David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is in a bind. Not because recent opinion polls put his party a dozen points behind Labour and not even, really, because the British economy continues to splutter along in search of a long overdue recovery.
Of all the blessings bestowed upon this tournament not the least satisfying has been the re-emergence of Andrea Pirlo as a player of the highest class. His performance against England last night was as complete a display of midfield generalship as you could wish to see. If this owed something to England’s perplexing willingness to grant the Juventus man time on the ball then that was there fault and scarcely something that should be used to diminish Pirlo’s excellence. Juventus man? That still seems an odd thing to type, so closely has the little fella been associated with Milan.
Lord spare us from any further jokelettes about tonight’s Bail-Out fixture between Germany and Greece. In any case, the boys from Monty Python were way ahead of you: That was then and this is now, and the Greeks need more inspiration than this to prevail this evening.
According to Sellar and Yeatman, authors of the alternative history of England “1066 and All That,” every time the English came close to solving the Irish Question the Irish bamboozled their colonial overlords by, cunningly, changing the Question. This neatly reflects the way England’s neighbors confound her. As in history so in soccer. The Scots and Irish and Welsh are quick to catalogue any example of overbearing English arrogance.
I mentioned that Ireland’s fans are perhaps the best of those visiting Poland and the Ukraine this month. (Croatia’s might be second-best). But for truly magnificent daftness we tip our hats to the Poles and especially those that follow Lech Poznan. This is mental and magnificent and all kinds of other things. Worth three minutes of your time...
The fashion in which the Republic of Ireland were outclassed by Croatia confirmed that, perhaps uniquely in this tournament, they have already achieved their goal. Getting to Poland was enough and as much as anyone could sensibly hope. True, they enjoyed some good fortune on the way being drawn in a respectable but hardly life-threatening group (Russia, Slovakia, Macedonia, etc.) and then getting Estonia in the play-off.
It is sometimes said that the European Championships are the World Cup without Brazil and Argentina. Though this might be more or less true on the field, it misses the obvious truth that the World Cup is not just a matter of determining the best team on the planet. That's one reason why it includes teams who are not among the top 32 sides in the world. The Euros are a different matter. The best 16 teams in Europe are involved. It is a meritocracy that should be enjoyed while we can savour it before it expands—like a New Yorker binging on too many Big Gulps—to 24 teams in four years time.
After last night’s spectacle, the American public—or at the least, American pundits—would be forgiven for demanding (or whimpering for) an end to the litany of Republican debates. After all, they’re unedifying, agonizing, somewhat grotesque, and offer little of substance aside from a terrifying glimpse into the dark, pitiless recesses of the Republican soul. All of that is clear enough. But allow for a modest proposal: Rather than fewer debates, what we need is more. Many more.
Best Goal: Fabio Quagliarella's superb chip against Slovakia. Such coolness! Such precision! Such class! Under such pressure! Runner-up: Sebastian Abreu's penalty in the shoot-out against Ghana. Audacious and nerveless in equal measure. Reminiscent of Panenka vs. West Germany in the 1976 European Championships. Tournament Hero: Luis Suarez. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Cunning and lithe in attack, Suarez also excelled in defense. His handball in the last minute of extra-time against Ghana gave his country a glimmer of a chance. What more could any player do in such circumstances?