Ten big talking points to come out of watching The Euro 2024 Quarter-finals

Man In the Iron Mask

If Deschamps is getting criticised in his homeland what hope is there for his peers? The manger’s tactics are being questioned despite getting to the last two World Cup Finals!

While he feels the mask is impacting Mbappe’s vision the captain is not getting much sympathy elsewhere in France. At the very least, some feel the broken nose is an excuse to hide other fitness issues. Worse, if the nose is the problem, then others question the toughness of the 25-year-old.

One of them is former Gunner Emanuel Petit.

Gooners will tell you the former midfielder can be quite frank and direct when asked for his opinion. The Arsenal Double Winner complained to Talk Sport: “You know, it’s been like this for two weeks.

“Is he going to play? Is he going to train? Is he going to sleep? Is he going to eat? To take a shower? Come on, it’s just a broken nose.

“You know how many players have been playing with a broken nose in the past without a mask? So, he’s complaining about the mask. So, take your mask and then put it straight in the garbage.”

It’s been that kind of tournament. Players and teams from various nations constantly ridiculed even when still in the competition.

This is the same Mbappe who at such a young age has already lifted the World Cup and scored in successive Finals! If he’s getting a hard time that reflects modern society not him.

Handball

I made this point when breaking down the last round. Where the 2010 World Cup is known as the catalyst for introduction of Goal Line Technology, recent events might force UEFA to crack down on the handball rule.

Sepp Blatter was so humiliated by such an error in front of the watching universe decades ago he felt obliged to act.

Aleksander Ceferin might be under the same pressure with Germany feeling they were sent home from their own tournament due to Marc Cucurella getting away with a handball in extra time on Friday night. The irony being the hosts benefitted from a similar situation against Denmark.

The issue is some officials would have awarded a penalty, other times VAR would have stepped in. If Technology is not being used consistently then it becomes redundant. Fans, players, managers, etc don’t need to agree with the rule, we just need to know what the rule is.

Yellow Card Cut Off

Spain have questioned the refresh of yellow cards being after the Quarter Finals.
It seems harsh that a booking in the group stages, then in the last 16 or the last 8, is enough to make a player miss a semifinal. The problem is everyone has waited after the event to complain about the rule.

To clarify UEFA would have made all 24 Football Associations aware of all legislation months in advance. Like the RFEF pay for the very best transport, accommodation, Chefs, etc for their team so their country have the best possible preparation, they should speak up if they disagree with a certain policy.

The officials job is to not agree with the laws but police what has been set. Waiting for two of their defenders to be suspended is too late to complain.

The Prem is no different. Once a year, representatives of 20 clubs meet to discuss any changes to protocol. To be fair to Wolves, they suggested voting for VAR to be scrapped and the majority of their peers declined. There is zero point complaining if you’re not challenging the rules.

Toni Kroos

Anyone who’s watched how he’s performed in the last 3 weeks are amazed that Toni Kroos has retired at the age of 34. Some have even suggested that’s why the official was lenient on the midfielder for a challenge that forced Pedri off on Friday.

Germany were a couple of minutes away from a penalty shootout. One Spanish cross and header later and suddenly, in a blink of an eye, a decorated career was over.

Ronaldo, Pepe, Modric, Giroud, maybe even a Griezmann, this could the final bow for some of the greats of the last decade. I know Gooners who use the term World Class very loosely. Essentially their definition is you don’t have to do much.

When your CV shows you have 34 trophies…. including…..
6 Champions Leagues
A World Cup
7 domestic titles
That’s world class.

Pepe

In a tournament where I believe some punditry has been hysterical and over the top, only a couple of great players have been given the respect they deserve.

At 41, Pepe is the oldest player to play at a European Championship. Let me stress though, the defender isn’t just a squad player happy to be involved. He’s been one of the best centrebacks at the tournament. There was a moment in extra time on Friday where Dembele was ahead of him, and the veteran still caught him. That’s an opponent 14-year younger who hadn’t been subbed on till the 67th minute.

In an era where some need reminding there is an art to defending, Pepe’s performances have been an inspiration. He was in tears once Portugal were knocked out.

Just think about that. A man who had already lifted the European Championship. Where does he find that drive, motivation, etc, to care? That’s what separates the good from the great.

Ronaldo

I was quite protective of Ronaldo in the last round. It’s not like he deliberately decided to cry against Slovenia to get all the attention. Clearly, he thought that in the Group stages, then Slovenia was a golden opportunity to score in a record 6th Euros.

With France in the next round, he was the modern professional, comforting a tearful Pepe at full time and humble towards the Portuguese fans.

You can’t fault the Portugal captain’s effort on Friday, and he won’t be the first or last to miss some chances. Yet Martinez’s handling of his skipper was always going to be questioned if it went wrong. The Spaniard clearly admires Ronaldo and notices what he means to the squad. Yet he was still asking a 39-year-old to play an entire 120 mins days after playing another amount of extra time.

Even when already qualified, a golden opportunity to rest someone that age, Ronaldo started against Georgia. While it will never be publicly admitted, it’s almost like the legend dictated to his boss his game time.

