Wow, I really haven’t blogged for a while – but life took over and I just did not have the time. But, enough of that. What has been taking up my time recently is Football, namely The European Championship. There has been lots of column inches written about racism, the John Terry / Rio Ferdinand debacle and how easily Germany* are going to win it so I thought I would do an alternative European Championship overview.
Best National Anthem It’s got to be Russia. The second that tune comes on you can see everyone is the crowd get antsy and want to get industrious, start making tanks or get into formation and start marching or something. There was one anthem I heard that went on for so long (think it was Croatia) that I went and made a cup of tea and it was still playing when I got back. I still think that we should have Hey Jude as the English national anthem. Think about it, we’d all know the words and all the other nations would join in for the chorus.
Best Kit Sweden away kit, with the big diagonal stripe – it’s straight out of the seventies. A close second are the Netherlands (when did Holland become The Netherlands – it sort of slipped into common usage in the nineties…). The only problem with Holland is that they were like a bunch of investment bankers turning up for a sunday morning kick about – they had the best and most expensive kit, and you’d think they’d play like 11 Lionel Messi‘s…but they ended up playing like 11 Lionel Ritchies. Worst kit: Croatia away – man, straight out of Primark that one…
Best Pundit Jamie Carragher by a country mile. I thought he was going to be terrible but it turns out that he had real insight and was not afraid to say what everyone else was thinking but wouldn’t say lest it harm their television career. The glowing ember that is Roy Keane’s hatred for Adrian Chiles was sometimes a joy to behold but he didn’t really add much to the analysis but – alas – as far as I know he didn’t kick seven shades of shite out of Adrian Chiles. I thought Roberto Martinez was very good as well and was the only one who was adamant that he would not have selected Rooney to start as it would have split apart a winning team and would have played him as any player struggling for fitness – as a sub. Gary Lineker still pwns Chiles in the hosting stakes and I think the BBC have a very good pundit in Lee Dixon…but Alan Shearer‘s media training makes him look a bit desperate and however much I hate to say it but ITV (non-stop betting adverts aside) edged it on the punditry.
Worst Pundit Mark Lawrensen, again, by a country mile. Very, very little analysis that wasn’t just stating the bleedin’ obvious and he edged into Jimmy Tarbuck routines too often for my liking…except less funny. I think he has now become too sour and bereft of any passion for the game and his commentary just makes me depressed.
Graphics & Coverage I think the two nationals shared it. The BBC has a soulless opening sequence that reminds me of some things I have seen built in Minecraft and ITVs Tim Burton homage is creepy, weird and too try hard. Chop up grainy footage of x amount of wonder goals to uplifting music – job done. The BBC let themselves down with Wish You Were here dummies guides to Poland and Ukraine that could have made it into their Panorama programme – so hackneyed were their portrayals of the nations. ITV then went and bought the old sets from Startgate Atlantis and was only mitigated by the fact that their studio was above a town square and you could see Roy Keane itching to wade into the crowds with a broken bottle bellowing: I AM TRYING TO ANALYSE GREECE’S DEFENSIVE FORMATION YOU FECKS! SHUT THE FECK UP!!
Most Annoying New Thing to Emerge The countdown. Make. It. Stop. It’s not American Gladiators…or New Years eve. FFS, whoever thought this would be a good idea seriously needs to watch some 3rd division football to get back in touch with the real game.
Most Over-rated Player Wayne Rooney. For the umpteenth time, our own little granny fancier just can’t cut it at a major tournament in an England shirt. Some players just can’t do it. Ian Wright couldn’t (though he was very unlucky with injuries), Paul Scholes (arguably) couldn’t and neither could Frank Lampard. Maybe Rooney needs to be regarded as a sub, as a player who is wonderful for his club but shit for his country. Welbeck has it, and clearly wants more and so does Carroll. Rooney doesn’t.
Most Under-rated Player Andrea Pirlo. Too old, too slow and not motivated. They seemed to be the chief criticisms. Well, he showed us all a thing or two didn’t he? Genuinely lovely player to watch who seems to stroke the ball around the pitch without any effort or haste and yet finds a teammate with nearly every pass. I might send Steven Gerrard a video of Pirlos 10,000 greatest passes. Just so he gets an idea of it.
So, final tonight and I want Italy to win – mainly because they have grown into the tournament and are (for the first time in a looooooooonng time) an Italian team that I actually want to watch. They have the usual rock-hard Italian defence but now they look wonderful going forward and in Balotelli have one of the most exciting Italian strikers to emerge in 20 years. Spain have polished what they do so much that what was once a glinting thing of beauty is now a smooth, dull pebble that is not much fun to watch. No one likes a show off and they have a bit of that. I have heard their own fans booing them and that is never a good sign. They’ll probably win – they have the winning formula – but it is a formula: football as science and I am not sure it is a good thing that they should. Italy are being supported because they play the sport with passion, panache and verve. If Italy go at Spain and Mario has a good game then it’ll be a cracker and they could win – but if it goes to penalties then Spain will win…because they probably practiced penalties in a lab somewhere.
* I started this before Germany got knocked out.