The Road to Kiev
Euro 2012 starts this month and I’m going to be glued to the TV and internet throughout. Let me give you my tournament rundown.
Winners: When I was growing up, German football evoked a ruthlessly efficient and joyless juggernaut. Now though, in an era of overpriced players on the pitch and overpriced seats in the stand, you can gain entry to a German ground for a reasonable price and witness technically excellent football while munching a bratwurst and supping on a wheat beer. The national side continue this feel-good vibe with a squad packed full of flair players like Mesut Özil, Marco Reus, Mario Götze, Marko Marin, Lukas Podolski, and of course, the 2010 World Cup Golden Boot winner, Thomas Mueller. Germans – not boring anymore. Granted, as Poland fans will tell you…they’re not necessarily German anymore either.
Players to watch: UK insularity means that Premiership fans believe Papis Cisse “emerged from nowhere.” Nowhere being the Bundesliga, in which he was 2nd top scorer last season. Think how impressed your mates will be then, when you namedrop Poland’s Robert Lewandowski. He’s only 23, but he’s already been top scorer in each of Poland’s top three division and was the 3rd highest scorer in the Bundesliga this season, playing for champions Borussia Dortmund. You could mention him to the pundits on Match of the Day and they’d think you’d made him up.
A player I’d love to see shine is Ukraine’s Artem Milevskiy. The Dynamo Kyiv icon came to my attention when successfully chipping his penalty in the 2006 World Cup shootout win over Switzerland. In 2009 I was lucky enough to be present when he pulled the strings as Dynamo won a league match 6-0. Milevskiy scored one and set up another with a ridiculously flamboyant dribble. A classic maverick talent, meaning that my mentioning him will probably guarantee he has a shite tournament.
Mediawatch: At the 1978 World Cup, Scottish football journalists were known as ‘fans with typewriters.’ At this tournament, expect English journalists to be known as ‘Wraiths of doom, death, and despair with typewriters.’ In the extremely unlikely event that Roy Hodgson’s England manage to win the tournament, England’s press will stare gloomily at their laptops and think: “We’d swap this for going out in the group stages under ‘Arry. It’d be a far better press conference…”
The main criticism of Fabio Capello’s World Cup campaign was that the players’ camp was too isolated and they became bored. Anybody who’s been to Krakow will tell you that being just off the main square of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, with one of Europe’s most beautiful female populations, where it costs about £2 a pint and £1 a (top quality) vodka is unlikely to lead to boredom being a problem for the England squad. It is, however, still likely to lead to a problem. Hold the front page.
Come on...Ireland? Ireland’s qualification should be welcomed by Scottish football fans as Aiden McGeady represents the best chance of seeing a Scot lifting the trophy. Can they make an impact? Vast experience on the parts of the manager and captain, blended with McGeady’s talents and James McClean’s current momentum would say yes. Being in a group with Spain, Italy, and Croatia would say no. Time to think WWJD, What Would Jack Do? Mr Charlton would get Robert Lewandowski an Irish passport…
Random advice you won’t find in other articles: If you make it to Kyiv for the final… Kuvshin Georgian restaurant is incredible!