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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Euro 2020: who needs it more against who are favorites

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At the beginning of this Euros, we might all have our favorites that we were probably cheering up for glory, but only that to be somewhat curtailed bitterly. We thought certain sides were flawless and invincible. But satirically, the sides we initially thought were perfect in all departments were the very ones that quickly leaked from every department. Blame certain gaffers for not properly doing their assignment. And join me in the rest of the remaining enjoyment. 

This Euros was meant to be the breakthrough for Belgium, the amendment for France, the defence for Portugal, the evolution for Germany; and probably the rebirth for England, an additional decoration for Spain of proved glory, and a maiden glory for Italy who were dubbed ‘the dark horses’ of this tournament. But we’ve also seen sides that rebuff individual bullshit at the execution of teamwork and pragmatism. Swiss. Czech Republic. Ukraine. Denmark. Have all made their mark. Euro 2020 is berserk. 

Of course there were favorites in the Red Devils, Les Bleus and the Selecao, but this tournament refused to follow the scripts, and it has already descended into absolute madness enmeshed with surprises and excitement. This has so far been the case – from Allianz Arena to Puskas Arena – Bucharest to Budapest – and every other Euro 2020 footballing city of zest. 

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For all the dramas and melodramas, I am going to treat you to some fascinating recollections from the happenings so far. At some points, the best thing to do is to give credit to those that deserve the brownie points. So here are some points to take home:

The Three Lions to await an assembly for glory at Wembley 

When the Three Lions play next at their very own Wembley, it’ll be against Denmark who crashed Czech Republic out shortly before they themselves saw Ukraine out in a similar direction in Rome. The Danes triumphed against Czech but they weren’t able to put Patrick Schick in check. He had pulled one back from a pinpoint Vladimir Coufal cross, but that wasn’t enough to avoid a mutual disappointment alongside their skipper Tomas Soucek. Not even Tomas Holes was able to perforate any more holes to penetrate a robust Denmark defence as he did against the Oranges. But since the Danes aren’t oranges, maybe they proved harder to be penetrated. 

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From a shocking start to the campaign in Copenhagen where all their hopes were left hanging following the Christian Erikson cardiac arrest of unrest that didn’t succumb them under duress, the Danes are now in the semis. If any other team in the last-four is actually making their mark, it’s probably Denmark that are hallmark. 

Having been criticized for playing all their games at home, this time around, the Three Lions played in Rome. As Emess would put it, they raped Ukraine, leaving them impregnated with four whole goals, setting up a Wembley semifinal clash against Denmark. But they themselves haven’t conceded any goal yet. If their raping of Ukraine would disqualify them for being virgin, then maybe it should be on a very thin margin. There at Wembley, the only thing the Three Lions seek is victory. They want glory to come home. That’s why whenever they play in London, hopes of glory become the only thing they don. 

The Azzurri to bury any opponent and fly back to Rome with glory 

From the ‘dark horses’ to somewhat favorites – that’s Italy for you – the Azzurri. If there’s any excitement associated with Italy, it’s certainly how they play, how they hold the ball, how they retain possession and poise. It was probably their famous defenders in the likes of Maldini, Cannavaro, Nesta, Zambrotta and Materazzi that won the hearts of many in the Italian game. A defensive admiration that was extended by Chiellini and Bonucci, as well as Buffon.

But now, albeit still having a very solid backline, the Italian football we used to know is evolving. The strength of this current Italian side that are on an unbeaten run since 2018 is in the middle of the pitch. The performance they produced against Belgium was very scary to me. The energy with which they played that match was also a bit outlandish to me, but I had to remind myself how they even sing their national anthem. The two are in harmony. And the way a certain Jorginho plays and touches the ball, one can begin to assume that some Brazilian genes are in the mix. And when it’s time to shine, they always have Insigne. What’s the difference between Buffon and Donnaroma? Don’t tell me it’s Gianluigi. 

Spain to prove to the world that avoiding a certain real part of Madrid cannot put them in pain

When Luis Enrique called his final squad ahead of this tournament, the noise within, across and beyond Spain was just too much. There were abundant cries about the inclusion of no Real Madrid player. Curses followed suit. But Luis Enrique always knew what he did, believing that he did the best interest of the nation. But Real Madrid fans refused to accept and respect his decision, cursing Spain to crash out early so that they could start their we-know-it claims. 

