Roll Up, Roll Up For The England Circus
by, 11-06-2012 at 07:28 (1172 Views)
Yes, yes I know, weeks without a blog and such, I'm sorry!
With madness taking place on all fronts, exams at uni, chaos at work and so on I must admit I found my energy for what has been the most idle of Arsenal transfer speculation rather drained. I last posted the day after our last game of the season and predictably enough, nothing has happened from an Arsenal point of view yet.
However, Euro 2012 has kicked off and it's a strange time for me as a football fan because I normally spend the year round slating international football, but this is where it does get very interesting indeed. The Euros are always a very entertaining and enjoyable spectacle. This particular one seems to be in the shadow of potential (and in at least one ugly incident so far, very actual) racism from the stands and I only hope that this is something that the governing body UEFA sees fit to take seriously this time.
UEFA as we all know, aren't exactly the most enlightened organisation in the world. Like the world governing body, FIFA, UEFA only tend to respond to things which affect how much money they can make. However that doesn't mean racism won't be on their agenda, after all, all those precious sponsors and TV companies won't want their logos and broadcasts all over scenes of racial abuse. I do hope that UEFA are serious about referees abandoning games in cases where unacceptable racial abuse takes place, because as much as it would be a deplorable sight, it would be exactly what the sport needs to motivate itself to eradicate this disgusting phenomenon. Of course, UEFA could look very seriously at its own decision to award Poland and the Ukraine this prestigious tournament in the light of the problems that they have in their football stadiums, but I'm sure they rest easy in the knowledge that they undoubtedly made themselves lots of money by doing so.
That important issue aside though, so far it's been a thoroughly enjoyable tournament. The analogy that suits is one that I've learned from work - in horse racing the Grand National, like the World Cup, is the big spectacle. It's the one everyone has a bet on and it's the most famous race in the country by some distance. However, if you're into your horse racing then you know that the National isn't (so much) about quality racing, that gets reserved for the likes of the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby. That's what the Euros are like. The World Cup might be the ultimate prize, but the Euros have concentrated quality which makes almost every game fascinating.
Poland and Greece, against all expectations produced a tremendously entertaining opening match, whilst Russia produced an impressive display to beat the Czech Republic on the opening day. I note with some amusement that I'm yet to see a really good performance from any of the Arsenal players involved in the tournament. It always seems to be the case at international tournaments that somebody who has enjoyed a great season with their club has an absolute stinker when it comes to the tournament. So far, Wojciech Szczesny is that man, having been a standout performer for us in goal this season, his display against Greece might generously be described as risible, capped off by handing Greece their equaliser and getting himself sent off when he conceded a penalty.
New boy Lukas Podolski looked an intelligent player in what I saw of Germany's encounter with Portugal, although at one point he seemed to do an uncanny Andrei Arshavin impression when a ball was cut back to him in the penalty area and he sent it rocketing into the orbit of Jupiter. Nonetheless, he looked like a useful cog in what looks like a very impressive German machine. Robin Van Persie missed a couple of chances for Holland that he would have despatched with no trouble at all a couple of months ago, the toll of a long season perhaps telling on him a bit there.
I must confess I've yet to see highlights of yesterday's games though I'm unsurprised to see that Spain have had, by their own standards, a slow start. I'm not at all convinced that the favourites will be retaining their title this year, and the Italians are always tough to beat. Ireland face an uphill struggle having gone down to defeat to what sounds like a well organised Croatia team that I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see upset one of the favourites in that group to qualify.
So that brings us to today's games and first up France face the travelling circus that is England. Long time readers will know that my allegiance to England is... somewhat sketchy at the best of times but I'd like to try and look at their chances objectively. And objectively, I think they're going to get soundly beaten this evening. Their performances in the pre-tournament friendlies indicates that they will be playing a defence based game reliant on good organisation and discipline. Now I like Roy Hodgson as a manager, and those are the right tactics for an England team which is lacking in top class quality, especially facing a side with France's ability but one of England's major problems is that often the players just don't do what their told (one of former manager Fabio Capello's long standing problems with them), and I really doubt that they have the discipline to stick to the task Roy Hodgson will set for them tonight.
That said, France's defence doesn't look too inspiring (I'm going from the BBC's estimation of what their lineup is likely to be, and amazingly there looks to be no place for Laurent Koscielny) and they could be caught with a goal on the counter most certainly. However, I do think the attacking prowess of Ribery, Benzema and the Chinless Wonder (I said wonder!) might well be too much for England to handle. I've been thinking prediction-wise something along the lines of 2-0 or 3-0 to France, but I wouldn't rule an England goal out completely.
The other game this evening sees Sweden face co-host nation the Ukraine in what should be an entertaining encounter. With either or both France and England dropping points in the early game it's a chance for one side to stake their claim for qualification. You always know what you're getting from the Swedes, a solid display with the threat of Ibrahimovic up top whilst the Ukraine will be spurred on by what I'm sure will be some very impressive home support (and the racist minority aside, it is worth saying that there's nobody like East European fans for creating a truly imposing atmosphere at home, or indeed even away from home, as we know from Arsenal's Champions League endeavours).
So, here's to another great day of football, enjoy and I'll return soon.