A hat-trick of zero comment posts makes Mr President wonder if you lot would even notice if today’s post was written in Klingon. Of course the only problem with that is Mr President doesn’t actually know any Klingon, so you’ll be spared that. Still, he’s more than a little disappointed at the lack of participation in the Friday the 13th audience-participation post. Last time he tries that then…
Anyway, much to the surprise of Mr President he’s yet to really “get into” the European Championships this year. This is in part due to the Test match cricket overlapping with the start of the tournament, perhaps, but he can’t help but wonder if it actually owes more to do with the fact England aren’t there. Which is surprising really because Mr President isn’t even an England fan. Something certainly appears to be missing.
There’s a certain atmosphere everywhere you go whenever England are in a tournament like this, with misguided fans believing that this could be their chance to win another major trophy. Of course the fact the England team is lousy and that most fans overrate the players (Lampard, for example, is anything but “world class”) doesn’t seem to register with these people. Yet without that furore the tournament feels a little flat.
Still, one group in particular has provided some absolutely cracking games, two of the only ones Mr President has actually watched intently. Both results were somewhat surprising really, with Holland not only beating both World Cup finalists, but doing so very comfortably. A lot of people are getting excited by this and suddenly tipping the Dutch to win the tournament but Mr President warns against falling into this trap.
Anyone who knows anything about football knows that one thing the Netherlands have always been good at is playing attractive football without actually producing the goods and delivering trophies. They’ve arguably been the most technically proficient nation in Europe over the last 30 years, producing players of the ilk of Cruyff , Van Basten and Bergkamp, and yet they have little to show for it. Like Spain they’re an enigma.
The Spanish too have started well and could be dark horses with Villa and Torres upfront, especially if they actually start Fabregas in the midfield. Perhaps this is a little biased but the Arsenal man scored one and made one when he came on as a substitute in their 4-1 victory over Russia. The assist was a thing of beauty too, arguably the pass of the tournament so far. Yet you can’t help but wonder if they’ll “do a Spain”.
Portugal, for example, have always been nearly men of Europe, even with the “Golden Generation” of Rui Costa and Figo, and yet despite reaching the final four years ago, in their own country, and being coached by a man of Phil Scolari’s pedigree, they still managed to lose to the Greek underdogs. Will the new Golden Generation, spearheaded by Ronaldo, Deco and Simao put that right or choke once more?
The Greek performance four years ago will give great confidence to the underdog sides, and two in particular may just fancy their chances. England’s conquerers Croatia have already qualified for the next stage having won two out of two, and despite not looking particularly fluent against the Austrians, they decisively beat the pre-tournament favourites Germany. They have the togetherness and talent to be a real force.
Yet probably the most impressive performers have been the Romanians, who finished above the Dutch in qualifying for the tournament and have managed two draws against the World Cup finalists. They were perhaps unlucky not to beat the winners, in fact, with Mutu missing a penalty. If they beat the Netherlands in their last game, they’ll go through regardless. They’ve got every chance too, with their performances in qualification and the possibility Holland, having qualified, may rest players.
In fact might the Dutch throw that game to ensure Italy and France are out?