Thursday, 30 June 2016

Down and out

As I left things a few days ago, I was just watching Germany sparking to life with a dominant performance vs Slovakia to reach the Quarter-Finals. Then as expected, Belgium tore into Hungary and booked their own spot.

And so the following day England did there thing against Iceland. I was a picture of confidence, if not arrogance. I shook hands with a colleague, who I thought had stupidly bet me a tenner that Iceland would win. Easy money I thought. Even when we were losing 2-1, I confidently said to the missus that "It's fine. We're the better team, playing better football. We. Will. Win". And then it unravelled.

Where Germany engage their game-face and knuckle down into tournaments, England, irrespective of the exact personnel involved seem to collectively shit themselves. It was such a spectacular self-befouling from all angles:

  • From the studio, where Peter Crouch seemed to be having a live, pre-match breakdown about how England just couldn't cope and never achieved;
  • In the commentary box, where Hoddle seemed to be having another faith-healer moment, gibbering panicky phrase after panicky phrase before contradicting himself and panicking once more 
  • On then bench, where Hodgson seemed to have some sort of mental cataclysm that made him think Wilshire was the answer to the need for "more urgency and pace" (I have never seen a footballer swan about so much and look so slow - and this from a Villa fan who has seen the likes of Kevin Richardson, a 38-year old Robert Pires and Mattieu Berson littering our midfield)
  • On the pitch where Kane thought he was taking conversions, where Sterling thought that crossing a ball was a red card offence and where Hart thought that slathering his gloves with lubricant was a fine idea. What a shambles.
But we soldier on. As I say on all of the major competition blogs, I always enjoy the tournament more once England are out. I do fervently support us; but it just seems easier to relax and enjoy the football. For what it is worth, I think the usual debrief and talk of root and branch reform is tosh. We played well this tournament, better than I can ever remember us playing (save for '96 perhaps) - but we had a bad game and got caught out by a team with real hunger.

Before the England carnage, Italy reminded us of how a team can be more than the sum of its parts - putting in a fabulous display vs Spain and knocking them out.

Tonight I am expecting Ronaldo to help book Portugal's semi final place against Belgium, and playing himself yet further into form. I even think he might strike a free-kick on target...just a hunch.

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