Brian GlanvilleWell, the European Championship finals ended in splendour with that glorious display in the Final by Spain; leading some enraptured critic to call them the best team that has ever been seen. While yielding to no one in my admiration for such a dazzling display of football, I still believe that the tournament overall was a disappointing and even mediocre one. Yes, everything superbly worked for Spain in the Final. Del Bosque’s daring tactics, with no centre forward till Fernando Torres belatedly came on to do his rabbit-killing act, worked perfectly. But then you have to ask yourself, why did they fail so manifestly to work before?

Failed to work against Portugal, whose suicidal decision not to entrust Ronaldo with any of their first four shoot out penalties. Failed to take wing against Croatia, when only a couple of fine saves by goalie Iker Casillas prevented embarrassment.

Were the Viennese sage Willy Meisl alive today, he would no doubt have thought his futuristic theories on what he called The Whirl had been vindicated. In 1955, in a book called Soccer Revolution Meisl, the brother of the illustrious Hugo, who shaped the great Austrian Wunderteam of the 1930s, a refugee by then in London, foresaw a time when positions on the field were simply relative, when players simply slipped from attack into defence and vice versa.

To some extent this would indeed happen with the advent in the early 1970s of Total Football as practised by the West Germans and the Dutch. The notion being that defenders could and should attack, attackers defend, while a mobile libero – Franz Beckenbauer being the innovative and spectacular example – advanced to pull the strings from his position behind the defence.

It was, as a leading French journalist remarked to me, the day after in 1972, we had seen Ajax demolish Inter in Rotterdam in the European Cup Final, the new reality. But it didn’t last and besides, when under the impulse of Johan Cruyff Holland reached the 1974 Final of the European Cup in Munich, arguably their best player was big, heavy, relatively slow Wim Van Hanagem, supreme strategist with a glorious left foot.

Besides, to play like the Spaniards did in the Euro Final, you have to have the kind of splendid players they have. Midfielders of technical excellence and strategic flair such as Iniesta, Xavi and Alonso. An overlapping left back capable of scoring such fine goals as Jordi Alba. And such players – compare Hungary’s Puskas, Kocsis and Nandor Hidegkuti – do not grow on trees.

But so much of the football was dull and disappointing. The French, having tormented England, fell miserably apart, the team riven with mutinous dissent even if not to the wretched extent it did in the 2010 World Cup. A seemingly vibrant Russian team managed to lose to modest Greece. The Dutch imploded, losing all three games, and seem, only a couple of years after reaching the World Cup Final, to have plunged into crisis. And England? At least they didn’t disgrace themselves, didn’t, like the highly rated Germans, even concede a goal to the Andrea Pirlo inspired Italy – but even he was overwhelmed, for all his talents, by the Spaniards in Kiev. But what is the future if not bleak?

Wayne Rooney, allegedly the one English player of major stature, looks at international level a busted flush. You wonder why Roy Hodgson didn’t substitute him against the Ukraine. And how recklessly self indulgent of him to breeze off for a holiday in Las Vegas before the tournament when so short of match practice. Without precocious Jack Wilshere, there isn’t a playmaker in sight; but then, whom do Italy have, apart from Pirlo? Though credit for Prandelli to pick the mavericks Balotelli and Cassano, who, Lippi ignored in 2010.

By Brian Glanville

  • Antoni

    I have been reading Brian Glanville for over 30 years and even when I don’t agree with him , I am always impressed by his personality and wit. Clearly his writing style is from another era but in my opinion this is to be regretted rather then used as a club to beat him with. “History of the World Cup” is a masterpiece of opinion journalism.

  • alfonso

    Brian Glanville is the greatest, as I’ve already argued at lenghth.

  • pepe

    Dear Carlo. Regarding your comments about the match Spain-Portugal, only to add that we didn´t see Casillas till the penalties, cause Portugal didn´t shot on him in 120 minutes.

  • Carlo

    I agree; it was a pitifully poorly contested tournament. Russia has the best first game and then fails to act interested. The Dutch looked clueless. The French did implode. No quarterfinal game is ever worth viewing or thinking about again — all four quarterfinal games were abysmal. As was Spain’s match versus Portugal where we had to wait until the 101st minute for the Spaniards to actually forced Portuguese GK Rui Patricio to actually make a save. And then they only shot on him one more time before the match official blew his whistle at the 120th minute. 120 minutes of dullsiville football. The Spanish looked good only against a pitifully poor Ireland and then against an Italy that had already conceded the match prior to the final’s opening whistle.

    This Euro 2012 was horrid football except about 60 to 65 minutes total over 31 matches. That spells F-A-I-L-U-R-E.

    Coming off mostly dull games in the World Cup 2010 in South Africa, I would say that football at this level is in some dire straits.

    I tip my hat to Mr. Glanville’s commentary above.

  • Brazil94

    The GREATEST Writer on football was World Soccer late ERIC G BATTY bar none.

  • Mellors

    can’t we all just get along? this is a FAMILY SHOW

  • Mellors

    Errr, do people think players should get booked for taking their shirts off when they score?

    Don’t be ridiculous

    DO-OH-OH-OH-OHn’t be ridiculous

  • Andrew Gregory

    ‘The Senator’, I find your remarks…troubling. They take no account of modern journalistic methods. Not even Brian’s best friend would call him an enthusiastic user of something in the digital media. Also, Brian has a wonderful warmth that is signally lacking in the other ‘big’ names of footer scribery. I’m thinking of Danny Taylor, Ian McGurry, Richard Littlejohn. Brian is Tolstoy to Martin Samuel’s Stalin.

