling out a friendly match in Amsterdam. This, however, doesn’t matter, and it takes the whole concept of not mattering to a…
For the second major tournament in a row, the team that came out of the starting blocks the quickest have fallen at the quarter-final stage. It is a measure of the quality of last night’s Russian performance that the Netherlands were dependent on an exceptional performance from their goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Saar to even…
Farewell then, France. Last night had been an evening that promised to hit a crescendo of tension, excitement and drama, but in the event the evening in Zurich all went off like a firework display in a monsoon, with a French selection and performance that gave Italy a relatively comfortable ride through to the quarter-finals,…
Still the goals keep going, still teams refuse to sit back and merely defend, and still the Dutch look like the best football team at Euro 2008. It’s almost as if the players and the coaches of all the nations have got together and decided to play with the care-free air of an end of…
…And as if by magic, the Dutch and the Italians arrived. Barely half an hour after I finished writing about a match that was described (accurately) by Alan Hansen as “one of the worst games of football I’ve ever seen”, they kicked off in Berne for a match that has finally kicked some life into…
Every tournament has a Group Of Death, thanks in no small part to the occasionally bizarre seeding system that FIFA and UEFA still use for determining who will end up in which seeding pot, but UEFA have really outdone themselves for Euro 2008, contriving to put Italy, Holland and France in the same group. The…