June 11, 1996 Animals (Ariel Mazzarelli) June 18, 1996 England and Scotland: Return of the Rivalry (Garry Archer) June 19, 1996 Paradox shift (Ariel Mazzarelli) June 28, 1996 It's not the penales (Ariel Mazzarelli, Bruce Scott, Marcelo Weinberger) July 1, 1996 Euro 96 (Garry Archer) July 3, 1996 Where have you gone Pierre Littbarski? (Ariel Mazzarelli) July 5, 1996 Slagging Off the English (Simon Gleave) All the results from Euro'96 can be found at Euro '96 full stats ============================================= From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ariel Mazzarelli) Subject: Animals Date: June 11, 1996 For various reasons, most of which have to do with free time, money, and convenience, my appreciation of the Eurocopa will be filtered through espn. The first game was Espa~a vs. Bulgaria. Espa~a played its usual bestial game, using the round ball as an excuse to land cleats on the legs of the opponent. The euroanimals are busting my balls. I see a few posts here that insinuate that Pizzi should not have been sent off for sweeping his leg in a 90 degree arc, 40 centimeters above the ground, full strength, so as to finally clash into the leg of an opponent running down the field. My dear euroanimals, the only reason we make that a red card is because otherwise we must allow the Bulgarian the opportunity to kick Pizzi in the teeth. Since we are civilized enough to make futbol a game of men, not animals, we give Pizzi a red card for that play. The espn experts thought the red card was excessive. These are the people that find a Lalas charge on an unguarded achilles tendon as a "good yellow card". I suppose that the telecasting habits of steroid-chomping sports are hard to break, and that the harmonies of four-part fugues and four-comma sentences are too distant for these primates to appreciate the importance of preserving the talented futbol players in the face of thuggery. No matter, they are an overpaid lost cause. However, it is a testament to the fairness of this world that, when Sergi made a characteristic late challenge on a Bulgarian (Balakhov, if memory serves me), landing with his studs full on the outside of the plant foot, starting upwards from the heel up to four inches above the ankle, and the USA half of the espn commentary squad enunced that the referee should not have given Sergi a yellow card... that then I thought "I'd like to hear your cowardly comment after being on the receiving end of that kick", only to realize that if I were given the opportunity to demonstrate the ploy to that animal, I'd have to stand in a rather long queue, where most of the folks preceding me would have been baseball fans who did not appreciate having their three-hour infomercials pre-empted for a socker game. The fact that 15% of the screen was blocked throughout the whole game to show us the espn logo, score, and clock, while another 10-85% was sporadically blocked to show us various other espn promotions for shows that none of us will ever care for, stands on its own as commentary. One last comment on these vidiots: at one point the us vidiot asked the irish sidekick: "England vs. Switzerland ended in a 1-1 draw. A bad result?" For whom? Dear vidiot, the man is Irish, not English, and certainly not Swiss. The spectator on the other end of the screen is all over the world, and not very likely to be cheering the locals on.
The crowd watching the game at the stadium was rather sparse. Now far be it for me to cast aspersions on the local fans for having something better to do on that occasion, as after 15 years of Tory rule there are probably about 15 families in Leeds that can afford the tickets to the match--although it is nice that these 15 families can buy about 70 seats per capita, thus ensuring that there will be enough room separating them from the riff-raff that manages to bribe its way to the stands. However, I do find exception to the writings of Reuters on this matter, as they did not spare the rod when a similar phenomenom took place in Uruguay for Copa America. The fact that Reuters is largely English, and the fact that Uruguay's population is about a twentieth that of England, should tell us all we need to know about that 'news service'. Lest you think that I only wanted to write nasty things, let me note that Bulgaria played a very nice game. While Espa~a showed absolutely nothing worthy of the game of futbol, the Bulgarian midfield was beautiful. Stoichkov seemed to be listening to the espn cognoscenti as they told us that the man was all but finished--he laid masterful passes, gambetas, and incisive runs all over the field. His first golazo was annulled by the referee for a non-existent offside. The play itself was a great pass from somebody (my apologies for forgetting) from the center circle, and Stoichkov timing his run perfectly, anticipating Zubizarreta's coming-out party and, from about 16 meters out, volleying the ball softly over Zubi and easily under the bar, with a sweeping stroke using the outside of his left foot. A few minutes