A blog by Patrick Crozier

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June 28, 2004

Musings on Euro 2004

Is international football becoming a young man's game (so to speak)?

Look who the stars have been: Rooney, Ronaldo, that bloke from Switzerland who swiped Rooney's youngest scorer record. Look who's underperformed: Beckham, Figo, Owen. OK, maybe at 24 Owen is not that old but, still, he was better at 18.

I hate England fans

Well, not myself, of course, (that would be self-loathing) but are there any other bunch of fans who so routinely chant: "if it wasn't for the English you'd be Krauts." or boo other people's national anthems? I cringe at things like this. And if we are such a bunch of bores how come we are so economically successful?

What is to be done?

I think if I were an England player I would play for the opposition, or refuse to play at all. But I'm not in that position. Support someone else? I have thought of founding the English Germany Supporters Association - just to make the point. Though that would be hard - especially if the two teams just so happened to meet. And, anyway, isn't that tarring a lot of people with the same brush? For every moronic England fan there's the perfectly decent, respecter of other cultures, good egg who just happens to be rather quiet about it all.

How to experience penalty shoot outs.

First of all, accept that this has nothing to do with football.

Turn off the TV

Get your coat

Go for a walk

Listen in. That night (on a quiet residential street) I heard: "Fucking hell Beckham". I heard one or two cheers and then silence. No one was coming out on to the street to celebrate. This didn't look good. But I did hear some loud cheering from one household - the one with the Portuguese flag in the window. And then cars started to drive by. No great cheering there either. By then I knew we'd lost.

Don't blame the ref

On the train the other night a perfectly ordinary ie sober chap started up a conversation with me about the game. "Bloody ref" or something.

I don't know how many people were watching the Denmark-Czechland game. Urs Meier (the referee for England) was the fourth official. And every time he did anything (which for a fourth official isn't much) he got booed. Work that one out.

Frankly, if you can't accept that referees make mistakes (and I have no great opinion here) then you have no business playing, participating in or even watching the sport.

And anyway, I think Portugal also had a pretty good shout for a goal. When Ashley Cole (I think) kicked the ball off the line... well, let's put it this way: I don't think it was any longer on the line.

Looking on the bright side

We are the only team to have made it to the quarter finals of both Euro 2004 and the most recent World Cup.

And the boys did get back into the game. Lampard's goal was one of the greatest ever. They were knackered. In Rooney, they had lost their best player. They had been defending non-stop for 110 minutes. They had seen their game plan (of defending a 1-0 lead) crumble as the Portuguese reversed the deficit. And yet, they still created the chance and Lampard had the presence of mind to coolly control the ball prior to putting it in the back of the net. It is a fantastic testament to the sheer grit of that team.

They managed to put away four out of five penalties.

Looking on the gloomy side

That was our best chance. Beckham, Owen, Gerrard, Rooney, Campbell, Neville, Cole. Great players. Some of whom are starting to age. And we had Eriksson who has worked wonders. If not this year then never. Or, maybe, I'm just getting old.

The England mystery

Some of the less emotional observers are spinning this line:

England lost because they were tired.

They were tired because they spent the whole time defending

They spent the whole time defending because they couldn't keep hold of the ball.

Ergo (though no-one ever says this) if they learn to hold the ball they'll start to win things.

(Incidentally, I do have some sympathy with the players. During the Portugal game, whenever and England player did get the ball, I did find myself asking what I would have done with it. The answer was almost invariably hoof it up the pitch - there was no other alternative.)

Question: can they hold the ball? They don't seem to be able to. This has been the exact same problem again and again for England - especially in recent years. But that's just when wearing an England shirt. Can they hold the ball when playing for their clubs? I don't know. If the answer's "no" there then we've got no chance. In which case...

Why worry?

If England can't win under any circumstances isn't this a rather good thing? Instead of sending teams to international tournaments weighed down with a nation's expectations, instead we can send teams whose only ambition is to enjoy themselves. And perhaps, we would then stand a better chance. Jack Charlton used to tell his Irish team to go out there and enjoy themselves. And look at the results he achieved. Maybe, this could be a sneaky way of actually winning something a la Denmark in 1992. Or perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself there.

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Comments

I tend to think that yes, they were tired. And they were tired because they have all been playing two games of football a week every week since last August. And this is true of all the players in every other team as well, so it doesn't explain anything.

Posted by Michael Jennings on June 28, 2004