Monday, 25 June 2012

Were we really going to win anyway?

What's-a matter you? Hey! Gotta no respect. What-a you think you do? Why you look-a so sad? It's-a not so bad, it's a nice-a place. Ah, shaddapa you face.

The wise words of Joe Dolce there, and I think we can all learn something from that great, great man. Yes, it hurts. Yes, we’re still rubbish at penalties. But in truth, we played for this agony…and the ending shouldn’t surprise any of us. So shaddapa your face.

England didn’t have the players required to really harm Italy. Of course we tried. And unlike at the World Cup two years ago, no one can fault a lack of effort. Maybe a lack of ambition, but when England get too ambitious, really bad things tend to happen in clubs and pubs around the country, so we should be grateful that we chickened out.

England had little choice but to sit back and hope for a Chelsea-esque miracle. At least penalties would give us a (theoretical) 50-50 chance. In the end, we chose suicide over execution. 

"Ahhh crap"

But we never really had a chance did we? No, our big shot at European glory came eight years ago in Portugal, when an agonising penalty shootout loss to the hosts meant we crashed out at a time when the draw was really opening up for a talented side. So don’t look-a so sad. It’s-a not so bad.

I will also remember Euro 2004 due to Greece’s insistence on boring the continent to tears. That tournament may have provided some hope to England fans; anyone can win football tournaments with a little luck, a good manager and a Hellas (pardon the pun) of a lot of defending…it just didn’t work out this time.

Eight years ago was when we had the right to be sad, not now. Now we’re pretty mediocre. Hard working, but mediocre.

And it is that simple fact that we all have to come to terms with. Instead of waking up with a smile and slightly sore head, we all have to face the crushing reality of Monday morning with yet more tournament heartbreak at the back of our minds. 

Instead of glorious, witty Facebook statuses about England’s pragmatism triumphing over Italy’s over-rated, so-called technical superiority, a lot of us have had to come to terms with the fact that we were not lucky enough to be born into a country with sufficient footballing prowess.

We also have to deal with the fact that we know more people of Italian descent than we thought we did. Count how many of your mates have changed their name from Paul Smith to Paulo Seppi.

In fact, the people I most feel sorry for are the good people at Google. Their translate feature must have gone into overdrive at the amount of middle-class, suburban British kids working out just what “Forza Italia” means.

That said, if Google translate can survive the over-use I gave it in preparation for my Italian exam this spring, it can cope with anything.

I hope these expatriates can now focus all their attention on Thursday’s semi-final against Germany. Did we really want to play against Germany in a semi-final again?

When all is said and done, last night was essentially an opportunity to update your wall chart (if you’re quite sad), maybe get some fantasy football points (if you’re a bit sadder) and moan at your country's various Manchester United players (if you support Arsenal).

Other than that, it was a match played for the right to lose to the Germans. What an honour.

Don't think it would end well this time

But let’s just talk about penalties briefly. Like the 4-2-3-1 formation or eulogising over Mario Balotelli or the Messi v Ronaldo debate, the “the team that misses first usually wins” argument was in full force last night at Elder Towers.

It happened again, which begs the question, “why do England never win when they miss first?” The answer is simple, we’re not very good at them.

We’re a nation of worriers; you only have to see what Bird Flu or Tim Henman did to the countries collective blood pressure to know that keeping calm in a shootout isn’t our thing.

Another wise word of advice for those living in this fickle, fickle land, if you’re called Ashley, stay indoors for a bit.

As for the game, it was typical England. There was plenty of huff and puff and lots of admirable but fruitless teamwork, but an ultimate lack of skill, which proved to be the team’s undoing.

The comparison is simple. How much ground did Andrea Pirlo cover last night? How big an effect did he have on the game? Ask the same questions about Danny Welbeck and Steven Gerrard and the answer is why England won’t win a major tournament anytime soon.

Unless we pick David Dunn or Joey Barton…

In terms of Euro 2012, it’s 28 games later. Like in the famous zombie movie, I still feel a little infected, but not so much with rage, more with that familiar taste of disappointment and that taste of paracetamol after one hour too many staring at a TV screen.

Euro 2012 still grips me, but it is almost over, which is a real shame.

Last night was the first 0-0 of the tournament and the football has in general been fantastic. Except the Ukraine v Sweden game and anything involving Ireland, Greece and…England.

But us football fans still have work to do. Before the nation slips once again into a sporting coma as Wimbledon and the Olympics get ever nearer, Euro 2012 isn’t done just yet.

With three games to go, let’s see England’s exit as a sweet relief. Let’s enjoy this last week as much as we can without the pressure of worrying about our brave, but limited nation.

There are more important things than football at the end of the day. If nothing else, there’s a fantasy football league to be won.

1 comment:

  1. We can obviously counter this with the fact that English football is dying ever so slowly...

    The match yesterday was far from tense, it was dull and lifeless. Even dare I say it, the Greeks put up a more valiant display against the German Kicking Machine than the English. Italy were also not spectacular but they always pushed to attack even until the end of the second period of extra time. Now we can look at the game footage and say our defence was good, but it lacked vigour and purpose. Pilar was left to casually roam around midfield like he was playing in the park against babies who can't walk yet. He managed to single handedly stroll around our midfield like he was one of us.

    Even the 'dullest' race course on the calendar, (Valencia in case you were wondering), provided 2 hours of stunning entertainment with overtakes, people hitting each other, and a world champion or two getting annoyed and throwing things. Roy has some serious work to do if he thinks the squad as it is has any hope of winning anything!

    In the words of a great song that was written... "Why Henderson"