Sunday, June 29, 2008

Euro 2008 Final: Spain or Germany?

Can the flaky underachieving Spanish finally make the most of their talent and take their first title in 44 years? Or will the pace and physicality of Michael Ballack, Lucas Podolski et al once again prove the observation that "football is a game in which eleven players pass the ball up and down the field until Germany wins".

Perhaps more crucially, will I get up in time to see part of the game?

Questions to be answered in a few hours time.


Miracles do happen. Not only did Spain shake off their hoodoo and take the game 1-0, but I also got up early enough to catch the second half (the first half had to wait for the replay at 8:30 pm. I join most neutrals in being overjoyed at Spain's achievement, both because of my penchant for the historical underdog, and because they were the best team in the game and the tournament overall. As someone who has seen it happen too many times, I always expected Germany to sneak an equaliser in the 88th minute, but in the end it didn't happen, and Spain's relative profligacy didn't cost them (at times you felt like shouting at their tricky little midfielders to just take a goddamn shot as they decided to make three extra passes when five metres from the goal).

It was a pretty exciting tournament with the goals and fluid, attacking play continuing into the knockout rounds (and just two quarter-finals decided on penalties). A fan of the international game should come away feeling rather more positive than after the eventual letdown that was the last World Cup. The improved spectacle was due perhaps to more evenly-matched teams (meaning fewer boring mismatches), perhaps to younger lineups without experienced defensive formations (meaning attacking tactics were necessary), perhaps to good refereeing.

In any case, the boring dour teams largely fell out at the earlier stages (France, Italy, Sweden and the stonewalling Greeks) while those who progressed were those with greater enterprise (in particular the finalists, Holland, Turkey, and the at-times dazzling Russians).

For football fans, attention now shifts to the qualifying stages for the next World Cup in South Africa in 2010. While the European teams are just starting off, other continents are already part way through their process. I'm pleased to report that many of my favoured teams remain in contention, including Colombia, Guatemala, and even lowly New Zealand. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Peru, who after recent losses by 5-1 to Ecuador and 6-0 to Uruguay appear to be doing their best to get relegated to another continent. Maybe we should let them join Oceania.

1 comment:

Paola said...

Hopefully, you'll have energy enough early in the morning to see a soccer game. Personally, I prefer to know the results through you or a newspaper ;)