Well, the Euro Championships is now off and running. Despite my perennial claim that the Spain will finally do the business this time round, I've not went into the predication business with this Championship. The truth is that I don't pretend to know the quality of three-quarters of the teams participating, outside of looking at the final tables from the qualifying rounds and spotting which squads have the most players prying their trades in the big leagues (Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga, SPL). I tempted to predict a Netherlands versus Poland final but maybe I'll hang back with the bullshit predictions until the first round of games have taken place.
First game up in the tournament was the Swiss against the Czech Republic in Basel. Nedved was a no show and Rosicky pulled a sickie (yep, it's going to be that sort of quality blogging for the rest of the tournament) for the Czechs. Nobody I'd heard for the Swiss. Good start to my close season punditry. Jan Koller was as anonymous as 6 ft 7in skinhead can be in a confined space, and the ESPN commentators made arses of themselves by berating Frei for falling awkwardly at the end of the first half. He left the pitch doing a John Terry and will miss the rest of the tournament with a twisted knee.
The Swiss were unfortunately not to get a result, coming up against an in-form Petr Cech in goal and an absence of Milan Baros on the pitch. The Czech Republic literally win the game with a punt upfield and their only shot on target. Sverkos slides it home for the 1-0 victory, and the Czech supporters behind the goal do a variation of a butterfly flapping its wings with 5000 beer guts wobbling up and down simultaneously. Expect a tsunami to hit Lake Geneva some time next Thursday.
A better contest all round was the second game in Group A between Turkey and Romania. All eyes were on Ronaldo but we couldn't help ourselves, what with the director of programming at ESPN deciding to train all 43 cameras on the Portuguese Davie Provan. I spent the first five minutes of the game debating who was the better looking team. Decided that Chelsea's Paulo Ferreira shaded it for the Portuguese. The commentators kept telling me that Portugal were much too good for the Turks, but despite the final result, I couldn't quite see it myself. Granted Deco was on form and Ronaldo didn't go missing for a bigger game but it was the bloke named after the eighties keyrings who broke the deadlock in the game. Liked to see a joyous goal celebration for a change. I was bracing myself for Ronaldo scoring and then being subjected to his 'look at me . . .I'm the shit' pout and pose. But Cristiano we all remember that penalty miss in Moscow. A bit of humility should be in order.
What of Ronaldo's performance? Excellent in places. Nearly scored from a free kick in the first half but for the Turkish goalkeeper's superb fingertip save, but he just seemed to be trying too hard at times and what with the Turkish defenders doubling up on him, he seemed to run out of space far too quickly. I'm still not convinced that he can boss a game like the truly great footballers but that may be as much about his position on the pitch as anything else. I think I better stop this train of thought now before I break out the old Charlie Buchan Monthly and start drawing diagrams on the blog.
At this point in proceedings, Portugal and someone else will go through from Group A but I won't be that gutted if I'm proved wrong on the matter of Portugal. The sooner Ronaldo gets back to have a chat with Fergie, all the better in my opinion. I just wish I wasn't so squeamish at the sight of spilt blood, otherwise I'd love to be a fly on that particular dressing room wall.