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All Things Footie | Monday, July 5 | Jordan

Right man for the job

Euro 1996: Terry Venables
World Cup 1998: Glenn Hoddle
Euro 2000: Kevin Keegan
World Cup 2002: Sven Goran Eriksson
Euro 2004: Sven Goran Eriksson
World Cup 2006?

Wrong men

Euro 2004: Otto Rehagel, ‘Big Phil’ Scolari

Not popular, not particularly well regarded, not ‘famous’.

Right men

The FA remind me of Roman Abramovich; clamouring for big names and popular choices, and clearly know nothing about what’s really needed to build a successful football team. It’s such a terrible shame that a side with such passionate and unflinching support is run by such an incompetent bunch of buerocratic, self-centred idiots. The FA, Palios, Eriksson being paid £4m a year. Scolari, Rehhagel, or any number of unsung, non-limelight hogging coaches across the globe would have walked England to the trophy that Theo Zagorakis deservedly helf aloft for Greece this evening. They could have done the same for Italy, France, Holland, Spain and Germany, if those countries weren’t as obsessed with appeasing the general public rather than appointing the best man for the job.

Well done Greece, well done Otto, and a round of applause for Portugal—the team and the country—and ‘Big Phil’, for being wonderful hosts and exciting footballers. No applause for Deco though, a huge disappointment, and a constant shameful display of diving, play acting and poor sportsmanship.

Shocks, last minute goals, some great ones too, 100-1 underdogs winning the trophy. Anyone who says it’s been a poor tournament is clearly very difficult to please, probably Arsenal fans used to unbeaten seasons and perfect football.

Player of the tournament: Maniche (Portugal)

The heartbeat of the Portuguese team, a fighter as well as an artist, he’s had an absolute blinder. At times I was reminded of Bryan Robson, as likely to be the first option for defenders as he is to be making a run into the opposition box. Full of running, full of ideas, economic and inventive. Also responsible for the …

Goal of the tournament: Maniche (Portugal vs. Holland)

A short corner to the edge of the 18 yard box that the player of the tournament picked up and swivelled on superbly before rifling an unstoppable shot into the top corner. Marvellous. There was some contenders too, particularly John-Dahl Tomasson’s 20 yarder, Wayne Rooney’s cheeky finish against Croatia, Henrik Larsson’s perfectly executed diving header, Marek Heinze’s free kick and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s absolutely delightful backheel against Italy.

Moment of the tournament: Ricardo (Portugal vs. England)

In a tournament filled with memorable moments—the last minute winner from Zidane, the ‘controversial’ late goal from Sweden that earned 2-2 draw to put Italy out, Greece’s goals in all of their big knockout games—one stood out above all else for me. As the host nation, the one thing you don’t want to be involved in is a penalty shoot-out. I can’t imagine the weight a player must feel on his shoulders as he steps up to take a penalty, for some you can see it on their faces, or shaking hands placing the ball on the spot, but being hosts and having the pressure of the nation on you at the same time must be absolutely unbearable. Goalkeepers will tell you they don’t mind penalty shoot-outs, as they’re never expected to save a penalty and they’re not generally expected to score if they have to take one: you’re either a hero, or blameless. Which is why, when Ricardo took his gloves off, saved Darius Vassell’s penalty barehanded and then sent Nuno Valente (I think) back to the bench and took the crucial next sudden death penalty himself—shouldering a huge amount of unnecesary pressure (imagine the stick he’d have got if he missed)—I could only applaud.

Moment of the tournament, bar none. Audacious, arrogant, mad, call it what you will, but it’s stuck in my memory.

Team of the tournament:

Ricardo
(Portugal)
Seitaridis
(Greece)
Dellas
(Greece)
Campbell
(England)
Cole
(England)
Ronaldo
(Portugal)
Zagorakis (C)
(Greece)
Maniche
(Portugal)
Nedved
(Czech Rep.)
  Rooney
(England)
Baros
(Czech Rep.)
 

Robben would have made it had he not had such a stinker in Holland’s most crucial game, I agonised over whether to include Fyssas over Cole and Ricardo Carvalho over Dellas. Zidane lit up the tournament while he was around despite visibly tiring in the later games and both the scandivian countries had a few players that I could have included: Larsson and Tomassan being the ones that stood out most.

I know what you’re thinking. Why so many English players? How can I justify including three players from a team that only made it as far as the second stage? I didn’t see a better central defender in the tournament than Sol Campbell, and one of the outstanding individual performances of the tournament was Ashley Cole’s stunning display against Portugal. Neither player put a foot wrong at any point during any of their games, and both performed their jobs as close to perfectly as you can imagine. Wayne Rooney finished the tournament as joint second top scorer, despite playing at least one less game than everyone else in the top-scorer table (and finishing the one game after 30 minutes). He averaged almost a goal an hour (while top scorer Milan Baros averaged roughly one every 90 minutes and Ruud Van Nistelrooij one every 110 minutes). Up until his injury, Rooney was simply the most influential—and deadly—player in the tournament.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Euro 2004, every minute of it, and I’m not looking forward to having to wait six weeks until the start of the Premiership season. As a very intelligent man once said, life without football, isn’t really life at all.

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