joi, 8 iulie 2021

Euro 2021 - Take me to Church

Italy - Spain 1-1 (4-2 penalties)
England - Denmark 1-1 (2-1 aet)

I know, I know, I should probably support England. Adoptive country and all that, the country whose jobs I stole and whose benefits I scrounged. And some of my fellow immigrants do, though I suspect it's the less knowledgeable part, and they're a minority. Not only is this England team rather boring to watch (though, admittedly, most efficient England team I've seen), but they have this amazing talent to make themselves unlikeable. In the DNA of the nation, I'm thinking. Penalty? You must be kidding me! Sterling should get ready for Tokyo, it's the Olympics where they give out medals for diving.

I started watching the game with rather neutral feelings and the expectation for England to win easily. Not so the Danes, spurred on by an ever-improving form, memories of '92, Christian Eriksen's tragedy or fuck knows whatever else, but they certainly looked willing to play their chance. England was the most attacking team from the off, but you only need to cut off Kane from the midfielders and push Sterling to the side to annihilate the threat of a team whose only forward capable of a dribbling is on the bench. Yes, Gareth, Rashford should've played more.

And I found myself cheering the Danish goal, in contrasting mood to all the noisy kids in an England shirt on the streets and on the tube yesterday. If I am to be fair, and if England did deserve anything in yesterday's game, it was the equalizer. Fast attack, good link up with the winger and great ball in. I'm really sorry for Kjaer, one of my favourite players in this tournament. He won't be happy to put his name on the own goal, but I thought his movement was very intelligent and the best possible thing he could've done under the circumstances. With Sterling racing for a simple tap in, there's no way he should've let the ball past him. With no means of reaching it on feet, the slide was a good idea, although obviously not the best outcome.

In the second half the Danes ran out of gas pretty quickly, too, so it was either a lucky break or waiting on penalties for them. England was the fitter team, but fitness obviously doesn't translate into goal threat. Schmeichel had a great game and good awareness of the game, and after Wass came on to cement the defence, it was more of a waiting game from both sides.

But of course, the penalty came. There will be people who'll argue it was a penalty, for sure. It wasn't. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter. The traditional 50% refereeing in favour of the hosts and all that. It was given, and England won. It does seem a good time to remember, as the nation rejoices, that should VAR have existed in 1966, England might've never won the World Cup. It shows, I suppose, a consistent tradition of Wembley being the place where various ways in which Britain defrauded other countries are shown ever since 1924.

Harry Kane missing the penalty is a good indication of how the shootout might've gone. Just as well we didn't get there. All in all, it's gonna be a tough final for Italy, but I am looking forward to the azzuri painting the temple of football blue.

How obvious was Sterling's dive?

Speaking of temples... I had no doubts that once Chiesa's 60th minute goal again Spain went in, Italy was as good as qualified. And what a magnificent goal it was! Classical counter-attack, keeper to goal in 3 passes. 

The BBC pundits were saying Spain dominating the first half. Didn't really feel like it to me. Spain had more possession, yes, but then again, of course they did. Biggest chance was Italy's, the one where Unai Simon was caught of guard by the Italian left wing attack, and it was only because of Chiesa's extra turn that the score was level at half time.

Oyarzabal missed a sitter, all alone in the box and throwing his head next to the ball rather than at it; then again, all Spanish players should've used their heads better. Morata's goal was brilliant and, if ever there was a period where Spain could've snatched it, I thought it was the extra time. Italy running out of gas and pinning for the penalties, it was a good opportunity to throw in some fresh legs and force a goal. But of course, Luis Enrique made three defensive subs, because not everything in life has to make sense. I also thought Spain should've had a penalty in the closing minutes, Chiellini handling the ball with his hand in the box was clear as day, but maybe I need someone explaining 'natural position' to me.

Penalties it was, and we started off with a round of missed ones, just to add to the drama. But Morata, probably feeling the goal might actually leave a positive impression of him, decided to shoot the blandest, slowest penalty seen by man, giving Jorginho a perfect platform to make highlights with a cheeky execution. 4-2 Italy,  and Wembley awaits. For a referee mistake, probably, though I still predict a dark mood over London come Monday. It will be sunny in Rome though.

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