Euro 2012: The Runners & Riders – Germany

May 26, 2012


“It is now sixteen years since Germany last won a major international tournament. This (perhaps surprisingly long) period of time hasn’t been without its fair share of pain, but to suggest that this is some sort of drought when when they’ve reached the World Cup final, the World Cup semi-final and the European Championship final in those intervening years would be something of a push. More interestingly, the image of the German national team has been overhauled in recent years. If the old image of the team was built upon the joyless performances of West Germany at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain and could be visualised as the seemingly perpetually growling face of Harald Schumacher, its replacement was perhaps best demonstrated by two fluid and flexible thrashings handed out in successive matches to England and Argentina in the World Cup finals two years ago. This German national team – fallible and invigorating, capable in equal measures of outstanding brilliance and handing out doses of both agony and ecstasy to its supporters – is possibly the most eagerly anticipated of all sixteen competitors at this summers tournament.” twohundredpercent

Euro 2012: The Runners & Riders – Portugal
“It would be a stretch to call Portugal under-achievers, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that they could be considered the nearly men of European international football. This is a country which has periodically come close in recent years to winning a major trophy without actually lifting one, but the development of football in Portugal to even this point has come after decades of being considered a relative backwater in international terms, even though its biggest clubs have been winning trophies at the highest level since the nascent years of pan-continental club football. This summer, however, a fiendish draw and the ongoing suspicion that the team has the unfortunate ability to not live up to the sum of its parts may mean that its involvement in the European Championships could be curtailed early.” twohundredpercent

Euro 2012 – The Runners & Riders: The Netherlands
“With the benefit of hindsight, there seems something inevitable about the crowning of Spain as the world champions in South Africa two years ago. Yet the Netherlands came within minutes of taking the match to a penalty shoot-out and since then have continued the form that they demonstrated, becoming, in August of last year, only the second team in the history of the game to reach number one in FIFAs world rankings without having won the tournament. The Dutch team remains one of the favourites to win this summer’s competition, but the side that fought – in some respects literally – its way to the finals of the World Cup won few friends on the way, and represented something of a break with the in some ways idealistic traditions of the team with its defensive and aggressive system.” twohundredpercent

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The myth of football management

May 26, 2012

“Once a turnip, now reincarnated as a goldfish. Suppose they’re roughly the same colour. At the back end of 2010 few people would have predicted that come the end of the following season Roy Hodgson would be announcing his first England squad on the day his successor at Anfield, Kenny Dalglish, was being handed his P45 by the Fenway Sports Group.” World Soccer


The final Friday night

May 26, 2012

“In the end it was an enjoyable Spanish cup final, if not a spectacular game. Barcelona’s first-half performance saw to that, and Athletic just didn’t have the necessary artillery to turn the game around. It’s as if they peaked when they defeated Manchester United, and have never really got back to that level of performance. Their league campaign finished poorly, and they lost both their finals – but of course they should be commended for having reached them. Pep Guardiola said as much, in that generous way he has with other teams, in the post-match press-conference. It’s been a memorable season for them, their first under ‘El Loco’ Marcelo Bielsa, and maybe their last, since there is still no definitive news as to what the great enigma has decided to do next season.” ESPN