later, Stoichkov finished off a simple, precise, and incisive sequence of midfield passes by laying a perfect ball for an onrushing Kostadinov, who was promptly fouled from behind--penal. Stoichkov kicked it a bit too softly and a bit too perfectly, as the ball barely escaped Zubi's great lunge, struck the inside of the right post and bounced in. For the truly discriminating palate, Hristo gave us the following gem: running fast along the left line of Espa~a's penalty area, controlling the ball, he anticipates the knee-high spike of the opposing no. 6 by elevating his feet above the ground so as to absorb the impact without being seriously injured, and cushions his fall by placing his forearm firmly across his opponent's ear. A textbook example of how to punish the "strong" opponent. The beauty of the moment was complete when the referee gave the no. 6 a yellow card. Throughout the remainder of the game, no. 6 played futbol, demonstrating the pedagogical value of Hristo's move. Espa~a tied the game with some random bounce after about three other bounces off a free kick. The score was 1-1 on one level, 2-1 on another, and 4-0 on yet another (Letchkov, Balakhov, Stoichkov, and a 21-year old with the no. 2 whose name I've forgotten). espn returns with its brand of bait-and-switch telecasting on Saturday, with the clash between England and Scotland. Given the current standings, it is fair to say that a draw is fine for the Scots--a dire diagnostic for the host's chances to take the cup. =================================== From: email@example.com (Garry Archer) Subject: England and Scotland: Return of the Rivalry. Date: June 18, 1996 By now you have seen the score; England 2, Scotland 0. What a huge relief! I worried about this game more than any other England had to face this summer. I went to see US-Scotland, which the US won 2-1 and Scotland were hardly impressive except for the first 15 minutes or so. I heard they had one good half in their 1-0 loss to Colombia in their other pre-Euro '96 warmup. But I knew, they were waiting for "the Auld Enemy". The tension grew to enormous proportions when England stunningly failed to win the Euro '96 opener against Switzerland and played poorly in the second half to boot. That tension was tweaked even more when the Scots bravely held favourites the Netherlands to 0-0, of all scores. "The Auld Enemy" were there for the taking, and the Scots could smell it. I expected the match to be blood and guts, with much physical tackling and tons of running. The Scots passion and their hatred of the English would be aroused to fever pitch and Wembley would be humming with the vociferous Scottish fans, the Tartan Army. So, for me, the first half was extremely disappointing. Where was the passion from either team? It seemed only England's Paul Ince was throwing his body into the tackle. Others appeared more ginger. Still, this was the first time the two teams had met in seven years and most of these lads were still apprentices, most likely. Such is how we have missed this legendary series. In terms of play, England and Scotland traded punches -- in the figurative sense, the game was quite clean with few fouls. Both had their chances, Sheringham should have put at least one of his two long distance headers away. 0-0 at half time and the tension was still building. So much so that I was actually getting a headache from it. This was crazy! I hadn't felt this way since England played Germany in the 1990 World Cup semi-finals. What had Terry Venables and Craig Brown said to their respective lads at half time? Venables had to be the more concerned, the pressure was the greatest on him. Brown had been professing calm to his players for days, perhaps weeks. Venables probably urged England to step up the action. Brown probably encouraged his lads to keep jabbing. England came out storming in the second half. McManaman patrolled the wings like a man posessed. Gascoigne boosted his self confidence with a free kick curling just over the far top corner. The whole team seemed to come alive. Scotland rocked on their collective heals. It finally came -- the tension-buster! Gary Neville's superb right-wing cross flighted perfectly over the Scottish defence for Alan Shearer to ghost in at the far post and nod home that precious first goal. Shearer's Blackburn team mate Colin Hendry was no doubt supposed to mark the England forward. But Hendry lost him as Shearer drifted away from the goal area to start his run from deep. Hendry had no-one to mark, and instead, found himself standing under Andy Goram's cross-bar as Neville's cross flew over him. Shearer made his run -- like an express train -- from deep to meet the cross and plant it into an unguarded net. Euphoria! Now, surely England would continue this shellacking and pummel the Scots to bits? Scotland, instead, finally rose to the ocassion. For what seemed like forever, Scotland had now begun to rock England on their heals. One-nil was not going to be enough. Scotland were winning all the balls, keeping possession