All new articles are now appearing in the new blog entitled 2012-13 and there will be no further updates here although all the older content from previous posts is still right here and has not been deleted.
Tonight is a sad, sad night in more ways than one. Not only are my two good Italian friends very probably drowning their sorrows right now but as I had warned before this match – this could be the death knell for many strikers in every team at every level.
We have seen it before – whether it is a fashion statement (eg – when long shorts came back) or when an action on a big match has happened (eg – Roberto Carlos bending free-kick) the repercussions can be huge (or in this case expensive with all the lost footballs).
I am just wondering how many coaches regardless as to the level of their team are going to have watched this Spain team and think that they have had a eureka moment. Lets say its a pub Sunday League team and come pre-season training the regulars come back for the first session only to find out that the coach (or manager) or in many cases the one just trying to hold it all together suddenly announces to his players that in the forthcoming season he is going with a new formation of 4-6-0.
There could even be sprouting up all over the country homes for a dying breed of football player as forwards or strikers find their services no longer required. On the other hand there will be a surplus of midfielders required so if you do play in that position and have struggled to get into your team before now – the door may have just opened up for you.
So the new season starts and the teams all come into competition against one another with nearly all of them now playing the new 4-6-0 system. That would mean that in one theory there will be twelve players occupying the same amount of the pitch – that is four more than teams playing against one another using a more traditional 4-4-2. It also means that there are going to be a lot of defenders standing around wondering who to mark. So then the coach who thinks he is cleverer than the rest decides to change his system to a 3-7-0 or dare I say it a 3-6-1 and actually allow somebody to go up front???
The opposition now see this lone striker and possibly panic – a striker? What do we do? We have not seen one of them since the dark ages of the early 21st century!
Whatever comes out of this stupidity – the facts are simple. Vicente del Bosque is just utilizing a system that suits the players that he has at his disposal right now. These same tactics are not going to work for every other team. It is also a way and enabling him to tell his forward midfield players to get back and work forward rather than the other more traditional way round.
Imagine if you will for a moment that Roy Hodgson tries to adapt this system for England and the current squad. That means that the like of Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck are definitely both out but he would probably use Wayne Rooney as an advanced midfielder. Rooney would probably be joined by lets say Gerrard and Lampard. The row of three behind them would possibly be Parker, Milner and Gareth Barry. This also means that the likes of Walcott, Johnson, Young and any other attack minded midfielder would also be stuck on the bench at best. If you think England had been negative in Euro 2012 – imagine what this line-up would be like.
In fact we would probably satisfy ourselves by calling this line-up a 4-5-1 to try and hide what we are really trying to do but if the majority of teams went this way surely the game is going to suffer. The top sides such as Spain may have mastered it but what about the rest? It needs somebody else to come along with another style of play or even better still – a system that can take the Spanish system apart with good, attacking football.
We seemed to have gone in a complete reverse of systems used successfully many years ago which sometimes consisted of as many forwards as six. Just because Spain play to their strengths does not mean that the rest of us have to follow their lead in playing the same way. It all depends of what you have available to you.
I started watching the final on the BBC but after about ten minutes I had already sworn at Mark Lawrenson at least three times. How the hell he is hired as a pundit come co-commentator beats me because he offers nothing – in fact minus zero because of his inept and sarcastic comments. If you have nothing to say about the game that is either interesting or helpful then shut the hell up and don't just speak for the sake of it. Lawrenson – has anybody EVER come up to you and said you are funny, witty or concise? I very much doubt it.
I even started watching the game with the CBBC audio which for all of about ten seconds was better than Lawrenson's until somebody asked “What is a free-kick?” It was then time to turn the commentary off altogether but I found the Spanish style again sending me to sleep so reluctantly turned over to ITV for all of five minutes. From there it was watching it on some Russian feed on the internet and then finally because I headed into the garden, having it on the Ipad but with the sound down a bit and only keeping half an eye on the rest of the game which had already become just a question of how many Spain were going to score?
Just a quick recap on other comments made tonight by our commentators and pundits – Alan Shearer actually laughing at the suggestion that Spain are boring to watch. It is probably because Mr Shearer is no longer a player and has no concerns for the game's goal scorers of the future or maybe he is just blinkered because anybody can say that of a team successfully playing a system – just wait until he sees all the others trying it and ask him again then after a dozen games that finish 0-0 with virtually no shots on goal as teams just cancel one another out.
