Tuesday 03 July 2012 – Postscript
As the last wisps of winners ticker-tape are swept away from the seats and stands of the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, it’s time to reflect on the events of the Euro 2012 Championships.
In terms of the standard of the competition on the pitch, I can’t think of a World Cup or Euro tournament that I’ve seen that has bettered what has taken place in Poland and Ukraine over the last month. It has been competitive throughout, so for me it makes no sense that when Euro 2016 takes place in France, that 24 teams will take part. UEFA has 53 ranking teams, and virtually half of them will qualify for the tournament, to me this is a diluting of the quality that is entirely unnecessary.
Off the pitch and in the stands, there were a number of issues. Agreed it wasn’t the armageddon of hooliganism and racism that some were predicting, but the running battle between Polish and Russian fans was disturbing as were the scenes of Russian fans attacking stewards after the game against the Czech Republic. Indeed Russia and Croatia suffered a number of financial penalties for racist chanting and the displaying of inappropriate banners at a number of games. Spain, Germany and England also fell foul of UEFA regulations, whilst the Italian press gave mixed messages about how they view Mario Balotelli. UEFA are to be applauded for taking swift action against racism, but I question what message they are sending out when the fine to Nicklas Bendtner for sporting a betting logo on his pants is greater than that handed out to an association for a racist incident? It was also noticeable, that despite record attendances, there were empty seats in the knock-out phase, including the Final. Was this a pricing issue, not only in respect to the tickets, but the accommodation and travel arrangements in Poland and Ukraine?
From a personal perspective there were a number of irritations during the competition. Firstly, the “10…9…8…7…” countdown to kick-off was just awful. Who thought this was a good idea? Why was it introduced? Secondly, the number of occasions that there were two balls on the pitch. Instead of the desired effect of keeping the game going, there were countless times when the game had to be stopped to get rid of the second ball. Thirdly, the number of times players that went down clutching their head, when there had been no or little contact with that part of the body. Would it be unfair to suggest that players have caught onto the fact that referees’ will stop the game and have the ball kicked out when their opponents are on the attack, because it is a possible head injury?
My ‘likes’ from the competition included Roy Hodgson getting ALL the England players to sing the National Anthem prior to each game. It is a small thing, but for me it helps creates a unity within the team. I also was pleased to see that when there when replays of incidents took place on television, the Euro 2012 logo was used, unlike at the 2010 World Cup, when ‘FIFA’ was Big Brother style flashed up. Credit also to the television providers for the montages played during the game in slow-mo, of players, managers and fans reactions – they were a nice little touch during breaks in play.
Still on the television coverage; much appreciation to ITV for their wonderful opening credits featuring various figures in puppet-form and the wonderfully atmospheric “Peter and the Wolf” musical accompaniment. Although worryingly, the Roy Hodgson figure did cut a striking resemble to Parker from Thunderbirds! My favourite commentator/pundit was Mick McCarthy for his blunt Barnsley analysis and his less than impartial input during the Italy v Republic of Ireland game. Mention also for Mark Lawrenson who was at his ‘Victor Meldrew’ best during the Spain v Italy Final.
Memorable images from the tournament include the range of images as a result of the incredible storm that caused the France v Ukraine game to be suspended for nearly an hour and Theo Walcott’s look of bewilderment at his goal against Sweden. Indeed the France v Ukraine game also produced the strangest commentary moment, when on ITV Craig Burley informed the audience that the stoppage for the storm had been a blessing since it allowed him time to munch his way through a packet of “…chocolate hob-nobs, well at least the Ukrainian equivalent…”
Other things that made me chuckle included the bizarre range of mohicans that appeared during the competition, with particular mentions for, Ashley Cole, Raul Meireles and Mario Balotteli. It was also apparent during Euro 2012 that no self-respecting player takes to the pitch without the obligatory forearm covered in tattoo’s.
So that’s it. Spain European Champions 2012. Once September comes around the focus switches to Qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Let’s hope it can match Euro 2012. Adios!