Even if Euro 2012 has had its problems off the pitch, there can be no denying the qualify of the football. There have been some wonderful goals – Jakub Blaszczykowsky’s thunderbolt for Poland against Russia, Danny Welbeck’s backheel against Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s supreme volley against France stand out from the group stages.
This is the first tournament not to feature a goalless draw in the group stages, but I fear we may have seen the best of the attacking action. Last night’s game in Warsaw was a flat affair for the first half, until Ronaldo’s brilliant individual move almost gave Portugal the lead on the stroke of half-time almost have Portugal the lead.
Portugal deserved their late goal but the Czechs didn’t bring much to the knockout stage party.
UEFA’s official website is a brilliant resource for match facts and information. But it also serves as a reminder of the need for independent football reporting.
In its match report of the England-Ukraine game, uefa.com refused to acknowledge Marko Devic’s phantom goal against England, or the ensuing controversy, merely reporting that John Terry had cleared the ball off the line.
They were more Czech fans than Portuguese in Warsaw’s national stadium last night, with many making the relatively straightforward train journey from Prague. But both sets of fans were outnumbered by locals – hence the regular chants of “Polska, Polska” and the early outbreak of the Mexican wave, after just nine minutes.
I sat next to an American fan on the train to Gdansk this morning. He and his son had been at the Portugal-Czech Rep quarter-final and were heading to Germany-Greece. Having bought tickets from uefa.com when the most recent batch of tickets was released, they had to pick up their allocation at the Warsaw stadium before last night’s game. A crowd of several thousand was trying to do the same thing, but there were only a handful of ticket booths dealing with their requests. They waited for an hour and a half before being served and got into the stadium just in time for the national anthems. Several hundred people queuing behind them were not so lucky.
The delays were in stark contrast to the World Cup in South Africa, where tickets could be collected from machines using credit cards. This looks suspiciously like another cock-up by the local organising committee. I suspect we haven’t heard the last of it.
I bumped into Arsene Wenger after last night’s game. The Arsenal manager is doing his regular commentary work for French TV – well, it beats taking a holiday – and he was outside the stadium waiting for his car to take him back to his Warsaw hotel.
Wenger said he had been enjoying the tournament but had been surprised at the lack of intensity in most games. Most teams, he said, lacked the ability to sustain their challenge for 90 minutes. Typically, he also had the stats to back up his argument, saying that Premier League teams run, on average, 10 per cent further during their games than teams at Euro 2012.