Monday, 25 June 2012

Euro 2012 is boring - official

Euro 2012 has been a terrible competition, of uncompetitive matches, limited ambitions from teams and poor quality on the pitch. Below are 8 reasons why and none of them are because England went out tamely. Let's face it, England contributed very little to the tournament, but then they weren't alone in that.

1) All four semi-finalists came from two groups. The two groups without the host countries. When you seed the host and they are a weak team, you crowd all the decent teams in other groups, because at least two of them should have been seeds. England & the Czechs won their groups, but any of the four teams in Germany's group would have beaten wither of those two, and everyone but Ireland from Spain's group also would have won those groups had they been in them.

2) Who are the top 5 teams in Europe? The 4 who made the semi-finals plus maybe Holland. So the semis are entirely predictable. No shocks in this competition, no surprise packages. And incidentally, no emerging players to take our breath away like Gascoigne in Italia90. Partly because of the Champions League, PS3 football games, transfer gossip and wall to wall forums and fantasy football, everyone knows the names of every player in every team before a ball is kicked. The only player who caught my eye I'd never heard of was a Czech left-back and he was done for Ronaldo's goal that knocked his country out.

3) The quality of strikers in this tournament was appalling. Spain didn't even bother fielding one. France only had 2 in their entire squad. England had two kids, neither of whom nailed down a regular starting place with their clubs. Portugal, Ukraine and the Czechs had strikers who were playing 10 years ago, have they produced no one since? Postiga isn't even expected to score goals for Portugal. He's just there to occupy a defender or two to leave space for Ronaldo. Ibrahimovic graced us for about 10 minutes each game. Why? Because the Swedes had no one to pressure him for his place. The lone exceptions to this were Croatia's pair of Jelavic and Manzukic, the Italians going with a bit of unpredictable flair in Balotelli and Cassano and of course the remorseless Germans. The standard of finishing in the tournament was shocking. Are the only decent strikers in the world from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay? Yes, probably in truth.

4) There were so few world class defenders on show in this tournament, but teams progressed by playing defensively en masse by having their midfield prioritise defence over attack. I blame Chelsea, who beat superior footballing teams in Barca and Bayern by parking the bus. All four quarter finals were defence versus attack, as the 4 teams who ended up losing, all just tried to keep the opposition at bay and showed zero ambition to try and grab the game by the neck and impose themselves on the opposition. They were all beaten before they stepped on the pitch with such a mindset. If a team has no expectations of winning the thing and they make the knockout stages, why not go for it? How lamely did France go out of the competition?

5) Key to the above, is having a world class or pair of decent midfield holding players. That means a player who can break play up, but also one who can start the drive forward by incisive passing. Someone like Makelele or Gattuso. Scott Parker can't pass a ball accurately over 10 yards. I've never seen a tournament where the ball was given away so often by all teams and not just England. And why England blunted themselves by taking their best long-range passer since Beckham and putting him intp the midfield dogfight to rat around with Parker is beyond me. You don't need two holding players, as Germany's fluid midfield shows. they all pitch in with that team.

6) As do the Spanish. If Spain win this thing, it won't be because of their attacking creativity, nor even their passing game. It will because they are far and away the best team at closing down the opposition and stealing the ball back. But when they get it, they play a really slow tip-tap passing game that makes little forward progress. They are Barca, but they lack Messi to drive forward. Can't fault their work rate and commitment, but boy do they stifle the life out of any game.

7) There have been no good games. There I've said it. There have been maybe 2 good halves of football. The second half of Portugal and Denmark improbably became an exciting to and for as Portugal had to win to stay alive and ended up 3-2. The German-Holland first half was good, but the game strangely died a death after Holland dragged it back to 2-1. The Germans have consistently played decent football and of all the teams, though it pains me to say it, I exempt them from the general criticism.

8) EUFA are saying they're going to expand the tournament from 16 to 24 teams? Madness! There aren't 8 good teams to make a tournament let alone 24. Who were we missing from this tournament? The young Belgian team are emerging. Turkey are usually entertaining though not always for the right reasons. Past entertainers Romania and Bulgaria have lost their glory days. Who are we going to get excited at seeing in four years time - Norway and Serbia?

The lone thing I've appreciated about the tournament was the way referees have let a lot go which has cut down the diving because they're giving nothing. zMind you how the officials behind the goal miss Ukraine's goal against England and all the shirt pulling and fouling at corners makes me wonder why they're there. But for me to take as the only positive the refereeing shows how awful a tournament it has been.

Hey the two semi-finals and final may well be crackers of games. But I doubt it. When has any World Cup or Euro Final been anything but a slog to watch? Like this whole competition so far

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