The last two games that this country’s national soccer side were involved in, have been cited by most commentators, even the most the patriotic ones, as a wake-up call for England’s chances when they enter the lofty heights of tournament football.
Chile, and later Germany showed, that despite fielding a ‘second-team’ against England, that they were a yard ahead in terms of class.
In the case of Chile, one outstanding player, namely Alexis Sanchez, proved to be the difference.
But perhaps, more disappointingly, against Germany Roy Hodgson’s men lacked a clear structure and were caught short on the counter on a number of occasions – the scoreline of 1-0 could easily have been two or three.
England don’t play to a game plan, and when they do they stick to it rigidly. When playing in qualifying games to major competitions that is fine, but you will always come unstuck when facing the best in Europe or the World.
And at a time, when more money than ever is going to be poured into the Premiership – thanks BTSport’s One billion pound deal – that only mean more failure and disappointment at an international level for England’s overpriced and overrated football ‘stars.’
Germany 1 Italy 2
This Italian team did not look like they would have a chance against Germany.
Then Mario Balotelli decided to tell the world, that he had arrived.
A header and a brilliant conversion from this young maverick and Germany were on the back foot.
The longer the game went on the less convincing Germany looked.
Germany had their moments towards the end, but never looked like they were going to score, as Italy applied the squeeze.
Then, one minute into extra time, an excellent Ozul penalty pulled one back and the game was on, but they had left it too late.
The truth was when the pressure was on, Germany simply folded, but that would never have happened had a 21-year-old Italian not seized the moment.
Apparently, that was the feeling amongst the crowd at the Donbass Arena last night, as Spain reached their third straight major final in a row.
Now, why would the Portuguese fans being saying and thinking like this – can’t imagine…
Spain’s emergence, which resembles all the excitement and artistry of the 1982 Brazilians has exposed a number of truths and hard realities.
Apart from Germany – and with Russia and Holland waiting in the wings – the other sides in this competition have been at best average.
Those of us who still wonder what would have been had those fouling bunch of players called Italy not beaten Socrates, Zico, Eder, Falcao…remember them… feel we have been thrown a new life line by this Spanish team that lives up to the hype.
And the team that will able to take them on in the final is of course Germany, who should be there, unless they are very unlucky.
So have Spain squeezed the life out of the game – of course not.
And what’s the best way to beat them – play better than them, Mr Ronaldo et al.
Portugal 0 Spain 0 (2-4 on penalties)
Portugal played lockdown and it was a tactic that worked.
Except for the occasional flashes, Spain found it difficult to penetrate the Portuguese game plan that intended to disrupt Spain’s rhythm in the hope of finding Cristiano Ronaldo at the front.
And as the game went on longer, it was clear Portugal were just playing for penalties.
This was not pretty, but when have Portugal played any other way.
And despite a better Spanish showing in extra time, the game went into penalties.
Hodgson says Germany were poor once
Roy Hodgson was appointed for a number of reasons, one of which may have been to lower expectations.
On that at least, he did not disappoint.
No one expected England to do well, and even if they had managed to beat Italy – which would have been a great injustice to football – they would have been taken apart by Germany.
England’s football management seem unable to have grasped what other countries understood long ago, namely that the emergence of Spain as World Champions heralded a new, more exciting way of playing the beautiful game.
Even the Germans with all their successes behind them understood that.
So also Holland and Russia, who despite failing to progress in this tournament can build on their performances.
For in spite of their flaws, those teams are still a work in progress.
Sadly, that can not be said of England.
And the reaction of FA Chairman David Bernstein to this unsatisfactory England exit from another major tournament does not bode well for the future either.
He believes that England can build on their performances.
In fact, the best that can be said of this bunch of overpaid, overrated and uninspiring team of players is that they resemble Dad’s Army.
And with the rivalry between Spain and Germany dominating football in the way that was once reserved for Brazil and Argentina, that will not be good enough.
Sadly for the home of football, that will mean riding your luck before the inevitable – namely the pathetic sight of Dad’s Army Coming Home.
Spain 2 France 0
A nineteen minute goal and a penalty in the closing stages, both from Xabi Alonso ensured that the right team will meet Portugal in the semi final.
To their credit, France were not outplayed by this Spanish side, however, they did not test their opponents either.
Instead, this France side simply allowed the game to drift in the hope of getting an equaliser and then forcing penalties.
It was a tactic that did not work and was not worthy of a team that had been tipped by many as pre-tournament favourites.
So far, two teams have qualified for the semi finals of the 2012 European Championships. One of which will go on to become European Champions.
Last night, the world saw that team.
Germany were incredible, the goals which were struck with astonishing precision numbered four. Although their opponents Greece, like England in the last World Cup, know it could have and should have been far more.
This German side plays as a team, they are a collection of high-powered, exremely creative players, each of whom are geared towards attacking their opponent into submission. There is a contrast here with Spain who glide around the park.
The Germans simply knock the stuffing out of their opponents and it is a true spectacle. It’s time to start using the word ‘massacre’ when describing a German football performance – the best that could be said of Greece is that like England before them, they were just there.
As for Portugal, clearly this tournament is meant to be a vehicle for Cristiano Ronaldo. He has scored in the last two games. In the semi-final game against the Czech Republic, he hit the post with a wonderful creative effort, and scored in the second half with a header.
Unfortunately for Portugal though, Ronaldo is not Maradona.