Martinez though created this himself. The previous regime dropped Ronaldo for the World Cup knock out stages, so the transition to phase out his star name had begun before Martinez was hired.

So, the 50-year-old either felt the player was undroppable or that was part of the job specification? In the last two games, both goalless after 120 mins, Goncalo Ramos sat on the bench!

Penalties

A lot’s been said (bordering on hysteria) about the limitations of Mr Southgate. It’s only fair though we also mention what he has done well.

Not just in my lifetime have I not seen English players have the mentality to come from behind to win knockout football, I can’t recall penalty takers having the swagger the 5 Three Lions displayed on Saturday.

It wasn’t just that each spot kick was converted, but the body language that stood out. Each taker seemed to have their own narrative that added pressure.

Palmer was defending a flawless record from the spot, Bellingham has a spotlight on him, Saka missed 3 years ago, Toney has been told all year he’s only in the squad because he’s an expert at penalties, and Trent has been criticised from the group stages.

A lot’s been said about this England team, but you can’t say they don’t have character.

Entitlement

Gareth Southgate’s biggest quality in the last 8 years has been his diplomacy. That’s the main skill set in how’s he’s been able to forge a close relationship between his players and the media. It might be why him and his squad have been so hurt by criticism this tournament.

My own point of view is everyone is entitled to an opinion but there is a line where it becomes hysterical.

The Three Lions boss bit when it was suggested he had been fortunate of easy draws and that given the opposition his teams brand of football should be better. The manager pointed out that the notion of England rocking up to Germany and steam rolling everyone is ‘entitlement’ and why other nations think we are ‘arrogant.’

He reminded us that so called ‘lesser’ teams since 1966 have had a similar or even superior record to us. He’s correct.

Ireland, Sweden, Romania, Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, Slovakia and Iceland are all teams previous English managers have failed to beat in past Euros.

Pundits

I mentioned this throughout the tournament but various nations this tournament have had had fans who have bordered on hysteria.
It has to reflect a generation who because of the internet don’t have to wait for anything. I have to repeat the word, but some are acting entitled. That they have a divine right to see their country win and want an explanation if that doesn’t happen. Worse even if their team have been getting results, their supporters demand a brand of football that meets their standards.

Yet having your own toxic opinion is one thing, now some have the nerve to complain that a broadcaster is being too…. positive.
Those accused are the BBC, who at the weekend had the audacity to be happy that the Three Lions advanced to a semi-Final.

The Match of the Day panel consisted of former internationals who love the sport, but are being accused of being told by the BBC to intentionally not be negative after recent backlash.

For three weeks I have heard calls for Kane, Bellingham, Saka, Foden, Trippier and Walker, all to be dropped. I don’t know if it reflects the mood of the world in 2024 but if you can’t find satisfaction out of getting to a semifinal then why are you even watching the Euros?

Shearer

I don’t know if it were to make extra room in the studio or he asked for the job but after nearly two decades of working for the BBC someone decided it be a good idea to give him a microphone.

The 53 year-old is entitled to an opinion and is more qualified than me. As a former striker he is educated to teach the viewer the issues that may arise if Harry Kane keeps dropping too deep.

He made that point, then made it again ……and again ……and again ….and again. ….and again.

He felt that Southgate should make some subs earlier. He made that point over ……and over ….and over ……and over.

It’s commentary I would expect either from the grumpy man in your local pub or a YouTuber.

Not an ex-player who in Euro 2000 captained his country to a group stage exit so should be able to empathise a little and not be so reactionary.

Dan


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Tags Euro 2024 Quarterfinal

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  1. for me the biggest talking point of Euro 2024 is the trend for ultra cautious low risk football combined with low block to suffocate the opposition, first and only priority is don’t concede

    and not just lowly opposition but teams like France and England too

    as a trend it is worrying, firstly because it tediously boring to watch, but more importantly on Arsenal pages we can expect the low block to be deployed against us even more than last season

    to me the biggest difference between PL 22/23 season where we burst to an 8 point lead and the PL 23/24 season was increasing use of low block defensive tactics by opponents

    Edu/Arteta need a pre-emptive answer to this both tactically and summer recruitment

    some of the best strikers in Europe have been rendered ineffective by the tactics – Kane, Mbappe, Lukaku, Morata etc were expected to score heavily but hardly even had a kick

    yeah, so granted not a very exciting talking point, but the big talking point

  2. Spain excite me with their never-ending flowing football – by far the best side in the tournament in my opinion.
    They are more than capable to unlock any defensive block and have no fear whatsoever.

    Mikel has built his squad from the back and I believe he has seen exactly how his home nation unlocks said defences and will make our attack as potent as our defence.

    Bring it on I say!!

  3. If England lose Dan, it won’t be heartache for me!!
    International football is just a substitute for The Arsenal, but I know the players place great importance on it.
    So I hope they win and Saka comes home with a winners medal, along with Aaron Ramsdale.

    As for Mikel, give him a chance mate, the season hasn’t even started!!

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