Gavin HamiltonEuro 2012 gets better by the day. Today’s two games more than lived up to their billing, with the results keeping Group B wide open until the final round of matches. 

Germany, despite two victories, are still not certain of reaching the final eight. If they lose to Denmark in their final match, and Portugal beat Holland, then all three teams would have six points.

Similarly, Holland are not yet out. If they beat Portugal and Denmark lose to Germany, they could slip through.

Nothing is yet decided, even though we are halfway through the group stages. And for the first time in the history of the 16-team format, we have not had a goalless draw.

That quality is surely another argument against increasing the tournament to 24 teams in 2016.

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As I settled down to watch the Denmark-Portugal and Holland-Germany matches in a deserted Warsaw media centre, news came through of the astonishing Premier League TV deal.

Domestic TV revenue is set to rise by a remarkable 70 per cent from 2013. With an increase in the foreign TV deal expected to be announced shortly, Premier League clubs have received a massive financial boost, albeit one that will probably fuel another wage boom.

Three Premier League players started the Holland-Germany game: John Heitinga, Robin Van Persie and Nigel De Jong. None of that trio covered themselves in glory against Germany. Heitinga was at fault for the first German goal, De Jong allowed Bastian Schweinsteiger space to set up both German goals, while Van Persie’s terrific late goal came too late to salvage a draw against in Kharkiv.

Yet for all the Premier League’s financial power, it is the German Bundesliga that is held up as Europe’s model league. And with Germany on the brink of the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, it’s easy to see why.

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UEFA acted swiftly to punish Russia for the crowd disturbances in their opening game against Czech Republic. Europe’s governing body also said it would investigate claims of racism against Italy’s Mario Balotelli and Czech Republic’s Theodor Gebre Selassie.

But there no word on any punishment for Antonio Cassano for his homophobic outburst. Homosexuality remains football’s last great taboo.

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I travel to Poznan tomorrow for Italy-Croatia. It’s an easy enough journey, or at least, it should be.

No extra trains have been laid on to take spectators back to Warsaw. In fact, there are only two trains back to the capital after 11pm; my train won’t get into Warsaw until 6am.

Even when there are enough trains, they are hard to book. It’s impossible to make online bookings, while staff at station ticket kiosks, raised in the old eastern bloc, struggle with the notion of customer service.

That may sound a little harsh, but Poland (and Ukraine) campaigned tirelessly to see off rival bids from Croatia/Hungary and Italy. A huge banner hanging from Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science (the famous Stalin’s gift) declares: “Warsaw welcomes the world.”

If you’re going to enjoy the benefits of hosting the Euros, at least get the basics right.

By Gavin Hamilton

 

  • James

    The problem (and it’s not just “these days” either) is that promotion and adverts will promise anything to get what the powers that be want. Then when they get it, the money slips through the cracks and into the wallets of the few that control the proceedings.

    On the football side of things, no comment about how poor Ronaldo was last night? He froze up badly. No wonder the Portuguese fans are disillusioned with him. Be it Premiership or La Liga,it seems that the comforts of week in week out club football suit certain players more than others.