Drink: Shieldaig Single Malt Scotch 18 Year
I am none too sure why American fans generally pull for England. I suppose we share the same language (Kind of, have you ever heard those imbeciles speak? “Doi, doi, doi. Jolly ho!” No thanks.) and many US soccer fans follow the English Premier League. But unlike the EPL, the English National Team cannot buy foreign players to help make their team watchable. What we are left with is a physical side that always has unrealistic expectations.
Without star striker Wayne Rooney (suspension), the aforementioned physical English team was left to little else than pack it in on the backside and play for counter-attack opportunities. If that sounds ugly and boring to you, you are correct, sir. (Gold star for you!) On the flip side, France looked to build possession and pick apart the English defense. With the two sides setup in this fashion, the worst scenario would be for England to score first and go farther into their shell. Whelp, that is exactly what happened as Steven Gerrard delivered a perfect free kick from the right flank onto the ugly marbled head of Joleon Lescott. However, with what is becoming a trend in this tournament, France was able to answer back in very timely fashion when Samir Nasri nailed one inside the near post from outside the box.
The second half largely saw the teams keep the same style of play, but without the goals the previous half provided. Karim Benzema’s play was puzzling for the French. He was their only striker, yet did not look to get into the box much and settled for blasts outside the penalty area. Their attack reminded me of Spain’s six-midfielder attack on display the day before. All of this led to a share of points, which sets up well for the two powerhouses to advance out of the group.
That shared language us Americans have with the English (that I mentioned before), and their passion for soccer, leads us to be stuck with English announcers. On more than one occasion, the ESPN announcers have assured us of their neutrality since the opening match. Yet, this stance was laughable in today’s battle. Their chatter went from veiled bias to color analyst, Steve Macnamararara, using the word “we” when referring to the English side. It is garbage like this that take my dislike of English soccer to the next level. Yes, disliker. Plus, I am still kind of pissed about that tea tax.
It is often the case that the huge match-ups (especially in the group stage) in these marquee tournaments end up like a Prometheus, lacking the excitement and intrigue they look promised to deliver. Much of this has to do with the heavyweights playing to not lose, instead of going for the jugular. They also try to muddle way too many ideas into one script, not focusing on one or two interesting ideas, expanding on them, and making one think.
This is rarely the case for the underdogs. They know they lack the budget for grandiose special effects and need to close on any opportunity that presents itself. The scraps of Group D (Sweden & Ukraine) did just that. Following the underwhelming headliner that was France v England, the under card was back and forth action for the majority of the 90 minutes. Sure, outside of super Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there was not much top-level talent, but the two sides made up for it with hustle and heart. Add to that the raucous home crowd cheering on their side to a come-from-behind victory, led by the face of their team, 35 year-old Andrei Shevchenko, and you have yourself one entertaining game.