and were beginning to make dangerous chances. The excellent Gordon Durie made David Seaman make a save of Gordon Banks' proportions! The disappointing Spencer went off and Ally McCoist came on. This bode extremely well for Scotland. If any Scot was going to score, it was McCoist, if not Durie. It was McCoist who made a break into England's box, with -- I think -- only Gary Neville to challenge and then only Seaman to beat. McCoist broke past Neville and the latter lunged with outstretched foot for the ball. He missed but caught McCoist's toe, sending him sprawling. That was a penalty if ever I saw one. But the referee, incredibly, waved play on. Perhaps he though McCoist had taken a dive? Scotland kept England firmly entrenched in the final third of the pitch. There was excellent pressure at times. Scotland, surely, should have made better from the free kick won after Neville's back-pass to Seaman which the England 'keeper errantly picked up? Durie broke into the box this time and Donkey Adams stretched his foot to nip the ball away. Durie's momentum had taken him flying over Adams' leg, and even before Durie and landed and the referee had blown his whistle Adams was flinging his arms in a diving motion. But, the whistle was blown. This one was never a penalty, but I believe the referee couldn't let two tumbles in the box go unpunished. This one looked like a penalty, but Adams had played the ball in this case. I couldn't believe it. Again England were faced with a penalty equaliser. Another draw would be certain disaster for the hosts. McAllister stepped up to take the penalty. Then, incredibly didn't steer it into the corner. Seaman's elbow stopped it as he was diving -- Seaman may have arrived at the same time as the ball, had it been directed properly, just inside the post. All of England sighed with relief, I was whooping and hugging the telly, and the Scots, jubilant only seconds before, their hearts must have sank. Then, only a moment later, the earth could have opened up and swallowed the Scots, rather than face the sight of Gascoigne beaming his sights on the Scottish goal at the other end of the pitch. Gazza, in a stroke of sheer genius suited to legends, flicked a through pass from Anderton over Hendry (confounded and confused again) and fired a volley past Goram before the Scots 'keeper could fully react to the danger. It could have been 1-1, but suddenly it was 2-0 and England were free of their shackles of pressure and potential humiliation. There was no way Scotland could score two, never mind win it now. England's backs were up -- in more ways than one. It wasn't a great game, but it was tense and exciting -- eventually, from an Englishman's point of view. It was disconcerting, to say the least, that at times the Scots outplayed England -- but, they just cannot score. I could see this would be a problem when watching them against the US. Their ownly goal in four games was in that game -- an early Durie strike before the Americans had settled. The problem is, Scotland lack a true target man. They miss the injured Duncan Ferguson -- badly. They cannot count on the diminutive Spencer, surely, to provide the goals. McCoist, has the potential. McAllister couldn't do the business against England, but Switzerland may feel his wrath now. Don't forget Durie -- the man with headband, reminiscent of a Scottish Geronimo -- he terrorised England at every opportunity. He was Scotland's best. But John Collins was super too. Andy Goram showed more class than any Scottish goalkeeper I can ever think of. England, their confidence boosted now, must face The Orange. They are not consistent. A poor second half against Switzerland, only flashes of greatness against Scotland. But, somehow, England have always found a way to make their third group game their best, if they still have a chance of qualifying. The hosts only need a draw now to be absolutely sure of qualifying -- and so do The Netherlands. While every English and Dutch supporter would gladly welcome this at this stage of the tournament, I hope they make more of it than West Germany and Austria did in the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain. England may not be playing like the best team in the tournament, but much can be said for saving the best for more important matches yet to come. ============================================= From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ariel Mazzarelli) Subject: Paradox shift Date: June 19, 1996 The following should have been posted earlier, but due to unforeseen circumstances (i.e. Microsoft GPF's) it was held up. Can you believe 3 reboots per diem, with a total loss of RSS thread-data? On the other hand, the linux box has gone for 35 days without rebooting, with free (no $, and source code on the CD) access. Do GPF's bother you too? The answer is Linux, and a web page for that is www.redhat.com if you're interested. Imagine, Unix for free, courtesy of a cpu-Diego (Linus Torvalds). www.redhat.com is a good start, www.caldera.com if you don't mind