Euros 2012 - A to Z

With the European Championships wrapped up once again, Daniel Keenan takes us through the A to Z of the competition this year A: Après Match. Usual high standard was maintained by the satirical panel while RTÉ’s panel of dinosaurs were also their usual selves, beating BBC and ITV coverage on entertainment value alone. But having Ray Houghton on commentary is absolutely rubbish Bill. B: Beards. The Czechs took a ‘no shave till we exit’ pact, but why so many other players sported face fungus during the tournament is a mystery. Let’s hope it doesn’t continue. Relegate facial hair to that one month at the end of year, or else we’ll be back to the dark days of Ian Rush’s moustache. C: Group C. Like in 1988, Ireland were put in the group which produced both finalists. The group also produced the most competitive game of the tournament (Italy vs Spain, part 1) and the least competitive (Ireland vs Spain).D: Decoration. The tricolour took a two week trip around Poland, decorated in slogans like “They have Xavi & Pirlo, but we’ve got Long-Cox,” “Dressed by Penneys, Funded by the Dole,” and “Angela Merkel Thinks We’re at Work” which went viral around the world and was sold at €20,000 at auction to raise money for a child with cancer. E: El Nino. Fernando Torres finally showed glimpses of his old self in this tournament. Chelsea are a frightening prospect with an on-song Torres, Eden Hazard, Lukaku (who may be given a chance this season) and the possibility of Porto’s Hulk arriving in the summer. F: Fines. UEFA handed out fines like your creepy uncle hands out candy. Some fans’ behaviour during the tournament was nothing short of disgraceful, particularly Russian fans, and UEFA dealt with this by fining the Football Federation of the responsible nations. Not exactly going to deter fans, but fair. However, when you fine Nicklas Bendtner €100,000 for exposing sponsored underpants, and the Croatian FA €80,000 for fans throwing flares on the pitch and directing monkey chants at Mario Balotelli, you have to question where UEFA’s sense comes from. G: Goalkeepers. Both captains for the final were goalkeepers, as well as Hugo Lloris captaining France. Euro 2012 had a particularly high standard of goalkeeping with Lloris, Manuel Neuer, Igor Akinfeev, Petr Cech, Iker Casillas and the legend that is Gigi Buffon, all gracing the pitch. The position has come a long way since the fat guy on the playground was expected to stand between the posts. H: Height. The tournament showed that you don’t have to be 6’4” with boulder-shoulders in order to be a good footballer; this was a victory for the pint sized passer, as none of Iniesta, Xavi, Silva, Juan Mata, Jordi Alba, Jesùs Navas or Pedro are over 5’7”, while neither Fabregas or Andrea Pirlo are over 5’10”. Men of the world rejoice, because now size really doesn’t matter. I: Individuals. Holland had one of the best squads in the tournament, but finished on the same amount of points as Ireland. Their stars just didn’t gel together, as Bert van Marwijk’s attempt to play better football backfired. He really should have just allowed Nigel de Jong to continue to kung-fu kick all around him.J: John Delaney. John DeLad-ey, downed shots and stumbled around Poland like Tommy from Rugrats. Meanwhile Monaghan United pulled out of the Airtricity League, as well as sports promoter Damien O’Brien, who was set to bring England to the Aviva for a friendly in August, and organise a pre-season tournament in Thomond Park for four major European teams, has severed all ties with the FAI, because he says it’s impossible to work with them. Delaney earns €400,000 annually. Money well spent. K: Kiss. While other players celebrated with their children, Fabregas brought his girlfriend to the bench for a cheeky kiss. There was also that photo of an Irish fan sharing an intimate moment with a Croatian fan during the two countries’ opening encounter. L: Last Bet Scandal. It seems whenever Italian football is ‘rocked’ by scandal, they always do well. 1982: win the World Cup. 2006: win the World Cup. 2012: Second in Euros. We can only assume that before Brazil 2014, Cesare Prandelli will bribe a few Serie A referees, in order to get the best out of his team. M: Mario Memes. So the best celebration of the tournament was a non-celebration. Balotelli just can’t step out of the limelight, as after a two-goal salvo against the Germans, his Mr Universe celebration went viral. The magic of photoshop meant Balotelli was transformed into everything from a postman to a Pokemon. N: No goal line technology. Ukraine were wrongfully denied a goal against England, which had the world howling for goal line technology. Even the world’s most corrupt man, Sepp Blatter, says it’s a necessity. But UEFA President Michel Platini says he will still oppose technology. Presumably, he’ll introduce another six referees to do the job instead. O: Onside. There was an undoubted improvement in the standard of refereeing at Euro 2012. Not perfect, but better. P: Pirlo’s Penalty Panache. Alliteration aside, this was a crowning achievement on a great tournament for the Juventus man, who was released from AC Milan because they thought he was finished. Passed Italy into the final, and the only thing more perfect than his Panenke was his hair. Sergio Ramos was about a day too late. Q: Questions finally answered. Can Ronaldo play well for Portugal? Yes, sometimes. Is Balotelli a top class player. Yes, sometimes. R: Rioting. While the Fields of Athenry were belted out around Poland, there were less savoury scenes at other games. Polish and Russian fans were the main culprits, as a clash between the two sets of Ultra supporters led to 180 arrests and twenty-four injuries. Racist chants and banners, as well as the use of flares, were a feature of some Czech and Croatian games. S: Support. Ireland lost all three games on a 9-1 aggregate, but Irish fans never stopped singing. UEFA singled them out for their loyalty (and lack of racist chants and rioting) and Michel Platini will travel to Dublin to present the award, which will be dedicated to the late James Nolan. Ireland’s developed a bad reputation in Europe because of its financial problems, but the fans behaviour has made Europe realise that yes, dere’s more to OIreland dan dis. T: Tiki Taka. The style of play employed by Spain, as they passed their way to another major tournament victory. Completely team based, it involves every player being able to retain possession and push forward, playing primarily through the centre. Crosses are rare, as players form passing-triangle, so that there are two passing options at all times. Defenders push very high so that they are also an attacking option, while the goalkeeper acts as a sweeper. U: Unexciting. Yes, Tiki Taka football is great to watch, but Spain managed to pull any competitiveness out of football, which is what makes the sport exciting. They controlled every game with ease, and never really looked like losing. Spain are the football equivalent of Ulysses: spectacularly good, but incredibly boring.V: Value. Players’ heads are not the only things to inflate after a good performance in a major tournament. Their value also skyrockets. Valencia probably could have got an extra €5 million for Jordi Alba if they waited till after he scored in the final to sell him to Barcelona. Mario Mandzukic has already joined Bayern Munich for €13 million after his three goals in the Euros. The value of Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski, Federico Balzaretti and Nicklas Bendtner are sure to increase. W: WAGS. WAGS took centre stage in 2006, but there was almost no mention of them six years on. Did players instruct them to stay home, for fear of John Terry finding out they were in Eastern Europe? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s just that nobody cares about Jordan Henderson’s latest squeeze. X: Xavi. And Xabi Alonso. And Iniesta. And Fabregas. Spain have the most perfectly function midfield the world has ever seen. Xtraordinary. Y: Youth. Roy Hodgson has already pledged to trade in experience for acne and ASBOs, by turning to youth for England’s next qualifying campaign. Spain won the tournament outright with a team with an average age of 26.5. Now pressure is on Trapattoni to give Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, Ciaran Clarke, James McClean, Leon Best and Anthony Stokes a real chance. Z: Zero. The number of points Ireland and Holland got in their groups. Therefore, Republic of Ireland = Holland. So, we’re not as hopeless as we thought.