The Highlights So Far:
- Incredible "tickling of de ballz" by Herr Low
- Just the most concerted on field and off field effort by any team ever, to get ejected from a tournament. Well played Russia.... can't wait for that world cup thingy you have in a couple of years
- The 'let's put Harry Kane on set pieces' experiment
- No team yet, really stamping their mark on the tournament - this thing looks wide open
- A ridiculous portion of goals being scored in the last 5 mins or so. Has me thinking I'm watching an NBA game.
- Wonderful, consistent support from the Irish, both north and south
- Consistent loons attaching themselves to England
- England flattering to deceive (more of that later)
Yeah I know what you're thinking. All a bit easier to lay out some predictions as we're deep into group matches. But thankfully, I already put my money down before the tournament, so here's the run down:
The Good: Spain to win the tournament (5/1)
The oh my goodness Good: Spain to win, Morata to be top goalscorer (66/1)
The pessimistic England fan bet Good: Wales to make the semi finals (11/1)
The Bad: Thomas Muller to be top goal scorer.....
The potentially Ugly: France to win, Muller to be top goalscorer
So in summary, it's all going very well so far, apart from the fact Germany forgot to pack a goal-scoring threat in their suitcases so far. Maybe redemption is only a blow out trouncing of N. Ireland away... I'm trying not get carried away with Spain just yet, but Turkey made them look very impressive, and they have just as few faults in their team as the other main contenders...
I have to say, we've played some decent stuff. Now, coming off my third season of watching Roberto Martinez football, it turns out that for this to be effective as well as nice to watch, you need to score goals, and not concede any....otherwise you slip into a mid-table abyss of underachievement (sorry Birchy, I know this pales in comparison to your travails this season). And herein, so far, lies the problem:
- While we've kept it relatively tight against teams with zero attacking ambition, the trio of Smalling, Cahill & Hart just scream calamity about to happen. It almost happened today vs Slovakia, and you can mark Hart's attempt at saving Bale's free kick in that category also. Not at fault for the Russia goal, but you do feel that a more organized backline would have dealt better with that late cross.
- Roy has packed his squad with strikers. And it shows. We just look unbalanced and lack width - a real draw back against teams that sit back and defend (ie, all our opponents so far). In his defence, I don't think I can claim he left a world beater at home - I think it's just a dearth of talent in key areas, which results in square pegs in round holes.
- Jordan Henderson is not even a square peg.
- It's not all bad. The full backs have played well, and I think Rooney in his deeper role has been relatively successful, although he tried too hard today. I still like Jamie Vardy in the team - he just gives you that something different and constant goal threat. You know 9 times out of 10 he would put those chances away that he had today, and against teams that actually attack, he will be a big threat.
- Eric Dier. Mysteriously, he was temporarily on the books at Everton. Well played there lads...looks a great coaching call to let him move on. Hands down, the best player & a great free kick to boot. Dare I say, while it's not sexy, he could be in the running for player of the tournament so far.
The Americana Experience:
So, things are going fine this side of the Atlantic, all of the games are being televised on ESPN, with some notable highlights:
- So far, it appears Alexi Lalas' contract has not been renewed. I'm sure he will appear at some point, but so far, so good.
- An amusing chuckle each time expert panelist "Premier league manager for the last 7 years, Roberto Martinez..." is introduced. A subtle dance around the current employment status of the poor man.
- The time difference just is terrible. Games during the week are kicking off at 9am, 12pm and 3pm. At least the concentration of late goals has meant the well-timed casual jaunt to the common area for caffeine boost has included some cracking goal highlights. Beyond annoying that England's 2nd place finish now means a game on a Monday, vs a Saturday...
- It's wall to wall football. You may not be aware, but the Copa America is also being played right now. This means that the daytime Euro action is being supplemented by evenings of Chile vs Argentina and Peru vs Brazil.... ok, the latter doesn't sound great, but Peru actually knocked Brazil out! The US and Mexico are included in this version (it's really a corrupt, money making effort to "celebrate" the South American tournament's 100 year history). It may seem a cynical view, but the FIFA / Concacaf folk behind the tournament being organized are now spending most of their time with lawyers, and the tournament is being held in the U.S., a country with nothing to do with the competition... That said, the footie is good. Chile spanked Mexico 7-0 the other day, and the locals are getting excited as the U.S. has gradually improved through the tournament to make the semi finals (where inevitable failure against Argentina awaits)
So, that's me caught up I think. I can now leave and return to my darkened room and try to figure out the random number generator that is UEFA's third place team qualification rules, and try to work out how I explain the concept to my American work colleagues who are still asking why the group games are not going to extra time....