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The reign of Spain continues in Ukraine

So that’s it – the end of another tournament and Spain are the worthy winners, beating Italy 4-0 to enter the record books as the only team to win 3 consecutive major international competitions, Euro2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro2012 – quite an achievement for a team often described throughout this competition as “boring”.

Well they were far from boring tonight.  If you watched the game you’ll know that this was a game totally dominated by Spain from the start and their passing game meant Italy had very little chance of doing anything on the rare occasions when Spain allowed them to take possession of the ball.

Leading through first-half goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba, Spain’s victory was sealed when final substitute Thiago Motta was stretchered off, leaving the Azzurri to play the final half hour with 10 men.  And just to rub it in, Chelsea duo Fernando Torres and Juan Mata scored in the final minutes to complete a sensational victory.

Former Arsenal player, Cesc Fabregas, got his own back.  In his post-match interview with the BBC he said:

“It feels really, really amazing. It’s one of the best days of my life.  “I don’t think we realise what we’ve done. But in time we’ll see what we’ve done.  “Are we boring?  People who think we are boring, I don’t think they understand the game.”

It always happens in 3’s

Today bought 3 shock results/news items in the world of sport.

Firstly we discovered that David Beckham had been left out of the GB Olympic Squad by Stuart Pearce who, in his infinite wisdom decided he had a strong enough midfield and so picked Manchester City defender Micah Richards ahead of him.  (Yes, the same Micah Richards who refused to be on stand-by for the England Squad for Euro2012).  When he only had the choice of three over 23 year olds, it seems bonkers to me that Beckham wasn’t chosen – he was part of the Olympic flame handover ceremony in May, bringing it to Britain for the torch relay.   He also played a major role as a sporting ambassador when London won the 2012 bid, and has made no secret of his desire to captain Team GB.

So then we came to this evening’s entertainment!   Starting with  the Euro2012 semi-final between Italy and Germany.  With the Germans the strong favourites I don’t think any of the neutrals watching could believe the happenings on the pitch!  The Germans were rubbish and the Italians were magnificent.  Two sensational goals from the super-loopy Mario Balotelli catapulted them into the final against Spain on Sunday.  There was a wee flurry in extra time where the Germans were awarded a penalty and despite a brilliant strike from Ozil to make it 2-1, it was too little, too late and Italy were the victors.

That just left enough time for me to switch over to BBC2 to see the world No.2, Rafael Nadal, get beaten in the 5th set in the 2nd round of Wimbledon to Lukas Rosol, a player who is ranked 100th in the world! 

This charming Czech player modestly said in his post-match interview:

“I know Nadal is only human. Nadal played a good match but I think I was a little bit better.”

The last few games that I was able to watch definitely proved this – he was exciting to watch and I was rather sorry I’d elected to watch the football instead of this tennis match but they were both equally unexpected results which is always refreshing for the armchair sports fan!

Oh well, that’s enough excitement for one day – only the Final on Sunday and the 2nd week of Wimbledon to look forward to before the Olympics – how will I cope???

Football -v- Sperm Whales?

Last night there was a huge, foootball-shaped hole in my evening.  For the first time since 8th June there was no Euro2012 action and the TV schedulers failed to take advantage of this fact and give us anything else worth watching! 

At least tonight things are “back to normal” with the quarter-final match between the Czech Republic and Portugal kicking off at 19.45.

Czech Republic captain (and Arsenal player) Tomas Rosicky is still nursing the Achilles injury he picked up against Greece in the second group match but is hoping to still play and the Portuguese don’t appear to have any injury worries and are expected to name an unchanged side from the 11 that defeated the Dutch in the last game.  The same starting line-up incidentally that Portugal used in each match during the group stage – the only team to do this!

At the pre-match press conference today, Rosicky, sporting a beard along with the rest of the Czech squad, said he and his team mates would continue to grow their facial hair for as long as they remained at the tournament.

“We look scary as a team. Hopefully they (the beards) will get worse and worse,” he joked.

Of course, if you don’t like football, you could always watch Ocean Giants on BBC2.  The last in the series, this documentary (narrated by Stephen Fry) explores the vocal ranges of marine mammals.  Failing that, there is always Emmerdale and Lewis!!! 

Temper your expectations!

Tonight we watched from behind our sofas as Wayne Rooney marked his England return with the goal that secured a place for England in Euro 2012’s last eight – but it was a rough passage eased by helpings of good fortune and controversy against Ukraine.

Ukraine, however, will complain long and hard about a contentious second-half incident when Marko Devic’s shot clearly crossed the line before it was scrambled away by John Terry, only for the officials to remain unmoved.  The incident immediately revived the debate about goal-line technology, with a final decision on whether it is introduced expected to be taken in Zurich on 5 July.