  • Ja Joo

    Ohhh, Spain can’t be CONSIDERED the best, they don’t weaaar baggy 1950s shorts

  • The Senator

    I served with Brian Glanville, I knew Brian Glanville’s work, Brian Glanville was a hero of mine.

    Modern knee-jerking rent-a-quote hacks…….you’re no Brian Glanville

  • Rudd

    I have read many of Brian Glanville’s publications, and I have found him to be a brilliant writer. Brilliant in every sense of the word. He knows football inside and out, and his knowledge of the game is unsurpassed, in my opinion. A Corinthian Casual footballer , no less. His is not the way of the modern world, and fast paced on Sky or ITV, with commentators who should think before they speak, similar to a few posting here, but that of a man who has travelled the world, and met many footballers, managers, and chairmen in so doing. There are those in Italy that know him as one of their own, who was there when cattenacio was in it’s infancy, and also at it’s peak. He can still be found at the Emirates, watching his beloved Arsenal on a Saturday afternoon, or perhaps a Sunday afternoon. Or he might venture down to Loftus Road. When his time is up, so to speak, and hopefully not for many more years to come, he would be greatly missed, because there are no journalists of ilk to be found. If you regard yourself as a true football fan, find a copy of Glanville’s Goalkeepers Are Different , and read it slowly. Years ahead of it’s time, it will make you feel like you are standing on a terrace on a cold November night in the pouring rain , and your team is down 2-0 with 20 mins. to go.

  • hahah

    he is right. euro is mediocre. spain is good but i have seen many brazilian team much better than that.

  • Ede444

    This old guy is soo biased towards germany, its incredible. The germans “disgraced” themselves, how can a selfcalled football expert say something like this? Old man, buy yourself some glasses or go to the nursing home, its time for you to go.

  • pepe

    Thank you for your comment jrainbow. You´re more than right, and that fact was what I tried to transmit in my previous post.

    Regarding blue gargoyle, you are a not well educated person, probably you are a loser in your personal and professional life and you do not show any respect for the rest of the world with your words.

  • jrainbow

    Blue gargoyle,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I think it’s widely recognised that the (professional) team that won the World Cups was a completely different team to the (amateur side) that won the Olympics.

    Egypt and Argentina won three continental titles, but there were other titles during that span (that they did not win. For example, Egypt’s African Nations-winning side of 2006-10 did not even qualify for the World Cups of 2006 and 2010.

    Spain have won the last 3 major tournaments they have contested.

  • Russ Snyder

    Mr Glanville,

    Thank you for the thoughts.

    I must state that in my mind, this Spanish side is indeed what you described being in the that book, inter changeable pieces of an attack, yet providing cover.

    After this 4 year run, in my mind, this Spanish side rank with that fantastic 1970 Brazilian side. That is something I thought I would/could never say…but let me explain if I may? Briefly…

    Inesta = Rivelino, Alonso/Xavi =
    Gerson, Silva = Jairzihno, Villa/Torres/Pedro = Tostão & finally fabregas/xavi/inesta/mata/navas/silva/villa/torres = Pele…..

    the long winded point above is this: Pele is the greatest player I have yet seen play this wonderful game, Spain are now the best all around team I have seen.

    I can wonder how a tenacious 1974 West German team of Bonhof, Holzenbein, Overwrath, Breitner, Beckenbauer, Vogts, and der bomber..would do against this Spanish side? Would they wear them down like they did to Johan Cryuff’s “Clockwork Orange”?….or would Spain dictate the pace and outcome like they have over the last 4 years?

    We will never know the tantalizing possibilities of matching those previous mentioned teams together with this marvellous Spanish side, what we do know in 2012 is that the Reign of Spain does not fall on any game.

    Pardon my pun.

    All the best.

    Russ Snyder

    Ps. Rooney needs some time off Mr Glanville….his body and mind cannot be 100% football at this stage of his career imo.

  • blue gargoyle

    THIS is a message to PEPE and all the other lazy fans and journalists out there!! ITALIA in the 1930,s were the
    1st to win 3!!! trophies in a row NOT
    SPAIN !! ,THEN Argentina won 3!!! Copa Americas in a row AND FINALLY YOU LAZY PEOPLE ,Egypt won 3!!! Africa cup of nations in a row in the 2000,s FACT!!!!.

  • pepe

    Spain simply the best between 2008-2012. You cannot compare this team with Italy at the 30´s or Germany at 70´s, but they have won three consecutive major tournaments, first team in history to get it.

  • Michael John Harrison

    Brian, you curmudgeon…. even a coruscating curmudgeon!

  • Thomas Downey

    so much of the football was dull you say?
    i for the one thought it was an outstanding tournament, brilliantly hosted, awesome talent on show (Spain were superb and they are the best ever for me)
    and the football was bloody good

  • Nanu Ugwu

    Brian Glanvile = Senile

  • bamidele johnson

    how many goals did Spain score with a striker on and how many did they without one? That should put this argument to rest

  • Leigh

    Who spell checks this? Piro? Brandelli?
    I’ll think you’ll find it’s Pirlo and Prandelli.

  • Leigh

    Brian Glanville yet again showing how out of touch he is with the modern game!