A satirical look at the highs and lows of this years European Championships.
It’s been clear from the very beginning that this European Championship would be one to remember. From the shock upsets in the tournament to the new found insight into the host countries; and to the individual moments of player brilliance to the expected occurrence of madness and controversy. It’s been a good’un. Here I’ll take a look at some of the highlights and lowlights of Euro 2012. Let’s begin.
A is for Andriy. The legendary Ukraine striker, worshipped by his Ukrainian fans prior to the Euro’s and now even more so, will never have to buy a drink in his home nation ever again. The striker in his mid thirties scored a match winning double in their opening game against Sweden. This was Svechenko’s tournament on home soil. Although Ukraine didn’t manage to progress from the group stages the tournament and indeed the Sweden match, proved a fitting way to end the ex-Chelsea player’s remarkable international career.
B is for Balotelli. What else? The City star, well known for his on the field and off the field antics had the potential to be one of the stars of the tournament. In the opening game he failed to live up to expectations however he soon proved his critics wrong winning the semi final against the Germans grabbing two goals, the second capable of causing major damage to anything in its way, luckily for Neuer it was fast enough for him to not react in time. As for anyone being stupid enough *cough* Croatia, to give Super Mario any kind of racist abuse, I’d keep looking over your shoulder...
C is for Countdown. The bizarre countdown prior to the beginning of each half was a strange one. Never seen before at a tournament, it allowed the fans to countdown to kick off before a huge rupture of cheers erupted around the stadium at the noise of the referee’s whistle. A strange but amusing addition to the Euro’s.
D is for Disappointment. Again? Afraid so. England’s performance at the Euro’s is a debateable one amongst the British public but the majority focussing on our failure to reach the Semi-final. Of course we weren’t going to win a penalty shoot out! Why did we get our hopes up? Sadly, that feeling of disappointment continues to haunt English fans in major tournaments.
E is for España. Spain were their usual selves: Quick, one-touch passing, creative movement around the pitch, keeping possession and waiting for the vital gap to provide the pass that leads to the inevitable goal. Since when has that been boring?! Apparently so, as some critics have prompted. The day England starts playing football like that... No let’s be honest nobody can play football like Spain can. Spain made history in the process becoming the first team to win two consecutive European Championships, and the first international football team to win three consecutive major tournaments (Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012). That is some achievement. Fully deserved winners of the tournament.
F is for Free Kicks. We saw plenty of them given around the edge of the box, 35 yards if we’re talking Ronaldo terms but how many of them actually went in? One. Pirlo’s curler against Croatia in Italy’s second game. A beauty it was indeed but that doesn’t do justice from the countless times fans held their breath as players approached the ball, only to see it hit the wall or go blazing over the bar.
G is for Goals. Original I know. 76 goals scored in total, 22 of them being headers the most in a European Championship Finals ever. Goal of the tournament is a tough one but for me Swedish Captain Zlatan Ibrahimović’s expertly executed volley against France was the best of the bunch. The technique involved (especially watching it back in slow motion) is quite magical.
H is for Hodgson. Could have been for Harry. I don’t think Hodgson can be to blame for England’s early exit; he did the best with what he had. Without key injuries who knows we may have gone a bit further? A few criticisms to be more adventurous with attacking players like Oxlade-Chamberlain being used more often perhaps. Preparations for the 2014 World Cup begin now.
I is for Ireland’s Fans. Honoured as the best fans at this year’s Euro’s the Irish supporters were something else. Although their players failed to deliver on the pitch the support they received from their noble fans was evident in all their matches as they sang "The Fields of Athenry" with pride despite their team being outclassed in all of their group matches.
J is for Jordi. Jordi Alba to be precise. The Spanish left back, a fairly new and unfamiliar name to Vincente Del Bosque’s squad has played a vital part in Spain’s success. The 23 year old displayed a number of impressive performances, often pressing forward using his pace to skim past defenders. If scoring a goal in the European Championship final wasn’t enough for the youngster, Barcelona have now signed him up for a reported £11 million. Not a bad summer aye?
K is for Kiev. Not the breaded chicken breast. The capital of Ukraine hosted the final in the impressive 65,400 capacity Olympic Stadium. An impressive sight which hosted a memorable night of football along with the best fireworks display a football tournament has ever seen?
