This, perhaps, was not the new Europe that the leaders of the continents nations had envisaged when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in November 1989. The years between the European Championships of 1988 and 1992 were the most politically tumultuous since the end of the Second World War. At varying points over the course of those four intervening years, the geopolitics of the entire continent had been upturned. Entire countries vanished from the map. whilst others sprung up in their place. The political ideology and practices of the particular form of bureaucratic socialism as practiced to the east of the Iron Curtain was swept from power. And, by and large, this was achieved peacefully. If the west breathed a sigh of relief that the discredited dictatorships of Eastern Europe opted not to try and cling to power through shows of force that may have reignited the possibility of global conflict, though, that’s not to say that there were no political vacuums left by the toppling of so many governments. If the revolution was velvet in Czechoslovakia, it was blood-splattered in Romania, where thousands died as the Ceaucescus attempted to flee and failed, but even this paled in comparison with events as Yugoslavia disintegrated and collapsed into nationalist and ethnic hatred. Civil War in Yugoslavia had been a long time coming. This was a country of disparate cultures, religions...Read More
On Friday, UEFA announced the punishments for the abandonment of the Italy-Serbia European Championship Qualifier. As expected, Serbia did not get off lightly. The Football Association of Serbia (FSS) were fined €120,000, ordered to play a home qualifier behind closed doors, with a second game behind closed doors suspended for two years, as well as having their supporters banned from travelling to the rest of their qualifiers. The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) were also fined the smaller amount of €100,000, and also ordered to play a game behind closed doors, suspended for two years. While the FSS were punished because their supporters were the cause of the trouble in Genoa on the night of the game, the FIGC were punished for failing to stop the Serbian fans entering the Luigi Ferraris stadium with flares and fireworks, and for the security operation failing to stop the pitch invasion that gave Scottish referee Craig Thomson no option but to initially delay the kick-off, and ultimately abandon the match. On the face of it, both punishments seem appropriate. While it is difficult for a Football Association to prevent tickets ending up in the wrong hands, they are responsible for their fans behaviour, and the fine, and the loss of revenue from a game being played behind closed doors will certainly provide the FSS with the motivation to do all they can to...Read More
Japan v Denmark has to wait until the boys on the Beeb can get Italy’s exit out of their system. But this is probably fair enough. Earlier group results have switched the focus from Netherlands v Cameroon, which means we’ve got Martin Keown summarising. The BBC had Manish Bhasin on the stadium gantry in Cape Town. But Cameroon’s incompetence has spared us. This may have spared Bhasin too. He nods so vigorously in his interview-ette with Clarence Seedorf that you sense his head may have dropped off if he’d had to do another piece at half-time. Japan and Cameroon finally take centre stage in front of rows of seats which are either unoccupied and covered with blue tarpaulin or are Japanese fans in even weirder costumes than usual. Two of them are dressed as sperm. But it’s before the watershed, so commentator Steve Wilson can’t say so. Nicklas Bendtner colours in his socks early on, or at least the white tape around his ankles. This allows Wilson a stab at a “red tape” joke, which isn’t bad. Denmark’s left-back Simon Poulsen is caught offside twice in the opening minutes. Wilson suggests it is “nice to see” him that “high up the park”, and give the way he’s defended in this tournament, most Danish fans would concur. As he shoots wide, we are told Jon-Dahl Tomasson is in a “goalscoring drought...Read More
A match so good even Peter Drury couldn’t spoil it. “Two nations living just a little on their history,” he notes, as the teams come out. And, as an English football commentator, he should know. The unfashionable games are becoming the ones to watch, after Slovenia v America yesterday, and now this. Expect Slovakia v Paraguay to be a humdinger. This one quickly becomes a particularly “good watch,” the verb “to watch” turned into a noun – as ITV blast from the past Ron Atkinson used to do (“that’s a good arrive by Robson” etc…). Cameroon appear to have undergone a radical shake-up, with centre-forwards playing at centre-forward and Alex Song and Geremi playing at all. “Eto’o will be happy to be playing alongside Webo,” says Drury, possibly introducing Eto’o to an entirely new emotion. Achille Webo does make Eto’o’s 11th minute opener, but only after the Danish back line faff around with the ball – the green shirts of Cameroon’s advancing forwards apparently some sort of camouflage. Eto’o has enough time and space to make his finish one for the cameras, if he wants to. He does. Daniel Agger is described as a “recognised centre-back,” which will have confused most watching Liverpudlians. But no-one will be as confused as Charlton fans watching the Dennis Rommedahl tribute act destroying Cameroon down their left flank. He sets up Nicklas Bendtner...Read More
Half way through the opening set of fixtures then, and we’ve already seen two of the semi-finalists in action. Only Germany have really looked good enough to be worthy of it so far, but the lower half of the draw contains more big guns, with favourites Spain and Brazil, not to mention holders Italy, all to come shortly.
And then there’s Holland. They looked very good through an admittedly weak qualifying group, and even come to the World Cup as Unofficial World Champions, but no one seemed quite sure beforehand whether to put them as a good outside bet or right up there with the favourites. And I’m not sure this performance really helped us much. They won, and comfortably enough in the end although that was by no means a foregone conclusion at half-time, but they didn’t really set the heather alight or show the same sort of class as Germany had against Australia yesterday evening.Read More