Sunday, July 01, 2012

The History Boys

Back in 1982 when Italy beat West Germany to win the World Cup there was a moment just before the Marco Tardelli goal when the eventual winners briefly toyed with the Germans before putting them out of their misery. Tonight in Kiev the Spanish side toyed with the Italians for close on ninety minutes before putting them out of their misery whilst simultaneously causing international football coaches around the world to reach for a bottle of something a little stronger than Rioja.

Rarely has a team dominated an international final in such a way, it was as if all the phoney shots fired over the past three weeks had been leading up to this moment. The cries of 'boring' mainly it has to be said from sections of the English press were made to look as stupid as they were ignorant. Spain were conquerors of a team that had outplayed the Germans and outhought the English, only the Italians in the opening group match and laterly the Portuguese had come close to giving them a decent match and even they had to hold on for all of extra time in their semi final meeting.

This was certainly the most open football tournament for a number of years, possibly since the 2004 Euros, just three sendings off, invisible referees and very little in the way of cheating and play acting it was an unusually fresh approach from the countries involved. For Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal and briefly Russia there were encouraging signs for the future, for the beaten Quarter Finalists: England, France, Czech Republic and Greece there was little evidence of any improvement during the past four years (six in England's case). Of course having had one of the best tournaments means that UEFA are going to ruin it, firstly by adding another 4 years in 2016 in France, then by possibly increasing that number again and then rather than basing the finals in one (or two) countries the idea has been put forward that perhaps the finals could roam around Europe one summer like a group of travelling entertainers in search of the best summer festival to play at.

It was depressing to hear Martin Keown speaking after the final last night. Okay that's not fair but it was depressing to hear him say that with better tactics England could be a good team come Brazil in two years time. If the last forty six years have taught us anything it's that England will eventually, at some point in any tournament, revert to type. This means defending on the six yard line, having very little in the way of width and sticking a big lump up front when things get desperate.


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