- 12 Feb 16
Between the Feverish Wait for the Euros and a Stunningly Unpredictable Premier League Season. There’s Barely Been Time to Draw Breath...
How are we all doing, comrades? Booked your flights yet? Since we last convened, the gods have given us an almighty killer of a Euros draw, one almost as vicious as that which blocked our path at the last Finals four years ago, where the eventual champions and runners-up had fun ripping us to shreds while barely seeming to break sweat.
This one is scarcely any more congenial, though the revised tournament format at least offers us scope to hope that a third-place wild-card will be all but booked, should we get off to a winning start against Sweden, the most obviously beatable of our three opponents. Nonetheless, they mastered us fairly handily the last time we crossed swords (two World Cup qualifiers in 2013) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is, on his better days, virtually impossible to contain. The Italians will also be justified in suspecting that their overall potency compares favourably to ours. And as for Belgium, their rise to No. 1 in the world rankings hasn’t been by accident. The talent in their ranks is frightening, and although Wales showed everyone how it might be done by slaying them last summer in Cardiff, we will have our work cut out merely to live with them.
So, there ought to be no illusions in anyone’s mind that we enter this great adventure as anything other than rank outsiders. Our overall talent levels are not strikingly different from what they were four years ago, but we have certainly ‘traded up’ in the managerial stakes. Martin O’Neill represents an immeasurable improvement on the superannuated Italian fossil who rode a very fortunate draw to the Finals last time out, and the spirit in the camp seems (as ever) bulletproof. All that apart, you can’t put a price on the spine-tingling excitement of knowing what lies ahead, the anticipation, the months of scanning the permutations, the prospect of Paris, Lille and Bordeaux in the summertime. The worst that can happen is that we reproduce the horrors of four years ago, in which case it will still have been a worthwhile adventure. The journey itself is half the fun.
- Lifestyle & Sports
- 09 Nov 21