TAGS:

The missing link

According to informed speculation, England will start with Andy Carroll in tonight’s encounter against Sweden.

Carroll will play alongside Danny Welbeck in a good old fashioned meat and two veg 4-4-2 formation. Say what you like about England coach Roy Hodgson, but all those years he spent working abroad have not shifted his unshakeable belief that football is essentially a simple game, played in simple lines by people like Andy Carroll.

Hogdson’s reversion to traditional English strengths after a brief flirtation with continental sophistication brings to mind an adventurous British holidaymaker experiencing foreign cuisine for the first time in the 1970s. ‘We tried it, didn’t fancy it, it’s not for us. From now on we’ll stick to chips, punts and aimless hoofs up to the big man.’

According to those who watched England in training on the eve of the match, Steven Gerrard was being encouraged to bomb forward in support of the strikers whenever possible – a tactic which has been so effective in his previous international tournaments, that it would be crazy not to try it again. Purely by the law of averages, it’s got to come off sooner or later, hasn’t it?

Singing from the same score

Hodgson was surprised to learn that not every member of his squad shared his vision for England.

Indeed a rift appears to be developing between those who think England should play more expansively, and those who say: ‘look at the squad, it’s hardly Brazil 1970’.

Scott Parker, a player who one would have though might relish his yeoman’s role, has questioned England’s tactics, suggesting that the team should be encouraged to express themselves more.

“I’m surprised Scott questioned how far it would take us,” he is quoted as saying by The Sun.

“I can understand he said we showed heart and commitment, but I thought he would have said that in a positive way.

“All tournaments are won by teams that are very well-organised, very much together, very committed to the cause.”

True, but most of them can play a bit too.

Goal of the day

There have been better goals in Euro 2012, but few that encapsulated an entire match quite so perfectly. Spain’s opener against Ireland from Fernando Torres perfectly illustrates the pace and panache of Spanish football and the sloppiness of Irish defending. It could also mark the rebirth of a once-great striker.

Quote of the day

“I think the players and supporters have to change their mentality. It’s just nonsense to say how great the supporters are. The supporters want to see the players do a lot better and not give daft goals away like that. Let’s change that attitude towards Irish supporters. Let’s not kid ourselves, they want to see their team winning, Let’s not just go along for the sing-song now and again.”

Former Irish international Roy Keane believes the Irish fans deserve a lot better than they got in Gdansk last night. Do you suppose the out-of-work manager fancies a crack at the Irish job?

Press Gang

Has anyone mentioned that last night’s game was ‘Murder on the Gdansk floor’? Ah, everyone, you say.

Yes, the pun of the tournament was already old news by the time it became the headline in today’s Irish Sun.

Elsewhere, there was sadness, rather than anger at the torrid evening endured by Ireland.

“At times, it was excruciating to watch through Irish eyes, a bit like having prime seats at the bullring, with Andrés Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and Xavi Hernández leading the picadores and banderillas with a relentless flourish of deft flicks and touches that were at once mesmerising, stinging and … quietly fatal,” said the Irish Times.

Meanwhile, in Spain, Marca, who had campaigned for Vicente del Bosque to play with an out-and-out striker, were pleased to witness the return to form of Fernando Torres.

“Those who said that El Niño had wet gun powder will have to stop shooting their mouths off now. With two goals the Chelsea striker staked his claim for a place in the team. It only took him four minutes to show the finishing skills that we had lacked against Italy … Del Bosque’s gamble of using a proper nine rather than a false nine paid off. “

In El Mundo, Julian Ruiz was scathing about Ireland, declaring that “Spain put on an exhibition of football against a rugby team…since they could not come up with a try or a scrum, the Irish potatoes rushed into the bag laid out by the Spanish team.” “Croatia will be the first bull. Ireland were not even that, just a poor heifer.”

Ouch!

In a country beset by match-fixing it’s understandable that the Italian media is concerned by a possible stitch-up between Croatia and Spain. A 2-2 draw in that game will ensure that both go through at the expense of Italy, regardless of how Italy get on against Ireland.

“We no longer have our destiny in our own hands and must depend on the correctness of others,” warn Corriere della Sera. “Having been burned once before, we are entitled to be fearful.”

They should relax. Not every country’s football culture is as crooked as Italy’s.

Thee best newspaper work, though come from Sweden’s Aftonbladet, who have mocked British tabloid culture by producing two spot-on covers for the Sun and the Mirror.

