There was a moment during last Sunday’s European Championships final when the whole of the footballing community seemed to take a gigantic sigh and finally admit that they were watching something special.
Spain were knocking the ball around so sumptuously that it was beginning to feel like a farce, even though the Italian side they were facing had been depleted to ten minute due to injury. Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Silva were playing a brand of football that hadn’t been seen for years and with this 4-0 victory over Italy, they won their third national trophy in a row on the back of their Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 triumphs.
But, with these successes have come many questions. Have Vincente Del Bosque’s men changed football forever by not playing a recognised centre forward? Is their possession based football boring or entertaining? And where do they rank alongside the other great international teams? I’ve decided to tackle the latter.
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Over the last few days, David Beckham has watched his Olympic dream go up in tatters, seen his LA Galaxy side lose 4-3 to San Jose and now he has been handed a one-game ban and a fine for an undisclosed amount.
All because he almost started a brawl between 22 footballers and a mascot. I blame his new moustache.
Beckham was furious with what he perceived to be time-wasting from San Jose’s Sam Cronin towards the end of their encounter on Saturday. So he decided to kick the ball at him as he lay on the ground. Classy.
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So that’s it. After 31 matches and 76 goals Spain are European Champions again.
Goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata confirmed their superiority and now it’s official that they are the greatest side ever assembled, as they became the first nation to ever win three straight major tournament titles on the back of their Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 triumphs.
Pre-tournament predictions that the matches themselves would be overshadowed by racist supporters violently abusing every ethnic minority in their vicinity didn’t occur, even though there were still some rather unsavoury moments.
However, despite these occurrences, the tournament has been roundly regarded as one of the greatest European Championships ever. But what and who have been the stand out moments of the competition?
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It seems like he was an integral part in London’s preparation for this summer’s Olympics games but the great man won’t be there himself. He has not been selected for the final 18-man Great Britain Olympic football squad by it’s manager Stuart Pearce, despite having been part of the 35 players shortlisted.
This is because only three players over the age of 23 are allowed to compete in the Olympics and Pearce has decided to go with Manchester City defender Micah Richards, Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs and Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy instead.
Beckham will no doubt be devastated by his omission, having been part of the Olympic flame handover ceremony in May as well as playing a major role as a sporting ambassador when London originally won the 2012 bid.
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Mario Balotelli, take a bow. You’ve been labelled a liability, a moron and sometimes even a footballer, now you can be called a genius. Hardly anybody believed that the Italians would be able to beat the almighty Germans tonight, but somehow they summoned up all of their strength and not only defeated the 3-time European Champions, but utterly outclassed them too.
As with their defeat of England, Andrea Pirlo dictated play from his deep midfield position. But it would be a great injustice not to salute his fellow midfield warriors in the shape of Danielle De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio and Riccardo Montolivo, each of whom stifled and pounced on any German player in their vicinity.
Despite a shaky start from their usually stalwart goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Italy took the lead through a Mario Balotelli header from an Antonio Cassano cross in the 20th minute. Germany were shell shocked (Too soon?) and Italy looked like the team most likely to get the second goal of the game, which they did on the 36th minute.
A German corner was cleared and Montolivo delivered a defence splitting pass that took out three defenders and Super Mario was able to control his half vollied shot and drive it into the roof of the net from the edge of the area with Manuel Neur already diving to his right.
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The 2012 European Championships kicked off on Friday evening with a 1-1 draw between Poland and Greece.
Of course before this pulsating 90 minute encounter the opening ceremony took place and was populated by some singing children, woeful dancers and a pianist trying to do kick-ups. Trust me, you missed nothing, although watching a classically trained musician attempt to compensate for his lack of football skills by spinning the ball on his finger in front of 60,000 drunk Poles was quite amusing.
But with the competition now in full swing which nations are the main contenders to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy, the formal name for the cup, in Kiev on July 1st?
Euro 2008 winners and current World Champions Spain are heavily fancied, the Netherlands have only improved since finishing as runners up in 2010, France are unbeaten in 21 games and Germany are, well, Germany.
Here is a run-down of the favourites for Euro 2012! The less said about England, the better.
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One thing I’ll just never understand is people running onto the field a sporting event. At what point does that sound like a good idea? You’re in a confined space with tons of security and police, mostly likely dozens of TV cameras, and absolutely zero good can come of it.
The end game is always the same. Fan gets caught, fan gets arrested, fan looks like a fool. And these days, security can’t take any chances with somebody who decides to run onto the field of play. You never know what someone’s intentions really are. So when this guy ran out onto the pitch during the USA/Brazil soccer match at FedEx Field got approached by cops, they weren’t messing around.
Sure the guy appeared to be harmless, but he gets absolutely trucked by Johnny Law. Was it worth it? Probably not, but I guess at least the guy has an interesting story to tell to his buddies.