What to Expect from England’s Opening Matches in Euro 2012
Warning! May contain Spoilers!
The wait is nearly over. The outcome of our hopes and (mainly) anxieties has finally appeared on the horizon. On Monday 11th June, England kick off their much anticipated Euro 2012 campaign against France.
However, the cynic within me always seems to form a protective shield against such excitement. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s the thought of cheering on already overpaid players towards yet another pay off or simply the predictability of the early group stage.
My discontent always suspiciously coincides with the media build up. It has been difficult to escape the hype surrounding the tournament within the past few weeks (believe me I’ve tried) as the country is gripped by a wave of patriotism. Newspapers have been splashing headlines about the new manager, the latest injury and squad disunity. Even if you happen to admirably avoid newsagents, you would be hard pressed to find any road across England which didn’t showcase a flag or scarf which has been tastelessly draped across a living room or car window. Even mundane supermarket products like dishwasher tablets or toothpaste have jumped on the patriotic bandwagon as their marketing agencies earn their money by slapping white and red flags across product labels.
The relentless coverage across the media brings me back to one of my main problems with England’s group fixtures – the predictability.
Now, I can reason that as expectations are at a historic low for such a tournament, it may be conceivable that England will actually progress to an unexpected late stage. That part I am not contesting. What I aim to achieve is to foreshadow what will occur during the group stages of our campaign, to save you the trouble of actually watching it yourselves.
So, here is what you can expect to see:
1) About 10 minutes before kick off and just before the television cameras take us into the tunnel, Gary Lineker will introduce an annoying montage of irrelevant celebrities like Jenson Button or any random cast member of Eastenders who will shout “Come on England!” and pump their fists in a loud and unpleasant manner.
2) Then, as the England players line up for the national anthem, you may notice a strange and disturbing expression etched across their faces. This is the result of a footballers’ brain being forced to think. As the camera pans across their faces – uncomfortably close if you have the misfortune of viewing the coverage in High Definition – these players must make a very important decision. As the first sounds of ‘God Save the Queen’ begin to echo through the arena’s sound system, the poor players are faced with two options:
A) For the young and naïve, this option dictates that they embarrassingly mumble through the words, despite having heard the song every time they compete.
B) Now this option is for the more experienced of players. Instead of facing the daunting task of remembering the words, they masterfully bypass the problem altogether by drawing on their best acting ability. By slightly squinting their eyes, puffing out their chest and staring heroically past the camera with an overall look of pride and patriotism, these players can get through the anthem without even so much as a mumble. We excuse their negligence in not singing as they have apparently become so overcome with emotion that it is simply impossible.
These two options divide players into what I like to call the “mumblers” and the “heroes”. A fun game if you do choose to watch any Euro 2012 match is to look out and try to identify which player belongs to which group.
3) During any of our matches, if a goal scoring opportunity goes amiss or a chance is inexplicably wasted, the camera will instantly whisk us away from the scenes on the pitch and try to frantically locate Wayne Rooney sat in the stands. It will become known as the “what if?” image. Having watched Andy Carroll head wide his 7th chance of the game, fans up and down the country will drop to their knees, clench their fists and scream “what if!” as Rooney watches from afar.
4) Switching my focus from attack to defence, on any occasion where there is even a sniff of a defensive mistake; the commentators will reference Rio Ferdinand and debate his lack of inclusion in the squad.
5) Commentators will continue to play a huge part in my list. As well as being on high alert to any opportunities to reference Ferdinand, they will be doing the same with Scott Parker. Any time they watch Parker’s relentless pursuit of the ball, strong tackling across the pitch, or, heaven forbid a bloodied shirt, they will enthusiastically claim it epitomises the determined grit and ‘never say die’ attitude of the English nation in general.
6) An awkward silence will occasionally descend upon our screens whilst the commentators desperately try and think of a talking point as the camera focuses on a player clearly telling the referee numerous times to “f*ck off”.
7) We will be forced to witness topless, overweight, middle-aged men in the crowd trying to balance a flag in one hand with a can of cider in the other.
The only saving grace for any fans with a similar level of cynicism would be that England actually qualifies from the group stages, making it all half interesting in the knock out rounds. But until then, I can only hope that my list can save you the trouble of watching our earlier matches. If I can prevent at least one person from watching the group games, it will have been worth the effort.