Then we have the comment that was made that described Spain as “The best team ever” - that is one massive statement to make and I cannot remember who said it – it may well have been more than one of them. There is no question that the Spanish team of the last six years are the best team in the world right now at international level but each time frame causes different styles and different scenarios. I have heard before the big question “if” being asked. “If the Manchester United team of 1999 played against the Liverpool team of 1978 which one would win?” Now we have “If the Brazil side of 1970 played the Spain side of 2012 who would win that one?” It is all a load of baloney as it cannot be judged – all we know is that great players and great teams will be remembered from different time periods throughout our lives. The problem is with this Spanish one is that they will not be remembered in the same way as other great international teams from different eras purely because of the style of their play even though they have now won three major trophies on the spin.
For this Italian team it was just one game too many and that is why they lost – not because the Spanish were that much better than they were as was proved when they met in the group game which they drew 1-1. I do not know why the Italian team did not arrive in the city until 3am the previous night but it surely did not help – maybe the reasons for this will come out in the near future. The loss of players through injury through the course of the game also was a factor and definitely added to flattering the final scoreline. To lose both Chiellini and substitute Motta through injury was highly unfortunate especially with Motta as he was the last change having only been on the park a few minutes and therefore the Italians were reduced to ten men and it was only then that Spain doubled the advantage from two to four goals with late strikes from the Chelsea pair of Torres and Mata.
In 2014, none other than Brazil host the next World Cup and that in itself should be something to look forward to. If anybody can restore positive football then it is the Brazilians but I do not really care who does it but somebody needs to end this Spain reign soon simply for these reasons. I am not anti-Spanish, I am just anti this style of play and they have even been criticized for this style by many of their own people back in Spain too for it. Also do not misunderstand me that I love purely flare football because that can also become tedious and teams can become arrogant that get too good at that too. There is nothing wrong with a good old game old football that is an end to end battle with players getting stuck in, chances at both ends in games that can swing either way. But the powers that be at FIFA and UEFA seem to believe that the future of the game needs to go even more non-contact and perhaps that is reflected in these finals where there were only three red cards in the whole tournament.
It is time to take a break now from the international scene although England have a “friendly” with Italy in August – who cares! The long road to Brazil 2014 starts soon after and that is going to drag on for another year and a half before we can finally start seeing the next World Cup in the not too distant future once again and try and look forward to another tournament. If England do make it you have to say the chances of winning it are extremely slim and even doing what we would consider well in it are only considered to be fair. Realistically, Brazil should be the favourites but are they going to have a decent squad in two years even with home support? The Germans, the Italians, the Argentinians are all going to be there or thereabouts and then there are a whole host of other nations that will fancy their chances to do well. But Spain will go there with momentum and belief and that is what is scary. We have seen before even at domestic level how a team builds confidence having won their first title that the next ones seem to get easier and easier. It is ironic that the biggest thorn in the Spanish success could come from the biggest star playing his football since the age of 13 in Spain for Barcelona in Lionel Messi – we shall see.
Should we just cut straight through the first semi-final as I ask is there that much to talk about? Trying my best to conjure something up from a dire game - Spain did their best to send me to sleep (again!) whilst Portugal did their best to play as a one man team for the best part. The biggest problem with that tactic is of course if your star man has an off day then you are screwed.
Whereas everything that Ronaldo touched in this game did not turn to gold the Spanish coach had a completely different approach to the game and perhaps I am reading between the lines but what I am about to write does make some sense at least to me.
I imagine that there are some members of the Spanish press that are not entirely satisfied with the style in which the team are playing despite their magnificent achievement of winning their last two tournaments and now reaching the final of their third in a row. I guess there are some people that just want perfection – it is one thing to win World and European Cups and another to win them with style and tactics that nobody at all can question. But when coach Vicente del Bosque continually insists on playing a system without any strikers – is there more to this than meets the eye? Is it that Spain do not have a decent striker in their squad or is it that del Bosque is so in awe of what Pep Guardiola has achieved playing a similar system with Barcelona that it just makes sense to do the same especially with so many Barcelona players in his team.