paying $100 for the best operating system in the history of humanity. E-mail me if that's not suggestive enough. So, like a fool, I stayed up waiting for the England-Scotland game. Had I not learned my lesson after watching a 2 AM delayed broadcast of the Ireland-Norway hoof fest in World Cup 1994? As the cameras showed us the 2 PM Wembley setting, I thought about how nice the place looks on tv on a sunny day. As Natalie Merchant sings, "Emerald green like none I have seen apart from dreams that escape me." In the stands, the Scots were outnumbered about nine to one. The various media commentators (Reuters, ESPN, CIA) remarked that the Scots were remarkably quiet in the stands--the way I see it, with a nine to one ratio the only ones that have figured out how to get heard are the IRA and they don't seem too fond of this Eurocopa. But I digress. A beautiful stadium, and a revival of a rather nice series. In spite of all the inherent disparities between the two sides, the historical record was a very balanced 43 wins for England, 40 for Scotland, and 20something draws. They had an annual series that was interrupted by, of all things, drunkenness, in 1989. If that's not immediate grounds for dismissing the Tories, I'm not a futbol fan. So the game begins, and as I finish my third glass of Glenfiddich I see Ince strike the first blow for viciousness in the third minute. "Hmm, of all the Black men in England, they had to bring in a thug" I thought, but the man in black saw no yellow in the affair and I figured that was an open invitation. For some reason, the rest of the cast declined said invitation. Let me just say that the lack of gratuituous violence in this match was a great disappointment. As the game went on, it was clear to me that the two squads had decided to make each other look good. There was very little hoofing, passing lanes went largely undefended, the smooth Wembley pitch was used to roll the ball along, and there were even some walls (paredes). I could not believe my eyes. The best chance went to Scotland--after the English goalkeeper Seaman butchered a corner kick, the classic ground-cross to the penalty spot was rudely interrupted by a Scot who wasted the ball rather than letting it go through to a team mate. England had a couple of chances duly wasted by Sheringham on headers--the first rather nicely struck, though wide, and the second a damn good chance wasted. Speaking of waste, Gascoigne showed us time and time again that he was an excellent player, as long as we did not require precision or effectiveness from our excellent players. I kept count of his passes into the wasted void with the fingers of both hands, until I lost count. A special note for Scotland's Durie, who was elbowed and gave us about 45 square inches of the red stuff all over his handsome face. Good thing that he did not spread it over his nose, or we might have seen an on-field transfusion. As it was, Durie came back on wearing a white bandanna that turned redder as the game wore on. At half-time, I figured that the Scots, in classic outnumbered fashion, would make the English regret the day they pissed them off. They'd certainly come closer to scoring, and seemed to have a better grasp of what the match was about. For some reason, England was doing much better when the game resumed. Gascoigne was his usual useless self, but McManaman (sp?!) expanded upon the quick movement he showed in the first half with some incisive decisions. And so it was, that about 10 minutes into the resumption, he took a ball near midfield, lost a hapless Scot, and proceeded to drive towards Goram. "Wow, he could play for Racing" I thought as he headed towards the lone man that stood between him and Goram. Unfortunately, as he reached the 35 meter mark, he remembered his roots and laid off the ball towards an onrushing Neville on the right wing. Without hesitating, Neville struck a lovely blind ollazo (cross) just high enough to clear Goram, where the fortuitous forehead of Shearer poked forth to make it 1-0. Sensing that it would be a good idea to score a goal, the Scottish DT brought in SAlly McCoist. Straight away, SAlly dove for a penal but the referee would have none of it. The Scots pressed on, and the locals begun to show the fear that had plagued them during the first half. Sensing that they might have to score legitimately, the Scots pressed on. On one play, Durie was left alone on the left side and he struck the ball with his bandanna, squirting blood all over the place but not enough to dissuade Seaman from stopping the shot with a fine dive. In spite of the mutual agreement to avoid exposing each other's ineptness, a backpass was handled by Seaman and suddenly the Scots had a real chance. McAllister, sporting a Letchkov hairdo, tried to quick-kick a cross to a team mate but the inept effort was annulled by the referee because the whistle had not been blown. McLetchkov proceeded to make the same lame cross and he was lucky that England did not score on the ensuing counter. Then the miracle took