Euro 2012: Day 4


The Trundle Is On! Engerland 1 – 1 France

Cartoon version of England's brave ex-leader John Terry

Frankly that was as good as many people had hoped. Engerland ‘did a Chelsea’, a phrase that has surely already become the cliché  of the tourney, and successfully denied France the victory they so possibly deserved. Quite where this stalemate of a game falls within the panoply of the first round of matches is uncertain, but it’s probably somewhere between the ho-hummery of Spain Italy and the action pack that was Poland Greece. So, nothing spectacular to get excited about.

Both teams flattered to deceive in a match that followed the classic Engerland international pattern almost to the letter. Boring and cagey first half hour, albeit with Engerland passing the ball about a little more confidently than usual to the same non-effect as normal, astonishingly surprising Engerland goal against the run of play, haphazard retreat into shell following shock at having taken the lead, loss of lead, insipid substitutions, backs to the wall chaos of Engerland defending for the last half hour, all back to the pub for a night on the lash. France played the part of irritated floozy with a series of consistent ‘take one for the team’ fouling and annoyingly talented ball play (albeit to the same non-effect as Engerland’s hefferlump play). Ribery, as is his wont, vanished for large periods, Benzema never really got going and Nasri did what only he can by irritating not only the English, but his own fans.

This is an Engerland side that plays to its admittedly very limited strengths. Uncle Roy has had 2 pieces of luck, which he would do well to bank now. First, almost no one expects this team to win anything, certainly not with a midfield that consists of a back passer and a hollywood hoofballer. Second, thanks to Lampard’s unfortunate injury he’s been spared the never-ending pain of the Gerrard/Lampard Conundrum (a logic bomb that has been baffling scientists since the early 1990’s). It’s a shame it wasn’t Gerrard who was injured as he is so much less effective in the middle. Admittedly he has chanced his arm by bringing the likes of Downing and Henderson along, the latter was astonishingly actually given pitch time although as is normal he failed to register as much as a touch.

A draw kind of suits both sides, but they will have to play with a bit of aggression if they want to get out of this group.

That Was A Game That Was. Ukraine 2 – 1 Sweden

Every tourney needs a story as the old journo proverb goes. In Japan/South Korea it was the Koreans, in South Africa it was the Ghanaians, in Switzerland/Austria it wasn’t either of them, which only goes to prove the validity of the rhyme. After Poland’s South Africaesque failure draw on the opening day, it needed something special from Ukraine to ignite the tournament. And, thankfully, against all the odds (they have been the undisputed worst side in the last two international tournaments) Ukraine delivered.

This was a battle between two great Milan strikers, both of whom are probably past their best. In the Sweedish corner you have the enigma of Ibrahimovic, just coming off his first non-Championship winning season in 7 years; while in the Ukrainian one the Chelsea striking enigma that was Schevchenko, who has spent the last couple of years simply preparing for this big day.

In games like this sometimes the football just doesn’t matter, it’s the spectacle, the occasion and the sheer drama of it all. And while this didn’t quite deliver in the way that Aguero’s last second strike did at Man City, this time it was a whole country rather than half a city that was energised. In the end it was the Ibra Sheva show, just as planned. Ibra struck first, only for Sheva to equalise, before Ibra let Sheva run right the way round him to head in the winner. Cue Ukrainian meltdown as the entire country went off their heads with joy.  Pure football magic.

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