I am sure that the two Fernando's (Llorente and Torres) take umbrage this thought, maybe Llorente even more than Torres after the season that he has had with Athletic Bilbao. Whereas Llorente has not even had a kick of the ball in these finals at least Torres started against Croatia and Ireland (and scored twice), he has also come on against Italy and France as a substitute. Come the semi-final then and what does del Bosque do? Possibly irritated by the Spanish press he “concedes” by starting with a striker – but not Llorente or Torres but Alvaro Negredo, the 26 year old forward from Sevilla with just eight caps behind him and just one minute of tournament time as a last minute substitute against Croatia in the final group game.
After 54 minutes of the game del Bosque must have thought that he had made his point as Negredo and achieved nothing up until then. So having let the press think that they had won he tries to prove a point to them again. He finishes off the move of substituting Negredo by replacing him with Cesc Fabregas and reverting back to the old system of six in midfield.
It is just surely just such a negative system that for the sake of football Spain need to be beaten. If they continue to achieve these successes how long will it be before other teams get the idea of also using it and before we know the game we know and love will be facing a painful and lengthy period of which it may never fully recover.
In direct comparison, compare the first semi-final to the second and they were like chalk and cheese. Italy played with not one by two forwards and proved to the world that the German defence was not anywhere near as good as it was cracked up to be. I do not want to take anything away from Italy's overall performance though because in general it was one of the best performances overall I have seen from an Italian national team in a long, long time. In Mario Balotelli they have I believe the most lethal finisher in these championships and he proved this with both of his goals which were completely different from one another but both fantastically executed. Once again Andrea Pirlo pulled the strings in midfield and I loved the way Gianluca Vialli described him as a quarter-back in the way that he would drop off ten yards every time allowing himself time to look up a ping a perfect pass every time. Antonio Cassano's role in this game should not be overlooked either and fair play to Balotelli for speaking about his appreciation for Cassano after the game. At times maybe Gianluigi Buffon looked a shade shaky in the Italian goal but the Italian keeper got the job done and kept his cool despite his early fluffs in the game and then went on to provide extra incentive to his team mates.
The Germans once again go home without a cup and it will be 18 years since their last one come the next World Cup in Brazil – still they have not got a mark on England who be reaching 48 years – that tells its own story. It was nice though to see Jurgen Klinsmann just cringing a little in the TV studio and having a quiet moan but to say he was clutching for straws regarding German penalty appeals is an understatement.
I encourage football fans all over the world to want and pray for Italy to win Sunday's football to save the future of the forward or the out and out striker. I remember hearing a story once told by a sports teacher at the beginning of a new school year. He had around 45 young lads all ready to play football so he sat them down and asked for a show of hands as to which ones amongst them considered themselves to be goalkeepers. About three hands went up so he thought to himself that this was good as he could assess these three candidates to decide which one would be his first choice for the school team. He then asked the same question regarding defenders and then midfielders. Not one hand was raised in the air for either of these choices and he was then greeted by over 40 raised hands all wanting the position of the striker – the goal scorer!
Just about anywhere you are in the world, it is the striker position that for most kids is where they want to play. It is not just the glory and the glamour – it is the feeling of being the one to score the goal and feel your shot hit the back of the opponents net. I rest my case – Italy must win!
Note – I have not mentioned by name Cristiano Ronaldo at all in this article up to now – maybe its because by the time he decided he wanted to do something it was too late – as it also is right here.
Imagine if you will for a moment that you are lets say a Torquay United fan and that you have supported them since you were a child remaining faithful as they are your local team – “your” club. Over the years you may think that for the best part looking back not that much as really happened. The odd relegation cancelled out by the odd promotion and even a play-off final at Wembley is always nice but chances are that your team know what their peak is and know that it is highly unlikely that they will become a Championship club in the near future and 99% certain that you will never get to see your team play in the Premier League.
But one can dream that maybe one day it will happen no matter how low the chances are and because it is just a dream the majority of fans of the club also fully understand the limitation on their team and know that what a good season is and any kind of minor cup run is an added bonus.
This brings me onto England because whereas Torquay fans dream but know their limitations they are realists. I am afraid to say that as a nation we are not – we actually believe that we will win the Euro's or a World Cup and every time a tournament comes to an end for our team we feel so deflated because we had higher expectations that only we believed were realistic. Even in this tournament where for a change the England expectations were not too high after their dismal World Cup showing two years ago. But then they still manage to build us up, make us believe, even get the resistant car flag users to again place their flags back on their vehicles – and then, and only then do we then bow out of the tournament in our normal fashion.
