Blogs & Opinion


Euros from afar

How's Euro 2012 gone down on the otherside of the pond?

Features Posted 26th June 2012 view comments

Sometimes it takes distance to provide a true picture of an event. Distance and a valid comparison.

That is certainly the case with Euro 2012, which has, rather surprisingly, grabbed a lot of attention and TV time over here in the US.

I certainly have the distance from my base in Florida but the right simile had escaped me, until watching Spain's velvet dismantling of France in Saturday's quarter-final.

Artists: Spain have impressed US viewers with their Euro 2012 displays

Artists: Spain have impressed US viewers with their Euro 2012 displays

You see, just down the road on the coast in St Petersburg (currently being battered by Tropical Storm Debby) is the fancy new Salvador Dali Museum, a space-age vision of architecture and artistry. And it struck me that the Spanish wizard of the paintbrush would have had a lot in common with Vicente del Bosque's team.

For, if ever a Football XI were to swap their boots for brushes, it would be Spain, 2012 edition.

It all follows on from record American TV viewership of the recent Premier League campaign and a growing audience for the MLS, proving that 'soccer' not only has a strong foothold in the land of 'football' but is thriving and able to command as much interest as ice-hockey, the traditional 'fourth sport.'

Simon Veness
Quotes of the week

Just like their illustrious artist countryman of the 20th century, here is a whole team that paints in beautiful broad, abstract terms, luring viewers in with their dynamic, swift brush-strokes, but then not revealing their true genius until you stand well back and see the finished picture for what it truly is.

The end result is audacious, thrilling - and totally incomprehensible to many.

For 'viewers' in Euro 2012 terms, read 'opposition,' and for 'end result' just read 'scoreline.' And you can certainly add France to the list of teams that surely feel completely bamboozled by what just happened to them in sporting terms.

That's right. Samir Nasri and Co just got painted to death.

The French you see, were still painting in standard, orthodox terms; sticking to the usual footballing conventions of attack and defence, never realising they were ensnared in a three-dimensional puzzle, another masterpiece constructed by Del Bosque but carried out by his team of artists. Strikers? Who needs strikers in this new era of the Soccer Surreal?

Almost before France knew it, the 90 minutes were up, the scoreline read 2-0 Spain, and the latest victims of these sporting surrealists had been hustled out of the door marked 'Exit.'

OK, in prosaic terms you can argue a team that scored only three goals in four games (even England scored five) did not deserve to hang around much longer and, certainly, Laurent Blanc has a challenge on his hands to conjure something even vaguely threatening out of Les Bleus.

But the fact they were ushered out of the tournament with barely a whimper, hardly a decent goal threat in the whole game, is totally symptomatic of playing these sons of Dali.

Catching on in the US

And the style is certainly catching on, as observers here have been quick to point out, with every game being shown live and all the main sports agencies carrying detailed reports and analysis. Heck, even the heavyweight radio station NPR - the US equivalent of Radio Four - has offered its own observations, notably on the Greece-Germany game, which proved a fascinating socio-political commentary for those tuned in to the slow sinking of the European currency!

It all follows on from record American TV viewership of the recent Premier League campaign and a growing audience for the MLS, proving that 'soccer' not only has a strong foothold in the land of 'football' but is thriving and able to command as much interest as ice-hockey, the traditional 'fourth sport.'

But back to long-distance observations on Euro 2012. It is now pretty clear there are three elite teams, and Everyone Else.

There are Spain, Portugal and Germany, and then the likes of Italy, England, France, Holland, etc, etc. And, yes, not many people here fancy the Italians to upset Joachim Loew's impressive outfit, let alone tackle the Iberian Twosome who now boast the Artist's Touch par excellence.

Suddenly, there is a gulf between the new Big Three and The Rest, and it would be a major surprise if one of them isn't triumphant on 1 July.

Portugal, recently derided as Spain Lite, have proved unarguably they now have the confidence and cool to back up their talent, while Germany's strength in depth is quite awesome after they 'rested' some of the prime talents against Greece and still looked like they had plenty in reserve.

Top trio

It means we have two of the most compelling semi-finals of a major tournament in recent memory.

In the Battle of Iberia, something has to give between two sides that revel in the possession game that almost literally paints the opposition into corners and can rout a team 1-0, where that hapless opposition can feel fortunate to get '0'.

Just look at the demeanour of both France and the Czech Republic after facing Spain and Portugal respectively. They seemed like they were happy just to get off the field without being humiliated in the scoreline, albeit they were a distant second-best in quality terms.

And, although the Greeks did manage to record a positive number in their result against the Germans, there was never any doubt they were always going to be on the wrong end of another, distinctly higher, numeral.

That theme is also prevalent in the way many people - from ESPN to Sports Illustrated - summed up England's 0-0 'thrashing' by Italy, where pundits were fixated by the number of attempts on goal, which was a staggering 36-9 in The Azzurri's favour.

Indeed, ESPN's commentators pointed out that Cesare Prandelli's men piled up 20 on-target efforts in the full 120 minutes - more than England managed in four GAMES.

Statistics, of course, don't tell the whole story, but they are mighty powerful. And, for once, you suspect the pundits are spot on in saying this England team are miles away from being competitive at top level.

Not so much Dali as Daley. Arthur Daley.

back to top

Other Football Experts:

Latest Posts in Football:

Jamie Redknapp

Jose 'embarrassing'

Jamie Redknapp says that Jose Mourinho should focus on his own failings rather than blame match officials....

Jamie Redknapp

Everton come unstuck

Man Utd's men with a point to prove can take advantage of Everton's midweek blow, says Jamie Redknapp....

Paul Merson

Merson's predictions

Paul Merson says Liverpool WON'T beat Norwich - and Chelsea and Man City will close the gap....

Latest News RSS feeds

Everton double up on Moyes

Everton secured a Premier League double over Man United and former boss David Moyes with a 2-0 victory at Goodison Park.

Arsenal ease to win at Hull

Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 win over Hull City thanks to a double from Lukas Podolski and one from Aaron Ramsey.

Liverpool go five points clear

Liverpool continued their march towards the title with a 3-2 win at Norwich to move five points clear at the top.

Lerner fuels Villa sale claims

Aston Villa chairman Randy Lerner will not discuss his future at the club until the end of the season.

Jose offers 'congratulations'

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho fired a thinly-veiled criticism at the officials after the 2-1 home defeat to Sunderland.

Features

Aaron Ramsey provided a powerful display at Hull to remind Arsenal fans of just what they've been missing

Aaron Ramsey provided a powerful display at Hull to remind Arsenal fans of just what they've been missing

Paul Merson had exuded an air of exasperation on Sky Sports prior to Arsenal’s game against West Ham in midweek. The balance of this incarnation of the team was all wrong, he argued. Where was the pace in this Gunners side?

Raheem Sterling deserves huge praise for his impact in Liverpool's march towards the Premier League title

Raheem Sterling deserves huge praise for his impact in Liverpool's march towards the Premier League title

Norwich were fighting for their lives at the foot of the table. Jordan Henderson, the lungs of this Liverpool team, was unavailable for the first time in this Premier League season. Even 20-goal striker Daniel Sturridge was injured, breaking up the lethal partnership with Luis Suarez.

Comment: Jose Mourinho self-fulfilling prophecy sees him fall off his horse as Chelsea lose to Sunderland

Comment: Jose Mourinho self-fulfilling prophecy sees him fall off his horse as Chelsea lose to Sunderland

Beware Black Cats crossing your path. That would have been sage advice to the trio of Premier League title contenders in the last week of March as Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea all prepared to face Sunderland at home in the run-in.