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Euro 2008

June 28, 2008

It’s the final of Euro 2008 on Sunday, so here are my thoughts. It’s been a good tournament. We’ve seen lots of very good sides, although so far no really great ones. Every side looks beatable. I enjoyed how rubbish and unlucky the French were. If England had qualified, they’d have just gotten through the group stages and then have been horribly outpassed in the quarter finals and lost. I could write a long book on everything that’s wrong with the England team, but I’ll leave that for another day.

The punditry has been mostly woeful. Germany are efficient but unimaginative. The Dutch play with such joy. The Turks are full of passion. Never mind the fact that Germany aren’t particularly efficient, the Dutch play with no more joy than anyone else and the Turks reached the semis not become they are passionate but because they play good football.

I shall probably be rooting for Spain in the final. My sister has lived in Germany for 12 years, is married to a German and I have three German nephews and nieces, but I can’t quite bring myself to support Germany. I quite like Spain and know that even if they win, I still won’t find them threatening to my football Status Quo, so that’s as good a reason as any to want them to triumph.

One of the frustrations of watching the BBC/ITV coverage is that the pundits focus on the Premiership players and overhype them. So Ballack is consistently called Germany’s best player despite the fact that Lahm, Podolski and Schweinsteiger have all played better than him so far. Similarly, Fernando Torres is hyped up as Spain’s best striker despite the fact that he’s only scored one goal so far and against Russia appeared to have left his shooting boots somewhere in Merseyside. When Guiza came on for Torres in the last game and immediately scored, the commentators were at great pains to emphasise that he’s only scored because Torres had already stretched the Russian defence. Nonsense. Much as it pains me to admit it as a Spurs fan, but Fabregas has been terrific. He’s the very antithesis of an England player, in that he just gets on with his job as a team player, passing the ball around and creating chances for other players, all the while not complaining about the fact that he hasn’t started any of the games. If there is a star system in the Spanish side, no-one seems to have told Aragones about it. He doesn’t really seem to care what club the players play for, or how much they are paid or whether the press rate them or not – he just picks the best team.    

It’s almost impossible to pick a winner because the tournament has been so topsy turvy. What always amuses me about football is that you can be a respected pundit with 40 years experience in the game, paid thousands to give your expertise about football, and yet your chances of predicting a winner are not really any better than the man in the street’s.

The German’s suffer because their central midfield is not very creative and their two central defenders are about as speedy as rocks. They always look dangerous on the wings and from set-pieces. They have a comedian for a goalkeeper. Spain aren’t as dynamic as the Germans, prefering to pass the ball through the middle of the park. As displayed in the goalless draw against the Italians, they don’t really seem to have a Plan B, so if the midfield is stifled they struggle to score. Their central defenders are top drawer, but a bit on the short side so they may suffer in the air.

I think Spain will win by two goals. I will probably be wrong.

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