When will finally get it through our thick heads that we are not good enough? There is just something about playing for England that makes most of our best players look a distinct shade worse than when we see them playing for their club side. You can bet your life that come the middle of August you will see the likes of Rooney, Young, Cole, Gerrard etc all looking like world beaters in the shirts of their respective club teams – and then the con job starts all over again.
We then build these players up in our heads that they can do it at international level yet after now 46 years of hurt we have learned nothing. We can not overlook how well our teams repeatedly do in the Champions League and that there have been many English players in the past twenty years that have winners medals from that competition in their personal trophy cabinets. You cannot say that it is the imported stars that have made all the difference in the success of the English teams in this cup because we all know that the likes of Beckham, Scholes, Ferdinand, Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Terry to name just a few have all been really important players in their teams success in winning the Champions League.
But when it comes to playing for England something happens and we suddenly fear opposition and put them on such a high pedestal that many times we are beaten before we have even kicked a ball. Take the Germans as a fine example. Apart from Michael Ballack at Chelsea and Orzil at Real Madrid, there have not been too many Germans over the years that have played their club football outside of their country. Since it became the Champions League twenty years ago, German teams have won the competition twice – English clubs have won it four times. Since the European Cup began Germany have only won it six times in comparison to English teams twelve victories. Italy also have twelve cup successes and only Spain with thirteen beat that. With Spain, only Barcelona and Real Madrid have ever won it and until recently it has been money buying top worldwide stars that has won them many of those trophies.
So the same players that in general fall short over the years in the Champions League playing for the likes of Bayern Munich and failing (as we saw against Chelsea) then as Germany become virtually untouchable? Spain, Germany and Italy are the most successful nations at club level along with England but at international level we suddenly suffer a huge inferiority complex – I just don't get it!
This was demonstrated last night by our build up of Andrea Pirlo. Don't get me wrong that Pirlo is not a good player because he is and even though he is now in his mid-30's he is probably enjoying the best form of his life. Even AC Milan decided to let him go last season and only because Juventus still thought that he something to offer meant that he remained at a top club. But is Pirlo a world beater? Would you put him in the same class as lets say Messi, Ronaldinho, Maradona or Pele to name just a few? If you listen, watch and read our media we built this guy up so much it has probably rubbed off on him and made him feel so confident in his own ability right now that he even does what he did in the penalty shoot out. Four years ago at exactly the same stage of Euro 08 Pirlo missed from the spot in the shoot out with Spain. It is one thing to step up again like Stuart Pearce did and feel like he needed to make a point for a penalty miss a few years earlier – but to have the cheek and panache to even think about what Pirlo did last night is astounding and proves just how much confidence he is currently feeling.
If by some miracle England had of found a way past Italy then how do you think our media would have built up the semi-final with Germany? Yet again the old footage of 66 would have come out and then of course the heartaches of 1990 and 1996. But what about much more recently and the debacle in South Africa? Surely the most one-sided England-Germany match of all time. That defeat on its own would have us shaking in our boots because the German mentality appears to be the opposite to the English – put on a national shirt and you raise your game, not lower it.
Like Torquay fans we can always dream but unless we change our ways and our mentality then it may never happen. Spain waited many decades to have a flock of players come through together to turn their national team from also rans like England into champions which proves it can happen. But something like that is going to take a lot of time and a lot of change. At least we have that now to an extent because lets face facts – the next World Cup in Brazil even if we qualify is not going to be one that we have a cat in hells chance of winning. We may go out gloriously once more in the last 16 if we get that far to somebody like Italy, France, Portugal or the like but to get any further is really to only gain a little more momentum and experience.
In May, Ashley Cole smashed a perfect penalty into the net against Bayern Munich in the blue shirt of Chelsea. In an England shirt his body language was completely different as he stepped up to the spot and of course he missed. In the game itself, England let Pirlo just run the midfield with all the time and ease that he needed. With Parker in his normal role of blocker, Rooney too far forward and ineffective it meant that Gerrard was always outnumbered. England gave the ball away cheaply so many times and just could not keep possession, it was just so wasteful. I still believe that Andy Carroll should have started the match in place of Welbeck. The best crosses that came in were in the first part of the game when Carroll was still sitting on the bench. In that one spell of no longer than around fifteen minutes when England were actually on top in the first half was when we needed Andy Carroll on the pitch as at that stage he could have done something.
