“Gentlemen, he’s back.” –Topper Harley
And with that slightly misogynistic quote from the great Topper Harley, the Supercoach returns (though it should be noted that people of all genders are welcome here, and in fact Topper only said ‘Gentlemen’ due to the fact that he was returning to his all-male Air Force unit, which did actually have one female member, but nobody seemed to notice that she was a chick, although the short-sighted and senile commanding office did occasionally exhort her to ‘suck in her chest’.)
For newcomers to the Supercoach, here’s what you can expect: a frighteningly comprehensive roundup of all manner of sporting competitions from all corners of the globe. There’s busy times ahead, with the Tour de France, F1, rugger, pre-season football, UFC, and the Coca Cola Mcdonald’s Lloyds TSB General Electric Proctor and Gamble Acer Samsung Panasonic Visa Adidas BMW Games all on the horizon. And there are few people better set to provide you with all the info that you will need. Last weekend, as the long-suffering Mrs. Coach can attest to, I watched two (2) UFC events, the All Black game, two Euro 2012 Quarter Finals, an AFL match, the European Grand Prix (qualifying and race), GP3 from the same circuit which featured an excellent victory for young Kiwi Mitch Evans, and a little bit of the Sri Lanka vs Pakistan Test cricket. Though slightly more than the average weekend, this was by no means an exceptionally intensive diet.
Now, it is important to stress here that this is by no means bragging on my part: it is in fact symptomatic of some kind of horrible addiction. But let my illness be your succour, and allow me to provide you with the facts and coverage that are all too often lacking from the majority of press sources.
The focus today will be a review/preview of Euro 2012, but before that you may be asking yourself how it is possible to consume so much sport, so here are a few helpful links to get you up to speed. Much of what I watch is streamed live, thanks to the incredibly reliable and remarkably cheap internet here in Korea. The sites that I have found to provide the greatest number of consistent streams are http://www.sportlemon.tv/ and http://www.vipbox.tv/. Another option is to download torrents from http://thepiratebay.se/. And on a more simple level, the first two websites that I fire up in the morning are http://eurosport.yahoo.com/ and http://livescores.com/.
But enough of that, let’s talk Euros.
Highs and lows
In all honesty, this hasn’t been the greatest tournament so far. Very few games stand out in the memory, and while there have been some nice moments and some excellent individual performances, there’s been a lack of really classic encounters.
-Pirlo’s penalty against England, which shattered the confidence of the English team, and was a moment of immeasurable bravery. It also neatly summed up what a tremendous tournament, and indeed twelve months he is having.
-Germany. Just that, really. A truly awesome team to watch at the moment. More on them in the preview of the semis.
-Croatia could well be a dark-horse for Brazil 2014. They have two capable strikers, a lot of youth throughout the team, some excellent passing through the midfield, and were desperately unlucky not to progress from their group. Two decent penalty shouts that were turned down against Spain cost them dearly.
-the Dutch. What a bunch of idiots, whose overwhelming dickishness deprived us all of what should have been some awesome football.
-the abysmal, jingoistic, inaccurate, old-boys club dominated so-called ‘punditry’ of English broadcasters BBC and ITV. Truly horrible to deal with. The sooner technology is implemented allowing viewers to mute the commentators and retain the ambient stadium sound, the better.
-the failure of the host nations to progress from the Group Stages. Now, I’m no great fan of Polish or Ukrainian football, but I think that a tournament always loses some of its zest if the hosts crash out early. The Polish in particular should have done better in arguably the weakest group at this year’s tournament. It is also statistically quite unusual: aside from South Africa in 2010, every World Cup host nation has progressed to at least the knock-out phase, and apart from co-hosts Austria and the Swiss in 2008, every European Championship host has made it out of their group. With the next Euros being staged in France and (horribly) increased to 24 teams, you would think that the French will buck the recent trend.
-racism amongst supporters, and UEFA’s continued weakness in addressing it. While it is good to see more countries getting penalised by the authorities, the punishments remain so weak that they are effectively no deterrent at all. For example, Croatia were fined less money for persistent racist chanting than Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner was for displaying the logo of an unofficial sponsor on his boxer shorts. Appalling prioritising from the governing body.
There is a lot of hope that the remaining matches may lift the overall standard seen so far. Spain vs Portugal should be an interesting encounter, with both sets of players having a great deal of familiarity with one another, due to proximity on the Iberian Peninsula, and the vast numbers who cross the border to ply their trade in their neighbour’s leagues. Their two differing styles of play- with the Spanish game all about possession and the Portuguese looking to counter-attack through Ronaldo- will mean that there probably won’t be too many surprises in terms of lineups, or indeed how the match plays out. While it would seem foolhardy to second guess coach Vicente del Bosque given that he directed Spain to World Cup success just two years ago, his decision to start Cesc Fabregas in the striking role has been a little bewildering. Fernando Torres, whilst in better form than six months ago when he would have struggled to get a start with the Wellington Phoenix, still looks off the pace, but del Bosque seems strangely unwilling to give Fernando Llorente, who had a stonking season with Athletic Bilbao, a chance to perform. As a result, aside from against the hapless Irish, goals have been hard to come by. They should still be good enough to beat the Portuguese, who were rather unfancied pre-tournament, but it could be a tight one.
Italy vs Germany should be an absolute ripper. The Italian defence is far from being the much vaunted vanguard of old, and with the likes of Ozil, Schweinsteiger (who looks set to be passed fit), Podolski and Gomez running at them, it could be a torrid night for Buffon in the Italian goal. Combined with the fact that Germany have been pretty steady defensively and the Italians have been unbelievably wasteful in front of goal, you’d have to back the Teutons to triumph. It will be interesting to see whether German coach Joachim Low tinkers with his lineup again, but any eleven that he picks is likely to be good enough to get the job done. A Spain/Germany final was many people’s prediction leading into the tourney, and it would be a fitting conclusion.
Which is, I think, a fitting conclusion from the Supercoach for today. Feel free to get in touch with questions, comments, or abusive responses, and share the Comments with your friends. I’ll be back on Friday avo with a brief look back at the Semi Finals, and a massive preview of this year’s Tour de France. Until then.