Category: UEFA European Championships

It would be logical to review football on a season by season basis, but 2012 was just a bit special. As well as the European Championships, Africa Cup of Nations and Olympic Games, all the usual competitions provided thrilling moments.

Euphoria | Spain midfielder Juan Mata and striker Fernando Torres celebrate their annihilation of Italy. (Image | Betting Expert)

Euphoria | Spain midfielder Juan Mata and striker Fernando Torres revel in their annihilation of Italy. (Image | Betting Expert)

Rather than document everything that took place, I have attempted to break down the last 12 months into a series of awards.

However, I will not focus on the more obvious categories, such as “most goals scored” (Lionel Messi, with 91) and “most prolific tweeter” (Joey Barton).

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Roy Hodgson takes his frustration out on a football on possibly the world’s wettest patch of grass last night (Image | Action Images)

Last night in international football: one game out of a scheduled two for England’s senior and under-21 sides, a Polish farce and a Serbian tragedy.

The senior England team will belatedly kick off last night’s World Cup qualifier against Poland in Warsaw this afternoon, after stunning scenes in the new National Stadium last night, while if Stuart Pearce and his squad have their voices heard, it may be some time before an international kicks off in Serbia again.

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Staying on the island | English footballers rarely take up the opportunity to play abroad, and it is an extremely infrequent occurrence in modern football in this country. (Image | Football)

Two decades since the formation of the Premier League and the football landscape in this country has changed dramatically. The Taylor Report brought in all-seater stadia; the advent of television money has resulted in TV rights increasing from £50m in 1992 to £3bn today; the availability of talented Englishmen has dropped precipitously as the league has filled with foreign-born footballers, and home-grown players no longer ply their trade abroad. Why?

There are several ways of approaching this, but the most obvious is money. Players in England benefit from a laissez faire wage structure – indeed structure is arguably too generous a term. Clubs pay players what they want, and the more desirable an individual is, the greater the outlay will be from the side that wishes to retain or purchase them. Wages of £100,000-plus per week are commonplace, creating a safety net for English footballers who are of sufficient ability to be remunerated so generously.

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A long road | As the Olympic torch has been transported up and down the country, Olympic fever has slowly begun to take hold, despite the negative press surrounding the Games. (Image | The Sun)

It really has been a vintage summer of sport. The superb entertainment offered by the 2012 European Championships, England notwithstanding, Andy Murray reaching the Wimbledon final and Bradley Wiggins‘ dominance of the Tour de France will live long in the memory of sports fans everywhere.

Not only this, but arguably the most prestigious, and potentially exhilarating sporting event of the summer, is yet to even begin. It is the London 2012 Olympic Games to which that reference pertains, which unofficially begin tonight (with Women’s Football group games) and have already been hitting the headlines, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Away from transport dilemmas, the issue of packing an extra 10 million visitors into London and the G4S debacle, the Olympic Games celebrate the greatest sporting talents of athletes from across the world. If you claim to be a sports fan, yet this somehow fails to excite you, may I suggest a quick examination of your pulse.

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Unstoppable | Spain’s performance in the Euro 2012 final, after an occasionally underwhelming campaign, has left many asking if they are the best team in the history of football. (Image | Getty)

After three weeks of 10-second countdowns, Pirlo-praising and Spanish superiority, the UEFA European Championships are over. A thoroughly enthralling group stage was followed by a below-average knockout stage that culminated with a sizzling Spanish performance in Kiev to complete an unprecedented trio of consecutive tournaments wins for the newly-crowned ‘greatest national team of all time’. In this article, I will be looking at how everyone performed.

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Narrow victory | Spain have hardly set Euro 2012 alight, and many have poured scorn on their relatively painless route to the final. (Image | The Guardian)

It is quite shocking that current world and European champions, Spain, have been criticised for adopting a boring playing style. Despite reaching their third final in as many tournaments and continuing with their famous tiki-taka football, critics have unleashed a wave of attacks that has seen the tide of opinion go against Spain. A team that are one game away from a record third successive tournament win, who were once admired and celebrated among football critics and fans alike, face increased pressure to not only emerge victorious over Italy on Sunday evening, but to do so in a manner that will silence the critics.

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Coming home early | The conflict between club and country has raged for decades, but the success of the Premier League is clearly having a detrimental effect upon the national side. (Image | Express)

Without even a modicum of surprise, England exited another international tournament at the quarter final stage on Sunday night. Although expectations among supporters, players and the coaching staff were considerably lower this time around, compared to previous years, there exists an air of disappointment and a desire among fans for the national game to be restructured in order to yield future success.

It is not so simple, however. We must question where the wishes of supporters truly lie. English footballers are asked to compete in up to four competitions during the season: the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup. Quite often, players will travel across Europe for a midweek tie before venturing home for a domestic fixture just three days later.

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A familiar tale | England‘s penalty defeat cannot be allowed to mask the deficiencies in player development and technical ability. (Image | Yahoo)

Listening to BBC Radio 5 Live last night was rather masochistic on my part, as unlike the somewhat jingoistic commentators on television, callers in to the show seemed to accept England’s latent failings far more readily. The host, Alan Green, was typically honest about the nation’s footballing shortcomings, and once again called for root and branch reform. While many find the Ulsterman to be a deeply off-putting, often infuriating presence on the radio, he is right. We cannot carry on like this.

It has been said time and time again, but the FA operates not on a long-term basis, but the worst type of short-termism. Please the fans, reach the quarter finals, suffer a heroic exit on penalties and we can forget the dearth of young talent in the English game, the fact that we were entirely outplayed by a far from vintage Italy for 120 minutes, and our inability to keep the ball and dominate matches at the pinnacle of European football.

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Passed it | Andrea Pirlo was careless discarded by AC Milan, but he still drives both Italy and Juventus even late on in his distinguished career. (Image | Metro)

At the ripe old age of 33, you might be forgiven for thinking that Andrea Pirlo was no more than a fringe-player, a bastion of experience on the periphery of the Italian squad; however, the Azzuri’s three games at this year’s European Championships have proven quite the opposite. Pirlo is still the central figure for the Italian national squad.

Having moved from AC Milan to Juventus on a free transfer last summer, Pirlo enjoyed an outstanding season for his new club, starting 37 league games (a career best), scoring three goals, providing 13 assists and adding a touch of class to the Juventus midfield.

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They might be getting used to this feeling, but will Spain be standing atop another winners’ podium come July 1? (Image |

After last night’s nervy performance from Portugal, we already know one of the four teams headed to the European Championships’ final four. After Germany presumably cruise past Greece tonight, the last two places will be set by the two most intriguing quarter final encounters.

Spain, reigning European and world champions, have failed to reach their own heady heights thus far at this tournament. They will face a France side looking to bounce back from an unlikely defeat at the hands of Sweden, while the last quarter final features the resurgent England and the ever unpredictable Italy.

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