“Lessons have been learned” is what we nearly always hear after every campaign. There has to come a time when as a nation you have to say you have had enough lessons and that you are now ready to go and pass your damn test and become fully qualified. One last message and this one goes to the BBC – watching the game in England as an Englishman I want to hear the opinions of top English people in the game and not from a Scotsman, a German and an “Irish” co-commentator who again annoys me so much with arrogance and sarcasm I just want to drag him out from the screen and strangle him. @StupidFootball tweeted “Now that England are out, we can now all start looking forward to next big event in London... John Terry's racism trial.” and on top of that it is exactly six months to go before Christmas and this will all be long forgotten again by many as we become captivated once more by own Premier League and that is all that matters - until next time.
I had better start off with tonight's game and there is not a lot to say on top of France were really disappointing. Back in 1997, France held a tournament a year prior to the World Cup called "Le Tournoi" or "Tournoi de France". It is best remembered for two reasons - the first is it is the only international tournament that England have won in I have no idea how many years (well since the Home Championships ended). But the real reason that I brought this up is the other reason this competition is remembered - and that is for Roberto Carlos's incredible bending free kick around the French wall and past Fabien Barthez in the French goal.
It is common that kids and amateur players always try and emulate their heroes and things that they have seen on TV. That particular summer we lost so many footballs in pre-season training because every idiot thought he could do a Carlos style free kick. Balls ended up in the river, up a tree or even smashing through a greenhouse window but never did one go where it was intended. Moving on to 2012 and here we have a Spain team adopting a tactic - as successful as it might be but playing games of football without any strikers. I don't know about anybody else but I find this style very dull, droll and boring to watch as a viewer. Just over a year ago Barcelona played Arsenal in the Champions League and all we had was pass-pass-pass - both teams just wanted to pass that ball to death. The pundits loved it and called it pure class football and I can understand that if I was a player involved in a game such as that - but as a spectator it just sent me to sleep. The Spanish national teams tactic is not too dissimilar and I am sure that they will argue that it achieves results and you cannot argue with that coming from Spain! But if many teams follow their lead I dread to think what would become of our game as although Spain have proved they can do it and win the most prestigious trophies in the world in doing so - what will happen to the other teams that try it and what will happen do the strikers of this world?
So Spain won this match with France without really anything coming back from the French - they went "out on a whimper" is the popular expression I guess. Xabi Alonso scored both goals on his 100th national appearance of which one was a penalty - only the third penalty awarded in this tournament to date. The other two both being awarded to Greece. This fact is correct but the following is where I really royally screwed up.
So this now brings me on to my really silly and stupid mistake of the night and what bad timing to make it as well. With over 120,000 followers over at Twitter, I sent "@StupidFootball" a direct message that was then re-tweeted by them.
Within a very short period of time comments were appearing that queried the "fact" that had been posted as surely being wrong. It was not until I actually read these comments that it even crossed my mind!
What I had done was read an article about Euro 2012 on Wikipedia and because I was aware that there had been hardly any red cards so far this tournament (along with penalties) I thought that I would just take a look at what the actual statistics were.
Without really reading the above article properly I just totted up the yellow cards that were shown and not including the ones that resulted in reds I counted a total of eight yellow cards so far in this tournament. I did not even notice that four of the players shown appeared on the list twice because this compilation (as it states in the paragraph before it) is only showing yellow cards that results in players that received suspensions from the cards. Including tonight's game there have now been 105 yellow cards - oh well - nearly 100 out then!!!!
Although I have tried to apologise to Stupid Football for this dreadful and woeful mistake I have not heard anything back again - in fact they have not tweeted at all since!
So I guess I learned a valuable lesson tonight - if you are watching a game of football and tweeting at the same time, unless you are just tweeting "Goaaaaal" like hundreds of other morons during the game assuming we have not seen it for ourselves then do not try and be too flash with stats and facts either because you are not properly concentrating on what you are doing.
I apologise again and eat humble pie for my pathetic error that caused several comments of which most now think I must be a complete idiot. Maybe the word "Stupid" belongs to me tonight.
There was never going to be an easy option in the semi-final for the England v Italy tie. We all know how efficient and deadly the Germans can be and Greece (as they did in 2004) proved that they can easily get quickly into a habit of grinding out results regardless. I truly believe that if Greece had met anybody else in the quarter-finals they would have probably churned out a 1-0 (and I include Spain and England in saying that). For a while it looked as if it is just might happen again as Germany dominated but could not find a way of scoring.
