03 July, 2008

44 Years of Hurt

So they finally did it, and only the most bitter fans could say they weren’t secretly pleased for Spain. For tournament after tournament they consistently have the best team on paper, but somehow always manage to find a way to capitulate. Finally though this year the duck was broken, and one wonders now whether this young Spanish side might go on to dominate world football for some time now. Kudos then go out to the whole squad, from the ever reliable goalkeeper captain Iker Casillas through midfielder water carrier Marcos Senna to the revelationary front-two of Fernando Torres and David Villa. No kudos however to professional racist Luis Arrogances, who skulked around like a seasoned sex offender and insisted on substituting Torres at every available opportunity.

The tournament in general was a touch underwhelming really, and whether that was just due to an all-round lack of goals is up for debate. Of course the correct answer is that most of the best early games were broadcast at 5 pm when most people are at work, so to be honest I think the main complaint was that the Euro just flew under the radar a bit too much and thus never really built any momentum. I mean, sorry, no the real reason the tournament sucked was that England weren’t in it.

Seriously though, few unknown faces really impressed (the majority of the ace Russian lads had of course just won the UEFA Cup a month ago) and the old guard of France and Italy failed to turn up really. As usual Portugal and Holland flattered to deceive, while the fancied pre-tournament outsiders Croatia failed to build on a cracking group-stage masterclass against Germany. Overall you have to say that the best team won it though, and it’s reassuring that the so-called ‘beautiful game’ finally translated into major international success for Spain.

Apologies for the delay is posting this report by the way, but I hope you all appreciate that this is due to the mammoth effort of sourcing our own photos for perhaps the first time in STT history. Admittedly ‘sourcing our own photos’ meant me finding the right cable to connect my phone to the computer, but still, credit where credit’s due eh.

I hope you enjoy the action shots taken out and about in several of the bars we advised you to go to in advance, we definitely had a good time with plenty of different country’s fans, you were all most accommodating! A final shout-out to that one lone German fan down in Stockwell when Portugal went out of the tournament, I really thought you were going to get cut by the final whistle.

Finally then, here are the boring lists. Feel free to agree / argue / feign indifference.

Official Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament (as chosen by those clever bods in UEFA’s technical committee. And Gerard Houllier)

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Iker Casillas (Spain), Edwin van der Sar (Netherlands)

Defenders: Jose Bosingwa (Portugal), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Carlos Marchena (Spain), Pepe (Portugal), Carles Puyol (Spain), Yuri Zhirkov (Russia).

Midfielders: Hamit Altintop (Turkey), Luka Modric (Croatia), Marcos Senna (Spain), Xavi Hernandez (Spain), Konstantin Zyryanov (Russia), Michael Ballack (Germany), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Lukas Podolski (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands).

Forwards: Andrei Arshavin (Russia), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia), Fernando Torres (Spain), David Villa (Spain).

Hard to argue with that really, although I feel little Portuguese maestro Deco also deserves a mention in there. Honorable mentions too go out to Turkey’s midfielder Arda Turna and Czech winger Libor Sionko.

Just for completeness sake, the overall Player of the Tournament went to Spain string-puller Xavi by the way. “We have chosen Xavi because he epitomizes the Spanish style of play. He was extremely influential in the whole possession, passing and penetrating kind of game that Spain played,” said Andy Roxburgh head of UEFA's technical committee.

Flops of the Tournament – Luca Toni, Mario Gomez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Antonio Di Natale

BBC’s Top 10 goals

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