place, a deep ball was sent to Durie and the last man was Tony Adams. Showing a profound understanding of our needs, the referee refrained from giving Adams a red card as he whistled PENAL. Ignoring all my entreaties, McLetchkov promptly kicked the ball about two meters from the middle, a meter high, and in the same direction as the diving Seaman. IDIOTA. As Ms. Merchant says, "How I've learned to please, to doubt myself in need, you'll never, you'll never know". While I was pondering the unfortunate sudden drop of flammable RSS material, Gascoigne received a pass in front of Colin Hendry, kicked it with his left to make a sombrero, then struck it sweetly with his right before it hit the ground into the near post. GOLAZO. After that the remaining minutes were a formality. Some days passed. The IRA set off their first Eurocopa gol near Old Trafford. As its resolution approached, group A was straightforward enough. England vs. Netherlands, a draw would send both into the next round. The visitors were playing poorly, sending their best player home whilst paying homage to nepotism--a draw would do fine by them. The hosts had survived the ancestral fear, and a pre-arranged draw to eliminate the ungrateful Northerners would serve them and us Right. Well, what a turn of events. Scotland finally scored a goal, and won 1-0. I'd comment on the game but ESPN will not show it here. Meanwhile, England played the kind of game that we did not expect. A dodgy penalty made it 1-0, and a strange head ball 2-0, but then the magic began. Gascoigne fought hard to make a lovely cross to Sheringham, who proceeded to make a lovelier pass to Shearer, who proceeded to miskick the ball perfectly to the near post. GOLAZO, and a fitting testament to the selflessness of English futbol. While the Dutch were trying to decide whether it was a good idea to keep Cruyff 2.0 while exiling Davids, Anderton kept a shot below the crossbar for once, and as the keeper yielded a desperate rebound, in came the opportunistic Shearingham to strike a lovely shot to the far post. While I was watching all this, I was wondering whether the mad cow syndrome had not made the boys in white forget their ancestral hooves and hates. Time after time, they would pass up the chance for the "On me head Son" and lay off a surgical ball along the perfect Wembley pitch. The folks on the stands would oscillate between renditions of "You'll Never Walk Alone" and clamoring for Scotland. For some ungodly reason, the Dutch scored on a lovely play which I will not describe because it was wholly undeserved. So it was that, despite the best efforts of the hosts as well as their less-than-grateful neighbors, Netherlands got through to the next round. For futbol, paradox is an old acquaintance. It is paradoxical that Netherlands should be a less worthy qualifier than Scotland. It is paradoxical that England should show such great futbol. It is ridiculously paradoxical that I should find myself favoring England over Espa~a in the upcoming quarterfinal. Granted, it would be enjoyable in years to come to remind the hooligans of their home-based fall from grace--but if the hosts keep playing in a manner so pleasing to the eye, it would be inappropriate to cheer against them. =========================================== From: email@example.com (Ariel Mazzarelli) Subject: It's not the penales Date: June 28, 1996 Everybody here is up in arms about how terrible it is that every meaningful game in the Eurocaca is ending up being decided by penales. I tell you, it is not the fact that after 120 minutes it's all decided by penales that should distress us. It is the fact that those preceding 120 minutes really sucked. What good games have we seen here? Hell, I've seen precious few altogether, but let's just go by hearsay: England-Holland, England-Espa~a, Rumania-Bulgaria, Rumania-Espa~a, some game by Portugal... not much more after that, right? Maybe Croatia played a game worth seeing. That's it. That's your problem. I would not give a flying fart about the decision by penales if the preceding 120 minutes were like France-Brasil 1986. The problem is that the eurocrotos are so busy holding on to their own personal roll of toilet paper that they can't make it all the way to the opposing goal. The 'best' example perhaps was when Portugal, near the end of their loss against the Czechs, were still leaving seven men behind the ball and taking on the opposing eleven with just three or four players. As for the French, since I mentioned their performance in 1986, 10 years later they just came to show us why they were not missed in the previous two world cups. Cowardice is one word for their style, ineptness is another, you pick the one you like but I'll stick to BORING. Add to that the fact that there has been very little skill (a couple of Czechs, the occasional meaningless thrust from a Portuguese, etc.) and OF COURSE your games will suck. If Gascoigne is the epitome of technique, well, then, you have a big problem. I understand that in Europe they're so busy