Psychological blow

Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni has admitted his team have suffered “a psychological blow” in the wake of their 4-0 defeat to Spain.

“The mistakes we made here means we have suffered a bit of a psychological blow,” said the 73-year-old Italian as Ireland suffered their worst competitive defeat in 41 years.

“We don’t see fear in training or in our preparations for the tournament, I don’t see tensions in the side.

“But this is a clear symptom of a team that, when they play in a competition, either feel inferior or feel concerned and make simple mistakes and basic errors.

“That is something we are going to have to look at moving forward. I will ask the lads why this happened.

“For the second time, we conceded an early goal and again it throws any tactical plan out of the window.”

So, there was a plan then.

As in their opening game with Croatia, the Irish were complicit in their own downfall; sloppy defending responsible for at least two of last night’s goals.

Ireland midfielder, Keith Andrews, who toiled manfully for no reward in midfield, lamented the lapses in concentration.

“We tried to say before the game let’s learn our lessons but we shot ourselves in the foot again,” said Andrews.

“They were silly goals and we didn’t learn, but they’re such a top side any lapse in concentration is going to hurt you. For the majority of the game we were chasing shadows and we couldn’t get near them. They are a fantastic side.”

Chasing shadows? At times last night, Ireland were so far off the pace they were chasing the shadows of shadows.

Drink problem?

Going into tonight’s game against France, confidence is high among supporters of co-hosts Ukraine.

The country’s Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, who bet Swedes a bottle of beer on the outcome of the opening match, on Tuesday, is clearly getting a taste for alcohol and is now wagering a bottle of the best-quality cognac that Ukraine beat the French later today. .

“We have to be talking good cognac here,” he told reporters. “I am absolutely convinced of victory (over France). I don’t know why but I am sure we will win,” he said.

Carry on at this rate and Azarov could develop a drink problem. Next match up is England, national drink: pint of vodka and red bull.

Shevvy chasing a quick buck

Andriy Shevchenko says he remains undecided over his future but has suggested he could spend next season in America playing Major League Soccer.

Having seen him score twice against Sweden on Monday, and aware that they are paying Ireland’s Robbie Keane $3.4m a year, MLS have concluded that Shevchenko at any price, would represent a bargain.

The striker said in the Daily Telegraph: “I’ll decide after Euro 2012 what I’m going to do, including having the opportunity to play in the US.”

Shevchenko intends to stay in football in some capacity after the Euro 2012, even if he is not playing.

He told L’Equipe: “After the Euros I will remain in football. I don’t know if it will be as a player. It will all depend on my feelings.”

Sounds like he’s going for the David Beckham-style non-playing, high earning role.

Up for grabs

A group Belgian fans with no team to support during Euro 2012 put themselves up for auction on eBay and were bought by the Dutch for €3,000.

“Since tournaments are much more fun when you have a favourite team, we decided to put our fandom for sale at eBay,” read the description.

Bidding started at €5  for the support of 20,303 members of a Facebook group of Belgian fans.

Amusingly, they were bought up by an anonymous Dutch bidder, with the €3,000 raised going to Nordschool, a Unicef project providing education to children living in countries hit by confilict.

As part of the package, the Belgian fans will grieve for a full 24 hours when Holland are eliminated. That will be Sunday then.

Finally…

Those pesky women from FEMEN – you know, the ones who strip off and have generally been making a nuisance of themselves at Euro 2012-themed events across Ukraine, have promised a special protest for England’s game against Sweden tonight.

In case you’re unaware, the group are not just a group of uninhibited women who enjoy going topless in public, they do have a legitimate grievance about Euro 2012 causing an explosion in Ukraine’s prostitution industry.

A British journalist visited their headquarters, and spotted maps with arrows pinpointing where the police and England fans will be located during the match.

The group’s leader, Inna Shevchenko, said the only motive behind organizing such a big tournament in Ukraine was to make money out of prostitution.

“We are planning sex attacks, sex diversions, sex sabotage. I cannot give details,” she said.

It’s been estimated that England fans will outnumbered 4-1 by their Swedish counterparts in Kiev tonight. Now, if the FA had promoted their ticket packages promising ‘sex attacks, sex diversions, sex sabotage’ they’d have been snapped up in no time. I can’t help but think that they missed a trick there.