1) Pirlo is semi-divine. He made England look, well, stupid, but that’s not saying much. His real performance for the ages was against a much better Germany side four days later. There was a moment in the first half of the semi-final where you thought he was going to get found out, though. Under pressure in the German half, ball at his feet, for a moment he looked old, frail even. A younger, fitter Özil harried him, and in turning away from the obscenely one-footed Real Madrid star, Pirlo stumbled, putting his right arm down to the turf to steady himself as he fell.
Has this been the tournament of Euroredemption? It has been impossible to follow Euro 2012 unaware of political frissons, and the echoes of the other Euro, as the European Union undergoes its gravest crisis since Treaty of Rome in 1957. “Greece Leaves the Euro” was one cheeky London tabloid headline after the Greeks were beaten 4-2 (it had to be Germany who beat them).
Last year, the football editor of The Independent ran an article with a surprising headline: “Portugal ‘sells’ Ronaldo to Spain in £160m deal on national debt.” Less than ten days earlier, Portugal’s prime minister, José Sócrates, had resigned upon failing to enact a fourth round of austerity measures to make up a severe budget shortfall.
They think it’s all over? It is now, thank God. I’ve waited for others to vent their spleen over my unfortunate country’s performance on Sunday. At least it was no surprise, and no one said we wuz robbed, because we wuzn’t. Truth to tell, England have never won a European championship or a World Cup except once and then they didn’t deserve to. Nobody who can remember 1966 (as I fear I can) and who has any feeling at all for the game would deny that Brazil were the best team that year.
I miss Paul the Octopus. Who can I now challenge to a predict-off? I was right on all quarterfinal predictions, but unfortunately, that wasn’t much of an accomplishment. Paul the Octopus and Paul McCartney would have easily predicted the same winners. The level of teams was too disparate. England could have won the shootout, but, luckily, the Ashleys had other plans, and we were spared watching an England Germany semi where Merkel shakes her booty at least half a dozen times. By the way, did anyone else think that she shouldn’t have celebrated so gleefully when the Greeks got scored upon?
Could there be a better final for this year’s Euro than Spain vs. Germany? One of the great joys of watching the Euro as an American is the ability to be unapologetically mercenary in my fandom. Germany vs. Portugal? I pick Germany because I can’t stand the smugness of Cristiano Ronaldo’s smile, and those young Germans seem like such good, wholesome guys. Germany vs. Greece? Can’t resist the geo-political underdog narrative, so Greece all the way. Ultimately, this approach is about rooting for one of two things: Either the most compelling story or the most entertaining match.
In 1975 I left the burning city of Beirut for the quiet insanity of England. To say that short, frail and wispy, 15-year-old me didn’t fit in would be such an understatement as to be a joke. I stuck out more in an English public school than I would have had I marched in a May Day parade with the Red Army in Moscow, or sashayed the Yves St Laurent catwalk with supermodels, or hunted seals with the Inuit, or—well, you get the idea. I spent most of the time pretending that I wasn’t worried about my family back in a war zone, desperately feigning nonchalance.
Bravo to Luke Dempsey and his brilliant blog post here on the dreaded 12 yards. Also bravo to Luke for not mentioning my own penalty kick flub, which (if my memory serves) helped cost him New York soccer glory.
I am still reeling from the awfulness of England in the game against Italy. The greatness of Pirlo notwithstanding, Italy was/is not that good. Consider what the Italian team would have been like without his constant orchestration; consider how bad Balotelli was/is, ever eager to show the extent to which he is overrated. But Italy, such as it was, was all over England and the lads could not string two passes together for two hours or so.
I want you to stop whatever you’re doing, and take a short walk. 12 strides, please, from anywhere to anywhere. Note the distance. For me, it’s here to sort of over there, but for you it might be something else: here-ish to kinda that spot, or even “where I was 12 strides ago to where I am now, looking back at where I was.” Whatever you choose, it isn’t very far, is it? Whatever your gait, it’s probably around 12 yards. Please remember the distance and we’ll continue. Now, imagine that you’ve spent every waking hour since the age of, oh, I don’t know, 4 years old?