England Out – So Who’s To Blame?

So England go out again from a major tournament, again from the Quarter Finals and again, on penalties.

But is it the same old story?

Last night, for a long time, I was really gutted we went out. In the past, once it got to penalties you just knew we were going to bottle it, but last night I actually believed. I actually thought that we would beat Italy on penalties, and get to the semi-finals.

But yet again, it wasn’t to be.

Usually I am frustrated by England when they go out of a major tournament but today I just feel proud. I don’t know what it is, whether the expectations were lower than usual, that we played within our capabilities and go the best out of the players or whether it was because Hodgson has given England a bit of dignity again.

But now we’re out the blame game has started. People are already slating Roy Hodgson for his “negative” tactics, Wayne Rooney for disrupting a team that was playing well, and Ashley Young and Ashley Cole for their penalty misses.

I don’t understand the criticism Hodgson is receiving. He knows very well that our players are technically inferior and I don’t blame him one bit for using “Chelsea tactics” in Euro 2012. I agree with him that this was the best way to get the most out of the players and I was a bit miffed at the BBC’s expert punditry when they said England were lucky to get the game to penalties and didn’t deserve to win the game on spot kicks anyway.

Er… excuse me! Wasn’t that England’s game plan? Just because Chelsea did better with their penalties than England doesn’t mean England didn’t deserve to win. There’s this strange notion that more possession and prettier football wins games. As every Arsenal fan has know over the last 15 years is that the team playing the more attractive and attacking football doesn’t always win. I my eyes, if you get a lucky win you deserve it – you have taken your chances when they’ve come to you. And if you’ve had 70% of the ball and not scored then you only have yourself to blame – what did people want, England to let Italy score?

England are average and I am happy they managed to get the game to penalties. So what if they rode their luck? Greece won Euro 2004 and they had a game plan, system and the players to make it work. This is knockout football and the most important thing is setting your team out to get to the next round – and for me Roy Hodgson did that.

You can’t blame the penalty takers, although Ashley Young had a terrible tournament. And I would have liked to see Theo or Andy Carroll take one instead. Young did not look confident at all stepping up (neither did Cole, strangely) and before they even took their kicks I knew they would miss. Even Johnson would have been better option, and I’m not sure if the players volunteered or were told to take penalties. You’re better giving them to players that want to take one.

Wayne Rooney is a tough one. He’s a top player but the argument is he hasn’t done it for England. And England have looked bright up front with Welbeck and Carroll – players that have no fear going into their first big international tournament. But Hodgson would have been lynched if he didn’t play Rooney so he didn’t have much choice starting him for the last 2 games.

So who’s to blame for England’s exit?

Andrea Pirlo, someone that after taking THAT penalty deserves a lot of man love.


Euro 2012 So Far: Arsenal Player Watch

So we’re on Matchday 3 of Euro 2012 and already we’ve seen a few Arsenal players play for their countries.

On Friday, we had Wojciech Szczesny in goal for Poland, who drew with Greece. Poland seemed to be in complete control for the first hour but then Greece, who had a man ridiculously sent off for two yellow cards that weren’t even fouls, started believing and scored a deserved equaliser.

Unfortunately, Szczesny made a blunder from the cross and allowed Salpingidis to tap in from close range.

And to make things even worse, Arsenal’s number 1 conceded a penalty and got sent off in the process, meaning he will miss the next group game against Russia.

Later that night, it was the turn of Russia against the Czech Republic, made interesting as both international captains were Arsenal players, Andrei Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky. Russia put on a fine display and frustratingly, Arshavin was in inspirational form.

He was involved in everything and you just wondered how things could have been if Arshavin was played in his natural position. The same could be said about Rosicky, who also plays a more central role for the Czech Republic.

Could Arshavin return from his loan spell and become “like a new signing” next season?

We can all hope, but I think we know that a return to Russia permanently is the most likely outcome.

Another Arsenal loanee played yesterday, as Nicklas Bendtner turned out for Denmark as the pulled off a shock result against Holland. He was his usual self but his record of 6 goals in his last 9 international games is impressive. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had a good tournament as well.

And on the flip side, Arsenal saviour and player of the year Robin van Persie had an absolute nightmare.

Nothing was going right for him at all – his touch was woeful, his timing was well off and he could have been there all night and not scored. The incident that summed up his performance was when he was through on goal and instead of unleashing a shot he completely missed the ball and fell awkwardly like Bambi on ice.

It was not comfortable to see but on the plus side, performances like that can only increase his chances of staying with Arsenal…


Who Will Win The Euros?

It’s strange this year, I don’t know why but there doesn’t seem to be as much excitement surrounding Euro 2012 than there was with previous European Championships or World Cups.

Maybe it’s the Diamond Jubilee or the forthcoming London Olympics. Whatever it is, the Euros have sneaked up on us and kick off this Friday.

I’ve always been fascinated by odds and betting but only restrict myself to the big big games and tournaments. This season I’m actually up about £120 – but that’s a result of quite a few bets over the entire season! And some fortunate PaddyPower money back specials (the Chelsea winning the Champions League one being the biggest!).

The bookies currently have Spain at favourites at 13/5, Germany at 3/1, Holland at 13/2, France at 10/1, England 14/1, Italy 16/1 and Portugal at 18/1.

I fancy putting a flutter on the winner but don’t fancy backing Spain and usually like going to outsiders. Germany are my pick this year but aren’t much value at 3/1. I cast my mind back to Euro 2004 when Greece, major outsiders at the start of the tournament at 150/1, pulled off one of the shocks of modern football.

But what chance of something like that happening again?

I’ve never fancied putting any money on England to win a tournament since Euro 1996 but at 14/1 they are tempting. And who knows, Hodgson might pull of a miracle if he gets his tactics right. Anything can happen in football and if anything Chelsea and Roberto Di Matteo are prime examples of how getting things right can bring success in knock-out football.

Like France, Spain have recently won the World Cup and European Championship on the bounce and I just can’t see them doing it again. Barcelona, who have most of the Spanish team in their ranks have been tired this season after so much pressure and success and you have to imagine that will take it’s toll this summer.

Germany have a great chance to win the tournament after years of developing their youth system which has improved greatly over the last 10 years or so. Plus you don’t know how they will react after Bayern lost out to Chelsea in such dramatic fashion. And you know the old saying of “Germany are always there or thereabouts”.
So for a decent outsider you’re looking at France, England, Italy or Portugal.

Italy have shown they can turn it on in international tournaments, while Portugal just haven’t clicked when it matters. France are a strange one, you don’t know which team will turn up – they have a lot of talent but you never know if they’ll have internal problems, like Dutch teams of old. Then we have England.

Is this the year to believe? Expectations are at an all time low and that might be the key. Hodgson has a reputation of getting the best out of average players and that’s what we have. I don’t agree with quite a few of the players he’s picked in his squad but maybe he believes they are players that have discipline and can carry out his game plan.

Is football coming home?

Who do you think will win Euro 2012? Leave your opinion below!