By JJ Jabbal
The novelty of the Euros being here have worn off and we are now fully into tournament mode. For the Home nations, so far there is much to be happy about, England have made it through with Wales, Northern Ireland secured an epic win and the Republic of Ireland, supposedly, hope to kick a rotated Italy team to make it through.
The hosts have Payet’d their way through, Italy are being Italy and the Spanish look like the Spain of old. Yet, and yet, it is still really waiting to kick off. In fact the only kicking off seems to be the fans at the moment, and that is something nobody wants to see. With the added teams and extra games, it always felt like this may be the case. Tournaments, much like the Champions League, don’t really get exciting until the knock out stages, with extra-time and penalties the insurance policy to keep drama high if we do get a dull 0-0. Also, despite the supposed disparity in class between teams, we have not seen many thrashings, in fact, we haven’t seen many goals period, a lowly 1.96 per game.
There seems to be an argument that this illustrated the lack of world class strikers around, and while this may be true to a point, this isn’t the only reason. Cristiano Ronaldo is pretty world class, Muller bangs them in during World Cups, and even the much mocked Giroud regularly knocks in 20 odd goals a season.
It seems that a lot of things that generally allowed the elite teams to be well ahead of the so called lesser nations no longer apply; factors like fitness, tactical organisation and technical ability. Gone are the days the bigger, faster, fitter team could just overpower, out run and bombard a team that will eventually crumble under their own mistakes. Nor also will you see, and this is best probably demonstrated by England’s and Portugal’s woes, a team passed to submission, tiring then being dismantled in the last 15 minutes.
The reason England and Portugal didn’t score had less to do with the fact Cristiano Ronaldo, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Harry Kane are a bit rubbish, more to do with the fact that Iceland, Austria, Russia and Slovakia are able to be organised, have the fitness to keep their shape and have enough ability on the ball to pose just enough of a threat of their own. Until two teams of a more equal standing face each other, we are likely to see this battles of attack versus defence, which itself negates space and requires higher tempo from a side and width and quality delivery to produce goals. This is more a tactical issue than of personal. Or, more to do with personal in the middle of the park and out wide, not upfront.
All of which makes for very enthralling viewing over 90 minutes, but not always much for the editors to cut for the highlights package. The goals are bound to increase, with more on the line and teams being forced to go for it. It will be no surprise to see the strikers suddenly scoring in the knock out stages with space to attack on counter attacks.
The group stages are simmering nicely, but the tournament really starts cooking during the knockout stages.