charging into each other with 'fair' tackles that the occasional skillful player will not make it past his teens, but surely this feature of their game could be corrected? I remember how Reuters used to hammer Copa America over the few fans in the stands and the lack of funds in Uruguay. I guess all it takes for them to put things in a glowing positive light is to add to that combination a complete lack of technical accomplishment or inventiveness in your futbol--or maybe their constraint is more geographic in nature. We'll see what kind of game is left for the final. The comments here for the first meeting between the Czechs and the Germans were that the Germans were vicious thugs. I suppose that means that there may be some corrective measures taken for the rematch--or they'll just concentrate on playing good futbol. At least since the hosts have finally departed, we may hope to see some reasonable refereeing (e.g. all legal goals will be permitted). Personally, I'm a bit annoyed that we did not get to see the final of Copa Libertadores instead of this crap. I hear it was a very stirring match, with goals and everything else you usually think of when you think of good futbol. ----------------------------------------------- From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Bruce Scott TOK ) Subject: Re: It's not the penales Date: June 28, 1996 Your admissions speak more than what you actually say. Two of the best games were Czech-Italy and Czech-Russia. The rest of your post reeks of sour grapes. Don't worry, when the next Copa America rolls around, your side of the water will be the focus. And don't forget, in that tournament there are also bad games played by teams with no nerve control. -------------------------------------- From: marcelo@apollo.HP.COM (Marcelo Weinberger) Subject: Re: It's not the penales Date: June 28, 1996 Ariel Mazzarelli writes: [Criticism at the level of play at Euro'96, with which I totally agree, deleted] > I understand that in Europe they're so busy charging into each other > with 'fair' tackles that the occasional skillful player will not make > it past his teens, but surely this feature of their game could be > corrected? I will disagree on this one: it is not a problem of skill. If you look at most of the teams, and you compare with European futbol, say, 30 years ago, you will see that they have improved their technique *a lot*. Teams that play like Holland, Spain, Portugal, France, Croatia, were very rare in Europe 30 years ago, except for the Hungarians or at times Austria. Just take a look at the 1966 WC final: it epitomizes what we call "troncos." I think that many teams in Euro'96 turned, in terms of technique (not in terms of creativity!), into a South American type of soccer in the sense that they emphasized possession, good short passing, no kick-and-rush. The problem is that they ended up playing like Chile, if you know what I mean... Good technique, good short passing, everything very neat... but when they get close to the penalty area, they forget where the goal is, they forget the technique, they are too "light." Plus, good technique doesn't necessarily mean *creativity*, of which we almost didn't see any at Euro'96. That's why I preferred a game like England - Germany, which was quite poor in terms of skill, but at least showed the traditional strengths of European futbol: determination, speed, power, order. ============================================== From: Garry Archer Subject: Re: NAS Euro '96 includes score Date: July 1, 1996 JLR (74721.3631@CompuServe.COM) wrote: > Surely, England and its major clubs have again taken their place near the top. > It appears as if at the club level, the English football has recovered from the > after-effects of the long suspension from European play. And, after the loss to > the US, and failing to qualify for USA '94, England looked better during Eurp > '96 than it had in years. One aspect of Euro '96, as far as England are concerned, is that England played well using the tactics and system of a highly esteemed manager (or 'coach' as you would say in the USA). The English players have shown that they are not so far behind, technically, as the rest of the world prefers to believe. This is in stark contrast to the Graham Taylor era. Terry Venables has built England into an internationally respected power again -- after the shambles Taylor left it in -- where they were, back in 1990 under the tutelage of another highly esteemed manager, Bobby Robson. The premise for the future is extremely bright. Glenn Hoddle will continue Venables' success and build on it. Hoddle has hinted that he will change the tactics and system only slightly -- he prefers attacking wing full backs compared to true wingers. Hoddle's system has been successful in club football at Swindon Town and Chelsea. This is not to say it will translate into successful international football. After all, Graham Taylor was somewhat successful at club level before becoming England manager, albeit with an entirely different