Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Euro 2012: Spanish ayes

With football looking no closer to breaking out in this strange Scottish summer it's with some sadness that one says "cheerio" to Euro 2012.

Brutal honesty, of course, means conceding that Spain's triumph was as far removed from Scottish football as Craig Whyte is from Andrew Carnegie.

This Spanish team play, to borrow a line from Bobby Jones, a game with which we are not familiar.

The only lessons we can learn from them are long term ones. Lessons that will evade us for as long as the siege mentality of our current civil war continues.

But thinking about Scottish football only sullies the moment.

The dull, boring Spaniards. All that possession, all that winning. The dullards.

That always looked like a premature verdict on this side. On Sunday they showed why they're the best in Europe, the best in the world and the best in Europe all over again.

The possession was emphatic, the passes delivered with intent, the Italians toyed with and ultimately destroyed.

A decent Italian team that had exceeded expectation and impressed so much against Germany.

But Spain weren't going to let them upset the football odds on Sunday night.

Where the wonderful Andrea Pirlo could dictate against other teams he was frustrated here, where Mario Balotelli was so explosively untameable against Germany here he was all but sidelined.

Spain were just too good.

Andrés Iniesta just seems to get better and better. He's now won three Champions Leagues, a World Cup and two European Championships.

He's 28 years old.

He represents the freakiest reality of this side. We're already discussing them as the greatest ever - some cling to the Brazil of 1970, Bob Crampsey forever championed the 1958 vintage - but they have time on their side.

They're young. They proved on Sunday just how hungry they still are.

It's a shame not to linger on what they've already achieved. But the mind does stray to what they might yet achieve.

You can't stop debates about the "greatest." But this Spanish collective could yet provide a definitive answer.

> The tournament? Enjoyable, intriguing, exciting.

A Golden Boot for Fernando Torres proves that this was a championships defined not by the goalscorers but the creators.

Pirlo and Iniesta stood above the rest. When people are able to play football this well we can only weep about the circus that surrounds the game.

They are pure footballers, sent to thrill and amaze us. Together they offer a potent and timely reminder about what made the world fall under the spell of this game.

Watching them over the last month has been an antidote to the suffering caused by prolonged exposure to fitba'.

> Sweet sixteen.

Hard not to feel that expanding the tournament to 24 teams in 2016 will dilute what has, in 2012, been a perfectly formed championship.

It might help Scotland qualify but 24 is an unwieldy number.

Size isn't everything.

> How we watched.

Nothing new in the BBC hammering ITV in the final head-to-head.

It's not ideal though. Proof that ITV still can't get football right and also an excuse for the BBC to stick with the Lineker, Hansen, Shearer, Lawrenson diamond formation.

Lazy, smugly matey and with little new to say they let the viewer down.

Lineker is now seen as a sports broadcaster and as such is untouchable. Shearer hasn't delivered on the money the BBC paid to get him so should be jettisoned.

Lawrenson now sounds like he hates football. Time to put him out of his misery.

Replace them with people that will challenge him - Lee Dixon shows promise - and Alan Hansen might just be reminded why he was once highly rated as a pundit.

Encouraging Lineker to contribute more than being the smug ringmaster of a nineteenth hole debate would also help - he doesn't need to turn to Hansen to analyse a striker's contribution, he can do it himself.

ITV threatened interesting panels but it didn't quite come off. The Warsaw studio could have inspired but ended up making all concerned look awkward.

Jamie Carragher isn't for me but Roberto Martinez was a sound choice.

Roy Keane's views on Ireland seem to me to be a manifestation of an internal conflict between his natural superiority complex and a deeper self loathing. But he could offer something of the maverick if properly marshalled.

Sadly Adrian Chiles looks scared of both Keane and advert breaks. For an ITV football host that's a horrid combination.

Morecambe and Wise also struggled when they jumped from the BBC to the commercial channel but their place in TV history was already assured.

Adrian Chiles has given us Working Lunch and The One Show. A footnote to a footnote in the book of great TV presenters it's hard to see how ITV can persevere with him.

Until we remember that his understudy is Matt Smith, the unthinking woman's trumpet.

Time for another ITV rethink.