But even though it’s been a somewhat disturbed and threatened campaign for them so far, they’re still not out. And as things stand, they’re in the semis against Italy. And does Enrique care if the inclusion of some players from a certain club could make a tally? There might be no Ramos, but in Busquets, Spain has a new boss. This is Luis Enrique’s Spain. So swallow your pain. 

The footballing Geneva Convention couldn’t even protect Swiss

In humorous terms, one would put it, according to the footballing Geneva Convention, you die by what you triumph in. Literally, if you live by extra time and penalty shootouts, you also die by that same extra time and penalty shootouts. Karma hit Swiss. The proud grounds on which they eliminated France were the loud grounds on which they were eliminated by Spain. That latter encounter was too heavy for them to contain. 

The red card shown to Remo Freuler was a harsh one. Unsurprisingly, it came from a Michael Oliver of notoriety. If you don’t remember any variety of his poor officiating, be reminded of Juve-Real in the 2018 UCL last-8, that Benatia-Vasquez encounter. If you still don’t remember, there goes the Buffon red card. It was the same Michael Oliver at the helm of all these brouhaha. Put all that aside, the fact that the footballing Geneva Convention couldn’t protect Swiss was a total let down. But thanks to Yann Sommer for never letting us down as they were going down. 

The Rainbow drama no more a trauma 

The annoying mantra of ‘football is for everyone’ in the guise of accommodating and tolerating homosexuality in the beautiful game has been quite disturbing in this Euros. But one thing that disturbs even more is the rainbow thrown into the mix. Now, even Allianz Arena is homosexual. But now, the whole drama has come to an end as all the sides in the overt rainbow campaign are all eliminated. Unmitigated thanks to England and Czech Republic in that regard. 

If football is truly for everyone, then why would anyone use football as the platform to make a rainbow campaign? If football is actually for everyone, then they should respect that not everyone is interested in the rainbow drama. In fact, why would they want to mix the beautiful game with any other movement, especially one that even interests a very few? All the teams cheering it up have all gone out. No more drama. No more trauma. No more bullshit of such aroma. 

Zinchenko is a variant Shevchenko

Amongst the countries to make their names in this tournament, Ukraine stands out, at least for themselves and Shevchenko. It’s the legendary Milan striker of the ’04 Ballon d’Or winner who is at the dugout for his country. He’s undoubtedly the most decorated Ukrainian player of all time. He’s also their all time top scorer. But with all these, Shevchenko was never able to take Ukraine to the last-8 of a major tournament, at least as a player. 

But in this tournament, he’s guided them to that feat as a gaffer. Thanks to a certain versatile Oleksandr Zinchenko who turned himself into a Shevchenko variant to be pushing his side ahead all this while. His goal and assist against Sweden in the knockouts was enough to make Ukraine play their first ever quarterfinal match of a major tournament. Thanks to Shevchenko and his variant in Zinchenko. You know no one could facilitate this more than Yarmolenko. 

Doku already attracts sales before reaching Brussels 

If you have watched Belgium versus Italy, you’d realize that Jeremy Doku is a revelation. But his mesmerizing display, even though it won them the penalty that Lukaku converted on the cusp of the first half, and also kept the show on continuous alert and nicety, wasn’t enough to keep his country in contention. However, one may begin to think that Doku has all what it takes to assume the shoes of Eden Hazard for Belgium, if that’s not too quick to think. 

In that particular match, he was exceedingly hot and entertaining, showing out the ‘baggas’ he’s got, keeping his side in the match, taking the ball forward via the left wing, facing the solid Italian defence, doing them ‘baggas’. But one moment that probably got many off the seats was when he faced the opponent defence with the ball, pedaled the half back before leaving another defender on the ground, creating a desirable theta quite enough for him to slot the ball in for a 2-2 Belgium, but the velocity that he applied was a bit high. He created a perfect theta but he couldn’t apply the perfect velocity to execute Newton’s first law of motion in redeeming his side. But whatever, Jeremy Doku is however our Jeremy Doku. And who’d not want to have him on their sales even before reaching Brussels? 

Everything said, everything done, everything seen, this Euros has shown us moments where the favorite doesn’t matter. It has shown us that, what matters is who needs it more. And who needs it more would go ahead to do more and eventually win the game. Tell me football is coming home. Tell me this one is coming home. 

Batou Saidy holds a degree in Public and Environmental Health. Aside from his profession, he is a writer. His writing extends to current affairs, contemporary life issues, politics, sports, and health.  

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