L is for Llorente. Who you may ask? That guy who plays for Athletic Bilbao who happens to be a quality player that was expected to be one of the stars of the tournament. However when you don’t play a single minute of match play and spend your whole time watching from the subs bench it’s hard to impress. Bad luck Llorente.
M is for Midfielders. Midfielders being used as strikers that is. Del Bosque’s approach to field 6 midfielders created some anxiety amongst pundits but these critics were answered with numerous goals being scored by Alonso, Fabregas and Silva all getting on the scoresheet. Who needs Torres when you’ve got 6 of the best midfielders in the world? Playing Torres is just showing off.
N is for Netherlands. They just didn’t turn up at all. Finishing bottom of their group when they were one of the tournament favourites. Imagine the disappointment felt by England and German fans when we were both knocked out, times that by a hundred and you’ll understand how the entire Dutch population feels. Van Persie and Huntelaar never got anywhere close to their club form they had been displaying all season and as for Robben he might as well have not got on the plane.
O is for Ozil. The highly rated German midfielder proved to be very impressive in Germany’s run to the semi-final, scoring once from the penalty spot and providing three assists. A real talent to watch and one that Fergie could have done with throughout this year’s Premier League season.
P is for Pirlo. Andrea Pirlo at 35 years of age has still got it. Italy’s man of the tournament for me, as he showed other midfielders how to play the game, dictating the match with his accuracy in long balls, his pin-point crosses and free-kicks and the tireless work rate are attributes for upcoming midfielders to aspire to. As for that chipped penalty…
Q is for Qualification. Euro 2012 is the last European Championships to feature 16 teams following UEFA's decision to expand the tournament to 24 nations from 2016. A decision that in my opinion is great. More teams = more matches =more excitement.
R is for Ronaldo. The Portugese star had a difficult start to the tournament struggling to hit the target in his side’s opening game but soon got on the scoresheet in the next few games earning two man of the match awards against the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. When it comes to glory though, Ronaldo is still his usual attention seeking self. Opting to take the fifth penalty to claim glory but not even getting the chance to take one as Portugal were eliminated. He says the Coach asked him to take the fifth. I say rubbish.
S is for Shoot Out’s. Everyone loves a good penalty shoot out. Maybe not when you’re supporting England but as a neutral it provides great excitement. Pirlo’s penalty for me being the best of the lot. Ramos’ penalty of a similar nature was also brave, especially for a centre back. The two Ashley’s of the England squad will however want to forget that penalty shoot out.
T is for Thunderstorms. Have you ever seen anything like it? The match between Ukraine and France saw heavy thunderstorms delay kick off for almost an hour. Rain poured into the stadium and almost flooded the pitch as speculation mounted over whether the game was to continue. An image that made me laugh was the French fans swimming in the puddles of the stadium. True fans.
U is for Unbelievable ‘Tekkers’. Soccer AM fans will know what I mean by this and I think it’s fair to say we’ve seen our fair share of trickery throughout the tournament. Ronaldo exciting millions of fans with his quick feet and stepovers never gets boring to watch.
V is for Video Technology. Will Blatter and Platini ever learn? Of course there was going to be an incident of some kind. The one in Ukraine’s match against ourselves in which the ball went over the line and even though an official was standing just yards from the goal he still could not tell, proving that it is too difficult to judge by human eye. Something needs to be implemented before the next major tournament.
W is for Women. How many times during a match were we treated to a 5 second clip of an attractive young lady smiling and waving into the camera? Some cameramen obviously had a great time at the Euros.
X is for Xavi. There is only one Spanish midfielder who can pass. Well that’s a lie but this chap always seems to break records to do with his number of passes. Here’s just one of them: Against Portugal, Xavi overtook Zidane (843) as the player to have made most passes in the history of the European Championship (949).
Y is for Y-Fronts. Yes in a bizarre celebration of his goals against Portugal, Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner flashed his boxers to reveal the logo of betting company Paddy Power. Bendtner received a €100,000 fine and suspended him for one 2014 World Cup qualifying match. A bit over the top considering allegations of racism only received €50,000 fines.
Z is for Zlatan Ibrahimović. The big man up front for Sweden captained his national side to a well deserved win against France scoring a beauty of a volley. He also scored in their opening game against Ukraine however when it came to playing against England there was only one 6ft tall , long haired striker that stood out...Andy Carroll.
That’s the Euro 2012 tournament summed up in a nutshell.
Bring on the Brazil World Cup in 2014! Any comments/improvements greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading.