Sunday, 1 July 2012

Euro 2012: My thoughts

Spain 4 Italy 0

Who saw this score line before tonight's final?

Not only are Spain the best team in Europe and the World, they're one of the game's all time greats. Hard to believe they were once the great underachievers of world football.

In my time of watching football, I don't think I've seen a team so far ahead of the rest of the opposition.

It's not often if ever you feel sorry for Italy but they just came up against a far superior team - there was nothing they could do.

A truly exceptional performance from Spain.

With Euro 2012 ending tonight I thought I'd look back on the tournament. Here are some of my main thoughts.


Less is more when it comes to quality


Why do UEFA insist on ruining the Euros by increasing the number of teams from 16 to 24?

When it comes to quality and standard of football, the Euros are so much better than the bloated World Cup. It's because you only have 16 teams, which is the perfect number for the tournament.

First round: Germany/Holland, Spain/Italy, England/France. In the World Cup you have to wait until the Quarter finals to get such match ups.

In the Euros, there's no messing about, you get heavyweight clashes from the off.



How we learned to love Germany and Italy


Italy and Germany are the two most successful teams in European international football. Have they always been respected? Yes, without a doubt. Have they ever been loved? Rarely until now.

Germany over the last 6 years have reinvented themselves. We always grudgingly admired their ability to grind their way to tournament finals and they've always had better players then some people have wanted to admit - but now we enjoy watching Germany.

Their play is entertaining, the team is young, vibrant, multi-ethnic they defy all our preconceptions of what Germany and Germans are all about. The victory against Greece was my favourite performance.

Italy


As for Italy, I was really rooting for them in tonight's Final. Italy like Germany have always ground their way through tournaments, playing their usual brand of conservative and introverted football.

In most tournaments, Italy always play about 20 minutes of beautiful football before reverting back to their shell.

It's something that's always baffled me about Italian football. They've produced some amazing players over the years, but always play with the handbrake on.

Not this Italy team. In terms of individuals, this isn't the greatest Italian team, but I've warmed to them.

They still have some very good players, and true fans of European football have known about the ability of Andrea Pirlo for years. I'm pleased to see him get the recognition he deserves.

They have possibly the world's best keeper in Gigi Bufffon, and upfront you have what on paper is the nightmare combination of Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli.

Cassano was the original bad boy or Italian football, but it's been an amazing story how he's battled back from heart surgery earlier in the season to play such an important role for Italy.

As for Balotelli, before the England game I listened to former England manager, Graham Taylor say he was unconvinced that he could be trusted in the biggest games.

His two goals against Germany show that perhaps he's now truly arrived as as serious international player of real quality. Also two great celebrations.



Perhaps Spain aren't quite so boring


It's a bit difficult to argue that Spain are boring following their 4-0 victory against Italy.

There have been games which if we're being honest haven't been the most entertaining to watch, but tonight's game the real Spain turned up.

I was pleased when Spain won Euro 2008, winning the World Cup in 2010 cemented their place as one of the all time greats - but we've seen a bit of a backlash in the last few weeks.

Excluding tonight's result, I haven't enjoyed watching all of Spain's matches. They've been dull to watch. A theory I heard and which I agree with, is that Spain's possession football is all about control. They control so much of the game that it kills their matches as a spectacle.

It's not their fault they're so far ahead of the rest of the opposition. For all their technical brilliance they often don't set the pulses racing. There's few WOW moments with Spain.

They grind their opponents to death with their beautiful passing which doesn't always create inspiring football to watch.

Don't worry - you can't say that about tonight's performance.

There are moments in sport where you know you're watching one of the all time greats. When it comes to football we're lucky to have this Spanish team.



More of the same from England


I didn't get excited by England's performances in Euro 2012 and I didn't get disappointed. My feelings were one of indifference.

It might have been in the second half during the Italy game or perhaps extra time, but as I watched the Italians dominate possession, I thought about what I was watching.

I realised I could have been watching any England performance from the last 20 years. Euro 92, France 98, Euro 2000, Germany 2006. It all just looked the same. The same inability to hold onto possession and pass the ball.

It was ridiculous how the Italy game went to penalties, and it would have been embarrassing if we went through. Nothing ever changes with England.

After Euro 2000 where Germany had a shocking tournament, they went away and had a hard long look at their football and how young players were being coached. They made changes and look at them now.

In England we never seem to learn. We never make changes and this is why I've become bored and indifferent to the team.

We're a Quarter final team, ranked somewhere between 7 - 12 in the World, but when we come up against the very best we come up short. This will continue until something radical changes.



The Premier League isn't all that


With England showing their usual failings, it reminded me that for all the hype, popularity and quality of the Premier League, it has absolutely no affect on England's ability to compete with the very best.

We curate the best league in the world, bringing together the world's best football talent, but I'd rather give some of that up, if it meant we had a more successful national team.

Look at Italy. Italian football is rotten to the core and quite unfashionable, but Italian football has a deep and solid football culture and identity which makes Italy always competitive. We don't have this in England.

So many players particularly English stars are hyped beyond belief, but we've seen top quality players in the Euros who aren't household names who have more tactical know how and technique then many of our hyped Premier League players.

Where are the English equivalents of Luka Modric, David Silva, Xabi Alonso or Andrea Pirlo? There aren't any - we import these players into our league.

Great for the Premier League but ultimately of no use to England.



Most impressive performance


It has to be Spain's performance in the final. Confirmation of their greatness.



Biggest Disappointment


Has to be the Dutch, I thought they might make the final. More stories of infighting they never really turned up.

After them it should be the French who are now the new Dutch, infighting and underachievement sums them up.



Best Match


Italy/Germany Probably, but the Germany/Greece game was pretty good as well.



Best player


Not very original but I'll go with Pirlo. He's been a class player for years, and his performances against England and Germany mean he's my best player.



Best goal


Balotelli's second against Germany, a brilliant strike and celebration. Loved the way he eventually broke out into a smile as his teammates hugged him.



Let me know your thoughts on the finals. Are Spain the greatest team in history? Are they better than the Brazil team of 1970? How can any other teams compete with them in the next few years?

So many questions - but for now lets acknowledge the brilliance of Spain.

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