England will of course regard it as a measure of justice for Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany in Bloemfontein at the 2010 World Cup – but it was also an illustration of how they rode their luck for long periods in front of a predictably partisan home crowd in Kiev tonight.

The Ukrainians immediately demanded a goal and their claims were vindicated as replays showed the ball crossed the line before Terry’s intervention.

Before the game manager Roy Hodgson had said England could dream a little – ahead of the confrontation with Italy in Kiev, they can now afford to dream a little more.

But lets not get too carried away!  We get so above ourselves in these tournaments and the nation as a whole always seems to think that the England team can win the whole thing!  This is quite clearly unlikely to happen while are unable to achieve No.1 status in the FIFA World Rankings.  We are currently No. 6 in the world and No. 4 in Europe, meaning the very best we should perhaps be hoping for in this competition is 4th place and anything better than this is a bonus?

Sorry – you might not like that, but it’s true!

There’s only one Theo Walcott!

When substitute Theo Walcott came on to the pitch against Sweden on the hour mark last night, England were trailing 2-1 and staring defeat in the face – again!

England, who had been leading through Andy Carroll’s bullet header going into the break, conceded twice during a wretched 10-minute period after half-time to leave them deep in trouble.  But new manager Roy Hodgson’s decision to replace James Milner with Arsenal attacker Walcott had an almost instant reward.

Within four minutes Walcott collected a cleared corner on the edge of the box and equalised with a 20-yard shot that deceived Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and was a sight to behold – surely a contender for goal of the tournament?

14 minutes later, the England winger burst into the penalty box, went past two Swedish defenders and crossed for Danny Welbeck to flick in the winner – job done!

It was a game-changing contribution from the 23-year-old, who was making his first appearance in a major tournament and scored his first England goal for nearly four years.

Oh yes, and did I mention the fact that he plays for Arsenal?

Here’s what was said by the players and pundits:

“I wouldn’t say I was the game changer. It’s always nice to come off the bench and show what you can do. I’ve been disappointed that I haven’t played.”Theo Walcott

“I’m happy with the finish and to get three points but it was disappointing to let in two goals. We came back, we stuck together and the team spirit showed.”Danny Welbeck

“Great game, wonderful result and that customary gut-wrenching feeling of watching England. Nothing quite like it.”BBC Match of the Day presenter and former England striker Gary Lineker on Twitter

“I think Ashley Young is gonna have to make way for Wayne Rooney.”Former England striker Ian Wright on Twitter

Conspiracy Theory #2795

So England were only able to manage a 1-1 draw against France in their first game of Euro2012 last night.  As always, there has been plenty said in the press about the lack of a win against a French side that, despite being the favourites, had a pretty poor back line that should perhaps have been exploited?

I am of the opinion, however, that more sinister forces are at work!  Last night, for the first time in 16 years, the England Supporters Band were unable to play after their instruments were confiscated at the stadium in Ukraine!

However, while the irritation of hearing The Great Escape theme tune repeatedly grated with many listeners, it was last night found to drown out the various mindless chants that Roy Hodgson’s barmy army indulge in and therefore is clearly the lesser of two evils.

It is not known whether the band will be allowed to play in England’s next game on Friday against Sweden in Kiev.  If they can’t play however, and if the rumours are to believed and Hodgson is planning to start Jordan Henderson, England supporters will be rendered speechless for the entire ninety minutes so that TV audiences can watch the game in muted disbelief.

Basking in reflected glory?

The internet has responded in fine form to the Chelsea skipper, John Terry, donning his full kit to receive the Champions League trophy last night. If you’ve been on planet Mars for the past few weeks you will not know that Terry was suspended from taking part in this crucial fixture due to an extremely stupid tackle in the semi against Barcelona that saw him receiving a sending off. However, last night, when Chelsea were the ultimate victors on penalties, Terry changed out of his suit and into his kit to go and receive his winner’s medal and lift the trophy.

My 3 favourite tweets are:

During the match – a spectator

Steve Fitzpatrick @fitzpas
“Doing a John Terry today, going to don my full chef outfit to carve the lamb – after my wife has spent three hours cooking the food.”
 
David Hepworth @davidhepworth
“Bet John Terry was one of those kids who insisted on blowing out the candles on other people’s cakes.”
 
and
 

After the match – taking part in the celebrations

Football Jokes @footballfunnys
“Why is everyone criticising John Terry for wearing his kit? He needs to keep his suit clean for court.”
 

And am I the only person who sees his inclusion in the squad for the Euros and Rio’s absence as sending out the wrong message???

 
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