system -- hoof and run -- which doesn't translate into international football well at all. As I have said in rec.sport.soccer for months, folks should not have been so quick to discount England's chances in Euro '96. Often we would see predictions (hopes, more like) that England would lose all three of their first round group games. As I expounded several times, not bloody likely! England had a highly respected manager and they have proven to be extremely difficult to beat on English soil -- even during the nadir period under Taylor. The English people had a better idea, in the end. After watching the players perform week in, week out in the FA Premiership we alone saw that England had the potential to go far. Optimistically, we thought, we could reach the semi-finals at least. Pah!, laughed the rest of the world. Ultimately, I think that England surpassed the hopes of even the most optimistic, and most English supporters are left feeling down after the tournamant with a great sense that, perhaps, England could have won it all, after all. One of the best things I have extruded from Euro '96 is that, as all English supporters know, the FIFA rankings are nothing but a load of shite. (Forgive the language, but I really did try to find a more appropriately polite word, but nothing fit quite as well...) England had not played a _competitive_ match since the Autumn of 1993. Under the FIFA system, not many teams could survive slipping down the rankings in _nearly_three_years_ under those conditions. Nor do many England supporters concern themselves with such an idiotic system. The only true way to rank a national team these days is how successful they are in sanctioned international tournament play. Taylor's England achieved nothing. But outside of his reign in recent years, England achieved the semi-finals of the world's two most premier tournaments -- World Cup 1990 and Euro '96. All we needed was the chance to show ourselves with a decent manager with appropriate tactics and systems for international class football. After all, the quality and skill of the players has always been there. England, from manager to supporter, knows that we are not the best football team in the world, but we have always felt that we are just one short step away from Germany, Italy, Brasil, Argentina and The Netherlands. We have proven, for this time at least, that that step is a lot shorter than even we previously thought! > The biggest contrast to MLS matches I noticed was speed of play. Even when the > Euro sides weren't accomplishing much, most of them still seemed to be doing > it (or not doing it) at a quicker pace. Any other observations out there? Fully agreed. I think many MLS players would find it amazingly fast should they suddenly find themselves in an international game. Defenders, in international games, have evolved into lightning whizzes and I believe this is why the goal production has lowered in recent times. The systems and tactics reflect this. Since, with quick-as-lightning defenders, most teams develop amazingly fast counter-attacking styles. Germany and Czech Republic ended Euro '96 as probably the two best teams able to absorb the pressure and make brilliant and dangerous counter-attacks. Neither was particularly adept at building up their attack from a slow start from the back. Teams like these can lull you into a false sense of security. Speed is the name of the game, not the slow, possesion-oriented buildups. I enjoyed Czech Republic's victory over Portugal. The Ports were trying the slow buildups with lots of possession. This may have been good had they been 1-0 or 2-0 up, but it was only 0-0 at the time. When the Czechs scored, then you saw Portugal play the way they should have before, except it was tinged with desperation. Roll on World Cup '98 Qualifying. I can't wait! ============================================ From: email@example.com (Ariel Mazzarelli) Subject: Where have you gone Pierre Littbarski? Date: July 3, 1996 I'd like to congratulate the German squad for winning the Eurocopa in spite of many injuries and a gift penalty kick to their opponents in the final. Once again they show the healthy state of their futbol backbone. Since there have been lots of posts on various aspects of the tournament, including some by myself, I'll be brief and ask you to consider something about the current trend of futbol: in 1988, the German squad was eliminated in the semifinal round of this tournament. Which version did you prefer, 1988 or 1996? It is all the more poignant to compare Klinsmann then and now. For a bonus, consider that in that 1988 tournament, Germany was not as good as either finalist, whereas in this tournament, they were clearly the best team there. There is indeed something wrong with futbol today, specially in Europe. My best guess is that there are too many games being played. My second best guess is that tactical cowardice is not properly discouraged. My third best guess is that Bulgaria did not go far enough in the tournament to make things look