So – this will be the final SotB post for Euro 2012, and for at least two years hence. As you’ll have noticed if you’ve been reading since the first few weeks of the competition, we’ve found it difficult to keep up the posting rate we had at the beginning, and I wonder if this is a fact which leads us to certain inevitabilities about the big summer football tournament.
For most European fans, the domestic football season ends a little bit too soon. There’s a lull after Christmas, when the fixture list often goes awry due to cup replays and postponements, that causes – on my part at least – a slight slippage in attentiveness. Because of this, the run-in, beginning just before Easter, feels in itself a little like a high-stakes short-form tournament which concludes before the adrenalin has dissipated. In World Cup and European Championship years, the international event feels at first a bit like a revival of the domestic league and cups, a kind of redemption of the season just passed. The competitions absorb a not-yet-sated excitement in what amounts to a form of sublimation.
When the group stages end, the match-per-day format is abandoned as an impossibility and the rest days – which we rhetorically welcome, stating they will give us an opportunity to ‘get something else done’ – begin to act as petri dishes of fatigue. You find yourself failing to watch a promising second-round match between two of the favourites when, a week and a half previously, you’d have stayed glued to an atrocious game just because it was there. I watched the final, knackered after the Stone Roses in Manchester the night before, in a bar full of Spaniards in Shoreditch – it was a nice experience in social terms, but I wasn’t focused on the action itself in particular.
Beyond fatigue at the sheer amount of football we consume over a season and the first half of the tournament, I genuinely think that most people prefer the group stages anyway. Underdogs emerge; players we’ve never heard of promise to establish themselves amongst the best in the world. Some big footballing nation – on this occasion the bizarrely awful Netherlands – has an absolute catastrophe which makes little to no sense. In Poland and Ukraine, it’s beyond doubt that the tournament did become less engaging after a group stage which, frankly, spoiled the audience: France fell apart and allowed Spain the space to mentally steel themselves in the face of Tiki Take‘s many critics, Greece failed to mount a convincing challenge against Germany, England reverted to type by producing a tactically-confused and technically-depressing display before losing on penalties. I missed the semi-finals due to work commitments, but Spain’s sheer competence in dismissing Italy in Kiev made it seem as if their victory had been added to the competition rules in invisible ink.
I’ve not much more to add. I don’t think that there’s a hell of lot to say about England, other than – like many others here – found myself warming to them more than I have done for a long time, only to find that the ‘new way’ hadn’t been fully implemented. The media’s dismissing of Wayne Rooney’s international credentials was premature (and will be hypocritically forgotten soon enough), but his performance against Italy was infuriating to watch. Once again, it’s back to utopian speculation: Wilshere, Cleverley, Rodwell, Barkley, McEachran, Zaha, Sterling and others find themselves tasked with becoming the England side who will finally learn how to enjoy, y’know, having the ball.
So: I’d like to say a huge thanks for reading and – if you did – contributing to the discussion. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here, the contributors page gives indications of where else our writing can be found. It’s been hard work but, in the main, thoroughly enjoyable. For my part, I’m now looking forward to seeing how Darlington fare in the Northern League (Level Nine!) and Dulwich in the Isthmian South – blank slate time. We thrive on promise and, I think, despise conclusions. So, without further ado…
Posted by Joe Kennedy