I always intended to conclude the Euros by offering my takeaways and the top moments from the last month.
My head has been made clearer by the disappointment of England’s loss on Sunday.
There’s a cruel irony that my country has been complementing Gareth Southgate for making brave decisions that he got spot on.
Yet in the final seconds of the Final he ran out of luck.
He brought on two players purely to take penalties and they failed in the shootout while the choice to have a teenager take your 5th spot kick is questionable.
What else though have we learnt at the European Championships?
Was The Euros Fair?
Many teams who exited early complained about the consistency with some travelling more than others, and some having home advantage more than others.
Wales for example had two fixtures in Baku, one in Rome against Italy while their tie with Denmark became an away game when their fans were banned from entering Holland, but Danes were not.
It’s worth remembering that every tournament has a host who by default will have an advantage.
I also don’t feel comfortable bemoaning anything that was caused by COVID.
Families have had to sacrifice so much during the Pandemic. If loved ones have to accept not attending a funeral, then football fans can get over not being able to attend a match.
To have the best competition though, as best as possible you want to create a level playing field. This Euros didn’t have that.
UEFA’s president has confirmed the format won’t be repeated, that’s after taking the money.
I would much rather UEFA change the rule where you can finish third and still end up in the knockout stages.
It means you can qualify with just one win (which Ukraine did).
It makes it very hard to be invested in the group stages when it’s harder not to qualify.
The night Hungary/Germany and Portugal/France drew, imagine how much more drama if viewers knew only two could get out of the group?
We have been told for a couple of years that it’s only the Premiership which has such a problem with Video Technology.
That suggests that how it’s implemented is the issue.
That’s been evidenced in the last few months.
Unlike domestic fixtures I watch, it feels like VAR was rarely used and if anything wasn’t used enough.
It was nice to go back to the days of seeing a goal and not having to wait for every last detail to be assessed.
The point of VAR was to only help officials if an ‘obvious’ error has been made. So most of the time, refs were told to stick to their convictions. That is how it was meant to be.
England was one of the few countries that after Project Restart went back to the traditional maximum of three subs.
Some wanted the option of 5 changes to remain to give players more rest.
The counter argument is it gave an advantage to the sides with superior squads who could in theory change half of their outfield.
It’s benefitted Southgate who due to knowing he can make 5 alterations (6 if a game goes to extra time) has used his bench to win games.
It became less of an issue who started in attack given that he could bring them on later.
What’s become a theme in domestic football is the number of players abused online.
The worrying thing is it’s becoming so common that it’s no longer newsworthy. Sterling was subjected to racism on social media after the draw with Scotland.
The poster boy though, for having to deal with vile comments on Facebook and Twitter, was Morata.
Spain continued their reputation for struggling to convert possession into goals, putting pressure on their strikers.
While it’s fine for Spanish papers to have the opinion that the forward isn’t good enough, it’s not okay to wish death on someone and threaten his family. Those cowards didn’t deserve the sight of Morata coming to his country’s rescue with late goals against Croatia and Italy.
When he missed a decisive pen in the semi-Final, I saw the irony. Maybe if you helped the man feel more confident his spot kick wouldn’t have been so tame?
We said for years these big companies on the Internet need to do more to identify these criminals.
Unfortunately, we will be saying the same this time next year as well.
I wrote an article about this at the time but it’s worth repeating.
In the UK, TV companies are regulated. One of the rules they must follow is to never show live footage of a person in distress without consent from that individual.
In other words the BBC had zero business showing a girl crying while watching her boyfriend receive CPR on a football pitch.
While BBC do not control the feed (UEFA do), they could have cut away at any point. That they didn’t leads you to assume they saw a ratings opportunity.
UEFA then gave Denmark the choice of restarting the game that evening or the next day. They then had the nerve to put out a statement saying the ordeal reminds us of what’s important. Not important enough to upset your scheduling?
Italy’s dark arts
Due to not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, it’s been 5 years since we saw Italy on the grand stage.
It was therefore nice to see the nostalgia of the dark arts that the Italians for decades have been renowned for.
Wherever you view their tactics as game management or cheating depends on how serious you take the sport.
To be fair to their current squad, they are only copying generations that they grew up with.
Winding down the clock like they did in the final minutes against Belgium is part of their footballing DNA.
Hard to defend Immobile though?
Laying down ‘injured’ until it was time to celebrate a goal has become a meme.
As he shines his medal, I don’t think he cares though.
Politics In Football
With the majority of players taking a knee in English Football, it raised the debate should politics be involved in Sport. This intensified with fans back in stadiums for the final week of the Prem.
Boos were audible for the pre match ritual as well as at Wembley.
It will be interesting to see if clubs carry on the gesture during the new campaign or slowly faze it out.
Governing bodies stance is it’s not a political statement.
UEFA found themselves in murky waters not allowing Germany to display their stadium in rainbow colours.
In this instance, UEFA were aware that Germany’s motives were not their own support for the idea, but in response to their opponents Hungary’s president’s decision to ban teaching of children.
UEFA then contradicted their own statement by displaying rainbow flags on their website reminding everyone they were in support of the OneLove campaign.
Germany’s equalizer was celebrated by a heart symbol being shown to the away section. Which was harsh..
Hungary held a vote in their country with the majority making a choice.
Every culture is different and that’s the business of that country.
Should that become a sub plot for a football match?
If we are going to use sport to question the values of every nation then we have to be consistent, we can’t pick and choose
ITV Vs BBC
If like me you grew up with Clive Tyldesley as one of your favorite commentators, you be dismayed that he is no longer ITV’s lead announcer.
The man himself was mystified by his demotion to essentially any fixture that didn’t involve England.
You have to feel sorry for Sam Matterface who got poor reviews for his performances, essentially for not being Mr. Tyldesley.
While he and his bosses would have accepted a resistance to change, by the time of the Final it was estimated millions chose the BBC over ITV due to not enjoying what they were hearing.
That’s what you get for being ageist.
I write this heartbroken as I’m sure several of our readers are.
Yet there are a lot of English ‘fans’ who didn’t deserve the honour of watching their nation lift a trophy.
In what was essentially a home tournament, a certain percentage of the nation embarrassed their country with the world watching.
Booing of National anthems was constant, the FA were fined for lasers being used and fireworks set off, Danish fans reported racial abuse.
Even on the day of the Final, the buildup was overshadowed by idiots attempting to break into Wembley without tickets.
The British press are quick to judge other hosts when this type of behavior occurs.
Let’s call a spade a spade.
Events off the pitch haven’t been a good advertisement for England in 2021…
Player of tournament – Donnarumma
Goal of tournament – Schick vs Scotland
Game of tournament – Switzerland v France
Flop – Turkey
Youngster – Pedri
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