If you have been following, in my previous post, I spoke about the Copa America, however, I couldn’t quite fit the Euros into it. As promised, this blog is all about Euro 2020. The competition that is guaranteed to make grown men cry. And the fans turn on their own.
Filling the stadiums again
Now, I don’t know whether this is a popular opinion, but for the past two years, watching football seemed to not be as enjoyable as it used to be. Of course, I think Covid-19 had a significant impact on the game. Considering that supporters weren’t allowed inside stadiums.
Saying that, the Euro 2020, in particular from the quarter finals to the finals is where football came to life. Finally fans were allowed to watch the games and without a doubt, this made the whole atmosphere a lot better. But this competition wasn’t just spectacular because of the fans. It is also because of the kind of football that we saw throughout the whole competition.
Gripping and heart-stopping
Watching the semi-finals and the finals, I was constantly on the edge of my seat, waiting to see who will score and go through to the next round. But, of course national teams came to this competition wanting to win and no matter who scored first, the other team would be hungry for that equaliser.
A clear example is the round of 16 game when Switzerland gave an exhilarating match against France. Although, Switzerland were on the front foot by scoring first, France wouldn’t give up easily. Considering the amount of hype and pressure placed on the team, expectations were high. The French team that competed in the Euro 2020 is called the “golden era”. And keep in mind, some if not most of the players in that squad were World Cup champions in 2018.
Nail-biting to the last second
Although it took until the second-half for France to equalise, they replied with three goals. One after the other, without a response from Switzerland. Making for an intense last 10 minutes of the game because one nation would continue and the other would pack their bags.
Anything can (and will) happen
Coming into the game, France were the favourites, but Switzerland clearly wanted to give them a fight. In the 81′ , Switzerland scored one. In the 90′ , Switzerland equalised. As soon as Switzerland scored that second goal, the whole stadium lit up with excitement and hope. With the third and equaliser, the stadium exploded with cheers from the Swiss fans and the nations bench.
A stunned response from the French team
It is obvious that France were completely stunned as soon as they conceded not one but two goals in the last 10 minutes of normal time. But the final whistle wasn’t blown. Coming into extra-time, you could sense the fighting spirit in the Swiss team, technical team, and the fans. They were all united as one nation. France on the other hand were on the back foot and since that stunner, they couldn’t quite find their rhythm again.
After 120 minutes of incredible, yet surprising football, the game went to penalties. To end the story quick, France sadly were defeated 4-5 and Switzerland left in high spirits and full of confidence to compete in the quarter finals.
Surprises and upsets
To sum it all up, in this particular Euro competition, what seemed to be an easy win to a particular nation was quite the opposite, no matter if the opponent was the underdog coming into the match. This kind of game wasn’t the only one that occurred throughout the competition. Other match-ups had almost impossible comebacks, tears, disappointmets, and screams that woke the entire world.
And then the Final
The theme continued up to the final of the Euro 20 when Italy met England.
There are quite a few notes to add that were talked about and seen from each nation.
It’s coming home
From the mouths of the English ‘it’s coming home’, they said. Certain that they had waited in the wings long enough. England hasn’t won an international trophy for quite some time. The last time the nation won something was in the 1900’s. The English squad that competed in the World Cup 2018 did come close to some sort of silverware. However, they were eliminated in the semi-final, just missing out on their opportunity of competing in the finals.
The ‘golden era’ jumps the channel
I said this with the French and it is the same with the English. The England squad that featured in the Euro 2020 was full of youth and top talent. The squad was named the “golden era”. Never mind that this piles on the pressure. Never mind that self-defeating superstitious air of defeat. As if when they can’t win anything now, they won’t be able to win anything in the future. All hopes and dreams were resting on taking away a victory in Euro 2020.
The journey up the ladder
Although, England started off kind of rocky in the group stages, they started picking it up in the round of 16. Then they just kept on improving with the mantra to bring it home gaining momentum.
Honestly, when I looked at the England squad, there were some positions that I couldn’t confidently name a player that should start. Because when I saw the players available, there were just so many amazing players to pick from.
But what of Italy?
On the other hand, Italy were a team that kept on competing and showing their dominance throughout the entirety of the competition.
Before coming into the competition, Italy was on an unbeaten streak of 30 odd games. The question was whether they could maintain this unbeaten run, even against the likes of Belgium, Spain, and England.
Just like the England squad, the Italians have youth and an enthusiastic manager. His interesting tactics and style of play was very intriguing and to say the least. Watching Italy play, there was never a dull moment.
Youth and experience
Something I want to acknowledge is the centre-back partnership of Bonucci and Chiellini. They proved that age is no factor for people that are determined, have a strong mindset, and who are willing to compete till the absolute the end.
The combined age of this fabulous duo as I am writing this is 70. It is incredible to think that a couple years ago, footballers aged 30 or more did not consider their football career to be ahead of them. Nowadays as football is becoming more modern, football players are becoming more aware of looking after their health. It is exciting news that nutrition, sleep, recovery and different types of exercises can help us achieve a high level performance to sustain a longer football career.
The outcome seemed assured
Anyways, to get to the result. In the earlier stages of the game, England looked like they were going to come away with the win. People were screaming, “it’s coming home”, flushed with the first signs of success. Due to an early opener which was in the 2′.
Italy on the other hand had other ideas. In the first half, England was definitely superior, however, Italy kept their heads in check and ended up equalising in the second half. As the game neared full time, Italy was dominating. Determined to get another goal before the final whistle for outright victory.
That wasn’t the case, however. Italy couldn’t find that second goal, which meant both nations went into extra time 1-1.
Not a lot happened in extra time. Fatigue kicked in for the players of both teams. The whistle blew again after a long, eventful 120′ of football.
Now, it was time for penalties. Keep this in mind: England has had a terrible track record with penalties. Losing on penalties means feeling cheated of the win, it is a heart-breaking way to exit the competition.
The Italians knew they would win if it came to a penalty shoot out
For England, their penalty shootout curse lived on. What a day to be Italian. It was shocking. The final score came to 1-1 (3-2), to Italy, which meant that England had missed three penalties and England two. It’s certainly enough to bring the fans to tears.
Coming to grips with the cup not coming home after all
After the match fans criticized the decisions English players had taken and the decisions made from the manager. It was quite sad. Instead of the supporters cheering up the players and acknowledging the effort they put in during the whole competition. A sour controversy ensued. Some supporters decided to make racist remarks towards players and others complained.
When grown men cry foul
The way I see it is win or lose, supporters need to unite with the players and staff of a team. Or as a nation sticking together in the highs and lows, not just when they get the win. It is the game of football.
But we know the players will recover
Racism should not be a response to disappointing results.
All these situations allow individuals to become a better version of themselves and manage disappointment with a tougher mentality.
Usually I’m talking about how a football player needs to dig deep. These types of situations can break players. But most likely, they have already overcome great odds and adversity to get where they are now. And they are my age or just a bit older, they have resilience and determination.
So this time, I’m talking about the fans. When grown men cry, and cry ugly racial slurs, and turn on their own. It’s time to bring some new perspective on what we like to call the ‘beautiful game’.
I hope the players have the support of loved ones or a belief in God to carry them through to the next season. And I can’t wait to see them all back on the field.