Entire seasons in the sun
Today was the perfect proof of how futile it can be to try and judge an international team’s form. Consider the following merry-go-round. In the Euro 2012 qualifiers, Greece made Croatia look exceptionally ordinary. This, in turn, made Ireland overly optimistic. By Sunday night, Croatia were making Ireland look less than ordinary. Of course, Ireland’s optimism had also been boosted by the draw against the Czech Republic that only perpetuated a long unbeaten run. Last week, the Czechs were absolutely eviscerated by Russia… until they themselves came full circle and beat Greece.
Of course, there’s a wider point here. In every sense. Look at it this way. Many of the games we have just discussed happened almost 10 months ago. That’s a season. Now think how much club sides change in that time. Some do almost unrecognisably. It helps to explain some of the apparent inconsistencies in this tournament.
A life in the day
In terms of action, Poland’s draw with Russia was almost the tournament encapsulated in 90 high minutes: not exactly the highest quality but still filled with high drama, high excitement and a good deal of tension. Euro 2012 is by no means yet a classic itself, but it has had its fair proportion of mini-classic games. Long may it continue.
Of course, the biggest consequence of that match in Warsaw is that it keeps the hosts in the tournament for an extra game and with a real fighting chance. Indeed, as far as last-group-game excitement goes, today’s results couldn’t really have panned out better. For one, Russia will be denied the opportunity to field a second team against Greece in what would have been a dead rubber for them. They need to at least draw. Two, Greece have the enticement and motivation of knowing that beating Russia will actually eliminate the early favourites and definitely put them through. Three, the Czechs – previously considered the worst team in the tournament – have come to life. Four, the Poles can claim the most uplifting victory of all.
Previously, Group A had been considered the most unglamorous group. It may well end up by far the most exciting.
Good day for
- Neutrals hoping to avoid dead rubbers
- Jakub Blaszckowski
Bad day for
- Alexander Kerzhakov… again