better. My fourth best guess is that trainers leave out players like Effenberg all too frequently, as though the trainer's personal constraints mattered more than the needs of the fans or the game itself. On that last point, when will somebody point out to these autocrats that a national squad is a national squad? You don't get to banish your neighbor because you dislike him, and the same should apply to your best players. So I hope that Mr. Vogts will understand that it does not suffice to merely rise above a mediocre collection of opponents--there is also an absolute standard against which we must measure our accomplishments, and against that standard, the German squad is flawed precisely in the area where Effenberg operates. Ok, so where do we find different squads, those that make you feel that you are seeing passionate, technically accomplished, courageous futbol? My list of examples would include Argentina, Brasil, Bulgaria, Croatia, several African squads, Saudi Arabia, and lately Paraguay. However, even in this list, Brasil often gives the impression of worrying more about not losing than winning, which is worrisome considering their historical role. So something is wrong, and I cannot quite put my finger on it. A telling example is that of the Italian performances in 1994 and now in 1996, where having a very generous serving of talent did not suffice to liberate the players from the constraints of the fear of failure. I hope UEFA finds the way back to 1988. =============================== From: Shaggy Subject: Slagging Off the English Date: July 5, 1996 Since the match between England and Spain, the amount of vitriol (and in some cases) outright racism towards those of us who are English and England in general has been an absolute disgrace. If this sort of stuff was being written about another nation and their supporters, most of you would be up in arms about it but it seems like the English are fair game. Firstly, I'd just like to comment on a few things about the English games because I was in Wembley for all of them. 1. Whistling national anthems - this has long been a disgraceful feature of England national matches but in this tournament I was pleasantly surprised becasue there was virtually no whistling from the England crowd with the exception of the Scotland match. There was some in each game but it was a small minority and this will soon become zero. 2. England's performance equalled the worst by a host nation - whoever came up with this one? The first five European Championship finals only contained 4 teams and were hosted by one of them so the semis was the earliest they could go out. Since then, Italy went out in the group stage in 1980 (theoretically the semis as the top team in each group played the final), France won in 1984, Germany lost in the semis in 1988 as did Sweden in 1992. Therefore, the England performance is pretty much in keeping with host nations - somewhat different from the equal worst performance by a host nation!! 3. England played no football etc etc - how many times have we heard this one? England played a more technical style than I have ever seen them play and they matched some of the best in Europe with this style. Admittedly, it took time to get going but the matches against the Netherlands and Germany were full of great skill and were brilliant to watch. The other thing about the English team was that they tried to win every match which is certainly not the case for some of the other teams playing. 4. England were lucky - yes, we were a little fortunate against Spain but looking through the matches that were played Spain were fortunate against Bulgaria, the Czechs, Holland and Spain were fortunate to get through the groups. Germany were fortunate against Croatia and England. The list goes on - you need a little luck to go far in a tournament and all four semi finalists had some luck. 5. England's fans are hooligans - There was no trouble at all at any of the England matches which is remarkable on past form considering that we had three high risk games (Scotland, Netherlands, Germany). This is because hooliganism has been driven out of the game - after all, when you're watching a Premiership match, when do you see rioting in the stands? It has been driven out and the incident in Trafalgar Square had nothing to do with England or football - hooliganism has been removed so get used to it. 6. England fans whinge about defeat - everyone I know was deeply upset about the defeat by Germany but noone whinged or whined. The same goes for the English on this newsgroup who have not reacted in the same way as the Spanish for example who have accused us of just about everything. The Germans were the best team in the tournament and deserved to win it. It hurt when they beat England but I had the privilege to watch great players like Sammer and Eilts - a chance I've never had before. So, stop the racism and abuse of us - England put on a good tournament, were magnanimous in defeat and played some nice stuff at times. Here's to France in 1998.