I was going to write a preview of Euro 2012 this past week, but it very quickly began to feel like a pointless exercise. Every other blogger and his dog has done one and I consequently have very little to add. Most of them are yawningly similar to each other. Spain, Germany favourites. England mess. Italy, Greece [insert joke about Eurozone crisis here]. Poland, Ukraine racism bad. Portugal blah blah Ronaldo, Sweden blah blah Ibrahimovich, Russia blah blah Arshavin, Croatia blah blah Modric. Czech Republic best days behind them, Demnark dark horses, Holland chokers, France LOL, Ireland forgeddaboudit.
So there you are, I’ve just saved you hours of very dull reading. You’re welcome.
The tournament itself is never ever boring. It is undoubtedly one of the best two international football competitions in the world to watch. The other is the Copa America.
That is by no means a unique view. The World Cup is obviously the pinnacle, everyone wants to call themselves World Champions, but it is a much bigger tournament with lots of mismatches. The Euros are a streamlined format with no easy-beats. Anyone who qualifies is capable of winning it at any given time, as evidenced by both Greece and Denmark lifting the trophy in the past 20 years.
Italy, my first love in international football, has only managed to win the Euros once, eight years before I was born. Now that I’ve seen them win a World Cup, seeing them win a Euro is *the* priority item to tick off my bucket list. We have come so close in the past. My most painful football memory of all is that of the Euro 2000 final, when just as we thought we’d won it, the dirty rotten thieving French equalised deep in second half injury time then scored an extra time golden goal that felt like a thousand Napoleons callously pulverising our hearts by pummelling them with baguettes.
Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Much of this year’s pretournament ITA talk is around the rumoured three man defence with the central role entrusted to holding midfielder Daniele De Rossi. De Rossi has played centre back for Roma a few times and his greatest strength has always been his ability to do everything and be everywhere on the pitch. I’m sure most Roma fans will whole heartedly join me in reassuring more nervous tifosi that he will thrive in any position he is put in. Italy’s defence has often been written off before big tournaments but it always rises to the occasion.
I’m excited by the spectre of seeing the passion and flair of Balotelli and Cassano playing up front for Italy. However while most pundits are putting them both in their likely starting XIs, Coach Prendelli almost never plays them at the same time, usually preferring instead the more conservative option of Di Natale to one or the other of the squad’s largest egos.
As for the match fixing scandal back home – here is a list of times there have been Serie A match fixing scandals before big tournaments in the past: 1982, 2006.
The most important rule in a tournament like this is that the winner is never the team playing joga bonito at the start of the month. It’s he who plays best in the last game that takes home the cup. All you have to do to have a chance is put yourself in that final by any means necessary. It doesn’t have to be attractive. That’s how Italy manages to be so successful in World Cups. If we beat Spain in our first game I will be both staggered and very afraid.
Needless to say I’ll be glued to every game regardless of who is playing. I’ll be watching Italy’s games where Auckland’s Italian community always gathers to watch gli Azzurri, Gina’s restaurant on Symonds Street. I hope to blog a bit about that unique experience at some stage during the month.
All of this may well be at the expense of getting along to the local stuff so my apologies if you visit in the next few weeks looking to see what Northern League fixture I’m subjecting myself to, only to find me prattling on about the Euros. Normal service will resume after July 1.
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/