Once again International football takes front seat in the global game. I say this after a less than savoury World Cup in 2010 did not capture the imagination of its viewers. It had been relegated in favour of Domestic competition where a drama filled season in the English and Spanish leagues as well as an equally entertaining Champions League campaign proved the benchmark. In the group stages of the World Cup in South Africa – the last international tournament – I found myself changing channel against the boredom of some matches. Everyone was waiting for the spark to send the tournament into life. A spark which threatened but never came. Whether it was the humidity, the altitude or simply defensive tactics few games were exciting enough to call the tournament a success in terms of appealing football. I feared a similar scenario taking place approaching EURO 2012 such were the incredible endings to the Premiership and Champions League. It seemed that the only way was downward at the end of a long, tiring season for the professionals on show at the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. Tuning hopefully into the opener my expectations were low. Typically the opening ceremony was rife with atmosphere and the spark which was lost in South Africa gleamed in Warsaw with hosts Poland Vs Greece. A game which saw a red card, two goals, a penalty and a ten men comeback paved the way for a breath-taking competition in which I strived to watch every minute of every game. The tournament went from strength to strength in the opening ten days in which we were treated to two games a night. Highlights came in the form of great matches such as England 3 – 2 Sweden and Denmark 2 – 3 Portugal. Russia’s demolition of Czech. Rep., Spain’s of Ireland and Ronaldo cementing his mantle as World Class also featuring. Not only on the pitch but off did the imagination and appeal of football bring scenes of entertainment. As is common in big tournaments scores of fans emerged dressed in traditional apparel with scenes of different cultures immersing with each other which is always heart warming to see. Footage of the stadiums and town centres before kick-off brought more anticipation to the party. Coverage from the BBC and ITV were seamless for this. A personal highlight of mine involved the dancing of fans in the rain soaked Donbass arena in Ukraine amidst torrential downpours and storm warnings.   At this point the only criticism was the lack of football. The end of the group stages meant only one game a day. Then the restless breaks before Quarter and Semi finals illustrated the quality of display and the want for more. Needless to say the games continued to be exciting if somewhat tighter in the knockout stages. Success came again for Spain winning their third trophy in as many competitions culminating with the 4-0 demolition of Italy in the final. No one but fools can begrudge them their victory. With the spine of their team playing for FC Barcelona watching the football of both teams over the past half decade has left me mesmerised and appreciative of the sport. Or should I say art? International football has shown again why it is the ultimate in football viewing and competition. While I look forward to the Champions League, Premiership, SPL in the next two years there is nothing I look forward to more than the 2014 World Cup where Spain will look to win their fourth International trophy in a row. What makes it even more desirable is that – in their own garden – five time World champions Brazil will have something to say about that.
By Gavin Alexander

*Picture from http://www.andpop.com/tag/euro-2012/

Advertisements