We’re three days and six games into the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine and its not going (as you’ve seen) exactly as I thought it might. I’m not a million miles off, but we’re still finding our feet. There’s still some things I think are worth mentioning.
There are some really nice kits on display this tournament. Italy’s blue is lovely – it looks like a real classic Azzurri colour – and the Irish two-toned green is also well designed. The front of the Greece shirt is nice – the cross matches the flag – but the back looks like it has been torn in half and sellotaped together. Oh, and Stipe Pletikosa’s shirt looked – maybe because of the rain – to have a big circle around his HNS badge; the ugliest shirt front I’ve seen so far.
There has been a real movement it seems, too, towards good quality naming and numbering on the shirts. Not just the Irish (hurrah!) who fielded 1-11 against Croatia, but the legibility of all teams except the Czechs and the Italians (so far).
Already, there’s talk of whether some teams were over-hyped (Poland, Germany, Holland) or some under-rated (Russia, Italy). In case you hadn’t realised. It is far too early to tell. Every game has, to some extent or other, been worth watching so far. I don’t think any have matched the length of drama of the first game yet, but Italy 1-1 Spain was a very good watch, particularly second half.
Ireland 1-3 Croatia faded pretty badly in the second half as all impetus was lost, but Ireland were seen as potential whipping boys, and they were probably a little better than the result suggests. It has probably backfired in some ways on UEFA. The games have been good because the teams have been of similar ability – Russia may have overpowered the Czechs, but it was only two late goals that made it look so lop-sided. Add an extra eight teams (one can assume they will be of less ability) and that parity will be broken, and there will be more imbalance, particularly in the group stages – which makes games far less watchable. Spain 4-0 Latvia might not be a difficult sell across Europe, but Sweden 2-0 Latvia would be.
So far, the goals have been functional (albeit well taken) finishes. There’s been nothing to leave one’s mouth agape – probably
Pavlyuchenko’s was the best so far – but that indicates, at least, that the ball isn’t being disobedient the way they are often claimed to be. Even when goalkeepers are out-witted, as Shay Given was, perhaps twice, yesterday, we can see the reasons for his
wrong-footedness being sight of the ball or expectation. It has been nice that goalkeepers haven’t (yet) come in for too much stick early in the tournament.
Favourites – Days 1-3
Favourite Game – I don’t think anything has touched Poland 1-1 Greece yet. The Greeks went from looking utterly clueless and bereft of hope with 11 men to threatening and comfortable with 10. They could, and probably should, have shaded it. My ΕΛΛΑΣ badge is on order; I hope it arrives in time to wear for two games.
Favourite Goal – Antonio di Natale’s finish for Italy against Spain was sublime. I’d been building Pirlo up for a while, so to see his ball put him through, and the way di Natale opened up to tuck it away gave Casillas (who had a very good game) no chance at all, was lovely. The best football of the tournament so far, in my opinion. Favourite Player – My phone wallpaper at the moment is Salpingidis, (Σαλπιγγίδης for you Hellenics₁) and he deserves that, but I think its another man from Group A who has stolen a march on everyone for the time being; Alan Dzagoev. He won me some money, too, which is always good.
Favourite Moment – Buffon, taking the ball off Torres, yesterday. He looked gangly, ungainly and like he didn’t know exactly what he was doing, but that was enough to outfox Torres.
Best Bet – the 7/4 I got on Jelavic scoring any time seemed like it was too good to be true; it turned out not to be.
Worst Bet – I thought, playing at sweeper, Daniele de Rossi was a certainty to get a yellow card (1/1) – I generally think he is in midfield, to be honest, but he was impeccable yesterday. Made me look silly.
₁I find it frustrating at the moment that Greek and Cyrillic names are represented in Roman script. I understand it but, particularly in a Cyrillic country, it would be nice to see the native writing system. It’s a small point, but its something I’ve felt a few times so far.