Football’s coming – to a glorious finale on Sunday evening?

My week: I’ve had a busy week this week but an enjoyable one. It’s been one of those weeks where several things have all demanded my time: Wild Justice discussions with lawyers, accountants, donors and each other; World Land Trust papers for the next trustee meeting; the first visit of our five-month-old grandson to our home (and he brought his mum and dad with him); and I’m writing a book (now at 45,000 words). So, as relaxation for me, I’ll just write this one blog post for today – and it’s not on nature, it’s on football!

The quality of the football: I reckon it’s been a really good football tournament to watch. VAR has worked well, the refereeing has been a very high standard and there have been many good matches, and a lot of skilful play. I haven’t watched every match, or every minute of the games I have watched, but I’ve rarely been bored. That must be because of the football, but the commentators deserve some credit too. And so too do the pundits – Rio Ferdinand used to be pretty dull but has come into his own over the years and in these last few weeks in particular.

The two semifinals were excellent. Italy v Spain was a great game of skill from the Mediterranean and England v Denmark was rivetting because of decent football and emotional involvement. Whether or not they all get and transmit COVID, the larger crowds coming back through the weeks has made it seem like events were building to a crescendo.

Who do I want to win?: I can’t help wanting England to win, although Italians are people too, so I feel slightly uncomfortable about my choice. Why should I want ‘my’ team to win over ‘their’ team? I’d have to say that it isn’t really a matter of life and death to me but I do feel keen on England winning tomorrow evening.

I’m sure that one reason I want this England team to win is that I admire them, and their manager, more than I have cared about many other England teams of the past. These footballers and the team around them do encapsulate, to some extent, the values of present day England (and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland), or at least some of the values that we ought to admire. Their insistence on taking the knee shows character and leadership and principles, and I admire that (right or wrong). Their style of play is a mixture of sensible caution and sensible ambition, and is not marred by too many fouls or too many dives (but that has generally been true of the teams involved throughout Euro2020 in 2021). They are a good team and better so than the sum of the individual skills might suggest. The colour of skin of the players is diverse, as are the tattoos on the skin, and that says something about our society. Compare this squad with the famed and wonderful 1966 World Cup squad and our society has moved on, and there is more moving on to do. Sterling is a great surname for a British sportsman and Raheem must be one of the very few England internationals, across all sports, to carry that name – and he scores goals.

And Gareth Southgate is great role model. I’m sure he isn’t perfect, and if some dark deeds ever emerge from his past life I’ll be disappointed, but right now he looks a far better role model than many other public figures, for example in politics. He is good at his job, he makes the right decisions most of the time, he can talk sensibly and clearly about his job and the task ahead without dropping into cliches and he has created the environment which has got the best out of his players as individuals and as a team. I’d like us to win so that his approach can be thoroughy validated, although it is already.

But then, the Italian squad and manager seem pretty good too.

How would a UK football team perform – discuss?

Who is going to win?: I don’t know, and my judgement is clouded by wanting England to win, but from their very first game I have invested in an Italian victory and now I win a modest amount of money whatever the result (to add to financial gains along the way through the tournament). I’d say it’s pretty evenly matched with Italy being the slightly better side, and so they should win six times out of 10, but I’m hoping tomorrow night might be one of the four. Given that Italy is slightly odds against to win the tournament they are the better betting prospect in my humble, but experienced, view. A draw in 90 minutes look quite tempting at 2/1 but I’ll keep my money in my account and not invest further tomorrow evening (probably).

1966 and all that: I watched the 1966 World Cup final on a black-and-white TV and I can still tell you the names of that team far more easily than those of the current squad (although I am getting there). These are only Euros and not the World Cup, there is a massive difference, and England has had a lot of home games to ease the way as in 1966, but I’d like to find out what it’s like to win as the memory of 55 years ago is fading slightly.

The national anthems and my tip for Gareth Southgate: if it were a contest of national anthems tomorrow then Italy would win hands down. I’m impressed that England players do actually sing the so-called English national anthem – some may be tuneless but that doesn’t matter. A vigorous sing is good for the head and the heart. So my tip to Gareth Southgate is forget practising penalties and practise singing – not just our anthem but also the Italian one. Imagine the impact on the opposing team if their opponents sing both national anthems respectfully, loudly and with gusto. And it works in whichever order the two anthems come. For a slight psychological edge, at the very beginning of the game, sing the other team’s national anthem. It’s a sure winner.