Ignorantly, at half time, the ITV pundits took a dig at Greece for their style of play and summed it up by showing their chances on the German goal in the first 45 minutes - a re-run that lasted all of twenty seconds. With Germany one up they had obviously made their minds up that there was only ever going to be one winner and it was just a question of how many the Germans would get to captain Philipp Lahm's first half goal.
Another fact that was widely overlooked was that Greece nearly always score at least one goal in a game and with that Georgios Samaras made it 1-1 ten minutes into the second half. Were Germany being arrogant in leaving out several players that had featured in all of their games so far including top scorer Mario Gomez? Whatever the reason, I do not believe that it was arrogance - it was more of a show of strength as to what they also have available to them on the bench. We are talking about players that have been stars in the past such as Miroslav Klose - a known goal machine for Germany in previous tournaments and certainly not a rookie. In direct comparison to this what have England got to bring into their team should players become injured or get suspended? Martin Kelly? Jordan Henderson? Stewart Downing?
And so the Germans then went on to have a fifteen minute spell through the middle of the second half where they destroyed the Greeks with three well taken goals from Khedira, Klose and Reus - what other nation could have done that with such power and calmness at the same time? So now we know for sure that England or Italy will meet Germany in the semi-final. Rio Ferdinand has already tweeted "England will beat Germany (after beating the Italians), remember I said that!" I wish he hadn't! How many times before have we heard English people just getting a little too cocky about what the team are about to do after wins over sides such as Sweden and Ukraine?
Tonight's game is also for me too close to call. I have read that Spain have never beaten France in a finals tournament match and if that does happen tonight it will open up the top half of the draw. As soon as Spain realised that they would be meeting the French I think they probably thought that this could be a tie that could be a problem. Remember the 2006 World Cup when an unfancied France team made it all the way to the final by grinding out scores? It some respects it almost similar to how Greece do it but with a little more panache. On the other hand why are we bothering we all of these games? Why not just have the final tomorrow as everybody knows that it is going to be Spain v Germany. Yes, that could easily happen but if you believe it right now you are no real football fan.
Anybody notice a distinct lack of penalties so far in this tournament? In fact so far there have only been two awarded and they have both been for Greece. The first one they missed against Poland in the opening match and the second one was last night in the last minute against Germany - a meaningless penalty really, harshly given for handball but maybe referees have been told to push a few statistics up - maybe we will start to see a few more red cards too because so far where have they been hiding?
We always knew that Group B was going to be interesting and Germany and Holland were seen as the most likeliest candidates to qualify - but it was always going to be tight. With Holland's demise it allowed Portugal to get through as probably the dark horse of the competition. Lets not also forget that Portugal had only qualified via the play-offs for these finals having finished behind Denmark in their group.
Since 1996 in England, Portugal have qualified for every tournament (or been hosts) and their record is very good without actually winning the whole thing. In 1996 they were beaten in at this same stage by the Czech Republic 1-0 so this was some sweet revenge for that. In 2000 they won all of their games before losing controversially to France in the sem-finals. As hosts in 2004 they were beaten in the final by Greece and in 2008 they were beaten in the quarter-finals this time by Germany.
So looking at this record should we be that surprised that once again they have reached the latter stages of this competition? With Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly beginning to work on all cylinders after a slow start they have a match winner for any occasion and this was so true in this match. He hit the woodwork twice before finally finding the back of the net with a tremendous header ten minutes from time. Maybe it is true that the rest of the Portuguese squad is nothing that special - but they seem to have a close unit working well together and have been the only team to keep the same starting eleven for every single game so far.
Lets also face the fact that the Czech Republic have produced nothing really memorable throughout the entire tournament. Without the now retired Jan Koller leading the attack and the likes of Berger, Poborsky and Nedved all since long gone, this Czech team may still have one or two star names included today, but when its attacking line-up consists of just one Milan Baros you know that they are in trouble. 2 shots (both off target) in comparison to Portugal's 19 shots says a lot and maybe should also serve as a lesson to England to not sit back too negatively when they play against Italy on Sunday.
That will surely lead to defeat against the masters of defence and snatching a 1-0 win. I was talking with Gino today and his comment was "If England play Andy Carroll up front - the Italians are not going to know what hit them. It took them over a year to work out Mark Hately and that is when he was playing for AC Milan and therefore playing in Italy every week. What chance have we got in a one off game of which we have not come up against the like of with this generation".