12 Replies to “Football’s coming – to a glorious finale on Sunday evening?”

  1. Dearly Beloved Mrs Cobb doesn’t watch footy but she made an exception for the Ukraine match as she is half-Ukrainian on her mother’s side so she watched it on her laptop while we watched something else on Netflix or Now and those little grey birds through the window but she kept asking why they were all standing around and not running about like they used to and I must confess I didn’t know the answer but eventually the questions ceased and the laptop slammed shut – I don’t know why.

    Her new-found enthusiasm for footy has led her to start reading stuff online when she should be working and she asked me, if the Danish goal should have been disallowed and the English penalty was given for a no-contact foul, how England could win in a match where the only legitimate goal was scored by Denmark and once again I must confess I didn’t know the answer.

    Now she is asking whether Italy at Wembley, Berrettini at Wimbledon and Nibali at Andorre-la-Vieille can pull off a famous treble. I must confess I don’t know the answer and I yearn for the return of Universally Challenged next week to take her mind off sport.

  2. Ah, football. Rugby is defined as gentleman behaving like louts and soccer as louts trying to behave like gentlemen. No idea how true it is but I do know my daughter was returning home in London after a match had taken place and said every pub made her feel seriously intimidated. Perhaps louts only refers to supporters.
    Give me horses anytime!

    1. I agree with much of what you say, Mark – but as so many England fans are crass (pace Austringer) I think a good manager and decent team have been let down by them.
      If they can’t even keep quiet for anthems and show a bit of respect for non-English people, it’s a poor show.
      Of course, Brexit didn’t help.
      My Fiat has a stripe along the sides in the colours of the Italian flag – so I am even more pleased with it – Forza Azzurri!

  3. Feel truly spoiled by sport right now… Following Le Tour , the cricket from both Englands Mens second eleven and the womens team (what a close series against India that is) as well as the footie, and I have barely thought wildlife or birding for 2 weeks (apart froma sneaky trip to the roller)… A UK team in any of these sports would be near-impossible, as the english sides have really dominated in terms of coverage, financial backing and therefore strategic training towards success at an international level. SO few Welsh/Scottish footballers play in the higher parts of the English league compared to international stars that everyone in England automatically is trained to dimiss them without thought (and I have heard far too many radio presenters state that our national team is in final and then correct themselves) and dont get me started on equal coverage of womens sport – the cricket is just about there, btu I reckon the current womens team could have done as good a job as some of the mens squads we have fielded in last couple of years..

    But if it comes to sportsman of the year so far, its Mark Cavendish all the way – what an achievement, and I hope a very long-standing record to be broken next week there, whether he is really British or not being from the Isle of Man (guess that depends on where one’s boundaries lie)

  4. I am a life long fan Of Liverpool FC and of England although since I was a teenager they have been disappointing. I’ve enjoyed this tournament some fantastic games not always involving our boys the Spain v Italy game was wonderful and the Belgians and French were good to watch too largely played in the right spirit. I can remember winning in 1966 and hope we win tonight, the team and manager are a beacon of light against racism and division for that reason alone we should be cheering them on. Sorry Louise I cannot get excited about cycling, not a good spectator sport for me at least and tainted by drugs, same for athletics, tennis if its not doubles is also for me boring. Too many rugby fans are poo pooing football they should get a life I like rugby too but have never ever thought of the Lions as anything other than a contrivance to try to better the southern hemisphere teams, there isn’t a pacific ring team is there! So come on England!

    1. Paul, I look back with fondness to the days when Football was sneered at by those who assumed “loftier” social rankings. The buggers (led by Thatcher, who else?) would’ve banned it if they could, but realising this was impossible, opted to steal it instead.

      1. Dennis law passed his exam for Grammar school, but they didn’t play football, so he didn’t go.
        Imagine what he could have achieved.

    1. Free for collection.
      England football shirt.
      Only worn once.
      10 Downing St, London SW1A 2AA

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