It is always great to see artistic people getting the most out of software such as Photoshop. Ever met somebody that says something along the lines of "It must be true - it was in my paper". These types of people potentially will believe anything should the evidence they are shown and the source of where it came from seem viable. I am not saying that anybody would be stupid enough to believe the photo above but if it was less obvious and lets say a believable photo appeared in The Times and another appeared in The Sun does it mean that The Times must be correct and not the one in The Sun due to the hierachry that the media seem to have on the population?
According to Ukraine coach Oleg Blochin the ball was at least a metre over the line so there is another perception and again from a biased viewpoint. Speaking as one of the many that saw it live on TV, when it happened I had no idea if it had gone over or not - it was just too close to tell. Anybody that could catergorically say that it was over the line as it happened is surely lieing. Even on the first video replay view I was still not sure - it was only when we saw the next view that it became clear that the whole of the ball had just about cleared the goal line.
It is nice to see England's quarter-final opponents causing a chuckle or two and mainly through the man himself Mario Balotelli who is up to his old tricks. In the game against Ireland he was gagged by a team mate when apparently using a whole host of expletives. When asked what he was saying his team mate responded with "I did not have a clue as he was swearing in English". It is also nice to see Balotelli taking training so seriously - what would this country think of him if he was playing for England? Personally, a joker in the pack especially in an environment such as the Euro's must be a light relief for everybody and I would welcome it.
Why not? The TV cameras keep cutting away to shots of the crowd at every opportunity. Its almost as if there is some cameraman pervert that has no interest in the game itself and is just more interested in ogling the girls. Here is a collection of the best ones that I could find. (yes - the last one is a little joke)
Again, I manage to get very close to predicting at the last moment what actually did happen. I did say "If France were to lose to Sweden 2-0" but England's win over the Ukraine ended up saving the French and putting out the second of the co-host nations.
Was it pretty? No. Would anybody not knowing a thing about football and not knowing who was playing watch the first twenty, maybe thirty minutes and think it is only a matter of time, there is only one team going to win this and that is the team wearing the blue kit. I could ask the same question but ask it to everybody else that does know a thing or two about the game and they would probably come to same conclusion.
England simply played too deep and let Ukraine have far too much possession of the ball for my liking. Similarly to the Swedes, why do respect teams with no more than good club level players in their team but not world beaters? Let's not forget where Ukraine are based in the world rankings right now either - they are down there for a reason.
I spoke to George after the game and asked him what he was doing on Sunday night (jokingly). Between us we can only think of one other time that England have met Italy in a major finals tournament. That happened back in 1980 in the Euro Finals held in Italy in a group game when Marco Tardelli scored the only goal of the game - but neither team made it to the final that year. A few years ago in our home town the potential of an Italy v England match is what the police dreaded the most. The town centre would have been a battlefield especially if the Italians had won. I say that for no other reason than Italians tend to watch their games at home and only then go out and celebrate if they win. English fans tend to watch the games in the town centre pubs. So if England were to win the Italians would just simply stay at home and drown their sorrows. However if the English lose and the Italians come out to party then we have a serious head on conflict looming.
Even though times have changed since the worst period of this which was back in the late 80's/early 90's, I am sure the police will still be making some sort of provisions for any possibility. It was so bad in 1990 that the police had to actually close the town centre down as riots erupted.
We had another Geoff Hurst/Frank Lampard moment in this game but this time against England. Granted - there was initially an offside that was not given but unless you were blind that ball was definitely over the line. To make matters worse of course we have our new extra officials whose only job is to give these decisions. So, the only time in the tournament it has happened so far has been in this match and all the official had to do was say that it was over the line before John Terry cleared it out again - but he failed - miserably - and England for once got away with it.
Maybe luck is turning throughout this tournament. Normally England would be out by now. Normally if they had of got through they would be playing a World of European Champion such as Spain. But neither has happened and with all due respect to Italy, it would take a brave man to wager a serious amount of money on the outcome of Sunday nights match - it is just too close to call. Strange as it seems, Spain probably will not enjoy the thought of having to play France instead of England and that one could still have an unpredictable outcome. For Italy and England now, they now know that the winners will "probably" meet the Germans in the semi-finals - never say never regarding Greece!